Wildfire/Forests Letter to the Editor + Commentary in 7 Colorado Newspapers

Eco-Integrity Alliance recently had a letter to the editor advocating for protecting forests from phony “wildfire fuel reduction” logging published in 7 Colorado newspapers: Boulder Weekly, Canyon Courier, Colorado Springs Gazette, Grand Junction Sentinel, Colorado Sun Colorado Sentinel, and The Flume.

We also had a longer commentary on the topic published in the Colorado Sun.

See the full text of the letter to the editor and commentary below:

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: More Logging Won’t Protect Homes from Wildfire

The large wildfires we’ve been experiencing in Colorado and across the West— threatening our homes and risking the lives of residents and firefighters—are the result of high temperatures and drought made worse by climate change, coinciding with high winds. And the two most important actions we can take in response are to: 1. Make homes “Firewise.” 2. Preserve our carbon-storing forests.

Appallingly, Sen. Bennet, Sen. Hickenlooper, and Rep. Joe Neguse are spending $3.3 billion in taxpayer dollars (under the 2021 infrastructure bill) that could fund Firewise programs to instead cut down our National Forests under the guise of “wildfire risk reduction.”

A quick glance at any number of studies shows that logging forests cannot prevent the large fires that menace our communities—again, the byproduct of hot temperatures, dry conditions, and high winds. To the contrary, logging can actually dry out forests by opening stands to sunlight and wind, and even spread flames faster.

Yet right now, 3.5 million acres of your Front Range public lands are on the chopping block under this fraudulent scheme that degrades natural ecosystems, worsens climate change, and provides a false sense of security that endangers the homes and lives of Coloradans.

If you value human life and the natural world, please contact your Congressional delegation and demand that they stop wasting your taxes on logging our living climate buffers and instead put every dollar into making our communities Firewise.


COMMENTARY: More Logging Won’t Protect Homes from Wildfire

The large wildfires we’ve been experiencing in Colorado and across the West threaten our homes while risking—and all too often, taking—the lives of residents and firefighters. Scientists studying the phenomenon know these big fires are the result of high temperatures and drought exacerbated by climate change and coinciding with high winds.

Luckily, there are two simple and extremely effective actions we can take in response. The first is to make our homes “Firewise,” tending an area up to 100 feet around a structure, installing metal roofs, etc. These efforts alone can protect 95% of homes, according to studies from the USDA’s Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Laboratory.

The second is to preserve our carbon-storing forests, living climate buffers that also give us clean air and water, flood and erosion control, and fish and wildlife habitat.

Instead, Sen. Bennet, Sen. Hickenlooper, and Rep. Neguse have been spending taxpayer dollars that could fund Firewise programs to cut down our National Forests to the tune of over $3.3 billion (under the 2021 infrastructure bill) in the name of “wildfire risk reduction.”

Why in the world are they doing this? Because the conventional wisdom of the forest products industry, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management is that our forests are “overgrown” and these “fuels” (aka trees) are to blame for the fires burning down our communities.

Now it’s definitely true that the practice of logging plus fire suppression over the last century has prevented the ecologically essential process of wildfire from doing its thing. And who do you think was—and still is—pushing to suppress those backcountry fires? Yep, the forest products industry, Forest Service, and BLM.

But if “fuels” alone were behind the big fires, then the Coast Range forests of the Pacific Northwest—containing the most biomass of anywhere on Earth—would be constantly ablaze. Instead, wildfires there are few and far between. Why? Because the coast keeps temperatures low and moisture high.

Whereas here in Colorado and the rest of the arid West, large fires are the byproduct of high temperatures, low moisture, and high winds. When those factors are in play, you can clearcut an entire forest and flames will still spread.

For instance, the Marshall Fire outside Boulder—the most destructive in Colorado history—burned almost entirely through grasslands and residential neighborhoods, with hardly a forest to be found. The culprit? High temperatures, low moisture, high winds. And when did the fire stop? When the weather cooled, it snowed, and winds died.

Not only doesn’t logging prevent the fires that menace our communities, but it can actually dry out forests by opening stands to sunlight and wind, spreading flames faster.

Indeed, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history—April’s Calf Canyon fire that ranged over 500 square miles—was the direct result of the Forest Service program of logging followed by prescribed burns to “reduce fuels,” that spread out of control during a high wind event. The same thing happened in May in southwest Colorado near Montrose, where the Forest Service let another of its “fuel treatments” run loose, with this one escaping across 300 acres, burning down three structures including a resident’s home. 

Yet this “log to save the forest” scheme is exactly what’s planned for 3.5 million acres of Colorado’s popular Front Range public lands, and tens of millions of acres across the West, according to the Forest Service’s “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis.” Meanwhile, nearly all the real work and costs to protect homes fall on communities and homeowners.

At best, this logging is expensive busywork that might limit the spread of a few smaller backcountry fires, which we already know we should let burn. At worst, it’s degrading natural ecosystems, worsening climate change, and providing a false sense of security that endangers the homes, economies, and lives of Coloradans.

Published by eco-integrityalliance

The mission of the Eco-Integrity Alliance is to unite the “alternative” environmental movement under a big tent of ecological integrity through common campaigns of mutual support.

2 thoughts on “Wildfire/Forests Letter to the Editor + Commentary in 7 Colorado Newspapers

  1. I completely agree with your essay. I have been saying the same thing for years. The current out of control fires are the result of the changing climate, caused by global warming. A lot or our forests are likely a lost cause. Which, frighteningly, make the climate problem worse on several levels.
    Every spare tax dollar ought to go into eliminating greenhouse gases.

    We always hear some Forest Service expert talking about cutting down the burned trunks after a fire. They say fuels have to be reduced and there is a safety problem with trunks falling on hikers. I actually did hear once of hiker that was killed. But I give the example of building a fire in the fireplace. There is a mixture of different sizes of wood, maybe even paper, that as they catch fire transfer that heat to the next larger piece. Holding your match next to a log would not start a fire. So after a forest fire there is no longer “kindling” to catch the trunks on fire. Bare trunks are not fuel. The trunks are, however, habitat for many critters looking for new homes. Fire is a natural process as old as forests. Bare tree trunks are part of nature’s ways.

    In a course I took recently at Colorado Mountain College, I learned the Native Americans had been using fire to manage forests and brush lands for thousands of years. That is along the whole Pacific Coast.

    I came across a forest scientist in this area a few years ago that was saying exactly the same thing. He had researched the problem. But, as a long time observer of forest management it is clear that they are more influenced by political convenience. Our local politicians are only too happy to take credit and promote any program that brings federal dollars.

    I don’t know how one changes the conventional wisdom about our forests, and about the need to be more forceful on climate change. Thank you for your work.
    Best regards,
    Pat
    Carbondale Environmental Board

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment. We think the discussion needs to go from simply logging industry propaganda to these points that we’re making. Our Colorado media isn’t well educated on these issues, so most people don’t hear about them, which is why we’re reaching out to local journalists and speaking to–and pressuring–the politicians making this all happen.

      Like

Leave a Reply to eco-integrityalliance Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: