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Thinning = healthier forest?

This article was rewritten back in 2009 and the question still hasn’t been answered.  However, wildfires in Northern Arizona, where the thinning sighted was tried, weren’t anywhere as badly damaged as the forests in California were no thinning was applied.  What’s your opinion? 

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A couple months ago, the Arizona Daily Star had an article titled “Plan would boost forest thinning in Northern Arizona”. Briefly, it was reported the Forest Service is considering allowing an increase to 1 million acres of Ponderosa pine forest in northern Arizona to be thinned over the next two decades. (If I understand the numbers correctly, that would be a five fold increase.)

The Coconino, Kaibab, and Prescott National Forests in northern Arizona have tried some “out-of-the-box” thinking when it comes to restoring forest’s health while minimizing wildfire damage. The article implied increased thinning is a good thing but I wonder.

It sounds like something called “selective cutting” will be used. This is when younger trees are removed and the older “big guys” are left standing. I think the theory is the older trees contribute more to the ecology and the younger trees may pose a fire danger. (FYI-A Ponderosa pine has a natural fire protection in their bark so as long as the fire doesn’t reach into the tree’s top needles it can survive. So, the older, taller trees are less like to be killed by fire.) My concern could be misplaced but can’t help wondering if it is wise to keep trees that might have reached the end of their life cycle while removing trees just starting the process.

I remember, while we were researching national forests in the South, a Forest tech commenting how their understanding of prescribed burns impact on an area had increased just since he had been working on the forest. I know the Coconino has been studying the results of thinning for many years. Perhaps this proposal uses those studies.

Another concern I have is that, as I read the article, it sounds like the proposed change is driven more by fiscal consideration than thoughts for environment or ecology. Granted, the Forest Service workforce has been seriously reduced and their budget is reduced shameful but does private industry (they’re the ones who will actually do the harvesting) care as much about our national forest as he national forest folks?

Hopefully the debate continues and many voice will be heard and considered.

A stand of trees before thinning

What the thinned stand looks like – note the difference in the variety of tree sizes and lack of plants and debris on ground.

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Fred and Suzi Dow