By BECKY BOHRER, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Plans for managing the nation’s largest national forest call for changes in timber harvests that one critic says will be “the demise of the timber industry as we know it right now.”
The Tongass National Forest released a management plan update Friday that it says will emphasize young-growth timber sales in the forest, which covers much of southeast Alaska, and allow for a logging rate that it says will meet projected timber demand.
This stems from a 2013 memo from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, directing Tongass managers to speed the transition from old-growth harvests toward a wood-products industry that mainly uses young-growth timber. The move was to be done in a way that preserves a viable timber industry. The transition goal was 10 years to 15 years, compared to the prior target of 32 years.
The decision released Friday calls for a full transition in 16 years and expects most timber sold by the Tongass to be young growth in 10-15 years.
Many of our national forests are in dire condition and Congress must take urgent action to address this worsening crisis.
Catastrophic wildfires have once again wreaked havoc this year, leaving nearly 5 million acres burned, destroying hundreds of homes, unleashing untold amounts of carbon dioxide into the air and, most tragically, claiming several lives. These unacceptable outcomes are hardly new; they have been harsh realities for many years running. And with tens of millions of dead and damaged trees across many national forests, the problem will only grow worse.
As Forest Service professionals who dedicated our professional lives to protecting these forests, we have closely examined the science related to the causes and facilitators of catastrophic wildfire. The science overwhelmingly shows that excessive fuel loads, overly crowded tree stands, and trees weakened by drought, insects and diseases all contribute to the severity of wildfires. In our judgment, more active management to address these factors, including more responsible and timely harvesting, is unquestionably needed.
Fires aren’t all bad. Some fires help forests become healthier, but scientists say they’re sorely lacking in California.
Sierra Nevada forests are adapted to low-intensity fires that clear the underbrush and prevent trees from getting too dense. After a century of fire suppression, many forests are overgrown, which can make catastrophic fires worse.
So forest managers are piloting a new policy designed to shift a century-old mentality about fire in the West.
The idea is to let naturally-caused fires burn when they aren’t a threat to homes or people. But actually making those decisions on the ground isn’t easy in a crowded state like California.
So that’s where your long-lost Bitterlich Averaging Instrument went.
It, or one just like it, is now in the repository of the National Museum of Forest Service History on Catlin Street (in Missoula, Montana).
In the small office at the Northern Region’s field service facility at 14th Street and Catlin are boxes and boxes of carefully archived papers, photos, and reports. The physical items – a portable radio developed in the late 1920s, an early computer, axes and Pulaskis, scaling sticks and a thousand other artifacts – take up the rest of the office and three rooms in an old streetcar barn across the way, which is now called the Forest Service Motor Pool and Equipment Inspection Facility.
Lisa Tate was hired as the National Forest Service Museum’s first executive director this summer and is in awe at the depth and breadth of the collection.
DEADWOOD — In roughly two decades, the Black Hills mountain pine beetle infestation has decimated approximately 215,000 acres of pine trees in the Black Hills, leaving drastically changed woodlands in its wake.
Designed to reduce fire hazards and promote biodiversity on more than one million acres of public land in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, the framework for the major new management plan, is set forth in a document titled the “Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project.”
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said his agency is trying to manage 60 million acres in need of restoration with 40 percent fewer staff and dollars than he had a decade ago.
“We need to focus on large landscapes, where we’re treating private land and national forest at the same time,” Tidwell said. “And we really need to focus on the outcomes we’re after – healthy, resilient forests that withstand disease outbreaks, fires, drought conditions that we’ll all face in the future. That’s the thing that produces economic activity that sustains communities and eliminates some of the conflict we’re seeing. That’s something we’ve been trying to address for decades in the agency.”
Gifford Pinchot, the first U.S. forest chief and founder of the Yale Forest School, doesn’t get enough credit, says historian Char Miller. In the early 20th century, Miller says, Pinchot helped shape our modern understanding of conservation, environmental education, and the very notion of “public lands.”