Zombie apocalypse forest infernos in California, Oregon and Washington seem out of human control. But let’s look.
Some think protecting forests requires a hands-off approach. Not true: Protecting forests must include active forest management, currently missing.
Oregon is half forest (30 million acres). The feds own 60% (U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have 18 million acres that carry 17% dead/zombie trees per acre and high levels of dead underbrush). This federal standing dead tree rate is twice the rate on all private and Native American forest lands.
In all Oregon forests, tree growth rate far exceeds harvest rate. In 2017, the Oregon Forest Resource Institute counted 350 million standing dead trees in fed-owned, passively managed, low-producing forests. These forests suffer neglect through hands-off policies and scant harvesting (8% of growth). Compare private and Native American forests (36% of forests) that produce 76% of Oregon’s timber harvests. These forests have far fewer dead trees, actively managed and do not have forest infernos.
Studies show forest firestorms end when active forest practices are employed. But federal and state policies reject simple proven practices: increased harvests, tree thinning, brush control, insect treatment and controlled burning. These are used in healthy, privately owned and Native American-owned forests.
Wake up, Oregon: Apocalyptic fires come from passive forest management, not a fire “season.” Inert, passive and destructive forest practices are past due for replacement by active ones. Start locally and at state levels, where smoke, recent memories, motivation and cooperation may prevail.
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