3 Reasons to Buck the Horse Creek Project

By
Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

(1) Logging Makes Conditions Worse

The Forest Service claims that the project is necessary to reduce fuel loads and ensure a new forest will return. Logging will actually hinder both of these goals. In the short-term, logging will increase fuels on the forest floor and harm the natural regeneration of the forest.

Loggers generally only take out the merchantable timber from a logging area. The rest—the limbs, tops, and other wood not good enough for a sawmill—will be left on the ground creating a sudden accumulation of wood. (Without logging, these dead trees will fall at a sporadic rate, with the smaller diameter trees falling first and larger diameter trees holding on much longer.)

The area is naturally regenerating. In May, EPIC staff visited numerous logging sites and discovered that the forest is already being reborn. Even in areas that burned at high-severity, life is abundant. Hardwood trees are sprouting from stumps and the forest floor is full of little conifer seedlings. Given time, another forest will regrow here. Logging, however, puts this regeneration at risk. Heavy machinery and crews of loggers will compact and chew up the forest floor, killing the regrowth.

The story of how this science was ultimately published is a doozy and shows the close relationship between the timber industry, college forestry departments, and Congress.

(2) Taxpayers Subsidize Private Logging Companies

It is likely that the Horse Creek Project will require taxpayer dollars to subsidize private logging. Even if you don’t give a hoot about the logging project’s impacts to owls, this corporate cronyism should upset you!

Frequently, post-fire timber sales like Horse Creek cost more to plan than they make back in timber revenue. The economic value of the standing dead trees as timber is low. After a fire, timber value diminishes dramatically. In a recent salvage sale, the Klamath National Forest spent over $3 million on planning but recovered only $336,000 dollars in timber revenue.

Not only does it cost more to produce a project than the government will make back, but taxpayers are asked to clean up after the logging.

As discussed above, logging will create large amounts of fuels in the near term. Instead of requiring the timber industry to clean up after themselves, taxpayers will ultimately be responsible for cleaning up this mess under the guise of “site preparation.” Further, because logging requires new roads and road upgrades, taxpayers will pay to have back-country roads retrofitted to accommodate and clean up the impacts of heavy logging equipment on public roadways.

In effect, taxpayers are not only paying to produce a project that will benefit the timber industry, but we are also footed with the bill to clean up their mess!

(3) Logging Will Remove Habitat for Forest Critters

In both the short- and long-term, post-fire logging destroys habitat for our wild friends like the northern spotted owl and the Pacific fisher.

Owls and fishers are adapted to a fire-heavy regime and will use post-fire forests for hunting. The large pulse of dead wood, together with the growth of herbs and shrubs, provides great habitat for some prey, like woodrats. The standing dead trees provide the necessary structure and some element of protection. Owls will perch on the limbs of dead trees and fishers will rest in the dead trees and downed logs.

Post-fire logging removes the largest trees—those that provide the structure necessary for critters like the owl and the fisher. When the trees are cut, the area can no longer function as habitat in the short term. The largest dead trees are also those that are likely to continue standing until a new forest grows up. In the long term, logging and subsequent tree planting will simplify regrowing forests into even-aged, monocrop tree farms, making them less valuable as future habitat.

Click here to take action and learn more about the Horse Creek Project.