Home EN Issues Dec2018/Jan2019 EPIC: Robbing a Burn Victim

EPIC: Robbing a Burn Victim

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EPIC: Robbing a Burn Victim
Clearcut in Klamath National Forest’s Westside Project 2016. Photo: Amber Jamieson.

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Clearcut in Klamath National Forest’s Westside Project 2016. Photo: Amber Jamieson.
Clearcut in Klamath National Forest’s Westside Project 2016. Photo: Amber Jamieson.

On October 16, EPIC filed a lawsuit challenging a large post-fire timber sale on the Siskiyou Crest in Klamath National Forest. This timber sale, called the Seiad-Horse Project after the watersheds it will impact, is one of the most cynical and destructive projects we’ve seen. The sale would clear-cut almost 1,200 acres of forests set aside for owl habitat, and would in the process not only harm wildlife, but would cost taxpayers money while giving a gift to the timber industry.

The Klamath National Forest is relying on the public’s fear of fire to push forward projects that are not only bad for the environment but illegal. In her final decision on the project, Klamath National Forest Supervisor Patty Grantham cites the recent spate of fires, such as the Carr fire which killed eight individuals in 2018, as evidence that these projects are necessary to promote public safety.

Conservation Advocate, Amber Jamieson standing in front of Westside post-fire logging deck 2016. Photo: Kimberly Baker.
Conservation Advocate, Amber Jamieson standing in front of Westside post-fire logging deck 2016. Photo: Kimberly Baker.

What the Klamath National Forest fails to mention is that post-fire logging increases the likelihood of a high-severity fire. Here’s how: in a post-fire timber sale, the loggers will “high-grade” the forest, removing the largest trees while leaving the smallest. The largest trees are those which are the most fire-resistant, even when dead, while the smaller trees quickly become the fine surface fuels that are often the cause of fast-moving and hot-burning fires. Loggers also leave large amounts of slash—the tree tops, branches and other woody debris—on the forest floor, further adding to the “fuel load.” The timber industry and the Forest Service have tried their best to suppress this science.

What’s more, post-fire logging is one of the more ecologically destructive forms of logging, with some of the most profound and lasting impacts to the environment. Logging increases fish-killing sediment pollution. Logging removes snags and other structural complexity that promote wildlife usage of post-fire forests. And it disturbs natural regeneration, harming the emergence of new, dynamic forests.

Wood debris that has been pushed down the hillside in Westside timber sale 2016. Photo: Amber Jamieson.
Wood debris that has been pushed down the hillside in Westside timber sale 2016. Photo: Amber Jamieson.

To add insult to injury, this logging also costs the taxpayer. The Klamath National Forest is virtually giving away our forests, offering trees for as low as 50 cents per thousand board feet; or in a less wonky way of conceptualizing this, the National Forest is selling a log truck worth of timber for less than the price of a latte. Because the timber sale costs so much to construct, due to costly activities such as road maintenance, surveys, tree marking, and preparation of an environmental analysis, the Forest Service loses our taxpayer money on the sale.

The Klamath National Forest is a relic of the old Forest Service, one that prioritized the wants of the timber industry over the needs of nature. Other national forests in California have moved away from this model and have worked with all stakeholders after a fire to implement commonsense projects to address post-fire conditions.

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