More’s Not Necessarily Better

Environmeddlists have for years subscribed to the idea that more is better. It’s a stupid concept: if two aspirin’s good, twelve must be better, right? Wrong – that dose will kill you.

The same applies to forest management: a hundred trees isn’t better than ten, and in fact carries severe ecological consequences:

Today, our western forests — from the Rockies to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada – are loaded with several billion excess trees. This is the unintended consequence of a longstanding federal policy, symbolized by Smokey Bear, to stamp out forest fires.

That policy has radically altered our forest landscapes, where fires set by lightning or Native Americans had always limited forest stocks to roughly a few dozen trees per acre. All that changed in 1910, when a series of huge wildfires led the federal government to declare war on wildfires through a program that now costs more than $2 billion a year.

The result: roughly 112 to 172 more trees per acre in mountain forests of the West. This process of unnatural afforestation (the establishment of trees or tree stands where none previously were), may sound green and benevolent, but the reality is quite different.

The new trees’ canopies collectively intercept 20-30% of snow and rain that can never seep into the ground, and each additional tree’s roots suck 70 liters of moisture up out of the ground before runoff can feed thirsty creeks.

That adds up. Helen Poulos, a fire ecologist at Wesleyan University and I have estimated, conservatively, that excess trees in the 7.5 million acres of Sierra Nevada conifer forest are responsible for the loss of 58 billion liters per day, or  17 million acre feet of water per year. That’s more than enough water to meet the needs of every Californian for a year.

In a rare burst of sanity, Oregon’s senior Senator from New York, Ron Wyden, is pushing for a program that would reinvigorate southwestern Oregon counties by allowing aggressive thinning of trees on former O&C lands. Not only would this return timbering jobs to the counties that depended upon that income before the environmeddlists succeeded in shutting down logging in the area, research noted above shows that doing so would provide two important additional benefits: increased water flows (think about the ongoing and continuous issues related to the Klamath basin) and decreased fuel loads. 

And that latter means reduced wildfires. For all of the Obama regime’s supposed concerns regarding coal-fired power plants, it continues to support policies that annually place the equivalent of several such plants – in terms of emissions – smack in the middle of our forests. That’s because, like so many other brain-dead environmeddlists, they actually believe stuff like this:

All public land on OR should be free of logging and should be restored and protected to provide clean watershed, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunity.

Idiocy like this is what “guides” environmental policy, even though it’s demonstrably wrong. 

 

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About maxredlines

experience: biology, zoology, psychology. authored/co-authored papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as numerous professional proceedings. authored articles appearing in computer-oriented publications. featured in publications ranging from books to New Yorker magazine to television.
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