Scientists slam Congress for once again considering misguided forest management bills

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

‘Fire is not destroying our forests, rather, it is restoring these ecosystems …’

Staff Report

A group of scientists has weighed in on the political tug-of-war over forest policies by writing a letter to the U.S. Senate and President Obama, warning that two bills currently on the table would be destructive to forest ecosystems and wildlife

At issue are House Resolution 2647 and Senate Bill 1691, both proposed in response to ongoing concerns about forest fires. But the measures won’t improve forest health or reduce fire risks, the scientists said. Instead, the laws are aimed at short-cutting environmental studies, reducing public involvement and preventing courts from enforcing environmental laws.

The role of the timber industry in federal forest management would also unfairly increase under the deceptive guise of promoting decision-making by “collaborative” groups, the scientists wrote.

Wildfires have an important ecological role, and forest policy should focus on “ways for the public to co-exist with fires burning safely in the backcountry,” according to the scientists, who wrote:
“The post-fire environment is rich in patches of native flowering shrubs that replenish soil nitrogen and attract a diverse bounty of beneficial insects that aid in pollination after fire. Small mammals find excellent habitat in the shrubs and downed logs, providing food for foraging spotted owls. Deer and elk browse on post-fire shrubs and natural conifer regeneration. Bears eat and disperse berries and conifer seeds often found in substantial quantities after intense fire, and morel mushrooms, prized by many Americans, spring from ashes in the most severely burned forest patches.”
“Federal fire policy needs an overhaul to reign in the out-of-control Forest Service fire fighting budget and focus it on saving fire-fighter lives and homes,” saidDr. Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist of Geos Institute. “This misguided legislation would throw gasoline on fires by promoting back-country logging that most often leaves behind logging slash as kindling for the next fire.”

“Fire is not destroying our forests, rather, it is restoring these ecosystems and is creating outstanding wildlife habitat that is as biodiverse as old-growth forest, and even rarer,” said Dr. Chad Hanson, another lead author of the scientist letter. “This is why over 260 scientists from across the nation are urging Senators and the President to follow the science and oppose these logging bills,” he added.

Both DellaSala and Hanson are co-editors of a new book: “The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix” (Elsevier, Inc.). The book includes the latest science on the ecological benefits of large and intense fires and ways to coexist with fire.

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2 thoughts on “Scientists slam Congress for once again considering misguided forest management bills

  1. In Summit County, we think the aspens are more gorgeous this year than ever before. Is it because the pine beetle-killed evergreens have cleared sunlight so aspens can grow?

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