Massive Colorado logging project threatens lynx

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Proposed logging on thousands of acres of national forest lands near Leadville, Colorado could threaten important denning and feeding areas used by threatened lynx.

Conservation advocates go to court to block Tennessee Pas project

Staff Report

FRISCO — The threat of widespread logging in an area where lynx are slowly reestablishing a Colorado presence has spurred a new lawsuit by forest conservation advocates.

The recently approved 10-year project is in the Tennessee Pass area, mostly on lands managed by the Leadville Ranger District of the San Isabel National Forest.

The Forest Service green light potentially permits logging across more 12,000 acres, including 2,370 acres of clear cutting and 6,765 acres of commercial thinning and construction of 20 miles of temporary roads.

The scenery, historic status and wildlife of the Tennessee Pass area are all at risk, said Kevin Mueller, WildEarth Guardians Utah-Southern Rockies Conservation Manager.

“If this forest service logging proposal is approved, a patchwork of clear cuts could be visible on all sides of the Turquoise Lake Basin,” Mueller said. “This litigation centers on USFS refusal to protect forested slopes known to represent critical den habitat for threatened lynx,” said attorney John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Our goal is ecologically resilient forests that support healthy wildlife and lynx populations. Clear-cutting would further undermine lynx and other vulnerable species,” Mellgren said. Continue reading

Feds eye more protection for northern spotted owls

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Can northern spotted owls survive in the Pacific Northwest? Photo courtesy USFWS.

Logging and post-fire salvage, along with competion from barred owls, still seen as key threats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Dinged by a double whammy of continued habitat loss and interspecies competition, the Pacific Northwest’s northern spotted owl may get even more protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week said it will launch a review to decide if the spotted owl should be reclassified as endangered rather than threatened.

The population of the northern spotted owl is declining across most of the species’ range. The most recent data show a 2.9 percent range-wide population decline per year, although declines as high as 5.9 percent per year have been observed in some areas. Continue reading

Climate: Logging leads to long-term release of carbon from soils in Northeastern hardwood forests

Findings challenge carbon-balance assumptions of woody biomass energy boosters

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A forest health logging site on Swan Mountain near Dillon, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Logging forests may have a more significant impact on carbon storage in soils than previously believed, Dartmouth College researchers found after taking a close look at at how timber harvesting affects mineral soil carbon over 100 years.

The study found that, while logging  doesn’t immediately release carbon stored in a forest’s mineral soils into the atmosphere, it triggers a gradual release that may contribute to climate change over decades. Continue reading

Logging no panacea for pine beetle outbreaks

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Can we log our way to forest health?

Science sometimes missing from forest management policies

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While politicians and policy makers continue to conflate a number of complex forest health and wildfire issues, a new study suggests there’s little evidence supporting the idea that logging helps to control or contain the spread of tree-killing pine beetles.

Nobody disputes the need to clear trees, brush and other fuels from around homes in fire-prone forest areas, but some lawmakers who should know better have been pushing for more logging under the guise of restoring forest health and as an antidote to insect infestations.

The idea that speedy approval of logging projects could help restore forest health was also used as a basis for short-cutting environmental reviews for logging projects, possibly resulting in negative long-term environmental impacts in forests.

But forest researchers in California and Montana said there isn’t much monitoring to assess the effectiveness of logging, and that failures often aren’t reported, probably because they don’t fit the popular narrative. Continue reading

Colorado: As pine beetle epidemic passes, politicians still pushing for more logging

Budget woes still hindering forest restoration efforts

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Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs (standing) speaks with Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, at a recent meeting in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado high country may be buried in snow right now, but lawmakers and fire experts are already brainstorming about the upcoming wildfire season.

As part of that process, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) met with local officials in Summit County recently to get feedback on recent successes and remaining challenges in forest management and wildfire mitigation policies and actions.

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have more megafires, but when,” Udall said, without ever mentioning global warming as a key factor in the wildfire equation. Continue reading

In the absence of fire, intensive mechanical treatments needed to keep ponderosa pine forests healthy

Before: Plenty of healthy grasses, forbs and shrubs, along with young lodgepole pines two to three feet tall.

Plenty of healthy grasses, forbs and shrubs, along with young lodgepole pines two to three feet tall in this unlogged patch of beetle-killed pines.

Shrub removal also key to moderating fire behavior

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Forest Service scientists say they’ve quantified the relationship between the density of ponderosa pine stands and disease.

The study shows that — no surprise — increased density, mainly due to the agency’s long-term fire suppression policies, makes the trees more susceptible to bark beetles and diseases. Competition for soil moisture, nutrients, and sunlight  in dense stands weakens trees and therefore also contributes to fuel buildup. Continue reading

Climate: Logging releases carbon locked deep in forest soil

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A logging road along the Frisco Peninsula, Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

New study helps quantify logging as part of the forest carbon cycle

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Scientists and resource managers have long been trying to solve the carbon-balance equation from using wood for energy, but they may have to add a new factor to their calculations.

A research team led by scientists with Dartmouth College found that logging releases large amounts of carbon from the soil. The processes by which that happens aren’t completely understood, but the findings suggest that calls for an increased reliance on forest biomass should be re-evaluated.

Forest carbon analyses are incomplete unless they include deep soil, which stores more than 50 percent of the carbon in forest soils, said Dartmouth Professor Andrew Friedland, one of the co-authors of the paper recently published in the journal Global Change Biology. Continue reading

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