A new study shows post-fire logging and replanting of burned forest increases the severity of future fires. The study involved the 2002 Biscuit fire in southwest Oregon, one of the largest wildfires in Oregon’s history.
The study is being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Jonathan Thompson, a doctoral student at OSU, was lead author on the article. Thompson concluded that the increase in fire severity may be “because the logging process leaves more available fuel on the forest floor; the dense, homogenous replantation of young trees provides a good setting for fire; or some combination of these factors over time.”
The findings back up the research of OSU grad student Daniel Donato, who published his findings in 2006 in the journal Science. Donato and his co-authors found that logged areas contained significantly more flammable wood than areas left alone. Loggers leave behind tree branches that cannot be sold.
Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics said of the new report, “Nothing new in that Biscuit study. Any forester worth his salt knew that. They knew it in the first Biscuit study.”
The Donato study concluded that salvage logging “can be counterproductive to goals of forest regeneration and fuel reduction.”
OSU professors John Sessions and Michael Newton and several other faculty members as well as Forest Service employees caused controversy when they attempted to have Donato’s work suppressed.
Sessions and Newton had written a report arguing that aggressive logging and replanting of the Biscuit fire was needed to ensure the burned forests would grow back and not lose their commercial value.
Thompson’s study concludes that forests left to regenerate without logging appear to have less risk of severe future fires. – Camilla Mortensen
EUGENE WEEKLY (Eugene, Oregon U.S.)