Right now, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is preparing to log thousands of acres of fire-impacted federal public lands across the state. The Trump Administration’s recent expansion in the size of logging projects that can be “categorically excluded” from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on lands managed by the BLM is one way federal agencies are planning to permit the large-scale logging of fire-affected public lands with little public oversight, process or transparency.
Last year’s Labor Day fires may have been fueled by climatic changes, but the charred forests left behind still store carbon and stabilize soils. Unfortunately, post-fire logging is being planned right now that would reduce forest carbon storage, and could increase sediment in community drinking water. Now that the Biden administration is in office, it is up to our elected officials to reverse Trump-era rules that rush ahead post-fire logging, and instead institute lasting protections for unique fire-impacted landscapes. Please contact Oregon’s federal delegation and encourage them to take action to protect our federal forests from post-fire clearcuts!
Why should burned trees be left in the forest?
- Fires are a natural and necessary part of the forest life cycle. Immediately after a fire, life returns to the forest. Even the most severely burned forests are teeming with native biodiversity and rich wildlife habitats. As soon as the fire goes out, animal and plant species begin to return to the forest.
- Post-fire logging projects convert complex fire-impacted forests into monoculture tree plantations. Post-fire logging typically removes most of the remaining trees and involves intense road building and maintenance, the planting of non-native species and the application of toxic herbicides. The combined impacts of these actions are massive disruptions to forest health, degrade habitat, harm forested watersheds, and set back forest recovery after a fire.
- Logging emits far more carbon than even severe wildfire. Even the most severe fires do not release all of the stored carbon in a forest. While fire-killed trees may take several decades or even centuries to decompose, during the logging and milling process, most of the carbon is rapidly released into the atmosphere. Post fire logging undercuts the natural sequestration and storage capacity of post-fire forests and contributes to carbon emissions that worsen climate change.
Logging harms water quality and degrades our drinking watersheds. While fire can impact our drinking watersheds, studies by top experts at Oregon State University have shown that post-fire logging can magnify and compound the impact by 28 times. Logging a fire burned landscape can increase sedimentation in watersheds by 2,800%, harm salmon and trout and increase costs for communities who rely on clean and abundant drinking water.
- Expanding categorical exclusions undermines bedrock environmental protections for federal lands. By expanding the amount of acres of fire-burned forests allowed for Categorical Exclusions, the Trump administration’s Department of Interior is attempting to skirt public involvement and transparency and rush through massive clearcut proposals on fire-impacted federal public lands. This undermines hard-fought environmental protections for these forests and the myriad ecosystem services that federal lands provide.
- Federal lands should not be managed for profit. Federal lands are strongholds for mature and old growth forests, sanctuaries for critical habitat, purifiers for our drinking water, vast venues for adventure and recreation, and powerful tools for combating climate change. We cannot let these national treasures be sacrificed to revenue-driven post-fire logging.
- Wildland Firefighters and Post Fire Logging