To the Editor:
The fires that swept across the state last year released huge amounts of sequestered carbon, polluted watersheds and turned the skies above Oregon the color of a used cigarette filter. However, as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management address the potential hazards of burned forests along many of our forest roads, we risk greater ecological damage. Post-fire forests pose many environmental challenges, impacting watersheds, soil quality and releasing tons of sequestered carbon. However, indiscriminate post-fire logging is no solution. Research at Oregon State University found that logging burned forests released an additional 40% of carbon stored in large tree trunks. Moreover, post-fire logging worsens soil and water quality too, increasing sedimentation in watersheds by up to 28 times.
Removing burned trees and overhangs near frequently-trafficked roadways that pose legitimate safety hazards to road users meets the definition of "hazard removal." However, pressing ahead with up to 200-foot-wide roadside clear-cuts under the same excuse presents a different issue entirely. It is maddening to see environmental regulations reserved for healthy ecosystems tossed aside in the very name of the "public safety" these regulations are supposed to guarantee.
We must urge the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management not to clear-cut tens of thousands of acres, but to cut trees carefully and selectively. In this way, we can follow the science, allow burned ecosystems to revitalize, ensure our forests are still safe to navigate and avoid further environmental destruction in the misleading name of "hazard removal."