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Scientists: Logging Provisions in Farm Bill Could Make Wildfires Worse

Amendments to the 2018 Farm Bill could lead to more salvage logging on public lands. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
Amendments to the 2018 Farm Bill could lead to more salvage logging on public lands. (U.S. Forest Service/Flickr)
August 30, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – More than 200 scientists have sent a letter to members of Congress urging lawmakers to remove logging provisions from the 2018 Farm Bill, saying the amendments could worsen wildfire conditions in the West.

The House version of the Farm Bill opens up salvage logging on landscapes after fires and would exempt logging projects up to 6,000 acres on public land from public comment.

Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, says salvage logging and clear cutting actually create the conditions that drive wildfires.

"The Forest Service and private industry will go in and clear cut, take out the big, fire-resistant trees, alive and dead, and plant with small trees and leave all this logging slash in the clear-cuts,” he points out. “And that's just a recipe for the next fire blowup."

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon oppose the logging amendments. But Rep. Greg Walden supports them, saying the process for removing dead trees while they still have value and replanting forests needs to be streamlined.

The Farm Bill conference committee is meeting after Labor Day to work out a final bill.

DellaSala says a lot of emphasis has been placed on thinning forests as a way to reduce fire hazards. While thinning can help, he says it's more important to address climate change, which is creating extreme fire weather.

"Hot, dry, windy conditions and guess what?” he points out. “You know, with climate change now being the major factor with a lot of these extreme weather events, this is contributing to the kinds of fires we're seeing today, and we cannot log or thin our way out of that situation."

With fires active in Oregon and across the West, DellaSala says it can be hard to acknowledge that fire has benefits for forests. But he notes that forests are reborn more resilient in the aftermath of fires, as they are able to do so naturally and without logging.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR