Disagreements over salvage logging versus natural recovery after fires

black forest fire faller tree
Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. June 15, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
The debate has been going on for decades — should loggers rush in after a wildfire and cut down the recently killed trees while they are still merchantable, or could natural processes be allowed to run their course? Timber companies, some politicians, and the U.S. Forest Service often argue for the first option, while some scientists and environmental groups advocate for the natural alternative.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Los Angeles Times:

…The Forest Service and timber companies say that the dead wood must be removed before the forest can grow and that shrubs have to be killed off with herbicides so the conifers have sun to grow again.

Though part of the Las Conchas fire site was salvage-logged, another section outside New Mexico’s remote Jemez Springs was not.

Four years after the blaze, the Jemez Springs area today is alive with Gambel oak and three-toed woodpeckers, along with occasional conifer saplings growing amid the brush.

“See this?” Hanson said, pulling back a strand of oak to reveal a rubbery green pine sapling just an inch tall. “They said this wouldn’t be here, but we found it. And there’s more.”

By contrast, in places like California’s Rim fire site, salvage crews immediately began felling burned pines and dying trees, spraying the area with herbicide and planting conifer saplings. The result is little ground vegetation but stands of artificially planted conifers returning apace…

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Disagreements over salvage logging versus natural recovery after fires”

  1. I agree with you Dave. When logging is shut down in this country because of various reasons……we have no qualms about shipping lumber from other countries.

  2. well id like to know what will happen if no logging is allowed,where i live,northern california foothills,in the gold country,logging has been cut off (is that a pun?)and the only log trucks we see are loaded with burnt timber,so if we cant log except for after fires,and it happens everywhere,who will supply timber for lumber?..what 3rd world country will it come from?..and when will the tree huggers attack that country??BTW,i know several very mouthy huggers who live in wooden houses,with solid oak cabinets and oak paneling through out,including real oak wooden floors,,and cords of oak fire wood under the back decks,these homes are located where we had an awesome oak woodland,then when a contractor tried to build homes adjacent to that tract,these same men and women got it shutdown,claiming the loss of the natural oaks would be detrimental to the enviroment.disgusting.


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