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Summary of Forest Issues

Our forests in California and specifically the Stanislaus National Forest are in bad shape. The debate has been raging for decades over whether we should be cutting trees or not cutting trees. The debate and discussion continues without resolution over cattle grazing, thinning, fuels reduction, timber harvest, size of trees to be cut, trails, motorized vehicles, meadow restorations, impact on special status species, water and much more. The discussion is polarized. People on both sides believe in their positions and they mean well. There needs to be rationality and balance if we are to go forward. Doing nothing is not an option in my mind.

There is always needs to be balance. As a doctor once told me: almost anything in moderation is OK and sometimes even good for you.

Our forests are overgrown and stressed. In its current state, the forest is a liability to itself and a public safety hazard. That condition is worsening.

The forest is overgrown. The scientists are telling me that more than 60% of the moisture that falls from the skies never gets to the ground. It resides in the canopies and actually goes back into the atmosphere. The trees are thirsty. We are seeing large quantities of stressed trees dying due to the bark beetle.

They tell me that the Stanislaus National forest is growing some where between 300 and 350 Million Board Feet (MBF) of timber per year. The harvest plan for this year which includes biomass and firewood is on the order of 20 MBF or less. IF that is all true, then our forest is growing itself into oblivion. This condition of overgrowth relative to harvest has been going on for many years.

All I want is balance for a lot of reasons:

Question: Why do we need to do anything? Why manage the forest?

  1. Public Safety: Catastrophic fire speaks for itself. Proper Management of the forest should dramatically mitigate the costs of fire fighting on demand. Think of Forest management as fire prevention. Fire respects no boundaries of any kind.
  2. Physical Protection of a valuable natural resource: Provides atmospheric filter and recycle system for the very air we breathe, etc.,etc.,etc.
  3. Improving and maintaining the health of this resource: Overgrowth stresses the entire system and threatens it with disease, starvation, dehydration and pestilence
  4. Protect Water: Protection of our valuable watershed and optimizing the quality and quantity of the water in our streams, rivers, etc
  5. Environmental impacts: habitat for a multiplicity of species including endangered, threatened and thriving species – birds, reptiles, mammals, aquatic, etc. All of these species have some ability to adapt and must do so under the vagaries of the natural processes. Let’s give them the best opportunity possible.
  6. Recreation: enjoyment of the public – Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Hiking, educational endeavors, Skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, etc.
  7. Economic
  • a. Tourism
  • b. Wood products impact our economy in jobs and avoiding importation from outside the area
  • c. Traditional Cattle Grazing

If we do nothing, we leave all of the above totally to the will and randomness of Mother Nature. That makes us victims and we are not managing our own fate. I do not like being a victim, nor the randomness of disasters. And truth is: we have been meddling with Mother Nature to the point where we really can not afford her randomness. Fires are prone to be catastrophic with fire ladders and ground fuel driving the fires into the crowns. WE have not even talked about the immense amount of air pollution that is created by a wild fire.

Health of Mother Earth: If you buy the argument that Earth is or should be a balanced ecosystem which supports and sustains life of all kinds, then you must agree that our forests are a vital organ in that system. Therefore we should maintain our vital parts in proper working order. However, we have in fact neglected our forests to the point where they are a liability unto themselves.

We do not even expedite salvage of burn areas. If you leave a burned out area to nature, nothing good happens. You get erosion with all sorts of contaminants leaching into our water supply. If we could get into those areas and clean them up and re-vegetate them, we would all be better off. The problem is that it takes two years to do the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) analysis. This is a no-brainer! Why can’t we do a categorical exemption or a generic NEPA analysis for catastrophic fire?

I suggest we let rational timber harvest pay for Forest maintenance, include meadow and stream restorations which are all good. That money used to pay for schools and roads in rural areas as well.

Enough of my rambling! I do not want to destroy our forests but I do want to maintain them. Balanced management is the key! As I see it, there are no losers in GOOD Forest Management, everyone wins!