I found it disturbing that a Forest Service official stated that about 75 percent of the North Umpqua fires were “good” and just cleaned out the underbrush. Whoa! Was it planned that way, or were we just lucky? I suspect the latter.
What about the 2,000 acres where it burned hot? Are those places where resource managers would have chosen for stand replacement? Probably not. The torched trees. Are those the ones managers would have liked to remove? Probably not. Would there have been a stand replacement fire had it been thinned? Possibly not. If there had been more east winds, would those stand replacement fires been just 2,000 acres, or 4,000 acres, or 20,000? Not very professional.
Containing these fires costs million of dollars. I’m sure had areas been thinned, the taxpayers would have gotten a break from the timber sold, plus the fire would have been easier to contain — which would have saved money, and smoke wouldn’t have filled the air for weeks, even if thinning slash were burned, because managers can choose days when winds are favorable.
It seems to me if the Forest Service had an aggressive commercial thinning program 10,000 to 20,000 acres a year — yes, even cutting some big old trees, where managers decided when, where, what and how trees were removed — that the vital resources, soils, water and air would be better protected than if left to the whim of a lightning bolt. It would also give resource managers fuel breaks throughout the forest so there would be more points of containment and ensure that what fires we have remain “good.”
If the Forest Service is going to leave managing our forest to all the professionalism given a lightning bolt, do we need a Forest Service? No.