A serious climate opportunity

Why does government refuse to do the one thing that would help our forests and climate?

Guest essay by Greg Walcher

For years, politicians have waged war on coal, stifled oil and gas production, and advocated carbon taxes and other extreme measures to reduce carbon dioxide, while ignoring one of the most important things they could do to help.

It reminds me of my own lifelong battle with weight and the associated health issues. I get so frustrated that I sometimes swear I would do anything – anything! – to lose weight. Well, anything except eat less and exercise. But anything else.

That same kind of hypocrisy surrounds rants about our carbon dioxide emissions. Even people who are “deeply concerned” about dangerous manmade climate change drive cars, heat their homes, and sometimes even turn on lights. They embrace modern living standards, while also embracing faddish environmental claims and policies that contribute mightily to problems they insist disturb them greatly.

A popular bumper sticker screams, “TREES ARE THE ANSWER.” Yet when it comes to managing our national forests, many of those same advocates look away, while millions of acres of once healthy trees die, fall down, rot or burn up.

It’s ironic, because those forests provide the world’s greatest resource for cleaning carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; because the rotting and fires themselves emit greenhouse gases; and because atmospheric carbon dioxide makes all plants grow faster and better and with improved tolerance to drought.

As Colorado State Forester Mike Lester testified recently before a state legislative committee, “When so many trees die and large wildfires follow, our forests quickly turn from a carbon sink into a carbon source.” Trees absorb carbon dioxide as people absorb oxygen, and that balance is critical to sustaining life, as we all learned in grade school.

Yet instead of doing everything in our power to make sure we have abundant thriving forests of healthy trees, we allow them to die and burn and thus belch millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

Lester’s excellent testimony accompanied the release of the Colorado State Forest Service’s annual Report on the Health of Colorado Forests. This year’s assessment is the worst ever, and hardly anybody noticed. There was no outcry from global warming alarmists around the world, as there should have been. In fact, their silence on this issue is deafening. And it’s not just Colorado. It’s every state, and beyond.

The more concerned people are about climate change, the more they should be interested in active management to restore forest health. Yet many of the groups pushing urgent climate policies are the same groups that continue to fight logging, tree thinning and other management necessary for healthy forests. The result is more of the same disasters we have seen unfolding for over 20 years: dead and dying forests, catastrophic wildfires, habitat devastation, loss of human property and lives, and destruction of wildlife.

The new forest health report shows that over the last seven years, the number of dead standing trees in Colorado forests increased almost 30 percent, to an estimated 834 million dead trees. There are billions across the other Rocky Mountain States.

The report makes clear that this continuing trend of tree mortality can lead to large, intense wildfires that totally incinerate and obliterate forests, soils and wildlife. In fact, it is only a matter of time before this happens, if the U.S. Forest Service does not act.

Ironically, the most productive forest health restoration projects in Colorado have been partnerships of the State Forester with water providers like Denver Water, Northern Water Conservancy District and Colorado Springs Utilities. That’s because 80 percent of Colorado’s population depends on water that comes from the national forests.

However, the U.S. Forest Service, which owns almost all of the forestland in the State, continues to work with its hands tied behind its back, its timber programs woefully underfunded and vast sums syphoned off every year for fire suppression. Fire control ought to be funded separately, so that active management of healthy forests is not the perpetually lowest priority.

The Forest Service spends a fortune on planning, writing reports, and defending itself against environmental lawsuits, leaving few funds for what it is really supposed to be doing.

What a golden opportunity for the new Congress and Trump Administration. Reversing this demoralizing trend would restore forests, protect and increase wildlife, bring back thousands of forest products jobs, revitalize rural economies, and do more to reduce carbon dioxide than any previous policy.

The previous Administration created the Office of Sustainability and Climate Change, and Regional Climate Change Hubs, maintained a Climate Change Adaptation Library, mapped drought frequency and intensity, and created massive reports blaming humans for climate change. One study was a vulnerability assessment for the Southwest and California, titled “Southwest Regional Climate Hub and Climate Subsidiary Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies.”

All this activity is impressive, and scientific study will always play a role. But none of it actually affects climate change. Growing healthy trees would. Can we get back to that?

Or like me and my weight problem, are we willing to do anything to address climate change and improve our forests and wildlife habitats, except the one thing that might help the most?

Greg Walcher is president of the Natural Resources Group and author of “Smoking Them Out: The Theft of the Environment and How to Take it Back.” He is a former secretary of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

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March 20, 2017 5:09 am

That’s a great line: ” I would do anything – anything! – to lose weight. Well, anything except eat less and exercise. But anything else.”
Very funny.

But talk of “cleaning carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere” is an eye-roller. Talking about “cleaning out” the precious air fertilizer from the atmosphere is It’s like talking about cleaning food out of the restaurants.

Ron Williams
Reply to  daveburton
March 20, 2017 11:37 am

Growing forests also scrub a lot of particulate pollution from the atmosphere as well. A lot of people confuse air pollution with ‘carbon pollution’ and think soot when CO2 is an invisible trace atmospheric gas currently at about 4/100’s of 1% by volume of the atmosphere. The new USA administration is planning on taking the EPA back to its original purpose which is to reduce all pollution that affect the ecosystem and human health. This is something that has instant payback in environmental health of eco systems, as well as significant improvements to human health and lowering of health care costs.

One of the things we could do besides planting more trees is to utilize fresh water where it is abundant to irrigate and grow valuable timber lands on marginal land that would scrub the atmosphere of real air pollution, while having a secondary benefit in locking up CO2 as carbon stores that have commercial value as timber. Forests are the lungs of the earth and provide a huge economic value to our global economy that is not easily quantified in a dollar value, but provide for the very essence of life itself.

While forests suck huge amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and lock it away for a very long time, they can always be utilized in the future to put that CO2 back into the atmosphere if it is ever required if we find we are in a future long term cooling phase and need to increase CO2 for some minor. These forests or forest products could form the backbone of a future renewable carbon energy economy. And make money doing it without subsidies. We really should have a renewable strategic carbon reserve that assists human kind in so many ways. Just add water.

Reply to  daveburton
March 20, 2017 2:00 pm

Properly managing healthy forests is a positive for multiple reasons, from economic resource to habitat to good old environmentalism. It’s one of the few win-win situations that essentially all sides can agree on for multiple different reasons.

Let’s not get too cynical.

A C Osborn
March 20, 2017 5:11 am

Pine Forests need fire to refresh themselves, they have always burnt throughout history.
Why do you feel the need to stop something so natural.
What is required is to go back to “Managing” the forests and the process.

Eric H
Reply to  A C Osborn
March 20, 2017 6:53 am

You are right they do need fire. However, due to modern suppression techniques many small fires that would have burned a small area of forest and helped it are now put out rapidly. This allows the fuel load to build, with these higher fuel loads small fires can grow quickly and lead to massive out of control wildfires that burn hotter than many of the older trees can tolerate.

The fuel loads are also growing due to beetle infestations. These can be better managed by going in and removing the infested trees rather than allowing them to die and add to the fuel load.

Leonard Herr
Reply to  Eric H
March 20, 2017 7:49 am

The basic problem with allowing for a “natural” fire ecology to function in the western U.S. is you’re in essence talking about it being smoky most places most of the time most summers. If you read the early journals of Europeans making their way west a common observation was “it’s smoky”.

Without active fire suppression, naturally occurring wildfire (usually started by lightening) will creep along the forest floor consuming small fuels and burn until a rain puts it out. This can last all summer. While that certainly prevents large wildfires by regularly removing fuels before they build up, it creates a chronic health hazard to people living in these areas. Unless the population is willing to accept the negative health impacts of allowing for this, the only other choice is active forest management: prescribed burning, selective logging, managed burn breaks, and the like. Unfortunately, it seems our current choice is to not allow for a natural forest ecology, and also not allow for active forest management. Both are primarily due to incompetent government management of our public lands – but that’s a story for another day.

Reply to  Eric H
March 20, 2017 12:54 pm

The fire situation is correct. But your ideas about the cause a partially mistaken. In California at least, the historic landscape at the time of European contact was already largely a human artifact. That ranges from the Sierran forest age and species structure to the dominant grasses in the Great Valley. Those dreadfully “ungreen” indigenous people managed much of the state’s land area using fire. Almost all California forests east of the western slopes of the Coast Ranges are ecologically “fire mosaic” ecologies. Many of the species from the Sequoiadendron giganteum to Yerba Santa (Eriodyctum sp.) require fire to propagate. The valley grasslands were noted for their perennial grasses that have mostly vanished over the last century and a half, crowded out by annual grasses. Perennial grasses have deep, fire-resistant root systems. Annual grasses, which moved in with establishment of cattle and sheep herding, are not fire resistant. Their advantage is that they germinate earlier and grow faster than the perennials and can crowd them out. The modern landscape is the result of the suppression of deliberate seasonal burning by the indians – and yes, the people I know refer to themselves as “indians” unless they reference their specific tribal affiliation. Arguably, the “wild lands” in California and Oregon may be wilder now than they were 200 years ago.

Also, there are currently more trees in the US than there were 200 years ago. The chief threat to the trees in the western forest is overpopulation. Dry years cause water competition among the trees and lead to the death of thousands. That also increases the “beetle” problem since the trees response to beetles is to more or less drown them in pitch. If the tree is water stressed, this creates even more stress.

March 20, 2017 5:22 am

As a career firefighter in northern Australia I came to loathe any sort of hazard-reduction or ecologically-driven burn-offs.

It didn’t matter how it was done or when it was undertaken there was always someone who knew better and wanted to whinge about it.

Eventually I capitalised on wildfires and burned out larger-than-necessary areas during wildfire suppression in order to avoid having to try and burn them in the cool season.

Did that cause higher emissions? No. The low’n’slow burn-off style preferred by the ecoloons resulted in cooler and dirtier fires. Good, hot, wildfires delivered much higher temperatures and resulted in more complete combustion of the fuels with fewer particulate emissions.

Of course, in the tropics the higher levels of soil microbial activity means fuels don’t build up to the disastrous levels it does in temperate zones.

John Bell
March 20, 2017 5:26 am

Northern Michigan, great trail biking area, lots of forests but also highly logged.

Reply to  John Bell
March 20, 2017 1:34 pm

How many semi-arid forest are in Michigan?

There lies the problem. For most Americans and policy makers, all forest are the same.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
March 21, 2017 8:14 am

No semi-arid forests in Michigan.

March 20, 2017 5:27 am

This is a crazy article. The boreal forest, and most of the conifer, montane forests of the west, rely on fire to rejuvenate. In the boreal, the jack pine and black spruce, the dominant species, have evolved with fire because fire is a natural and common feature of the northern and western ecosystems. Smokey the Bear didn’t get a good education; neither did the author of this tripe.

Janice Moore
Reply to  wildlifeperspectives
March 20, 2017 6:30 am

The fact that fire climax forests need to be allowed to burn to be healthy if they are non-managed is NO reason to not manage forests so that:

1) people can have affordable lumber, effective, worth-buying, toilet paper, etc.;

2) schools (in Washington State, anyway) incidentally receive adequate funding; and

3) money spent on fire control (for instance, around a hydropower dam and power station — there are many instances were fire control is the only rational choice) can be spent on better roads and bridges (or many other better uses of taxpayers’ money).
comment image

A managed forest is a healthy forest.


The logging industry and companies like Weyerhauser WANT to keep the forests going — forever.

Pamela Gray
Reply to  Janice Moore
March 20, 2017 6:40 am

But these large companies are also snapping up forests then closing them up. What is the difference between “government” owned forests and corporate owned forests? I wouldn’t want to live on the difference.

Reply to  Janice Moore
March 20, 2017 1:16 pm

The problem with modern lumber is, it’s crap. The trees are harvested very young and have “matured” in essentially open environments which result in poor wood with wide growth rings and a serious, even dangerous propensity to “shingle.” Lumber companies also tend to sell it really green, wet enough that a miss with a hammer while driving a nail results in a splash. So, the lumber is affordable, dirt cheap in fact, but really useless for many purposes to which wood was formerly put. I own an old house built in the late ’20s. It is nearly impossible to find Douglas Fir matching the quality of the original wood, and the big lumber harvesting companies – always known for “shorting” the wood anyway, have continued the process. What I do find I have to mill down to dimension from “oversized” stuff because the modern dimensions have shrunk.
The modern 2X4 – if you are lucky – measures 1-and-3/4 by 3-and-1/2. This isn’t entirely tricky businessmen. Since contractors want reasonably straight wood and buy S4S framing timber, the poor quality of modern timber directly out of the forest and mill requires increased planing to achieve reasonable straightness. There is still a good deal of decent wood harvested in the PNW but most of it vanishes overseas where premium prices are paid for better wood. (I worked for the USFS for a bit and saw this first hand.) As a consequence, we pay a double premium here for good wood, IF it can be found. Don’t get me started about plywood dimensioning. Modern plywood can require specially sized router bits and really ugly planning (all decimal arithmetic and measurements) to produce even the loss-leader cabinets Home Depot dispenses. The result is “affordable” framing timber, and toilet paper. Effective, not so much.

David A
Reply to  wildlifeperspectives
March 20, 2017 6:54 pm

I never read the author saying controlled burns were bad.

March 20, 2017 5:32 am

Well hang on a minute here…

“The new forest health report shows that over the last seven years, the number of dead standing trees in Colorado forests increased almost 30 percent, to an estimated 834 million dead trees. There are billions across the other Rocky Mountain States.”

and what is causing those dead trees in Colarado?

the Pine beetle outbreak

and why do we have a pine beetle outbreak? changing climate!!

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 5:55 am

I’ve always regarded Sir Bedevere’s logic astronomical, but with your help I can now imagine how and why homo sapiens inhabitants of the planet GIGO are in fact tree killing witches.

Snarling Dolphin
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 6:21 am

and why do we have changing climate? not co2!! Honestly, if ecosystems were as were as delicate and fragile and finely balanced as some make them out to be, we’d all be dead already. Thankfullly, they’re not.

Reply to  Snarling Dolphin
March 20, 2017 7:45 am

Pine beetles attack trees that are stressed.
Many trees are stressed because they are too crowded, which is the result of previous fire prevention activities.

Tom in Denver
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 7:13 am

Griff, That global warming postulation about pine beetles in Colorado has been thoroughly debunked. As the fairy tale goes: if the temperature would maintain -40F for a sustained period of time, the beetle eggs would die, but because of global warming it doesn’t get as cold anymore.

However Pine beetles thrive in Alaska and northern BC where it gets much colder than Colorado, (now and at any time in the last 1,000 years). What’s made the beetle outbreaks worse is partly because of fire suppression, but mostly because the 2nd generation forest were planted with only lodgepole pines which are the beetles favorite food. Up on Hoosier pass, there are mainly spruce and we have zero beetle kill.

Reply to  Tom in Denver
March 20, 2017 7:46 am

It’s been published, therefore it will always be true. At least in Griff’s world.

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 7:44 am

If something has increased in recent decades, then the obvious culprit is CO2.
No other answer is acceptable.

Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 7:53 am

Naah, the amount of dead wood is dominated by forestry and forest fires, where applicable.

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 7:50 am


Works about as well as /sarc.

Funny, no need to comment…. buggers, he did it again.

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 8:04 am

Griff, for once you are correct. There were no pine beetles before SUVs were invented.

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 9:19 am


Pine beetle outbreaks were happening over 200 years ago too,when CO2 levels were at the 280 ppm mark.

This article highlights the main cause of WHY we get large outbreaks of Mountain Pine Beetle attacks

“Beetles like these are omnipresent in nearly all forested systems. Most times, they exist in what are called endemic populations, killing only a few already weakened and stressed trees per year. But when conditions become prime, beetle populations skyrocket to epidemic proportions, otherwise known as an outbreak. The outbreak would typically begin in an especially dense area of forest, spreading outward until it reached a forest type that was inhospitable for the beetles. While there are a number of factors that contribute to the intensity and scope, the main driving force behind an outbreak is over-stocked mature forests.”

“In other words, there are too many trees that are all relatively the same age class. Most mountain pine beetle epidemics have originated in even-aged, high density stands. Although numerous factors contribute to epidemic mountain pine beetle populations, over-stocked ponderosa pine stands are the major contributor to mountain pine beetle epidemics
-John Schmidt
Retired Entomologist
United States Forest Service/RMRS”

I learned this when I was in FFA in High School, it was primarily crowded conditions of similar sized trees that make it favorable to the beetle,which are a native part of the system for a long time.


By the way your first link shows this:

“Mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) activity subsided and remained low with a total of 5,000 acres of active mountain pine beetle infestation detected in the state in 2015.

The epidemic has ended in many areas of Colorado as mature pine trees have been depleted following the outbreak that impacted more than 3.4 million-acres of Colorado forestland from 1996-2013.”

It has died down to a trickle.

The other link is just speculative silliness,because Pine beetles outbreaks occur in all kinds of mountain climates,from warm to cold climates as well. From bitter cold winters to moderate winter climates.

Outbreaks occurs mostly in overcrowded pine forests of similar size and age.

Lets face it Griff, you don’t know what you are talking about.

Reply to  Sunsettommy
March 20, 2017 10:44 am

“Lets face it Griff, you don’t know what you are talking about.”

Applies to EVERY topic he enters.

Everything he says is invariably proven to be not just WRONG, but pure and total FABRICATION. !

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 10:07 am

Climate change came along just in time to be a scapegoat for poor management of pine (lodgepole here) forests. Due to fire suppression and lack of a coherent harvesting strategy we ended up with massive, more-or-less, contiguous swaths of beetle food (once the outbreak was big enough, minor gaps in the food chain became irrelevant). Because of ignorance about natural climate variability and willful ignorance of good evidence of previous episodic large scale Mountain Pine Beetle outbreaks, it was assumed that we could rely on cold weather to check the beetle. Unless a sensible strategy for managing pine and pine beetle is developed, the whole large scale pine beetle outbreak will happen again when the trees are big enough to support larval development. Griff points out one of the major uses for CAGW- it can be used as an obfuscation for incompetence- New Orleans comes to mind.

Ron Williams
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 11:59 am

Sorry Griff…wrong again! The major reason we have a pine beetle outbreak, is that the monoculture pine forest grows to such an old age, that it inevitably becomes susceptible to to causing the pine beetle infestation. Mainly because of recent fire suppression. With all that ‘food’ available, the mature pine forest actually causes the insect infestation, and with so many beetles they start to attack the younger pine trees elsewhere that would usually never create a pine beetle epidemic. That is a real problem since then a new pine forest is that much harder to establish. To think what we always need 6 weeks of -30 temps to kill these beetles is the height of folly, since those temps are an anomaly too. I thought this myth of global warming causing the pine beetle epidemic was busted already?

Non Nomen
Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 12:19 pm

Trees and forests have managed to live with beetles, wildfires, storms and floods and even with changing climate. Our woods certainly need attention and some(!) care and in some areas reforestation is an absolute must (Karst regions around the mediterranean for example). But in general woods are better off without humans botching around, so that the teddybears can have teir picnic unmolested again.

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 1:21 pm

Griff, again you show a lack of information. Pine trees have a natural ( around a hundred year life cycle). Pine beetle attack only old trees that have no capability to push them out any longer. Research has shown this has been going on for centuries if not millennia It went on during the LIA and other times. The dying trees fall or burn either way they then add to the natural cycle other trees and shrubs grow and the whole thing starts all over again. As the article explains the lack of proper management leaves huge stands of dead trees that because they are not manage properly. This lack of management then leads to disasters because of the growing human interface with our forests..

Reply to  Griff
March 20, 2017 7:01 pm

Nature takes care of climax vegetation one way or another. Fire, beetles or human harvest all work. Nature does not care. If you want to see a forest devoid of wildlife just take a walk in a Colorado stand of engleman spruce.

March 20, 2017 5:32 am

Interesting thoughts. Do you have knowledge of the situation in (I think) West Virginia, where forests are being cut down to provide wood pellets for some of our biggest power plants in the UK? It would be interesting to hear your views.

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  rwoollaston
March 20, 2017 5:47 am

I believe those trees are being harvested in Georgia, not here in West Virginia.

Reply to  Dave Yaussy
March 20, 2017 8:10 am

Apologies, it’s actually forest in North Carlina being harvested by Enviva Ahoskie under contract from Drax, the UK power station company.

Reply to  Dave Yaussy
March 20, 2017 11:01 am

A learned and wise man is full of doubt.
A fool is cocksure.

Reply to  Dave Yaussy
March 20, 2017 11:02 am

A learned and wise man is full of doubt.
A fo0l is c0cksure.

Daniel Mannix
March 20, 2017 5:45 am

Here in Boulder, Colorado we haven’t suffered the pine beetle kill like the rest of the state. If you compare old photos of Boulder with modern tree growth it is obvious and startling–by managing and minimizing natural wildfires we have created a huge stockpile of standing trees. Counter-intuitively, live evergreens are more prone to fire, and burn much more readily than do the standing dead beetle kill that covers the state. Boulder liberals are convinced that climate change is the cause of our epidemic of wildfires, and refuse to face the problem in a meaningfull way–control carbon dioxide emissions, and everything will be fine.

Reply to  Daniel Mannix
March 20, 2017 8:06 am

Boulder liberals refuse to face the problem in a meaningful way. They are making a habit of this.

Reply to  Daniel Mannix
March 20, 2017 8:48 am

Ahh…Boulder. Against everything–that’s why we “lovingly” call it the People’s Republic of Boulder

Steve Lohr
Reply to  Daniel Mannix
March 20, 2017 2:26 pm

Yes,wonderful Boulder, Colorado. It is the the Camelot of virtue signals and guru authority on just about everything. Global warming really floats their boat. They are working on a forest fire right now up Sunshine Canyon and had to evacuate a lot of houses. I wonder how many of them had trimmed the trees back from their houses. Probably not many. For those who did, please forgive me for lumping you in with the rest. I think most would rather cut off one of their legs than cut down a tree. It goes with save the bears(they come in town for garbage), save the mountain lions(they stroll in town too), save the prairie dogs(they have too many), save the coyotes(they snap at children), save the wolves (they think they need them) and save the great horned owl (they aren’t endangered, but never mind). Their City Counsel is even trying to wrestle control from the electric utility so they can be a virtuous environmentally aware carbon dioxide free city. It is all part of the environMENTAL virtue, you see. Sorry to rant but never in my experience have so many oblivious people been accumulated in one place, and I used to live in Berkeley, CA!

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  Steve Lohr
March 20, 2017 6:25 pm

Steve Lohr, I concur…

city of Boulder, CO: 26 sq miles surrounded by reality.

Reply to  Steve Lohr
March 22, 2017 6:58 am


Sorry to rant but never in my experience have so many oblivious people been accumulated in one place, and I used to live in Berkeley, CA!

DAMN! Now that is a rant!

March 20, 2017 5:45 am

Around the globe in 1st world countries – protecting the environment is interpreted as “leave nature alone”. However, as soon as a fire breaks out – the fire departments roll-out and kill the fire. In the past – these fires swept through large areas and helped reduce the fuel-build-up but also allowed the initiation of germination of certain seeds (that require heat). In Australia, many of the recent bush-fires that also caused loss if human lives, livestock and properties, are due to poor or no management practices because treed areas are protected! Press never shows the stories that in the past 10,000 years, fire frequency has been at times much higher than in the past 100 years. If frequency decreases, intensity usually increases because of build-ups of fuel material.
The same thing can be said about Canada or California with their forest fires. The last 50 years, the focus of environmental groups is to “protect” forest areas. Management of forest areas and pulling fallen trees out is not an option! That proper forest protection actually implies a lot of work and planning – is completely ignored. Human have managed forests in the past much better – in particular in Europe because wood used to be a large part of fuel for heating. Since fossil fuels and other energy sources replaced wood – forest management has become a forest abandonment. I fully agree with the article – and forest management should be taken a bit more seriously and past natural states as well as droughts/fires need to be part of the plan.

Reply to  AnotherQlder
March 21, 2017 1:41 am

Forests are actively managed in Europe… the old methods of managing woodland are being brought back by green & conservation groups in the UK (UK govt programme to expand UK woodland from 10 to 12% land area)

Doug Huffman
March 20, 2017 5:55 am

Phragmites, invasive or not, makes effective roofing thatch that sequesters carbon for many years, thousand year old roofs are not unheard of.

March 20, 2017 6:21 am

Phytoplankton are the biggest source of carbon removal not trees.

Bill Illis
March 20, 2017 6:35 am

Oceans, plants and soils are increasingly absorbing human emissions.

Back to 1750 here.
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And then the estimates of the individual components from 1959 to 2016. Oceans first.
comment image

And Plants, trees, vegetation, land and soils. It is more variable.
comment image

From the Global Carbon Budget project. Data and paper here.


Reply to  Bill Illis
March 20, 2017 8:34 am

These are estimates, not facts?

Sort of like “we estimate CO2 is causing most of the warming” type estimates and models.

john harmsworth
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 20, 2017 2:41 pm

Bill, I’d like to add one more carbon sink. How much CO2 is sequestered for 40-50 years or more in construction timber? Worldwide it must be a pretty considerable number.

Scottish Sceptic
March 20, 2017 6:38 am

I’m more and more inclined to the view that it was the environmental movement that caused global warming! Of course, telling the greens that they caused warming – will gain me no friends from the Greens, telling the academics that the problem will end as soon as Trump reversing the EPA green fascism and so there’s no need for further research will gain me no friends amongst the academics.

And telling sceptics that we do change the climate and the global cooling scare was real … will gain me no friends amongst sceptics.

However, for anyone who is interested in the science, here’s a couple of links:

Understanding Global Temperature IX – the role of CO2
VIII It was the greens wot warmed us!!

Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
March 20, 2017 11:10 am

hi scottish sceptic having just read your article Viii on aerosols( above ),do you think natural aerosols from volcaniceruptions also add to this eg the krakatoa eruptionof 1883 apparently cooled the earth for about 3 years or so .also could testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950 s also have affected this .?

john harmsworth
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
March 20, 2017 2:42 pm

With friends like that, who needs enemas?

Johann Wundersamer
March 20, 2017 6:39 am

“It reminds me of my own lifelong battle with weight and the associated health issues.”

Obviously your work includes a lot of desktop work. Why not combine work with wight / health care :



Best regards – Hans

March 20, 2017 6:41 am

1. Yes. Forests should be managed. The primary driver of air quality issues across most of Colorado is wildfires. The emissions of Coal power plants are a rounding error. Thin the forests, donate the wood to the coal plants so they can be burned in a controlled environment with emissions controls. Denver won’t smell like a pizza oven every summer anymore.

2. The only thing better than forest management is ocean management. The oceans are dying because the CO2 fertilization effect (plus land use changes, like irrigated farmland) results in more ground cover, which means less airborne dust. Less dust means less iron being transported to the oceans. Less iron means starving oceans. http://russgeorge.net/

We need to manage the oceans and the forests.

Dave Irons
March 20, 2017 6:47 am

A young growing forest is a healthy forest. The difference between a field of corn and a forest is frequency of harvest. Harvesting this crop at its peak is good forest management. And our atmosphere needs more CO 2 not less to grow the crops that our growing population needs. Here in Maine we have been harvesting this crop for a few centuries and we are still at 90 % the most heavily forested state in the lower 48.

March 20, 2017 6:55 am


What practices did we abandon which would have resulted in better outcomes

Steve Case
March 20, 2017 7:01 am

… forests provide the world’s greatest resource for cleaning carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere …

There are lots of reasons to plant trees, but removing CO2 from the atmosphere isn’t one of them.

Jeffrey Mitchell
Reply to  Steve Case
March 20, 2017 11:46 am


Should let it go until 1500 ppm.

March 20, 2017 7:06 am

What happened with the American forests before humans arrived? Was a forest fairy that kept trees from dying? The AGW types have be demonstrated, in this blog, to be irrational, so appealing to their logic is pointless. Further, conceding to their notion that CO2 is in anyway anything but possibly very minor contributor, undermines WUWT in its entirety!

John F. Hultquist
March 20, 2017 7:14 am

Trees (& forests) grow, get old, and die.
Settlement by “whites” brought fire suppression.
Studies of sediments in lakes show this history.
Over the past 150 years or so, there has been much infilling, with fuel.
Big fires are in our future. Get used to it.

Tom Halla
March 20, 2017 7:59 am

Party what is going on with forest management is the Smokey Bear delusion of fire suppression, and the implicit belief that American Indians are not really people by the greens.
There is a natural level of fire in North American forests, and purposeful management of forests formerly done by the Indians that also used fire. For a while, management used logging as a substitute for fire, but the greens largely stopped that.

March 20, 2017 8:53 am

The weight loss analogy is perfect! Thank you for that one alone!

March 20, 2017 8:54 am


March 20, 2017 9:32 am

But But ,before forests where managed C02 levels where reaching dangerous low levels, correct.

Anyhow with all the mentioning of C02 here, has C02 been proven to warm the planet in a dangerous way? I must have missed that somewhere.

March 20, 2017 9:33 am

“However, the U.S. Forest Service, which owns almost all of the forestland in the State, continues to work with its hands tied behind its back, its timber programs woefully underfunded and vast sums syphoned off every year for fire suppression. Fire control ought to be funded separately, so that active management of healthy forests is not the perpetually lowest priority.”

How can that possibly be underfunded? All you have to do is go to a Timber Company and they will pay for the right to thin out the forest.

March 20, 2017 10:40 am

In 1978 when the film “Star Wars” was all the rage, I designed a bumper sticker “May The Forest Be With You” but never had any printed. Sad!

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  brians356
March 20, 2017 11:36 am

It’s not too late! Star Wars is part of the culture now. Great slogan.

March 20, 2017 1:37 pm

Here’s a question for greens; If burning carbon is devastating by producing so much CO2, isn’t the real catastrophe that it takes oxygen to burn carbon, so eventually the world will run out of oxygen in the air – and then what will we breathe?
Help, help, we are all going to die. Now there’s a doomsday movie for sure.

March 20, 2017 2:24 pm

Artificial green blight vs Natural green blight

March 20, 2017 2:43 pm

Greg Walcher is right about forest fires, but is misguided in his worries about CO2 which is not a climate problem but just a plant food. Clearing out CO2 is like taking food off the trees plate.

Ron Tuohimaa
March 20, 2017 3:38 pm

The pine beetle devastated the Continental Divide Region east of Butte, Montana. The Forest Service issued a logging permit for the area. It had become, unquestionably, a significant fire hazard, and with additional decay getting worse. An environmental group sued to have the permit rescinded claiming that machinery logging the timber may in fact set fire to the area. The environmental group won its case – the epitome of stupidity

March 20, 2017 5:37 pm

Great article! Glad to see a Colorado State forester’s insight. My younger brother graduated from that university in the early ’70’s as a forester, and he, back then, informed me that the UC Berkeley school of forestry philosophy was winning out in the Forest Circus, and as a consequence of this, expect the health of the forests to be severely degraded in the decades to come.

March 20, 2017 7:06 pm

Greg: Thanks for the thoughtful insight into forest management practices. As you well know the US FS is incapable of managing a timber sale and have given that responsibility off to the Colorado State Forest Service. We tried to get a control burn on Nick Mnt for 10 years to help open a corridor to the Grand Mesa for deer and elk, but FS just couldn’t get it done.
Lynn Ensley

Steve Lohr
Reply to  Pathway
March 21, 2017 8:15 am

I am only starting to understand the complexities of managing wild environments. Forest “infilling” may be one of the problems we face with mule deer population management. Last evening at a meeting with Colorado Parks and Wildlife we were informed that the deer and elk are recruiting quite robustly in the wake of a big fire that burned almost five years ago in an area in the north east. Also, but CPW didn’t say this, it could be a contributor to the decline in the greater sage grouse too with infilling of juniper/pinons on the west slope.

Reply to  Steve Lohr
March 21, 2017 8:37 am

Not only does juniper infilling degrade sage grouse habitat, it also provides a perch for hawks and eagle to sit and pick off lumbering grouse. In Colorado, we need to burn 250,000 acres each year just to keep up with succession.

Patrick MJD
March 20, 2017 7:06 pm

“…for cleaning carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere..”

That’s like trying to clean eggs from a cake you have just baked.

March 21, 2017 5:36 am

Actually if you look at many of the European forests, they are mono-cultural. The forests that best support wild life, conserve water, prevents erosion are forests that are routinely harvested so that trees always range from new growth to older trees.

Patrick MJD
March 22, 2017 3:08 am

Radiata pine, grown in New Zealand, an introduced species, grows like a rash, profitable to foresters, but, in essence, a weed.

March 23, 2017 10:19 am

Driving by the burn scars in the Google Earth shot linked here to Denver thru Deckers and Buffalo Creek and Pine , I call BS on those who talk about the fire being necessary for forests . Maybe some somewhere but not these . The terrain remains nearly as naked as when I moved here a dozen years ago .

And the main lack is new seedlings . In the same period seedlings have proliferated in old ATV track on our property near existing pines .

Surely if these massive areas were privately owned , they would not be allowed to be barren assets for decades . The failure of absentee WDC stewardship of these lands is a major motivation for the burgeoning growth of the http://www.AmericanLandsCouncil.org/ and other movement to restore control to the western states which the eastern states enjoy .

Reply to  Bob Armstrong
March 24, 2017 5:03 am

Any good taken to an extreme is bad. But yes, forests do need fires – http://creationrevolution.com/plants-that-need-fire-to-survive/

Before man, there were fires. After man, there will be fires. Preventing fires is preventing a normal part of nature. The eco warriors have taken their nuttiness to extremes so that when there are fires, they are worse than normal due to the prevention of cleaning out the forest floor and thinning the trees. That is what you are seeing.

But fires are necessary.

March 24, 2017 1:13 pm

As I said , fire may be necessary somewhere for some species , but not these CO Front Range forests . Nor , clearly , boreal forests which rarely are dry and hot enough to support fires .

I remember reading https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ecology-of-fire/ when I had a subscription to SA back in high school . It became the lynch pin of the let it burn school of forestry .

I certainly can’t argue the there always have been and always will be fires . But it’s worth noting that that biggest still nearly naked patch , the Hayman Fire , 15 years ago , was started near Lake George by a USFS employee burning letters from her estranged husband .

I don’t know what “worse than normal” means when before man there never was cleaning and thinning of the forests .

My argument is economic and aesthetic . The burned barren land is ugly . And a wasted resource .

I’ve seen the distinction between French gardens and English — between manicured and more natural . The “natural” is a fine aesthetic — but not multi decade wastelands . For the record , Pike Forest by us is now , if anything , too aggressively cleaned and “controlled” burned . But they call it experimental .

However , I’ll repeat that the meme that these forests “need” fire to reproduce is patently false .

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