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Despite what the logging industry says, cutting down trees isn’t stopping catastrophic wildfires

Tony Schick and Jes Burns, OPB

For decades, Oregon’s timber industry has promoted the idea that private, logged lands are less prone to wildfires. The problem? Science doesn’t support that.

As thousands of Oregon homes burned to rubble last month, the state’s politicians joined the timber industry in blaming worsening wildfires on the lack of logging.

Echoing a longstanding belief in the state that public forests are the problem, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican who represents eastern Oregon, equated the federal government’s management to that of “a slum lord.” And Democratic Gov. Kate Brown on “Face the Nation” accused Republicans in the state Legislature of blocking measures, proposed by a wildfire council, that would have increased logging on public lands.

In the decades since government restrictions reduced logging on federal lands, the timber industry has promoted the idea that private lands are less prone to wildfires, saying that forests thick with trees fuel bigger, more destructive blazes. An analysis by OPB and ProPublica shows last month’s fires burned as intensely on private forests with large-scale logging operations as they did, on average, on federal lands that cut fewer trees.

In fact, private lands that were clear-cut in the past five years, with thousands of trees removed at once, burned slightly hotter than federal lands, on average. On public lands, areas that were logged within the past five years burned with the same intensity as those that hadn’t been cut, according to the analysis.

“The belief people have is that somehow or another we can thin our way to low-intensity fire that will be easy to suppress, easy to contain, easy to control. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Jack Cohen, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who pioneered research on how homes catch fire.

The timber industry has sought to frame logging as the alternative to catastrophic wildfires through advertising, legislative lobbying and attempts to undermine research that has shown forests burn more severely under industrial management, according to documents obtained by OPB, The Oregonian/OregonLive and ProPublica.

Read more at: https://www.opb.org/article/2020/10/31/logging-wildfire-forest-management/

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Approval of Measure V in Mendocino County ends ‘hack and squirt’ 

Meglenda Anderson, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A controversial ballot measure that would put a wrench in the longstanding timber-management practice of poisoning hardwood trees to make way for conifers was passed by voters Tuesday night.
Support for Measure V had garnered about 60 percent of the vote. The vote was 6,365 in favor and 4,249 against.Measure V is aimed at limiting the practice of poisoning unwanted hardwood trees, then leaving them to die in the forest. The practice is referred to as “hack and squirt” because it entails making a cut in a tree, then applying herbicide to the wound.
The measure declares it a nuisance to kill and leave standing for more than 90 days trees that are over 16 feet tall. It makes the person or agency responsible liable for damages the practice may cause to structures, water sources and telecommunication lines within 3,300 feet of the dead trees.
Proponents of the ballot measure say the practice has escalated in recent years, creating a dangerous fire hazard by leaving millions of dead trees standing in Mendocino County forests. Timber officials from Mendocino Redwood Company, the primary target of the ordinance, contend the fire hazard alleged by the measure’s proponents is overblown.
They say the practice of killing hardwoods, like tan oak, is crucial to restoring previously overcut and mismanaged forests to conifer production.
Source: Approval of Measure V in Mendocino County ends ‘hack and squirt’ | The Press Democrat