Ecology And Environment

Forest Thinning is Essential for Keeping Forests Healthy and People Safe – Disagree

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"Forest Thinning is Essential for Keeping Forests Healthy and People Safe - Disagree"
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Deliberate thinning of forests is not necessary for forest health. Forests have their own mechanisms for growth and development that would be extremely difficult and expensive for people to replicate. The supposed necessity of forest thinning is an excuse to justify allowing logging companies to begin cutting trees. Since it is necessary to build roads to bring in equipment even more trees need to be cut. As it is expensive to build the infrastructure necessary to thin, soon the logging companies are whining that it is not worth it to them to just thin a few skinny trees and then the clear cutting begins.

A natural old growth forest develops in a particular way. Large trees form the canopy and there are medium height trees, saplings, shrubs and bushes. Trees die and fall or do not grow in the competition for nutrients and sunlight. Fallen trees and branches accumulate on the forest floors and rot, allowing fungi to flourish, providing habitat for wildlife. As the forest matures, small growth does not continue to grow as the canopy becomes so dense sunlight cannot reach the forest floor.

Dead underbrush and fallen trees accumulate on the forest floor and eventually rot. Eventually, small growth rots and does not return since it can no longer grow, except in a few places where the sun may peek through. At this point, the forest floor will become somewhat barren, unless there are a large number of deciduous trees that deposit dead leaves in the fall. In this way a forest, if left alone, achieves balance. These changes occur over long periods of time allowing wildlife to adapt.

Replanted forests do not mature the same way. The trees are usually planted in a regular pattern, all at the same time. There is competition for nutrients and sunlight, but a forest of this type is more dense and overcrowded than a natural forest, changing the way that underbrush grows and develops, if much develops at all. There will, most likely, be more dead trees. Still, over time, even a replanted forest will sort itself out and there will be large and medium sized trees, and a clear forest floor. Wildlife may be at a disadvantage because of the lack of low growth food sources. In that case it may be possible to carefully remove some of the dense growth at the edge of the replanted forest so grass and shrubs can flourish.

Dead brush and standing dead trees will fuel a fire if one starts. There are, however, few natural ways fires start. One is lightening. Lava can ignite material at the edge of a flow. A very few can start from spontaneous combustion, with a proper combination of dead vegetation and moisture. Otherwise, fires are started by people; arson, carelessness combined with stupidity, negligence fueled by greed. Some people are driven by illness to start fires. Others don't quench campfires, leave barbecues unattended by dry grass, set off fireworks or throw still lit cigarette butts out of the car window. Power companies do not maintain power lines properly.

People's lives and property at risk because they put themselves in the way of danger. We see it again and again. People build in flood plains, in tornado alley, right on the coast in areas prone to hurricanes or build unsafe structures in earthquake country. Homes are destroyed, lives may be lost and they tell everyone on the news, they will build again'. Unfortunately, they often build in exactly the same way, in exactly the same place. Even ants relocate or open a different entrance to the nest if they are disturbed too much. I think we can behave as intelligently as ants. Stay and build smart if you do not want to or cannot leave.

In the case of fire, guidelines are set out very clearly by local fire departments. Before there is an active risk of fire, defend your home. Fire departments sometimes send out crews in advance of fire season and assess each home according to how difficult it would be to save in the event of a wildfire. Homes that are surrounded by dry brush, tall pine trees, or with cords of firewood stacked against the house, may not be given a high save priority.

Make sure your home is surrounded by a defensible space, from 30 to 150 feet. Break up your property with walkways, stone surrounding fire resistant plant groupings, patios, etc. Keep large trees further from your house and trim lower branches to keep fire from climbing. Do not stack wood against the house. Keep plants healthy and green. Remove dead vegetation and leaves promptly. Roof your house in fire resistant material. Local fire departments have the best information for special circumstances in your area.

Cooperate with your local fire officials when you are asked to mow down dead vegetation. Be aware of special conditions that may heighten fire danger, such as drought, high winds, etc. and act accordingly. Put off the big barbecue until next weekend or cook indoors instead.

Some years ago, we went to the Pacific Northwest to determine what had led to a drastic reduction in fish in some rivers on Native American lands. Most of the problem was attributed to excessive logging. Trees were logged too close to the edge of the waterways causing the ground to heat up from lack of shade, increasing the temperature of the water. Also lack of growth allowed erosion, and soil washing into the rivers covered the small rocks on the bottom where fish usually laid their eggs.

Since new laws were likely to be drafted because of these investigations, a lot of logging was done before changes went in. Everywhere we went clear cutting or chaining', pulling down trees with a chain between two bulldozers, had been done. The place looked as if it had been bombed; ugly, signs of erosion, and a lot of small growth-the same small growth we are told fuels forest fires.

If you live in a rural area defend your choice by living with the land you love. Don't let your choice be destroyed by those who do not love the land as you do and only see it as a source of profit. Forest thinning is a deceptive term and its object is not to protect you, but to provide an opportunity for logging to begin.

More about this author: Josephine Polifroni

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