Thinning forests, prescribed fire before drought reduced tree loss

Who’d a thunk it, forest management might be a good idea?~ctm

Treatments may reduce loss in future droughts and bark beetle epidemics

University of California – Davis

Thinning forests and conducting prescribed burns may help preserve trees in future droughts and bark beetle epidemics expected under climate change, suggests a study from the University of California, Davis.

Dead and dying trees dot the landscape in the Sierra Nevada during the region's recent drought. Credit USDA Forest Service
Dead and dying trees dot the landscape in the Sierra Nevada during the region’s recent drought. Credit USDA Forest Service

The study, published in the journal Ecological Applications, found that thinning and prescribed fire treatments reduced the number of trees that died during the bark beetle epidemic and drought that killed more than 129 million trees across the Sierra Nevada between 2012-2016.

“By thinning forests, we can reduce water stress and make forests more resilient to drought and climate change,” said the study’s lead author, Christina Restaino, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy when the study was conducted.

The study also indicated that current rates of treatment are not sufficient to reduce the impacts of hotter droughts and large-scale bark beetle outbreaks. Expanding the use of managed fire under moderate fire-weather conditions, along with strategic thinning and prescribed burn treatments, may increase resilience across the forest, the researchers said.

“There are currently too many straws in the cup,” said Restiano. “Denser forests use more water. We’re learning that fuel treatments used to reduce fire risk have multiple benefits. Forests that are more open and less dense are stronger in the face of insect outbreaks, too.”


For the study, researchers collected plot data in 2017 at 10 pairs of treated and untreated sites stretching from Eldorado National Forest to Sierra National Forest in the central and southern Sierra Nevada. They compared the effects of pre-drought thinning and prescribed burn treatments at those sites for four major species: ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir and incense cedar.

Treated areas generally had lower stand densities, bigger tree diameters and more pines, which were historically dominant.

Ponderosa pine experienced the greatest mortality of the species studied (40 percent) during the drought and beetle outbreak. But its mortality was significantly lower in treated stands. In untreated areas, the chance any one tree would die was about 45 percent. In treated stands, that chance went down to 30 percent.

Both ponderosa and sugar pine trees died more in places where their diameters were larger, suggesting insects may prefer larger trees, especially when the trees are stressed. The study demonstrates that removing smaller trees through thinning and prescribed burns can help reduce the stress in larger trees, which restoration efforts prioritize.


“It’s important to be proactive,” said coauthor Derek Young, a postdoctoral researcher in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This is not the kind of thing to start only when the drought starts. It has to be done beforehand.”

The study also notes that forest managers in the Sierra Nevada might consider cultivating a broader variety of species to buffer against insects and disease, as well as shifting from pines to more resilient hardwood species, like oaks and madrone – a transition underway in other semi-arid and Mediterranean climates.


Funding was provided for the study by the USDA Forest Service Forest Health Protection program, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region, and the US Geological Survey Southwest Climate Science Center.

From EurekAlert!

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Dave Fair
May 29, 2019 10:17 pm

What climate change are they talking about? Droughts are not getting worse.

Reply to  Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 1:50 am

As far as I can tell, the Dirty Thirties was the worst drought. When I was growing up, I heard plenty of stories about that drought. There were lots of survivors. What puzzles me is that none of the stories were about forest fires. As far as I can tell, forest fires weren’t much more prevalent.

Most forest fires are caused by humans. link Humans cause ignition. Forest management is also a big problem when it makes the forests more susceptible to fire. A lot of the forest management problems can be laid at the feet of the environmentalists. In the 1930s, the forests had not yet suffered many decades of bad management practices. That may be why I didn’t hear stories about Dirty Thirties forest fires.

Reply to  commieBob
May 30, 2019 4:43 am


Human ignition has always been a major source of fire. What do we expect in the times when burning natural material was the common method of cooking food and boiling water. Let alone the proclivity of steam engines to drop sparks.

Go back a bit further and the indigenous knew very well indeed that if they didn’t light fires when conditions were benign and the fire controllable, they would find themselves with the kind of fires that they didn’t want. They were PRIMITIVE, not STUPID.

We tend to get ourselves in a knot over human-caused fires, but reality is that we can’t just change one thing. Reduce the frequency of one type of ignition, and there will be more fuel to burn when other ignition sources come into play…… and I. Not sure that you have much of an idea how many ignitions in a short space of time just one lightning front can provide.

There is no free lunch. The focus on ignition sources may feel good, but it is fuel management that makes fires controllable when ignition eventually – and inevitably – occurs.

What we really need is more ignitions, when and where we WANT them.

Reply to  PeterW
May 30, 2019 6:31 am

Human ingnition? Like this guy?

Reply to  PeterW
May 30, 2019 8:42 pm

Absolutely correct, Peter. Thank you.

mario lento
Reply to  commieBob
May 30, 2019 12:47 pm

When I am pegged down with the question, “Do you believe in Climate Change?” I answer, “Well of course the climate changes, are you trying to ask a different question?” “Are you suggesting that the climate is in stasis?” “Do you know what estimated climate sensitivity is and what it means?” “Do you know that a warmer climate is more stable than a cooler climate?”

I usually get a response such as; “You must be a climate denier”.

The humor of their responses is usually lost on them. So sad that clever questions are considered weapons of the right instead of revelatory teaching moments.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 7:06 am

What climate change? Hotter droughts, that’s what they said.

It seems there can be droughts that are not hot, some that are hot and some that are hotter.

It is odd to think that having hotter floods is not being considered too. Maybe the next hot, dry flood will have some beneficial impact. Similarly the next cold wet drought may make up for, balance in some manner, the effects of climate change.

They do not mention that trees use less water as the CO2 concentration rises. That de-stresses trees of all sizes.

mario lento
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
May 30, 2019 12:53 pm

Well: I usually ask people… Do you think it’s dry because it hot out or it hot because it’s dry? I ask the questions:

1) Does Chico CA get more sun (solar insolation) than Hawaii?
Answer: Less
2) Why does Chico temperature regularly get to over 110F in summer, whereas Hawaii stays in the 80’s?
Answer: Because it’s dry in Chico.

I usually have a conversation of latent heat energy to vaporize a unit of liquid… and the reverse soaking up of energy from condensation.

Theodore Moore
Reply to  Dave Fair
May 31, 2019 8:01 am

California is mostly a semi desert zone. What is called a drought is the historical average for rainfall. They want to get rid of history so they can prove the droughts are caused by Trump.

J Mac
May 29, 2019 11:01 pm

RE: ““It’s important to be proactive,” said coauthor Derek Young, a postdoctoral researcher in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This (thinning and controlled burns) is not the kind of thing to start only when the drought starts. It has to be done beforehand.”

Common sense and time tested measures reassert themselves!
Marvelous, simply marvelous!

Reply to  J Mac
May 31, 2019 8:37 am

Cedar Mountain Utah Brian Head fire burned 71,000 acres of beetle kill forest. $31 million and 1 dead fighting the fire. Years earlier, the Forest Service had proposed the bidding for removal of dead standing trees.

The story I have heard, although I have no link to news articles, is that 2 envirowacko “ladies” from Las Vegas filed suit to block the logging years earlier. After several rulings in delayed the process the Forest Service just gave up it being not worth the trouble to keep going to court, especially since the delay was reducing the value of the timber year by year due to rot.

If that “lumber” had been sequestered into buildings instead of burned, would that not have been a benefit to the environment? Never got the names of the 2 busybodies, but never heard of any apologies either.

Happily the fire was north of my cabin, with prevailing winds keeping it heading NW, never getting closer than 8 miles from my community. A friend with property near Panguitch Lake, mostly surrounded by meadow, had fire within 200 feet of his cabin.

Ultimately the beetle kill is blamed on drought, but having a forest of closely spaced trees of a limited age range maturing about the same time taxes all the trees causing susceptibility to infestations. Beetle kill on other parts of the mountain have been logged in the last 8 to 10 years. Maybe those ladies found some other cause. New growth is filling in nicely, but since the kill was extensive 20 to 30 years from now we will be in the same situation, lots of similar trees maturing at the same time. Hopefully the foresters of that time will have learned from these times.

BTW, I think all those hired by the US Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service should only come from those with degrees in forestry, animal husbandry or mineral and mining related fields, no environmental, climate or other related fields need apply. That could really help with future management practices.

Mike Dubrasich
May 29, 2019 11:17 pm

Foresters have been making these exact recommendations for at least 100 years in Calif. But they are still correct and true and should be heeded. Maybe now after 25 years of record-setting fires the ruling elite will catch a clue, CAGW or not.

How many trees to leave? Per acre 20 are plenty, 9 are fine, and if you leave only 5 they will stay alive and thrive. Really open things up. You could call it “restoration of the pre-Contact anthropogenic mosaic” but I like to call it “park it out” as in make the forest look like a park.

Mike Dubrasich
May 30, 2019 12:07 am

To help clarify, 20 trees per acre is equivalent to 46.7 foot spacing, 9 tpa = 69.5 ft spacing, and 5 tpa = 93.3 ft spacing. Mature pines have crown widths of 25 to 30 feet, so proper thinning would leave 20 to 60 feet separation between crowns.

That degree of spacing prevents crown-to-crown spread of fires, forcing fires to ground where they can be successfully fought and contained.

Added advantages: open and park-like stands are quite beautiful, have abundant wildlife, and are the historical norm.

Also, in open stands trees survive ground fires and can reach very old ages, whereas in thickets the trees are short-lived due to total mortality crown fires. All old growth trees were open-grown* due to anthropogenic (human cultural) management.

* Evidence of open-grown conditions includes wide growth rings near the pith (center of the bole), low (below 50) height/diameter ratios, and branch retention near the base. Stand-grown trees have narrow rings at the pith, high (50+) h/d ratios, and little or no branch retention near the base.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
May 30, 2019 5:04 am

Curious where the 20/acre number came from? As context the study mentioned average density of 325/hectare for treated plots, equivalent of ~130/acre.

This leads to an important point though: in most forest types it will require quite low density conditions, maintained by repeated thinnings, to maintain any drought tolerance. Unless you have high value trees it simply does not pay to undertake multiple thinnings and maintain such a low density. This paper by Botterro et. al. provides some context – improved drought performance wasn’t seen until stand densities were about half of what foresters would typically prescribe to optimize timber production.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  MJB
May 30, 2019 8:28 am

It came from me. I am a professional forester with 45 years experience. I used my real name for gosh sakes, despite the potential blowback.

If ever again you hear the phrase “twenty are plenty”, you will know that I coined it. No, I have not been peer reviewed. I have no peers.

The “study” stumbled on the truth by accident. With 130 tpa the spacing is 18.3 feet. The crowns are touching! That won’t do shinola to stop crown fires. They are stupid. But I deliberately overlooked their glaring ignorance and used the opportunity to lay some wisdom on you. No need to thank me; everybody is welcome.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
May 30, 2019 12:32 pm

Your perspective is greatly appreciated Mike Dubrasich.

Your perspective is basic orchardist common sense. Even as current commercial orchardists push the upper bounds of how many trees are productive per acre.

One must separate out timber harvest view of potential timber harvest tree levels and instead focus on dangerous forest fire prevention needs instead.
Timber harvest levels look for dense plantings per acre, that maximize timber potential per acre.

Growing xx numbers of trees per acre according to timber harvest perspective usually mean harvesting a portion of the trees at certain intervals; 5, 10, 25, etc. This allows more sunlight to reach the remaining trees to maximize growth.

Keep in mind that the National Forest Service’s purpose is to maximize timber harvest without damaging overall timber potential.
NFS and the Department of the Interior are not in the business of forest control to prevent forest fires.

Forest studies in America are usually based upon NFS forest science. Including the study above.

Per Mike D’s tree populations per acre discussion:
Crown fires are dangerous to the extreme. Crown fires quickly reach levels of heat that ignite close neighboring green pine needles. Allowing crown fires to quickly spread to every touching tree crown.
These fires subsequently ignite dead wood, resinous bark and char green timber.

Enough distance between trees makes it much much harder for one burning crown to ignite any other crown. Which allows a lightning strike crown fire to burn out.
Wind blown sparks may ignite dry ground litter, but they are not hot enough to ignite other tree crowns.

Ground fires, conducted regularly, burn off forest detritus before it has time to reach levels of forest litter capable of producing high temperatures.

Infrequent ground fires, burning years of accumulated forest litter and deadfall reach high temperatures that can kill adult trees and kill much of the soil life, living or dormant.
These dangerous ground fires often reach into and ignite tree crowns. Resulting fire driven wind storms turn every pile of burning matter into high temperature furnaces.

One hectare equals 2.47 acres.
One acres is 0.405 hectares.

Theodore Moore
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
May 31, 2019 8:02 am

Thank you, Mike.

Reply to  MJB
May 30, 2019 9:09 pm

Unless you have high value trees it simply does not pay to undertake multiple thinnings and maintain such a low density.

Not paying may depend on your definition of cost. When fire has been absurdly suppressed for over 100 years and entire communities are wiped out or, a small community, such as mine, loses 19 of its best, the HotShots, to a fire because the Feds, unlike our State, did not bother with prescribed burns and thinning, cost takes on a different meaning than the price of the timber.
Our Forest Service, some time ago, stated that optimal and natural forest density is 30 to 60 trees per acre interspersed with meadows. We still have too many time bomb forests that are 300 to 600 trees per acre, obviously, with no meadows. Maybe the Forest Service here read Dubrasich’s, study?
Historically, the Fed. Gov. has been a poor manager of the forests while, at the same time, they insist on owning so much of the Western state’s land.

Between lack of money on the Fed’s part, stupid politicians and the enviro’s everywhere, plus halting logging, as much as Oregon did and other states, the forests are in bad shape, still.

May 30, 2019 12:23 am

‘Too many straws in the cup’ I like it!

May 30, 2019 1:00 am

-“Who’d a thunk it, forest management might be a good idea?~ctm”-

Well apparently the native americans of the eastern states of the US thought it a good idea , according to a Penn State researcher :
-“Eastern forests shaped more by Native Americans’ burning than climate change”-
Abstract :
-Native Americans’ use of fire to manage vegetation in what is now the Eastern United States was more profound than previously believed, according to a Penn State researcher who determined that forest composition change in the region was caused more by land use than climate change.
“I believe Native Americans were excellent vegetation managers and we can learn a lot from them about how to best manage forests of the U.S.,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Native Americans knew that to regenerate plant species that they wanted for food, and to feed game animals they relied on, they needed to burn the forest understory regularly.” –

Reply to  mikewaite
May 30, 2019 1:20 am

That is also true in the West. The White Man wouldn’t listen to the Indians and old Smokey the Bear and the Forest Service fought every forest fire until around the early 80s when we had massive fires in the West. They have pulled back on fighting fires if outside of human habitation areas since then, though, apparently, not in Calif. and Oregon and nowhere without fighting the tree huggers, ironically, who loved the forests to death.
In my area and since I moved here in 2002, just in time for the massive Rodeo-Chediski fire, they have been doing prescribed burns, thinning and letting fires burn themselves out naturally, if possible. The State has done a much better job than the Fed. Forest Service, though.
Per the Forest Service from over ten yrs. ago, a natural forest is one with 30 to 60 trees per acre interspersed with meadows. We had and still have areas with 300 to 600 trees per acre which, of course, do not have enough nutrients nor water to fight disease and insect infestations. I’m not sure why we needed another study to prove that which has been studied and known for two or three or more decades now. Well, whatever, if the politicians will pay attention to this one, it will be good.

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 30, 2019 2:11 am

The biggest threat to nature is environ-mentalists, because they have the mentality that they have to “protect” nature and “nurture” it like a kid, whereas time and time, what we find is nature does best when it’s being actively exploited by humans and no one does anything to “care” for it.

Yes, again, we see that what nature needed in these forests, were people actively taking firewood – something that would have been totally acceptable in the past but is now banned by eco-nutters.

Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
May 30, 2019 5:43 am

I think the people you describe have this idea that things don’t change naturally, all change in nature is caused by man, and all man made change is bad.

Reply to  RDuncan
May 30, 2019 7:53 am

The irony is that the indifference of nature means that change induced naturally is often violent and dramatic. The natural world is red in tooth and claw – and always has been.

Reply to  xenomoly
May 30, 2019 9:39 pm

I often wonder if the Hawaiians have figured that out with their totally indifferent to them volcano? Having spent more time in Hawaii than we ever wanted to after our first visit, solely because our son enlisted in the Marines and was stationed at Kaneohe Marine Air Base, I doubt it.
To be fair, our dislike of Hi. probably has much more to do with our now, ex-French daughter-in-law from Hell and France, than the Hawaiians but still, we were not great fans of the place for a variety of reasons.

Dave Fair
Reply to  KcTaz
May 30, 2019 10:25 pm

The Hawaiian island (Oahu?) is no longer over the magma hot-spot that gave rise to the volcanoes that made up the Hawaiian chain as the associated tectonic plate moved over it. Get a grip before posting, KcTaz.

Your comments indicate a level of (unconscious?) bigotry about France and its peoples. Daughters-in-Law are always a bitch to some. Is your baby boy an only child?

Bloke down the pub
May 30, 2019 3:36 am

The eco-system managed quite well before humans came along because natural fires were allowed to burn. It’s when humans intervene enough to upset the balance, but not enough to take control, that the problems arise. The same situation as when we eradicate a top predator but fail to keep the prey species under control.

Reply to  Bloke down the pub
May 30, 2019 5:01 am

That sounds nice, but has several problems.

The first is saying that nature did very well without humans, implies that there is some magic universal standard of ecosystem management. There is no standard and nature isn’t human and doesn’t care. As far as nature is concerned, a desert is as good as a forest.

Secondly, we haven’t seen what it looked like before humans were here. European explorers did not find a pristine “natural” landscape, but one inhabited by people who used fire and who knew very well that if you did not burn fuel under benign conditions, you would get natural fires of the kind you did not want. They were primitive, not stupid, and so they used fire a lot, to keep their environment safer.

The third is that people have to live here, too. People whose lives and property matter, so just letting nature do what it wants is not sufficient.

We can have fires when we want, or we can have fires when we don’t want. The one thing we can’t have is no fires.

Tom Halla
Reply to  PeterW
May 30, 2019 6:52 am

In this glacial cycle, there were never “pristine” forests, as the Native Americans were present well before the flora reached it’s current state. When exactly the Indians started forest management is not well known, but they were definitely doing so well before the Europeans arrived.
What the Europeans saw as “natural” was actively managed, so what the Americas would have looked like in an unpopulated state is unknown.

Bloke down the pub
Reply to  PeterW
May 31, 2019 1:47 am

I didn’t say that we shouldn’t control the forests. I said the problem arises when we interfere to the extent of putting out small fires but then are unable to control the big fires because we’ve put things out of balance.

May 30, 2019 4:10 am
Doug Huffman
May 30, 2019 4:32 am

I’m seventy y.o. and a native Californian ex-pat and have known all my life of the requirement for prescribed burning.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
May 30, 2019 8:54 pm

There are many ex-pats from Calif. who have come to Az. They do not know what you know. We can tell the Californians because
1. When it rains, they complain and,
2. When the firefighters and forest service does prescribed burns, they write Letters to the Editor to complain about second-hand smoke and virtue-signal how that is NOT allowed in Calif. and imply we are some sorts of Neanderthals for allowing it.

PS Not all, of course. Many well know why the heck they left Calif. but too many are trying to recreate here everything they left there.

Rhys Jaggar
May 30, 2019 4:54 am

So was it capitalists who prescribed single species high density forests? Well, was it?

This site is withering about what socialism causes.

It might be a good idea to assign responsibility to capitalism if responsibility is due here…

Mistakes of capitalism are no more forgivable than mistakes of socialism.

Unless you are racist of course….

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
May 30, 2019 5:22 am

So was it capitalists who prescribed single species high density forests?

N o.

Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
May 30, 2019 6:37 am

In a word, no.
It was the capitalists who wanted to harvest the lumber and thin the forests.

One has to remember that Rhys here is one of those people who thinks that anything short of pure communism is some form of capitalism. He also refers to the current US as being uber capitalist.

Reply to  MarkW
May 30, 2019 7:58 am

More than half of my income is taken from me and redistributed to other citizens, there are regulations on every move I make with my business —- but this is uber capitalist?!?!?

When did respect for objective reality leave us? On the spectrum the US is a mixed economy that is slightly to the right of the middle.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
May 30, 2019 9:36 am

Rhys, your comment equating capitalism with racism should have been moderated out. Typical leftist smear tactics.

Reply to  Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 10:24 am

Everybody Rhys knows, knows that all capitalists would willingly kill their customers if it increased profits. That and all socialists love everyone and would never, ever, do something bad.

Of course Rhys wouldn’t be caught dead associating with a capitalist because they are evil and should be killed on sight.

Reply to  MarkW
May 31, 2019 1:00 am

A day late, but here’s a leftist thought: Disney is threatening to pull out of Montana, because it won’t allow abortions which will reduce the number of Disney product consumers. Almost exactly the definition that you gave of “capitalists would willingly kill their customers if it increased profits”. Doesn’t look very capitalist, though…

(I don’t think we should get into the whole abortion thing, which is unbelievably devisive in the US, but just the logic behind Disney’s virtue-signalling stance.)

Reply to  Dave Fair
May 30, 2019 12:18 pm

What a surprise — some maroon playing the race-card. Enough of that in the media — it shouldn’t be tolerated here.

Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
May 30, 2019 9:14 pm

No. Nature determines what grows best where, not capitalists. I am surrounded by the oldest growth pine forest in the world. That was Nature who decided it, not capitalists and, yes, though we are working hard on it, it is sick and we can blame enviros, not capitalists, for that.

Komrade Kuma
May 30, 2019 5:03 am

The indigenous Austrlians managed their forests and grasslands fortens of millenia by sophisticated controlled burning which resulted in a landscape that English observers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries routinely decribed as having the appearance of ‘an English gentleman’s park’, that is a deliberately designed layout contrived for the activities of such folk.

The trouble was they thought it was naturally occurring and thus this feature helped support the sneering dismissiveness of the skills and capacity of said indigenous population.

The really sad fact is that in the temple of latter day Gaians they still think that all natural ecosystems are benign and safe ready for vegan treechangers to just cuddle up and live in without any risk.

The emptyheaded ignorance of the intellectual detritus of ‘civilised’, ‘progressive’ populations really is quite amazing when it is made plain by the associated virtue bellowing.

Reply to  Komrade Kuma
May 30, 2019 8:28 am

I watched a TED talk (don’t remember who gave it now), in it they talked about the desertification of the American west. Environmentalist blame the desertification on ranchers/cattle over grazing leading to erosion and take over by sage brush. Their solution is to remove cattle from the land and have been pulling government controlled grazing rights away from ranchers. In the talk before and after shots were shown and the land degrades after grazing has been stopped. The talkers contention is the land had a symbiotic relationship with buffalo and other grazers and without that relationship degrades. Their solution is to bring back grazing on the land but it in the way wild herds used to graze. The theory was put to the test in Africa and has been working there and he would like to do it in the U.S. also.

May 30, 2019 5:29 am

It is worth you time to read about the Great Fire of 1910.

Jim Gorman
May 30, 2019 5:34 am

Logging could be a good thing! Who knew?

May 30, 2019 6:28 am

So basically, they are saying that what forestry officials were doing prior to modern, scientifically based forestry practices were adopted, was correct.

randall julander
May 30, 2019 7:01 am

wow. something that has been studied and documented ad nauseum has come around in vogue again. this was standard curriculum in the 60’s and 70’s as documented by many studies on usfs experimental forests, especially the fraser in colorado. then came the age of environmental enlightenment where logging was sin and mother gaia reigned supreme. about time some sense was pounded into these berkely nuts.

Dave Fair
Reply to  randall julander
May 30, 2019 9:44 am

Typical socialist outcome; chant slogans and promise free stuff, gain power, run things into the ground, blame capitalism when disaster strikes.

May 30, 2019 7:57 am

One only needs to look at the old Tintype photos, Stereographs and paintings of the National Forests before they were national forests to come to the obvious conclusion that there are now two to four times as many trees in these forests. And I mean two to four times per acre!
All I have to do is look out the window and the wooded acreage shows the problems of forests that are overgrown during dry periods. The leaves on the trees clearly show that they need water. Yet a mile down the road the trees on a fence line of a pasture or corn field show no problems.

HD Hoese
May 30, 2019 8:42 am

Hurricane Harvey struck centered on an ‘out of place’ oak forest famous for its sloping trees, shaped inland by wind and salt water. It clearly buffered damage, but haven’t seen any study. It is on the Ingleside Ridge, a Pleistocene barrier island running from south of Corpus Christi to Lake Charles, Louisiana, going inland on the east Texas coast. The plant community has a complex understory very attractive to migrating birds. Oak forest and especially understory are being rapidly destroyed by development, as a friend says to have us look like parts of the Florida coast. Formerly famous for birders, it has been losing that reputation. Many of the understory species range to the wetter east, apparently maintained by the maritime climate, but are drought adapted with great storage in roots. Water is often limiting, especially now to development.

Formerly a laid back tourist refuge, it is rapidly changing, the evidence shown every week by the twice weekly paper which always has a headline like the last one–“Sales tax revenue remains in negative territory.” There are attempts to change the politics, but Rockport has the distinction of being in probably the only county in Texas, with great difficulty, to tear down its 19th century courthouse. Its replacement was destroyed by Harvey. It is difficult to conserve when things like a recent rating had Rockport as the second best small coastal town in the country. The area owes a great debt to the many that helped after the storm, some still at it.

Several years ago a government forester from the pine woods of east Texas came down and suggested that we had a monoculture that needed more diversity in trees because of oak wilt, not so far a problem here. After Harvey it appeared that more trees were destroyed by humans than the storm partly because some damaged trees, obviously hurricane resistant, did not get their leaves back for many months.

Whooping crane populations are expanding, an interesting future coming, especially if there are more hurricanes in the next decade as there were in the 1960s. The recent FEMA report put a lot of damage blame on poor construction, some continuing. However, we are into sequestration with oysters, a barge in the bay putting out fair size rocks. Suspicion is that it is really a fishing reef, more in line with attracting fishers, the human variety that is.

I guess the point is that neither humans nor nature always know best, but we better understand the latter, the former perhaps impossible.

Gary Pearse
May 30, 2019 12:41 pm

This is another story that has a more compelling context than the one presented. A year or so ago, Trump excoriated California authorities for bad management of forests leading to unconscionable deaths and property damage and offerred common sense advice on what was to be done – prominently identifying the accumulated forest fuel problem.

Wow! The new state admin took the cue and began introducing policies to correct the horrible negligence of J Brown’s tenure. And now, with this paper, a university publishes on the topic (taking a bit to much credit, perhaps, for “what we are learning…”), which before Trump’s admonition would have been taboo, going against as it does the environmentalist industry’s prohibition of these forest practices.

The paper would have veen holistically a gem if it had added “Crispin’s” remarks above about the health and water conservation bounty for the forests courtesy of the manmade CO2 enrichment of the atmosphere.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 30, 2019 9:29 pm

And now, with this paper, a university publishes on the topic (taking a bit to much credit, perhaps, for “what we are learning…”),

I have enormously respected UC Davis in the past as they have made major break-throughs with research on difficult issues, especially, involving animals. I have no idea what they are like now and whether they have been infested with scientific rot or not. However, this is old news but, it is possible, UC Davis is simply taking advantage of current events to repeat and emphasize that what they, and others, have been preaching for years since, with Trump and his heaping of well-deserved embarrassment on Calif. and their pols after the horrid fires pols and money being dangled before politicians, they feel their research may well get the politicians attention now.
I hope I’m right and not all science nor its institutions have been corrupted.

John David Smith
May 30, 2019 12:50 pm

During the late 70’s to the early 80’s I worked as a timber faller for lumber mills in southwest Colorado.
Even then our forests were an absolute mess. Every species of pine has it own beetle that attacks it. Whenever the Native American tribes that inhabited the area observed an outbreak of infestations they would immediately set fire to the forest to “cleanse” the forest. Age of the tree is the most critical criteria.
Young trees respond to the boring beetles by “sapping” them out, older trees can’t do that as effectively. Harvesting mature trees is the only way to go. Even back during my time, the Forest Service was using controlled burns to improve the health of the forests. I once saw a “burn” map. The FS had designated areas that fires were simply be contained, other areas fought with all resources to minimize the destruction. It is a complex problem, but have no doubt in my mind that the environmentalists are destroying our forests.

Michael C. Roberts
May 30, 2019 3:04 pm

A large-scale ‘pilot study’ of proper forestry management has been on-going for quite a few years near my home in Western Washington State – in, of all places, a military base – Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I have met and interacted with silviculturists, biologists, and other forestry professionals in the Directorate of Public Works, Environmental Division that have managed one of the few (if not the only remaining) lowland Puget Sound Region forest/prairie ecosystems in balance with active military warfighter-training activities. This includes managed ‘prescribed burns’ (to include real-time and advance meteorology, to predict smoke movement over populated areas/inversions that may trap smoke at the surface), training federal, state, and local Fire Fighter crews during these prescribed burn activities – and managing harvests of forest products (mainly raw logs of Douglas Fir) through a Certified Green Forestry program. They also toil to grow and replace native plants and endangered species, some of which are found less and less (if not never at all) in the surrounding Puget Lowlands. In my opinion, a model for forestry throughout the country. And by a military-affiliated entity, to boot! Who’d a thunk it? If you are interested, I have attached a few links for your further research/reading pleasure:

let’s hope, this 72,000 are model can be replicated throughout the Good ‘Ole US of A, if not other areas of the world.



Michael C. Roberts
May 30, 2019 3:34 pm

Errata on last post:

‘Let’s hope, this 72,000 are model can be replicated throughout the Good ‘Ole US of A, if not other areas of the world.’

Should read:

‘Let’s hope, this 72,000 acre…’

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