The Real Toll of Oregon Forest Losses.

Guest post by Mike Dubrasich

It may interest your readers to consider the forest losses due to the recent fires in Oregon.

I do not wish to minimize the human losses: 9 confirmed deaths, 5 missing, untold numbers of respiratory cases and other injuries, 1,400+ homes destroyed, and damage to homes, businesses, roads, powerlines, and other human-built assets. Those losses are staggering and will be mourned for years.

There are other losses to our forests, however, that may not have been fully reported so far. Nearly one million acres burned in Oregon’s west-side Cascade forests. These were some of the most productive (and well-stocked with mature timber) forests in the world. The Willamette National Forest is thought to have the most standing volume of any National Forest, with the Mt. Hood NF a close second. Over 700,000 acres burned in those two NF’s alone (including some adjacent private forests). Close to 175,000 acres burned on the Umpqua NF and BLM areas (including some adjacent private forests).

The average standing volume on those three NF’s is at least 50 mbf/acre, principally Douglas-fir (mbf = thousand board feet). Many of the areas burned were old-growth with volumes over 150 mbf/acre. I estimate that all told at least 50 bbf (billion board feet) were incinerated.

To put that into context, the total annual harvest for all ownerships combined, state-wide, over the last 20 years is about 4 bbf per year. The timber that burned in one week in September is equal (at a minimum) to 12 years of annual harvest in Oregon. To salvage just one percent of what burned (500 mmbf) would require five new large sawmills each running 100 mmbf for a year. After that the burned trees will be too rotten for salvage.

The value of a board foot is not easy to estimate: there are stumpage values, delivered log values, and lumber values. In addition there is a “multiplier effect” that includes sales (total output), value added, employment, wages and salaries, and indirect effects to other economic sectors. Economists have studied this concept and estimated the multiplier effect to be 1.5 to 3 times the lumber sales.

This year lumber prices have been hovering around $.60 per bf. With a conservative multiplier effect of 2, each bf represents a $1.20 contribution to the economy. That means the recent fires cost Oregon’s economy an estimated $60 billion.

That $60 billion loss does not include the growth potential of those burned acres. The west-side Cascade forests were growing about 1,000 bf/acre/year. Even if they reseed and initiate new stands, it will be 25 years before they reach that growth potential again. Thus the loss of growth is estimated to be 20 billion bf or an additional $24 billion opportunity cost to Oregon’s economy.

This combined $84 billion loss is my cursory “back of the envelope” calculation. It could be when other analysts do more rigorous studies, the timber value losses will be estimated to be well over $100 billion. For comparison, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $150 billion and was the costliest natural disaster in US history. The Oregon fires should be ranked second. The hue and cry over Katrina has not stopped. The media and political establishment have been silent regarding Oregon’s forest losses.

Besides the timber value losses, other forest resource losses were also significant. I estimate at least 150 pairs of Northern Spotted Owls were destroyed. That will bring the remaining population of NSO’s to less than 3,000. Some oldsters like myself may recall that there were an estimated 20,000 NSO’s in 1994 when the Clinton/Gore Northwest Forest Plan was implemented. Since then the population has declined by 85% or more. The NWFP has been an utter failure at protecting the species, with more than 5 million acres of owl habitat destroyed by fire over the last 26 years. It is worthy of note that the opportunity cost of the NWFP has been roughly 10 bbf per year, which is what the owl set-asides removed from harvest. Using the valuations above, that cost has been over $300 billion to Oregon’s economy. That’s an expensive failure. Oregonians have all paid that, for nothing in return.

Heritage old-growth stands were destroyed in Opal Creek, Olallie Lakes, Breitenbush, Blue River, the Clackamas Watershed, the North Umpqua Watershed, the North Santiam Watershed and in dozens of Wilderness Areas, Late Successional Reserves, and Roadless Areas. Non-management has not protected our heritage forests — quite the opposite. The value of those losses is incalculable. The environmentalists who sued and protested for decades to halt all management on Oregon’s federal forests are remarkably silent today.

Wildlife, water quality, fisheries, recreation, scenery, and other forest values have been lost as well. Those values are also difficult, if not impossible, to calculate.

I estimate greenhouse gas emissions were 80 metric tons per acre, or 80 million metric tons from all the fires. In context, the Oregon DEQ estimates total annual emissions from all human economic sectors combined is 60-70 million metric tons. Thus one week of fires emitted more greenhouse gases than all human activities state-wide for a year. Not all biomass was combusted, however. Over the next 25 years an additional 250 million metric tons will be released from decay of the killed but not consumed vegetation. Taking into account all Oregon forest fires over the last 25 years, as much as 55 million metric tons of greenhouse gases are emitted every year in Oregon from decay of fire-killed vegetation — nearly as much as total state-wide human emissions.

The Oregon Legislature and Governor have set carbon emission targets at 45% of 1990 levels by 2025 and 80% by 2050. The 1990 level was 55 million metric tons. Thus these levels cannot be achieved even if all human production of CO2 was halted: no transportation, no electricity generation, no home or business heating, cooling or light. Oregon could be completely depopulated and shut down for 25 years, and the emissions goals would still be vastly exceeded from burned forests decaying.

There are three main causal factors for these losses: 1. Ignition source (lightning in two of the fires, human in the others); 2. Weather (east winds); and 3. Extreme fuels loads and fuel continuity due to 30+ years of no management. Much more could be said or written about the causes.

No amount of blame laying will restore what has been lost, however. We need to understand the depth of the damage to Oregon forests in order to properly grieve. The shock must not linger; we must accept what has happened and feel fully the sorrow of this enormous tragedy. We must remember and mourn our treasures, so essential to Oregon’s identity, that have been destroyed. Only then may we move forward to prevent the recurrence of similar catastrophes.

Mike Dubrasich
Professional Forester
Lebanon, Oregon
Oct. 17, 2020

67 thoughts on “The Real Toll of Oregon Forest Losses.

  1. Thank you Mike for an interesting article, and indeed a sad state of affairs with the politics being played with such losses. It is very telling when the dark green forces forget to tell us the other side of these events whether intended or unintended consequences, they remain consequences that are left for us to deal with for generations.

  2. The USFS and OR DEQ are responsible for this environmentalist-made catastrophe. CA air quality regulations had the same result there, ie build up of fuels, piled into the lower branches of tree crowns.

    • I’ve seen this coming for the last 30 years. flying fire patrol over the Mt. Hood and Willamette forests ,Airtanker Co-pilot for nearly a decade back in the 90’s.As Iunderstand when the McKenzie dainage was gutted tje fire had been burning in Opal creek since Aug 19th. Due to lighting. The East wind event was predicted. Nothing was done. this is not over. BTW i wrote a letter to a relative back in West Virginia as a documentation. What I predicted was:
      1. Fires getting away from the fire fighters as Overhead does nothing about it.
      2. Arsonist will have a field day (Jackson county et al )
      3. all of this could’ve been reduced or controlled if efforts were mad to
      clean up the fuel ladders that ar enow abundant in the forests.
      This was three days before it happened.

    • John…
      The USFS hands are often tied by their own NEPA Regulation (by their own hands) and of course decades of hiring “tree huggers” and closet preservationists. Gonna take a wholesale change in the structure of once a fine and largely independent of DC politics agency to turn the current mind set around.

  3. Mike,

    Thanks for your expert knowledge and effort to communicate the dimensions of this tragic debacle.
    I hope you will submit this to major news vehicles.

    • Bill Rocks October 19, 2020 at 10:33 am
      I hope you will submit this to major news vehicles.

      As if they are going to report it – Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    • As far as I’m concerned, WUWT is a major news outlet. It has the best, most factual, and most important news. WUWT is my go-to source for news, and I read it every day. I also make private contributions which I see as payment for services rendered. It is a huge honor and privilege to have my essay posted here, and quite humbling considering the extremely high caliber of other posters.

  4. Meh, Oregonians in Portland and Eugene won’t change their politics so, the tragedy will continue. Besides, it’s easier to blame others for your actions and failings than it is to take responsibility.

    • Besides, in a few years, you won’t even be able to tell there was a fire, as far as the natural stuff goes. Human structures are a different story.

      • Jeff, How many is a few years? Growth cycle for mature harvest is 50 years on the west side of the Cascades. The McKenzie pass at Hoodoo is still a burned out scar after 20 years. This isn’t grassland and it won’t be replanted. Human structures can be rebuilt in short order and most will that are insured.

        • Up here is BC a couple of years after a fire the location is very green. Sure maybe the trees are gone but very green as in plant life non the less.

        • The b&b complex was not quite 20 years ago (nitpick) … and it is coming back (very well in some places).

          The b&b was at a much higher elevation … it is reasonable to expect a long regeneration (without planting) for high elevation burns (such as that seem from the highway).

          And finally, it would be nice if my lifespan was such that regrowth period was short, and from my limited perspective I could say that ‘in a few years it will be back to normal’.

          But still, from a perspective that reflects the real world (the limited perspective of most humans notwithstanding), in a few years it will be back to the way that it was.

          • The B&B Fire (2003) burned 90,000 acres on Mt. Jefferson. It was a Let It Burn fire although most people around here believe it was arson caused. Ponderosa pines as much as 400 years were destroyed in a 100% mortality burn. Brush resprouted.

            This September the Lionshead Fire burned 205,000 acres, reburning the B&B burn and beyond. It was also a Let It Burn fire. The Lionshead Fire began with a lightning strike in mid-August and allowed to grow to 17,000 acres. Then the east wind rose up and blew the fire 30 miles to the west and south where it merged with the Beachie Creek Fire (another Let It Burn fire ignited in mid-August).

            The Lionshead Fire burned 264 homes, and old-growth heritage forests at Olallie Lakes and Breitenbush. The Beachie Creek Fire burned 194,000 acres, 454 homes, and k*lled 10 people. Old-growth stands were destroyed from Opal Creek to Silver Falls. Five towns were burned over by these two fires.

            Comments that downplay these tragedies are heartless and ignorant.

          • My comment, to Citizen Smith, was intended to be about the re-growth of the trees; that the area he referenced as a “scar” was unique (almost alpine elevation); that “scars” from fire (or logging cuts) are temporary in nature; that I perceived his reference about rebuilding homes “in short order” meant that home loss (to him) wasn’t a big deal as compared to the forest loss; and that some differing perspective would be good for him.

            Your response confused me. It appears that the upper Metolius (Jefferson Creek) was essentially the dividing line where the the two burned areas (B&B and recent) touched … with very little overlap. There was significant smoke on the morning after the lightening strikes visible from the highway (west of Hoodoo) in un-burned area west of B&B, but I didn’t think there was any recent significant high elevation burn or re-burn in the Mckenzie drainage.

            You are right, per your article “No amount of blame laying will restore what has been lost”. Restoration will take time. Too much time? Depends on perspective and motives.

            How much time does it take to regrow after a cut … it that too much time? Depending on motives some think it is … and in Oregon those ‘some’ are the ones that the politicians are listening to. Forest devastation is forest devastation (right or wrong?) … perspective … be careful not to help the anti’s.

      • Jeff, in a few years, you won’t even be able to tell there was a fire.

        No, it takes a little longer. In 1951 the slopes around Detroit dam burned 29,000 acres, which my dad helped put out. Early 1970, there were still obvious signs of burn. Wasn’t till early 2000’s that tree harvesting could resume.

        And Mike Dubrasich, I estimate that all told at least 50 bbf (billion board feet) were incinerated.
        Compare / Contrast The Columbus Day storm (“blowdown”) in 1962 caused major problems. The big storm downed an estimated 140 million board feet of timber

          • It was 60’s … it was (somewhat) hyped, and still is.

            (opinion only)
            New, “unstable”, unchecked growth will blow down. About every 40 years we will have a wind event that will be hyped (based on the vegetation that gets toppled). The interim events, that don’t have an unstable target, don’t make history.

          • Friday, 12 October 1962.

            Remember it well.

            Set records kicking with the wind in football. But OR HS FG record was set in 2015.

  5. One of the larger burned areas was along the Mckenzie River east of Eugene/Springfield. The Mckenzie River Scenic Byway Initiative forbid cutting mature douglas fir trees along the road (126), instead allowing electricity cables to pass near trunks with an eight (8) foot trimming of limbs above and below. Guess what? Not too scenic now. Salvage the standing burned timber? No way, the trees will be left to rot and topple over on cars (the idea is they will target SUV’s driven by Republicans). Spotted owls? They are being pushed out of their habitat by the barred owls, their somewhat larger and more aggressive cousins. Stupidity abounds. By the way, I grew up in Oregon and worked in forest industries summers while in college, saw this stuff up close and personal, including forest fires.

  6. Thanks for numbers, insight and overview of the tragedy.
    However I am not hopeful regarding your last statement.
    “Only then may we move forward to prevent the recurrence of similar catastrophes.”

    I would so much hope that. But remembrance is not the strongest side of the Woke culture, where only the now and pessimism is counting as evident and reality is another universe.
    Even the president has explained that forest management is the major cause, not the ever changing climate.
    Statues of former presidents, the Mörner tree on the beach of the Maldives, the Little Ice Age are all supposed to be eradicated and forgotten in a dark Green world.
    If the devastation from the fires in Oregon remain in the heads of the Green, then only if they can blame too much CO2, too little H2O and too many Kelvins for it – all caused by fossil fuel, not dense dry under-wood.

  7. Thanks, Mike.

    It may be worse than that. In 2017 there was a fire here in Western Montana, the Lolo Peak fire, that burned over 50,000 acres (it was right behind my home). The Forest Service decided on a “block and burn” strategy to “control” it. This doesn’t involve trying to put it out but, rather, “managing” it. They establish blocks around the active part of the fire, prepare them with lines, hose lays, etc., and then burn them out, thus starving the fire of fuel in that location. This is a time consuming process of preparing and burning block after block until essentially the snow comes—literally. The give away to this is when the fire team arrives in early August and announces that the fire may burn into late October.

    In the case of the Lolo Peak fire, it made a run up into a 5000 acre drainage that had been logged and contained beautiful stands of young growth 40 to 45 years old. That’s all dead now. And they were right. They finally declared it controlled in late October. Meanwhile, we contended with continual and dense smoke, the destruction of a beautiful viewshed, the loss of 45 years of growth in a managed forest (and that run was only a small part of the managed timber that was destroyed.)

    One interesting aspect of this is the fact that there was never an environmental analysis of this method done even though it is used through out the U.S. now and even though the costs are extreme in values lost and impacts on the health of all who live in and around these forests.

    By the way, I am a Professional Forester as well with 45 years of experience in silviculture and 30 years of firefighting experience.

    • Thankyou Dennis for putting this info out. This is being done as you say all over the country . They call it a “wildfire” which means they can spend suppression funds to basically do a prescribed fire. But if something bad happens it was a “wildfire”. They also have the state air quality in tow since , once again, this is a “wildfire”. Maybe this is the right way to “manage” fire but as you also say “there was never an environmental analysis of this method done” and news releases imply they are “fighting” the fire when in fact they are just doing a prescribed fire with suppression money. The area to be burned is also completely arbitrary. They just need a lightning strike as an excuse then they draw a huge area around it and start burning.
      We must have graduated forestry school about the same time.

  8. West Coast Fir is a national treasure. Exporting raw logs is not legal but if it
    were I would wager that there would be a ready market across the pond. Large
    rafts of logs could be floated and/or sunk and then would not rot and would
    be usable for generations. I can’t say if that would be cost effective but
    it’s been done on large scale in the past..

    • There was a good business raising sunken logs logs from the seafloor between Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland years ago. In 1957 I was a choker man (wrapped a cable noose around logs cut on the mountain slope for winch haulage down to a spar tree down below on a haulage road to the sea) in Jarvis Inlet north of Vancouver, BC. It was reputed to be the world’s largest clearcut and visible from the moon. 63 years ago and grown back in.

      Trouble with environmental activists they think 10yrs is a long time or even a human lifetime. I think it’s time for a global internet betting project to really educate the worriers. Their reluctance to bet will be telling, too. My bet on a number of things: 1)Business as usual and we won’t even reach 1.5C warming by 2100. The climate wroughters already know this – that’s why the chose it. Its double what we had for one century’s warming coming out of the Little Ice Age 2) Population will peak at 9 billion (we’re 87% there) and prosperity will be more or less global. 3) Resources will be plentiful. Two and three
      will take the oxygen out of Malthusianism the main driving force for тотaliтarуаиisм. 4) the Great Greening, basically courtesy of burning fossil fuels, will continue apace toward Garden of Eden Earth with greatly expanded habitat for our non human inhabitants. 5) The corruption of science will be dealt with and scientists will be obliged to adopt a code of ethics, with a disciplinary body empowered to suspend practice or to bar for life if the breach is egregious enough. Engineers, lawyers, doctors and accountants have had such a management of professional conduct for perhaps a century. Scientists unchecked have been found in recent years to be capable of destroying a world economy!

      • Hello Gary
        Jarvis Inlet is now suffering under total mismanagement by BC forestry. Under their rein of error Jarvis inlet was logged off in 1998. The BC forestry demanded that this area be replanted with fast growing Conifers for the Pulp and paper sector rather than Douglas Fir for the softwood lumber industry. Since then the BC forest service has been infiltrated with left leaning loonies. Over the years the forestry regulations were changed to shift the responsibility for the management and upkeep of these forests to the company that last logged them off.
        In the same time over 12 major pulp mills have either been shutdown or scaled back drastically due to environmental meddling and excessive government regulation on that sector. The demand for these pulp forests is less than 15% of what it was in 2000.
        So now Jarvis inlet is ready to harvest again for pulp but if you do it is on the logging company to replant, Fertilize and maintain this new forest till it is ready to harvest again. There is NO money in that process to allow for a profit so these trees are left to rot and fall over. Now it can be seen why there are so many massive fires in BC and it has nothing to do with the environment.

    • Dan-0, I don’t believe you are correct on this point of selling raw logs. I am in Coos Bay and there is a Chinese company who comes in once a month or so and loads up with raw logs. I don’t know for sure that they go to China, but still it raises the question.

      • I am of the opinion that it would best serve the rebound of the PNW lumber industry, if the sale of raw logs was severely curtailed, and replaced with a (mandate? practice?) of local once-processing, that is an industry nearby where the trees were grown produces an initial product from the harvests. I understand that it may take reopening the forests to human activity, but it would also support collegiate training in silviculture and other forest practices, along with the cocomittant resurgence pf the forest product industries in the PNW. Open the forests back up for industry!

  9. I grew up in Oregon and spent most of my life in the PNW. I remember when the spotted owl logging ban was implemented, I was living in WA state, fire and the faulty logic that the NSO would only live and mate in the old growth were the countering arguments. Of course the antagonists, including Sen. Slade Gordon, were vilified in the press. My cousin lost her house, my brother’s ranch was threatened and all because of the lies and deception of the tree huggers. The political left wing has ruined the PNW with their ideological agenda.

    • … the faulty logic that the NSO would only live and mate in the old growth …

      This really reminds me of polar bears. They are supposed to be endangered because of decreasing sea ice. As far as I can tell the only credible voice standing against the alarmist experts is Susan Crockford.

      I have worked in close proximity to polar bear scientists and their crews and have great respect for them. It stings me a bit when I say that Susan is 100% correct and they are wrong on the rather important point that the polar bears aren’t endangered by a seasonal loss of sea ice.

      I wonder if there is a Spotted Owl equivalent of Susan.

    • Eric H.,

      It wasn’t faulty logic at all, they flat out lied about the Spotted and their needs. Heck, they even knew back in the 80’s that the main threat Spotted owls faced was hungry Barred owls. Environmentalists have admitted that they used the Spotted owl as their poster child but the main goal was to prevent all logging of our forests.

      FYI, I know a guy whose job back in the late 80’s as a student at Oregon State University was to go out and count spotted owls along with a bunch of other students. They found them everywhere they looked. New growth, old growth, outside of town, inside of town, living in signs and inside abandoned cars rolled into the ditch. Spotted owls are not picky about where they live. An interesting aside, one of the methods of counting owls was to put a mouse on the end of a long stick and hold it up into the air. Owls would fly down and snag their meal. They are not exactly what one would call a shy bird.

  10. Thanks for your expert commentary. I am about 40 miles east of you and was in the 500+ smoke concentration zone for almost 10 days.

  11. Who project manages these forests? Professionally, they should be ashamed of themselves and expect to be sacked!
    Have they not heard of preventative maintenance. In this case the ongoing PM works were mainting and clearing a network of fire breaks and the regular clearance of built up undergrowth, bushes and other vegetation between the trees! This PM works would have massively reduced both the risks and the extent of such fire damage and would have been miniscule compared to the overall real loss’ costs as honestly and correctly calculated here.
    Presented professionally in this way, even an accountant in senior management without batteries for his calculator would have clearly and immediately realised such basic preventative maintenance work would have been massively and blatantly cost-effective!
    But, silly me, the extremist Greens, a very small minority of our citizens – with the support of vociferous, ignorant, scientifically and technologically illiterate politicians and celebrities, have no real life understanding of such basic management tools!
    I’m surprised though, that by now, one of their number hasn’t preached that they have just discovered a further tablet of stone from tablets brought down from the crest of Mount Sinai by Moses which substantiates the dogma within their so called religious scripts!

  12. If the west coast states had a large, thriving, biomass power industry- it could consume much of the wood that should come out in proper, silviculturally sound, forest thinings. Of course there is an argument against biomass power- all wrong- but I won’t debate that at this time- other than to say- either the wood burns in the open, as now, with immense air pollution and a waste of the resource, or burn it in a power plant with state of the art technology to minimize the pollution. And, bring back the entire forest industry, resulting in numerous jobs- not only for foresters, loggers, truckers, sawmills- but also in secondary industries like furniture. And, why build homes from wood from thousands of miles away when it can be grown in these states. Here in Massachusetts, we have lunatics trying very hard to end all forestry- yet, they live in some of the nicest, largest wood houses in the state and many have nice wood furniture made from wood from the rain forests.

  13. It sounds so similar to BC. For decades now we have not had a government that is committed to natural resource management. The vote base is all urban and uninterested in the state of our forests. The socialist government here pays lip service to environmental matters but only to the extent that they involve the fake and therefore easily solved issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming. The urban base firmly believes that an economy consists of importing goods from China and selling them to one another. Meanwhile our scarce farmland is being snapped up by foreign buyers who know the value of land. The Province is selling its organs to pay for urban cosmetic surgery. Meanwhile populations of caribou, mule deer, moose, salmonids, fishers, sturgeon, the forest industry, mining and many others are in alarming decline. The Idiocracy is here.

  14. Mike Dubrasich
    Professional Forester,
    Thank you for documenting this factual tale of deliberate environmental mismanagement of Oregon’s forests. “Shame!”, 300 billion times!

  15. Green groups just don’t seem to understand that by ”protecting” the forests and locking them up, they are in fact potentially destroying them and their inhabitants.

  16. @Mike Dubrasich

    Thanks for the informative posting. I don’t want to minimize this disaster, which is caused by nearly 30 years of bad policy and should be laid squarely at the feet of the eco-loons. In a sane world, there would be consequences for that and big changes made. Nor do I want to be insensitive to anybody’s grieving process. I’m also a nature lover. However, I have a few questions about the economic impact analysis, which doesn’t seem to add up to me.

    You say that almost a million acres were destroyed, representing about 12 times the annual harvest. The forested area of Oregon is ~30 million acres (out of 63 million acres land area in the state).

    So a million acres is 1/30 of the total Oregon forest (3.3%). If the annual harvest is 1/12 of that, then each year, 0.28% of the Oregon forest is harvested. Now I’ll grant you that the areas burned may have yielded a significantly higher number of board feet per acre than the average Oregon forest acre based on your description. So let’s estimate more conservatively that 0.5% of the Oregon forest is harvested annually because the average acre is only about 60% as productive.

    We would need to get that 0.5% out of the 96.7% of the forest that did not burn. In other words, the ratio of unburnt forest to annual harvest will be 193 next year instead of 200 last year. Is that no longer sustainable? I’m asking, I don’t know the answer.

    What would matter to the economy would be if sawmills had to shut down for lack of raw logs to process. But actually it seems like there will be a glut of logs to process, too many to process before they are damaged beyond the point of being able to salvage them for lumber. There may actually be more economic activity for a short time, in attempting to salvage trees before it’s too late?

    Forgive my ignorance of the lumber industry, but my guess is that a fire-damaged log will not yield top quality product even if harvested almost immediately after the fire. Is that accurate? In other words, it is probably unprofitable to exclusively use fire-damaged logs for the next couple of years? I’m sure it’s also impractical for reasons I can’t think of at the moment.

    Assuming that the 96.7% unburnt forest can sustain the 0.5% annual harvest, and assuming that fire-damaged logs can’t supply more than a small fraction of that demand due to quality concerns, the next question would be whether those fire-damaged trees could be harvested as biomass. Is there potential capacity to remove the damaged trees before they are not useful for biomass-to-energy? I’d surely rather see that done than cutting down useful trees just to burn them as is happening all over the country.

    This certainly does show how counterproductive to the Green vision their forest mismanagement schemes have been. Eventually even the eco-loons will have to realize that their pipe dreams of eliminating fossil fuels are not going to come to pass. But of course I don’t share their concerns about how much CO2 has been emitted, since CO2 is good for the planet.

    Sorry to say that the most likely outcome is that they won’t admit that forest management is the culprit because it’s so much more convenient for them to blame climate change. I also would not be surprised if they said the lumber industry needs to shut down for 12 years until the forest can “catch up”.

    • Mr. Davis, to answer your questions as best I can:

      The annual harvest of 4bbf state-wide represents about 25% of annual growth. The current stocking volumes are greater than at any time during the Holocene and still expanding. The limits are imposed by outsiders: the Feds own 53% of the landbase in Oregon and 65% of forestlands. Prior to the NWFP the Feds harvested ~10 bbf/yr, still less than growth. Afterwards their harvest dropped 95% to ~500 mmbf/yr. Our forests need intensive management and restoration. A cut of 20 bbf/yr would be sustainable for 100 years or more.

      Oregon lost 1,500 sawmills due to the NWFP. The economy has been shattered. For 30 years we have led the Nation in unemployment, home foreclosure, business bankruptcy, and food insecurity. We have the lowest high school graduation rate. We have an ongoing epidemic of drugs, alcohol, and broken homes. Our political system is dysfunctional or worse. State government is bankrupt due to unfunded pension mandates. Any shortage of sawlogs is caused by politics, not biology or economics.

      The fire-damaged trees are mostly worthless as sawlogs. Our Douglas-fir lumber is the strongest and best structural lumber in the world, but it doesn’t come from cooked trees. Biomass energy is unworkable — it requires more BTU’s to harvest and haul the material than it can produce in power plants. Besides, Oregon has one of the premier hydro-power systems in the world. We don’t need fake power.

      I share your disregard for CO2 emissions. If CO2 warms the planet (doubtful), then good: Warmer Is Better. I only included the estimates to show the hypocrisy of the “environmentalists” and their carbon limits and tax insanity.

      • Thanks for the reply.

        What you’re saying then, if I understand correctly is that there isn’t an effect on the economy arising from this year’s fires, but rather the harm all comes from the continuing policies of the past three decades.

        I’d try to be optimistic that maybe, just maybe, the need for forest management will be recognized and these fires could lead to a rebound of your industry.

  17. “Biomass energy is unworkable — it requires more BTU’s to harvest and haul the material than it can produce in power plants.”
    Not so- at least in many parts of America- when the harvesting is part of a harvest where sawlogs, firewood, pulpwood are all harvested. The lowest quality wood can’t go to those markets and can only go to a biomass and/or pellet market. If the logging firm is already on the site harvesting the more valuable wood- there is little extra cost in removing the biomass. The real issue, at least in the northeast, is having the market. Here in New England, wind and solar are massively subsidized- but the enviros won’t allow a nickel in subsidy go to biomass. Without harvesting the lowest wood for biomass- you end up with high grading (cut the best and leave the rest). That diminishes the future value of the stand- and therefore the present value too once you discount the future. And if that wood isn’t removed- it might be removed by a wildfire. Take a look at the Facebook photo album of forester Mike Leonard in central Mass. He shows many harvesting projects- most of which remove a good deal of biomass- leaving these mixed stands in excellent condition: And, I show 3 logging jobs in central Mass. where biomass is a big part of the harvest- and I show a video of the construction of a solar “farm” which I consider to be a travesty: Maybe biomass doesn’t have a place in west coast forestry but I bet it could and should if the benefit of it is fully considered.

    • Just saw your comment. Indeed, it does cost more to remove wood and then burn in a powerplant in the Western USA. I worked for years with the Colville Indian Reservation, NF and Gallatin NF and I tired of the those that thought, “O, yes, you can take this biomass and produce heat in powerplant and bingo you have energy for all”. Bull. The only people that said that were politicians or folks completely unaware of the economics of removing this “free for the taking” wood and transporting it to the powerplant, which is often hundreds of miles away. Reminds of acquiring a ‘free house’ — the only catch is you have to move this ‘free house’. And all know this is not free by a long ways. The East coast a far different beast than out here in the West. Period!!

  18. Yes, probably a 500 year to 1,000 year level burn of forest, especially given the NFS”s “Smokey the Bear” active suppression efforts of the 20th Century, that continue to this day. Enough burtned that no person of European ancestry has ever seen such a fire season. Only the native Americans’ ancestors saw such devastation. But they didn’t write about. And verbal stories are lost to time.

  19. If resources are spread thin, “block & burn” may be the only option. I’m not saying it was in this case, but sometimes it is.

  20. I’m more concerned about the loss of wildlife, and trees as a resource to be enjoyed by humanity for generations to come, rather than the loss of revenue for the already rich people who own big timber corporations. Our mayor here in Portland, came from a family that got filthy stinking rich cutting down our forests – there is even a town called “Wheeler” (not many trees left there though). Sure we need building resources, but hemp and bamboo can provide that, and are arguably better materials for building homes, along with packed earth, cob, etc. Wood frame houses are far from the best choice for structures to live in. All the talk about timber as a “resource” to harvest leaves me cold.

    • That is why we are in the fix we are in. Folks with little to no knowledge of Forest ecology are driving the ‘bus’ on how and what we should do with these forests.; in other words management. Management by man/woman. The most ignorant comment I have heard over my many years of Foresty experience is we as humans can keep our forests just as they are for another 1,000 years. The idea we can favor hemp, bamboo, earth, etc.over wood for building just plan wrong. Forests will change whether we want the change or not. Wildfires, insects, disease (yes there is lots and lots of disease in the forests of the Western Cascades), winds and so on. The dream of an untouched Forest where all the fairies go to live along with the elves is a pipe dream. Some old growth has always been a part of the past, but the idea that old growth Forest were pretty much everywhere is incorrect. And this is especially true the interior West.

  21. Most of these terrible forest fires in California and other Left-coast states were caused by Leftist political enviro-wackos who decimated their logging industries by 75% since the 1950’s….

    Leftists insanely believe removing deadfall and diseased trees and also controlling tree densities are actions harmful to nature…. not so much…

    These massive forest fires are due to Leftist government hacks completely mismanaging forests and not allowing logging companies to effectively harvest and manage the forests…

    $100’s of billions of lumber commerce, thousands of jobs and many lives have been needlessly lost, along with $billions in fire damaged due to Leftists’ failed policies.

    Leftists are certifiably insane.

    • Insane? Ok sure, based on their ideology being irrational. But more accurately they are anti-human ideologues acting rationally based on insanely evil theories that humanity is a parasite on the earth and needs to be mostly eradicated. It is not an unintended consequence that rural populations are impoverished. They are not insane for persisting in their policies in the face of all the evidence of harm to human communities. Those are their desired outcomes.

      The policies were never intended to “save the spotted owl”. That was always a pretext to destroy the lumber industry and put higher costs on development. If lumber is expensive, fewer homes are built and a smaller proportion of the population can afford to buy a house in a new suburban or rural development, so they are stuck in dense urban communities where they can be controlled much more easily.

      These elites not only do not care about the harm their policies do, it is their intent to do harm. Calling them insane reduces their culpability. They need to be held accountable.

  22. Besides the timber value losses, other forest resource losses were also significant. I estimate at least 150 pairs of Northern Spotted Owls were destroyed. That will bring the remaining population of NSO’s to less than 3,000. Some oldsters like myself may recall that there were an estimated 20,000 NSO’s in 1994 when the Clinton/Gore Northwest Forest Plan was implemented. Since then the population has declined by 85% or more. The NWFP has been an utter failure at protecting the species, with more than 5 million acres of owl habitat destroyed by fire over the last 26 years.

    Wasn’t a big part of the Clinton/Gore Plan involve restricting commercial logging? Preventing the harvesting of the deadwood that latter “added fuel to the fire”?
    Al Gore is more of a “cause” for the fires and the dead birds than any coal-fired power plants CO2.

  23. I estimate that the “150 pairs… Northern Spotted Owl” deceased claim is nothing but a strawman. Anyone who thinks that an intelligent bird of prey isn’t smart enough to fly away from the smoking hot burning stuff is pushing an agenda. It’s Grade A Bovine Excrement. The reptilian brain has fight or flight instincts ingrained, hard-coded. Birds are several rungs up the ladder from reptiles, but are still egg-laying, and clearly derivative of that family tree, ergo, the fight/flight instinct is still exceptionally strong in all types of winged creatures. I cannot think that any woodland creature hasn’t developed a perfectly reasonable fear of fire over the multiple millions of years of their evolutionary path.

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