Opinion & Editorial
Logging industry misleads on fires and climate change
by Chad Hanson, Ph.D.
Recent editorials by timber industry spokespersons, including the Montana Wood Products Association's Ellen Engstedt, are a wildly misleading attempt to promote increased logging of western U.S. forests under the guise of reducing wildland fires and mitigating climate change. The timber industry fails to mention, however, that logging is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (Schlesinger, "Biogeochemistry: an analysis of global change", Academic Press, 1997). A recent scientific study found that completely protecting our national forests from all commercial logging would significantly increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gases (forests "breathe in" CO2 and incorporate the carbon into new growth), while increasing logging on our public lands would have the opposite effect (Depro et al. 2008, Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 255).
The logging industry also makes numerous scientifically-inaccurate assumptions about fire. For example, the industry would have us believe that little or no natural growth of forest will occur after wildland fire. In fact, some of the most vigorous and productive forest growth occurs after burns, including in high severity fire areas in which most or all of the trees were killed (Shatford and others 2007, Journal of Forestry, May 2007).
Fire converts woody material on the forest floor from relatively unusable forms into highly useable nutrients, which aids forest productivity and carbon sequestration. The rapid forest growth following wildland fire sequesters huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Whatever carbon emissions occur from combustion during wildland fire and subsequent decay of fire-killed trees is more than balanced by forest growth across the landscape over time. To put the issue in perspective, current emissions from forest fires are only a tiny fraction of those from fossil fuel consumption, and carbon sequestration from forest growth far outweighs carbon emissions from fire.
The timber industry also incorrectly claims that, when fire-killed trees fall and decay, essentially all of the carbon in the wood is emitted into the atmosphere. In reality, much of the carbon ends up in the soil (Schlesinger 1997), and is assimilated into the growing forest. Moreover, the timber industry falsely claims that logging facilitates permanent carbon sequestration ostensibly by converting living forests into lumber. In fact, most of the carbon from a felled tree is either burned as slash or as "hog fuel" from mill residue; only about 15% becomes some type of durable wood product (A. Ingerson, 2007, The Wilderness Society, Washington, D.C.). The half-life of these "durable" wood products is less than 40 years (Smith et al. 2005, U.S. Forest Service Northeast Gen. Tech. Rpt. 34).
Logging industry spokespersons also greatly exaggerate the percentage of trees killed by fire. The Forest Service's own data shows that, contrary to popular myth, low and moderate severity effects (where most overstory trees survive) dominate current wildland fires (Forest Service data in Rhodes and Baker 2008, Open Forest Science Journal, Vol. 1). Modern fires are a mix of low, moderate, and high severity effects, just as they were historically, prior to fire suppression programs. The main difference between then and now is that the total area of forest annually affected by fire currently is only about one-tenth of what it was prior to 1850, due to fire suppression (Stephens and others 2007, Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 251).
Native species have evolved with fire over millennia in western forests, and many depend upon post-fire habitat. Interestingly, some of the highest levels of native biodiversity among animals and higher plants are found in unlogged forested areas that have burned at high severity (Noss and others 2006, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, Vol. 4).
It's important for people to know the facts about fire, ecosystems, and climate. Unfortunately, the timber industry is less interested in the truth than it is in misleading people to serve its own economic goals.
Dr. Chad Hanson has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis, where he conducts post-doctoral research on fire ecology. He has authored or co-authored numerous scientific studies on the subject of forest and fire ecology. He is also the director of the John Muir Project, based in Cedar Ridge, CA. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters to the Editor
I am writing this letter concerning a few issues. First, let me say I love Montana. I love the Bitterroot Valley and I love the community of Stevensville. I am extremely grateful to the Lord for enabling us to return to Montana to raise our children. It has truly been a blessing. We have lived all over this wonderful nation, from Georgia to Las Vegas and even in Germany for a while. I have always been involved in the school district my children attended and in the communities in which we lived by volunteering. For 10 years my children have attended the Stevensville School district and for 10 years I have been a very familiar face. Sometimes I feel like I am always at the schooland not just because I have a lot of children.
My children have been in some pretty bad school districts. In fact in Las Vegas, when I asked how I could volunteer, the school officials and teachers looked at me like I had horns. They didn't know how to answer my question. So I told them that two days a week I would be spending an hour in each of my son's classrooms. At first I just sat and observed because the teacher would say there was nothing for me to do. After several weeks however, they kept me busy with grading papers or Accelerated Reading tests and so on. I went on to run for secretary of the PTA and served for a year before we moved to Montana.
Since moving here I have volunteered in many classrooms, helped with hearing and eye screenings, read to children, helped in craft projects, spent several years as secretary of the Stevi PTA (until we had to disband due to lack of interest), and spent five years with the Family Resource Center doing Family Fun Nights and Literacy Lunches. A few years ago I helped start the Stevensville Schools Music Association (which directly helps the band and choir programs, which are excellent at Stevi), and through that organization we have raised thousands of dollars to help kids go to festivals and to help with new sound equipment and more. Even in the dreaded JR High I am the cookie lady. I go into the pre-algebra classes to show the kids how they do need to use math in the real world and to encourage them to continue their education. This year I even wrote and directed two Kindergarten plays!!
Why do I tell you all this? I certainly do not need or want praise or acknowledgement. I want those of you who don't know me to understand I am not speaking from the sidelines, but in the trenches. The Stevensville School and community are wonderful, but they are not perfect. No school district is perfect. They all have strengths and weaknesses. The school here in Stevensville has a problem that also plagues every other school in this nationPARENTAL APATHY. When I first started volunteering here there were many other volunteers. They have dwindled.
The catalyst to writing this letter, however, was Creamery Picnic. The Music Association usually puts on a 3-on 3-basketball tournament. This year I made over 20 phone calls and tried to put together two meetings. Most of my phone messages were not returned and no one could come and help. I decided I could not do it alone.
My son is the Junior Class President for this upcoming school year. The junior class is responsible for putting on Promwhich means raising a lot of money (which I will get into later). My son made dozens of phone calls to classmates and their parents. He had no advisors to help him or tell him what he needed to do, but this is the 3rd prom in 4 years that I have had a son directly responsible for putting it on, so I knew what he needed to do. He called his vice and many more kids and had a meeting. Out of over 100 kids and at least 150 parents, three could give up two hours this weekend. Most of his phone messages also went unanswered. In both cases, we heard, "we are too busy," "we are not that kind of people," "I just don't do those things."
Now, I realize everyone is busy. I have 11 children, my husband works two jobs and I bake 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday and sell at the Farmers Market in Hamilton all day SaturdayI know busy. But I also know priorities. Our children spend more time in the school than any other place. Shouldn't we make it the best possible experience? There is a direct correlation between the decline in a school and the decline in parental involvement. Parents stay away, schools decline and communities decline. The best way to improve a community is to get involved in making the school better. And not just parents. Where are the grandparents, the concerned neighbor or just anyone wanting to make the world a better place? Even if it was for the selfish reason of feeling good about yourself (and you really do feel great when the kids come up and hug you or say Hi, coach!). I love going to any of the schoolsK-12and the kids greet me with smiles and hugs. I love these kids and I would do whatever I could if any of them needed my help and they know I love them because I am there.
We need community leaders, businessmen, farmers, doctors, church leaders, lawyers, moms, dads, aunt and uncles to get involved! The kids don't care what you do for a living or how much you make. You would also be very pleasantly surprised at how wonderful, kind, and respectful the youth can be when they are met with honesty and genuine concern. There are also many ways to volunteer in the community, from coaching t-ball and soccer, to helping build new parks and places for kids to safely hang out. Many of the same people who claim to be "too busy" to help, seem to have enough time to ski, hunt, fish, play basketball with the guys or any other popular hobby I could name. The time has come to make our children our hobbies and our priority. I have also heard many say, "What can I do? I am only one person!" When everyone sits on the sidelines waiting for someone else to do something, nothing is accomplished. Sometimes it just takes one or two to stand up and get involved for others to follow.
Now a little blurb about Prom. Many of you may not know that the Stevensville High School holds Prom in Missoula at the University. Not usually in a ballroom, but an overflow cafeteria room smaller than our gyms here at our school. Many of you may not see a problem with that, but I personally feel our high school children belong here in their hometown. But even if you do not agree with me, lets look at the financial end of it. As the junior class president my son will have to raise $3- to $4,000 for Prom. That means 8 to 10 fundraisers. And where does that fundraiser money come from? Out of the pockets of the people of Stevensville.
Now, I am a champion at fundraising so I know we can do it, but our taxes were just raised by the mill levy and gas is at an all-time high. Why should the community have to fund a cafeteria room at the university, too? Between the rented "ballroom," rent-a-cops, and catering (because we are not allowed to bring in outside food) the cost of just having Prom at the U of M is around $1400.
So, note to parents and concerned community members: if you want Prom to stay in Missoula I need either help at fundraisers or donations. If however, you feel as outraged as I and want Prom to come back where it belongs, please call the administration and voice your concern. There are many other reasons why I feel Prom should not be held off campus, but my letter is already too long.
I am trying to organize a concerned parent group, not PTA, not to fundraise and not to gripe, but to help improve our school and let concerned parents voices be heard. One voice alone is not heard, but many together have changed nations. Please feel free to call me if you are interested in more information. I am in the phone book.
I realize I may have ruffled some feathers. I am sorry if I offended. I have the "people pleasing disease" and want to be liked by all, but I feel the lone voice and our children, school and community need more and I am unable to be silent any longer. Those of you that know me realize I am seldom quiet.
Thanks from Main Street and Civic Club
Congratulations to Marj Dinius of Lolo, Montana for having the winning ticket for the Pot of Gold drawing held on Saturday night at Creamery Picnic. The lucky winner takes home $2008 gold dollars! The Pot of Gold raffle was a super success thanks to this years sponsors: Rocky Mountain Bank, Ravalli County Bank, Missoula Federal Credit Union, Edward Jones Investments and Selway Corporation. Also thanks to the great ticket sellers everyone did a great job! The fundraiser is a benefit to the Civic Club and Main Street Association. Thank you for your support of this fun event!
Joan Prather (for)
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