Forests: Manage them or Watch Them Burn

Yesterday, driving my step-son Amos to the ferry, we drove into what I consider the most astonishing vista on Salt Spring, which is Bruce Ridge, a sheer treed mountain that peaks at around 2350 feet. I haven’t made it to the top yet, but I climb its switchbacks as often as I can. It is breathtaking in every sense of the word, high, lonely, wild, exhausting. I carry one of those sound-barrier-breaking alarms because of cougar, it’s that wild. But the exultation that it confers on the lonely hiker is unmatched, at least in my life.

As we approached it, I said, “Someday that whole mountain is going to explode in fire, and it will be destroyed for fifty years.” We had been following the fires in our province and directly south, the catastrophic canopy fires in California.

All of which, ALL of which were entirely preventable. I wrote a book about environmental mismanagement that was published in 2012, which entirely lays out the reasons why. Other, more rigorous researchers had gone before me, and many have gone after, but none of the research has trickled into the culture to the point where something will be done.

So to recap. In the late 80’s, during the “War of the Woods”, a new paradigm of forest management was invented. It was given power by the 1992 UN Festival of Fools, commonly known as the Earth Summit, and over time was instituted ALL OVER THE WORLD. Forced even, bullied into existence by ceaseless invective and divisive campaigning by the usual suspects. This is what it did:

  1. forbade the clearing of brush in the forest
  2. forbade the thinning of new trees
  3. forbade clear cuts
  4. forbade fire breaks
  5. forbade the stoppage of early lightening-caused fires
  6. allowed fires to progress
  7. forbade forest management practices that had been in place for hundreds of years – this called German silvaculture.
  8. forbade the clearing of debris out of creek beds
  9. forbade the grazing of cattle and sheep in the forest.

All of this means the forests are overstocked. Fire ladders grow up out of years of dead brush and reach forty feet on some trees, acting like tinder. There is so much stock growing in the forest that the soil is desiccated, its nutrients sucked dry. Which means one spark, and it’s gone.

So today, we have a continent, with several hundred million square miles of forest, all of which are in danger of catastrophic fires that burn so hot that even the seeds in the soil are killed. Every species threatened and not, will die. And no one does anything about it.

 

 

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