BLM intends to take shortcuts to begin cutting timber after a fire

salvage logging
Skidder and delimber operating on a fuel management research project in the Priest River Experimental Forest in Idaho. Forest Service photo.

The Bureau of Land Management will open a 30-day period during which it will accept public comments on their plans to remove some steps that are required before cutting timber following a fire.

The agency intends to no longer require Environmental Impact Statements or Environmental Assessments on what they call “salvage” operations of less than 5,000 acres — cutting dead or dying trees which can result from insects or wildfires. They would use a Categorial Exemption (CX) to skip some environmental review steps that are usually required.

The BLM’s press release about their plans did not include information about how the public could comment, just that, “[A] a public comment period on the proposed CX closes 30 days after the proposal publishes in the Federal Register. The BLM will provide additional information about when and how to comment when the proposed rule is published. ”

Their press release saw no issues with their planned accelerated timber cutting operations:

The BLM has completed a review of scientific literature and previously analyzed and implemented actions and found no evidence that salvage harvest at the levels proposed would have a negative effect on forest health. To the contrary, removing dead and dying trees can accelerate forest succession and benefit native wildlife species that rely on successional habitat, while reducing the potential for catastrophic wildfires.

An opposing point of view is in a paper written by D.B. Lindenmayer and R.F. Noss, titled “Salvage Logging, Ecosystem Processes, and Biodiversity Conservation.” It was in Conservation Biology, Volume 20, No. 4, August, 2006.

Here is an excerpt:


“Some of the impacts we have outlined may be different from or additional to the effects of traditional forms of logging that are not preceded by large, natural disturbance events. This is because the conditions preceding, during, and after salvage logging may differ from those in areas subject to traditional logging. Moreover, the ecological benefits derived from large-scale disturbances (such as the creation of charred trees and coarse woody debris) can be lost or severely diminished by salvage operations for decades and even centuries (Lindenmayer & Ough 2006). These problems have often been overlooked or poorly understood by conservation biologists, foresters, and other natural resource managers. In some cases salvage impacts may have been so substantial that past interpretations of ecosystem responses to natural disturbance may need to be reexamined. That is, ecosystem processes and biotic responses may have been more influenced by salvage logging than by the initial natural disturbance event. This may be true for hydrological regimes in the northeastern United States following the 1938 hurricane (Foster et al. 1997), aquatic macroinvertebrates in the western United States (Minshall 2003), and arboreal marsupials in the forests of Victoria, Australia, after the 1939 and 1983 wildfires (Lindenmayer et al. 1997).

“Whereas most documented effects of salvage logging are negative from an ecological standpoint, others can be neutral or positive, depending on the response variables measured. Effects are likely to vary over time and among and within vegetation types in response to the type, intensity, and periodicity of natural disturbance and disturbance by salvage logging. Therefore, there can be no generic recipes for salvage logging that can be uncritically applied in all landscapes.

“Perhaps one of the problems associated with the lack of appreciation of the impacts of salvage logging lies in the terminology itself. Dictionary definitions of the term salvage associate it with “recover or save” or “saving of anything from loss or danger” (e.g., Delbridge & Bernard 1989). Although salvage logging removes wood from burned areas, such practices generally do not help regenerate or save ecosystems, communities, or species (but see Radeloff et al. 2000) and often have the opposite effect. Hence, in many respects, the term salvage is inappropriate and misleading from ecological and conservation perspectives. An alternative term might be postdisturbance logging.”

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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. Google+

11 thoughts on “BLM intends to take shortcuts to begin cutting timber after a fire”

  1. It’s about time. After spending a year on the Rim Fire recovery trying to get a roadside salvage EA and general salvage EIS out, all the while watching SPI falling and hauling off of their 18K acres in the middle of the burn. The fire wasn’t even controlled yet and they were falling. When it was finally done the STF had a heck of time selling their sales because the mills were all full of SPI logs.

  2. The land should be allowed to recover on its own. It will reseed and repopulate naturally. This ” salvage” by BLM is misleading. It is a land grab so more cattle can be placed to further ruin the land. Or more oil/ gas / mining operations. Either way it’s a dangerous destruction to our public land. BLM is decimating our land with our tax money against the will of the American people.

    1. What about the “will of the American people” who disagree with you?
      Salvage lodging if done properly is a good use of the land.

      1. Hardly. It’s a rush to use the land for other purposes and not allow the land to recover naturally. More of Pendley’s efforts to turn over public land for economic benefit.

    2. We have seen countless examples of wildfires returning to the same landscape burned & “allowed to recover on its own” with the succeeding fires even more intense, more damaging, converting forestland into brush fields covering expanded areas left to reburn again. This CX authority would expand the current 250 acre authority to 5,000 acres. Today’s wildfires of 20,000 hardly draw attention as so many exceed 100,000 each summer–termed Megafires by ecologists like Hessburg. Permitting the land managers the discretion to expedite the environmental reviews to reduce fuels and public hazards in a fraction of burned over areas seems more than reasonable, it is necessary.

    3. I wonder if any Wild Horses and Burros are on this land, they always seem to rush anything, when it comes to protect our wild ones???!!! BLM is a very destructive entity that loves to do whatever they want, without any public vote!!!!! Very disturbing!!!!

    4. Jack, have you seen the videos or documentaries on the aftermath of Mt. Saint Helens ? The feds have left the land along so they can study how things will go naturally… All they have to do is look at Mt
      Rainier ,right next door for that. But Weyerhouser tree co. salvaged their property right next to fed forest and replanted the trees. There is no comparison
      Feds still looks like a devastated waste land, with a few bushes that have grown up. Only trees are ones that were young at the time and buried under snow at the time of the eruption. No trees no trees seeding..
      On the other hand the timber company’s land has 20 to 30 foot trees growing, It looks like a forest next to a desert. Check it out for yourself.

  3. If it’s such a fine idea why is the BLM rushing to pass these shortcuts.? It appears that the people who are in charge of the BLM are only interested in. Grabbing the quick buck. Who will really profit by this. The people in charge of. The BLM seems to not really care for what is environmentally correct but wish to grab what is best financially no matter the cost.

  4. Streamlining is the more appropriate term. The current environmental regulatory policy coupled with the exclusion of fire in our ecosystems have done more harm to our forests and rangelands than any man made action in history. Mother nature will reclaim her forests by fire or otherwise and our society regardless of political or environmental beliefs will be in the direct path.

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