There’s little doubt that California’s forests are under siege; the problem is, we are told that California’s forests are under siege from things like wildfire, “pests,” pathogens and mortality. However, the reality is that the biggest threat to California’s forests has been and continues to be logging, the logging industry, agency enablers of logging, and the lies and misconceptions these folks spin.
Earlier this year, a report produced by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana provides an assessment of carbon storage in forest ecosystems in California and of carbon storage in wood products produced in California.
While the report indicates that California’s forests are sequestering (storing) carbon dioxide at approximately 27 million metric-tons of carbon dioxide per-year, a closer look at the numbers shows some alarming trends.
According to the report, over half of the carbon being stored in California’s forests is stored on our Federal lands, in our National Forests, Wilderness Areas, and in our BLM lands. Our wood products, however, are storing less carbon dioxide, and are being thrown into landfills—resulting in additional carbon dioxide storage losses.
What’s happening to our harvested wood products, why are they not storing carbon, and why are we throwing them away? Logging of native forests and the creation of even-aged, monoculture, short-rotation industrial tree plantations on private industrial lands and on our National Forests, means harvesting of increasingly younger forests in an unnatural plantation setting that translates into quick growth of fiber, but not carbon dioxide-storing heartwood.
The majority of the harvested wood products from our private industrial timberlands in California are young, even-aged, mono-culture and plantation grown for the quick production of wood fiber—most of which turns out to be sapwood. The trees simply are not allowed to grow long enough, slowly enough, or under the most optimal conditions to produce heartwood fiber, tighter growth rings, and thereby store greater amounts of carbon dioxide.
These young, plantation-grown, sapwood harvested wood products are far less structurally sound and far more prone to rot, decay, mold, and to eventually, end up in the neighborhood landfill.
As always, the timber industry and its apologists would have us pay attention to anything, and everything other than the men behind the chainsaws.