Who's Still Afraid of the Big Bad Beetle?
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Do you remember being in grade school and being pretty sure your antiquated old teacher was passing on some outdated information?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.
Sadly, that is exactly what’s going on just to the North of Crater Lake National Park where the Umpqua National Forest has proposed the DBug Timber Sale to stop a bark beetle outbreak and protect homes from fire. Problem is, rather than focus on thinning near homes and escape routes, the Forest Service proposed what could become the biggest roadless timber sale since the inception of The Roadless Rule.
We disapprove of logging in roadless areas for a number of reasons, but the extra smart kids in class – in this case The Xerces Society and National Center for Conservation Science & Policy (NCCSP) have released a report pointing out that not only is it wasteful and destructive, but it just plain won’t work.
The report is thoughtful, comprehensive, scientifically rigorous, and comes to a few key conclusions:
- Insects and fire have been part of the landscape for millennia
- Insect outbreaks in roadless areas are not likely to increase fire risk in adjacent communities
- Logging is not likely to control outbreaks or prevent them in the future
- Logging roadless areas is not likely to protect communities from wildlfire
- Building roads causes harm to the backcountry
- Forests can naturally recover from fire and insect outbreaks
We’ve been highlighting some of these points for some time, passed on the best available science to the Forest Service, and even told the principal (in this case the Secretary of Agriculture) what we think. We’ve made some pretty good points, but we’re also glad that NCCSP and Xerces have raised their hand and added another great argument.
We hope the teacher is listening. If he won’t, we hope the principal will.