In their recent response to George Wuerthner’s Guest Opinion on Colville National Forest logging (“Harvesting trees is bad for forests,” Feb. 7), Russ Vaagen, former VP of the Vaagen family company logging the forest and now CEO of its recent timber company spin-off, and Mike Petersen, The Lands Council executive, try to make “collaboration” the issue in forest management (“Forests are a source of abundance,” Feb. 21).
Collaboration is only a means, and it can be used for good or ill. In this case loggers have more trees to cut, but where are the new wilderness areas participating conservationists are seeking? And collaboration for the sake of “good looking” forests is an understandable but mistaken measurement of forest health.
Vaagen and Petersen do not address Wuerthner’s scientific and common-sense response about the importance of dead trees, including fire-killed trees, to a healthy forest ecosystem. Leaving a few snags and woody debris does not mitigate logging’s removal of the bulk of carbon storage and its hindrance to natural reforestation.
Studies have demonstrated that the thinning of forests removes more carbon storage, i.e., releases more carbon, than even wildfires. And there is abundant evidence that forest thinning and firebreaks do not reduce fire damage under the extreme fire conditions which we are increasingly experiencing with climate change.
The notion that, as Vaagen and Petersen say, “The logs delivered to area mills are simply the byproduct of creating healthy forests” is both simplistic and a boondoggle in favor of tree farming for the timber industry. So what really is the goal here? The history of logging in the United States over the past 300 years, or even over the past 50 years of “enlightened” logging practices, puts the lie to the notion that healthy forests rely on logging.
I can understand why a timber company executive approves of reforestation via logging. I am amazed that “conservationists” would agree, no matter honest differences in strategy. That is, unless some have simply given up on the idea that Mother Nature manages forests far better than timber companies and their collaborators?
W. T. Soeldner
Upper Columbia River Group of Sierra Club