Oregon “Salvage Logging” Threatens Ancient Forest Renewal
The Bush administration has announced final plans for one of the largest commercial timber sales in modern history in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of southern Oregon, one of America's wildest, most pristine places. The site of the 2002 Biscuit wildfire is to be mercilessly “salvage” logged. Some 74,000 logging trucks worth of timber are to be removed – mostly from old-growth, roadless and previously unlogged ancient forests – an amount equal of one quarter of the entire annual U.S. national forest timber harvest. The sale would occur at significant cost to tax-payers.
This crass timber industry pay-off is being justified as a means to ensure forest health and reduce the threat of forest fires. It will achieve neither. Salvage logging is known to increase erosion, impair streams and other wildlife habitat, further damage forests made more fragile by fires, and can actually increase fire risk due to the buildup of hazardous fuel and slash left by logging operations.
A fire-adapted forest that burns naturally (most are on varying periodicities) and is left to recover is not a disaster – it is how many forests regenerate. Trees downed by forest fires provide habitat for wildlife and nutrients needed for their renewal and to help keep forests healthy. Rarely are whole forests destroyed – as clumps of live trees and surrounding intact forests provide materials to seed a new, healthier forest.
There exists no environmental justification to heavily log burned trees in the Klamath-Siskiyou region – one of Western America's most important intact ancient forest landscapes. The region is ecologically unique and home to remarkable biological diversity. As one of America's last large ancient forest wildlands and many important watersheds, it deserves national park status, not destructive first time industrial logging under false pretenses.
Will you buy the lie that heavily logging ancient forests protects them? Indeed, in most cases it is first time industrial logging and not forest fires that irreparably diminish large and natural forests. Your vigilance provides the last best hope that the Klamath-Siskiyou and the world's other forest cathedrals – evolutionary and ecological treasure troves – will remain able to continue giving us life.
Even ancient forests deserve a fresh start.