During the dry summer of 2011, wind gusts sent a 75-foot aspen tumbling into a power line, sparking a fire on federal land that burned for five weeks over an area the size of Manhattan. All that was left in the hottest burn zones was a silent swath of blackened trees and ash-covered ground. Federal foresters decided the towering ponderosa pines would never return and declared the area dead, the first step in a process to allow timber companies to harvest trees on public land that would otherwise be off-limits.
But a growing body of fire research indicates that the federal salvage strategy creates more problems than it solves by stunting tree regrowth, denying habitat to a variety of species and increasing the risk of erosion.
Salvage logging destroys the forest’s initial regrowth efforts in nutrient-rich soil and needlessly removes shrubs that are probably beneficial to sapling trees, short-circuiting the natural life cycle of the forest, according to research. “It’s kicking the forest when it’s down,” said Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project, an environmental nonprofit that opposes salvage logging.
The Forest Service and timber companies say that the dead wood must be removed before the forest can grow and that shrubs have to be killed off with herbicides so the conifers have sun to grow again. Though part of the Las Conchas fire site was salvage-logged, another section outside New Mexico’s remote Jemez Springs was not. Four years after the blaze, the Jemez Springs area today is alive with Gambel oak and three-toed woodpeckers, along with occasional conifer saplings growing amid the brush.
How about that! Really, the sheer dumb audacity of puny little mankind presuming to be able to influence the natural order is just another reason why the Unholy Left needs to go back to church and shul instead of trying to invent a new religion.