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George Wuerthner argues the relationship between bark beetles and wildfire is overblown by agencies seeking to log western forests.
Author, environmentalist, and speaker George Wuerthner recently sent out a short NASA video about the alleged relationship and cause-and-effect between western forests killed by Bark Beetle infestation and wildfire, which is the premise upon which logging projects like the proposed D-Bug timber sale have been justified.
But the connection between beetle kill and wildfire, according to Wuerthner, is non-existent.
Logging in the backcountry to stop beetle outbreaks and reduce fire risk does neither.
Do you remember being in grade school and being pretty sure your antiquated old teacher was passing on some outdated information? You muttered as much to your friend, made comments in the margins of your notes, and even asked some good questions. But the teacher persisted. Then the smart kid in the room raised her hand and made the same case much more comprehensively and eloquently. Your reaction may have been to think “Man! I wish I’d said that”.
But you were glad she did, and you hoped the teacher would listen.
Sometimes similar things happen in the real world. Across the country, bark beetles are doing what they’ve been doing for millennia – reproducing and, in the process, killing trees. In response the Forest Service (the teacher in our scenario) has felt the need to address what they see as a growing “crisis”. In many cases, they’ve reflexively proposed to do what they’ve always done – log it! A new report suggests that might not be the best idea.
If only common sense was a bit more common
- Problem: Many of our National Forests are a mess because of decades of mismanagement.
- Problem: Most everyone agrees that's because of a combination of too much logging and years of fire suppression.
- Problem: The Forest service spends too much money suppressing fires & lacks the resources to adequately fund other major priorities.
It seems like there might be a pretty simple solution to this problem: Do something different!
“Rather than devoting a lot of money and manpower to fighting fires, Floch wants a more hands-off approach, allowing flames to do what they do naturally in a fire-dependant ecosystem.”
That’s an excerpt from a great article that ran in the Ravalli Republic about a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho. There, the Forest Service is allowing natural fires in remote backcountry to do what they do. Click here for the full article, and continue past the jump to read more…
Beetle outbreaks are normal, natural events. We may have made them worse with logging, fire suppression, and climate change. Forest Service answer? More logging, fire suppression (and never mind the effect of logging on climate change.)
Yesterday (July 6th) the New York Times ran a fascinating article on western bark beetles that bucked the traditional wisdom.
According to most in the Forest Service and the logging industry, a bark beetle outbreak is a natural disaster, akin to an earthquake or volcano. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been cited as the source of the sound bite that "beetle outbreaks are the hurricane Katrina of the West."
But the sound bite and the science don't quite mesh.