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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ecologist and Public Lands advocate George Wuerthner taking us out of "myth and fairy-tale" as it relates to what is true and and false about wildfires and salvage logging ---Is this type timber removal really preventative medicine as it relates to reducing the incidence of fire?

From: George Wuerthner
Date: November 24, 2016 at 2:23:27 PM EST

Guest column

Logging myths fuel legislation

The timber industry and its advocates continue to promote a number of myths designed to garner public support for increased logging. New legislation is proposed that would weaken environmental protections, reduce public review of U.S. Forest Service timber sales (called variously vegetation management, forest health restoration, fuels reduction, hazard tree reduction, salvage timber sale) and significantly increase money-losing logging on public lands.

Myth: Restoration of our forests is needed to re-create historic conditions.
Truth: There is growing debate about whether most forest ecosystems need any restoration. Nearly all higher-elevation mixed conifer and subalpine forests grew in dense stands that tended to burn at medium to long intervals (often at intervals of hundreds of years), with large patches of mixed to high mortality, so they are well within historic conditions.
Low-elevation ponderosa pine forests were considered different from the moister, higher-elevation forests and characterized as open and park-like, and burned by frequent low severity surface fires. However, new research concludes that many pine stands historically experienced occasional high severity stand replacement blazes and may not be significantly outside of their historic condition.

For instance, one recent review paper concluded: “current attempts to 'restore' forests to open, low-severity fire conditions may not align with historical reference conditions in most ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western North America.”
Myth: Logging reduces large wildfires.
Truth: Large wildfires burn under extreme weather conditions. Under extreme weather, wildfires burn through, over and around clearcuts, thinned forests and areas that have been prescribed burned. Such fires are “controlled” when the weather changes to more moderate conditions.
Logging may even increase fire spread and fire severity.

The conclusion of the Sierra Nevada report to Congress had this to say: "Timber harvest, through its effects on forest structure, local microclimate, and fuels accumulation, has increased fire severity more than any other recent human activity."
Another study done by fire ecologists at the Missoula Fire Lab concluded: "Even extensive fuel treatments may not reduce the amount of area burned over the long-term and furthermore, reduction of area burned may actually be an undesirable outcome.”

A new study soon to be published found that reviewed 1,500 wildfires between 1984 and 2014 found that actively managed forests had the highest level of fire severity. While those forests in protected areas burned, on average, had the lowest level of fire severity. In other words, the best way to reduce severe fires is to protect the land as wilderness, not “manage” it.
Myth: Thinning national forest lands will protect homes

Truth: One only needs to reduce the flammability within 100 feet of homes to protect them. Reducing fuels more than 100 feet beyond the home confers no additional protection. As one study concluded: “It may not be necessary or effective to treat fuels in adjacent areas in order to suppress fires before they reach homes; rather, it is the treatment of the fuels immediately proximate to the residences, and the degree to which the residential structures themselves can ignite that determine if the residences are vulnerable.”
Myth: Beetle outbreaks increase the chances of wildfire.
Truth: Any number of research studies has documented that beetle outbreaks have little effect or even reduces the chance of large wildfire for a period of years. Dead trees do not burn as well as live trees with flammable resins. For example, one study concluded: “we found no detectable increase in the occurrence of high-severity fires following MPB outbreaks. Dry conditions, rather than changes in fuels associated with outbreak, appear to be most limiting to the occurrence of severe fires in these forests.”
Myth: Dead trees are a sign of a forest health problem.
Truth: Dead trees are critical to healthy forest ecosystems. Some 250 scientists recently sent a letter to Congress affirming “snag forest habitat” are “ecological treasures comparable to old growth forests."

Unfortunately, as a result of logging and other forest management, we have a deficit of dead trees in our forest ecosystems. Episodic input of dead woods results from wildfire, beetles and disease. These natural processes help maintain forest ecosystem health.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has published 38 books, including "Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy."

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