Letter: Public forests need proactive, aggressive management
January 28, 2014
To the Editor:
I recently re-read some articles about the "pine beetle," and one of the things that absolutely amazed me is that there are still people out there that do not believe in managed logging. (pine beetle survey)
The pine beetle is a natural pest, as is fire, mistletoe, porcupines, etc.. The Forest Service did not invent, import, or genetically modify them. The warming trend we have experienced since the 1970s probably enhanced their potential.
There was a pretty bad beetle outbreak in the 1970s. I believe that the Federal agencies knew the beetles would be back, but this is where I put most of the blame on the U.S. Forest Service. Instead of attempting to mobilize, both by preemptive logging, and a media blitz, educating the public about the situation, the U.S.F.S. chose to pull back in their shell and do nothing. Could the U.S.F.S. have gotten ahead of the beetle? I don't know. The simple fact is The Forest Service did virtually nothing, except lock up more public land.
I truly believe there is a certain percentage of timber that can, and should be harvested every year. What that number is, I don't know. Maybe about 1 percent per year? Obviously, it is not feasible to cut one tree out of each 100, but you can grid up the forest and log 40-acre patches.
The pine tree is at best a very mediocre tree. It has some very good structural qualities, and it makes so-so firewood. In this country, it takes 40 years to grow a tree for fence posts, 70 for saw logs, probably 100 for decent telephone poles. The pine "duff" is pretty acidic, and hinders the growth of grasses. If pine trees are not deliberately thinned, they create thickets that inhibit pretty much all animals and create an ideal situation for pine beetles, mistletoe, and fires.
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It is incumbent upon all the federal agencies (U.S.F.S., B.L.M. etc.) to adopt an aggressive, and proactive management plan, based on hard scientific facts.
Unfortunately, the Forest Service's plan will probably be to lock the public out of even more of our property.