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Open Roads Forum  >  Public Lands, Boondocking and Dry Camping

 > Seeking expert opinion: thinning vs prescribed burns

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profdant139

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Posted: 09/05/19 03:58pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Actually, steelhunter, these are THREE governmental entities that disagree with each other!

I am biased toward the Cal Fire model (mostly thinning) simply because the thinned forests (such as Jackson and Mountain Home) look so great -- green, open, healthier trees. But I am speaking from ignorance. Just because it looks good does not make it right!

I guess the answer depends, in part, on the goals of the forest managers -- is the forest there for museum-like preservation, as in the national parks? Is the goal to maximize logging revenue, without worrying about esthetics? Is the goal to "fireproof" the forest, to avoid catastrophic crown fires in a drought-prone era?

If thinning is the answer, how does one avoid damage to the soil (compaction) and the watershed? And would prescribed burns be any less damaging, given not only the ashy runoff but also the soil damage caused by falling trees?

I've hiked through recent "prescribed burn" areas many times, and it can create quite a mess -- lots of freshly turned soil, clogged stream-beds, etc. But on the third hand, that is kind of what happens in a natural burn, too!


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cewillis

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Posted: 09/05/19 04:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

1320Fastback wrote:

Again not a expert but forest fires have been happening before man was a thing.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2015/11/19/the-age-of-fire-when-ancient-forests-burned/amp/


That is indeed very interesting: factual history/evolution/botany/ecology/chemistry.
Clearly fire was nature's original way - and the way I would prefer, except that humanity has changed nature so much that the 'nature way' has big potential and actual problems. And it now seems impossible to me to restore original forest conditions on any meaningful scale.
So my weasel answer is 'it depends'; fire when 'reasonable and practical'.


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steelhunter

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Posted: 09/05/19 04:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

profdant139 wrote:

Actually, steelhunter, these are THREE governmental entities that disagree with each other!

I am biased toward the Cal Fire model (mostly thinning) simply because the thinned forests (such as Jackson and Mountain Home) look so great -- green, open, healthier trees. But I am speaking from ignorance. Just because it looks good does not make it right!

I guess the answer depends, in part, on the goals of the forest managers -- is the forest there for museum-like preservation, as in the national parks? Is the goal to maximize logging revenue, without worrying about esthetics? Is the goal to "fireproof" the forest, to avoid catastrophic crown fires in a drought-prone era?

If thinning is the answer, how does one avoid damage to the soil (compaction) and the watershed? And would prescribed burns be any less damaging, given not only the ashy runoff but also the soil damage caused by falling trees?

I've hiked through recent "prescribed burn" areas many times, and it can create quite a mess -- lots of freshly turned soil, clogged stream-beds, etc. But on the third hand, that is kind of what happens in a natural burn, too!


How to manage toward an agreed goal is the sticky wicket because as you point out there is no consensus. ....some want recreation, some want fiber production and some want wilderness.

You are a thoughtful soul....maybe we need more of your kind to resolve the dilemma.

Tom/Barb

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Posted: 09/05/19 04:44pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

steelhunter wrote:

profdant139 wrote:

tom and barb and steelhunter, if you both are logging professionals, do you have specific opinions about thinning versus prescribed burns?

To put it another way, what's past is past -- clearly, total fire prevention did not work. And clear-cutting does prevent fires, but it is a pretty extreme remedy. So that is why I am trying to evaluate the various middle-ground solutions. I am guessing that the answer is not so simple.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


Both methods have a place in managing timber areas. It depends on a variety of factors.


With that I'll agree, there are many tools in the forest management tool box than just one thing or two.
In the project we did in the Okanogan national forest in the 70s and 80s we thinned where needed, limbed up as required, and did the control burns to clear all slash off the forest floor.

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ppine

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Posted: 09/06/19 07:04am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

IN order to get to the right density of stocking in western forests, it will require logging and thinning of green trees. People need to get over this idea that we can simply "clean up the dead trees and clear out the understory." That leaves the fundamental problem which is too many live trees per acre. Logging is required first before prescribed fire can be safely used.

Naio

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Posted: 09/06/19 08:42am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

In the PNW forests I worked in, thinning was something logging companies paid the national forest for the right to do. Thinning was just another logging contract.

This meant that the forest managers were under a lot of pressure to provide thinning contracts, which would be income for the forest service.

It also meant that the thinning was done by companies who didn't have any particular interest in conservation, and were motivated by profit.

It's true that an old growth forests the trees rarely burn, just the underbrush. And in young forests the trees burn.

How to get from one to another is difficult. For one thing, the logging practices of the past couple hundred years have destroyed the soil, and most of it has washed away. When replanting, it is difficult to even find a pocket of soil to put each tree in.

It's interesting that you find the thinned forests pleasant to walk in. What sort of ecosystem did you grow up in? Are they more like the forests where you grew up? I find them extremely creepy and I basically feel like I'm walking in a Walmart. Widely separated young trees are not something that occurs in nature in the PNW.


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time2roll

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Posted: 09/06/19 08:52am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Only way to get it right is to just stop managing and accept what nature brings.
JMHO


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Naio

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Posted: 09/06/19 09:05am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

This is what PNW forests are supposed to look like.

Notice all the downed wood that is rotting to create new soil. Leaving most of it to rot, with occasional fire that liberates other nutrients and, as someone said allows different seeds to germinate, is what is required. Note also the large old trees (and their thick layer of ancient lichen) that trap moisture.

Removing wood in any form, whether clearcutting or thinning, destroys the soil. This can be to a greater or lesser extent depending on what equipment is used, but the fact is you are taking a lot of carbon out of the system and where is that going to be replaced from?

We got into the fire suppression game because people thought that if they suppressed all the fires, then they could remove the wood themselves and use it for lumber. That has not worked out. It has led to billions of acres of forests that are fire prone just because they are young.

Young forests are made of kindling. Trees with thin trunks, lots of brush, a forest floor that is missing its foot-deep layer of damp rotting wood, a canopy that is too thin to retain the moisture and shade the ground.

I don't know what the solution is. I suppose we could desalinate a lot of ocean water and hose down the forests every couple weeks to replicate the water retention that old growth parent trees would have provided. That would be insanely expensive and probably have some kind of negative effect on the oceans.

Tom/Barb

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Posted: 09/06/19 09:15am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Wild out of control forest fires can be prevented by proper forest management practices.
Thinning alone will not do it. when you thin and leave the slash, you invite fire to clean up for you.
When you thin out trees, you must also limb the standing trees so that any fire on the forest floor can not catch the forest canopy and destroy the standing trees, to finish the job control burns clean up the slash, leaving no fuel to burn.
It requires the complete job be done, But DNR is not funded to do all that is required.

Tom/Barb

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Posted: 09/06/19 09:21am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Naio wrote:

This is what PNW forests are supposed to look like. .


Actually only in the rain forest of the coastal reason. that moss and vine maple requires tons of rain. Thus you don't see major fires in that area.

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