Hitting the Irony Meter Hard

Recent study on spotted owls, the protection of which was the ostensible reason for shutting down the northwest timber industry:

Whatever short-term drawbacks there may be from logging, thinning, or other fuel reduction activities in areas with high fire risk would be more than offset by improved forest health and fire-resistance characteristics, the scientists said, which allow more spotted owl habitat to survive in later decades.

Decades of fire suppression and a "hands-off" approach to management on many public lands have created overcrowded forests that bear little resemblance to their historic condition – at the expense of some species such as the northern spotted owl, researchers said.

The findings were published in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal, by researchers from Oregon State University and Michigan State University.

"For many years now, for species protection as well as other reasons, we've avoided almost all management on many public forest lands," said John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.

"The problem is that fire doesn't respect the boundaries we create for wildlife protection," Bailey said. "Given the current condition of Pacific Northwest forests, the single biggest threat facing spotted owls and other species is probably stand-replacement wildfire."

Next, we will find out that spray cans are needed to save the ozone.  hat tip


  1. Roy:

    Had not thought about that re spotted owl. Was, however, my first response upon learning of the recent fire near Colo Springs. Irony indeed.

  2. Sean:

    So now it fire. I had heard that what really did the species in was a related owl species from Canada that the spotted owls could not compete with. I guess if you are an environmentallist, you don't really care about getting the science right. They wanted to shut down the logging industry and succeeded.

  3. Patrick Moffitt:

    Stand thinning, while helpful, does not and cannot replace the essential role once played by fire. Fire affects soil pH, nutrient cycling, understory characteristics (or lack thereof), allelopathy, fuel load, etc. etc etc. (Yes- its true- Smokey the Bear killed the forest.)
    The real threat to forest health continues to be management's impossible task-simultaneously optimizing two or more variables. If we optimize for spotted owls- then other species that require early stage forest succession will decline. There are other forest issues beyond the spotted owl. The environmental forest utopia is achieved not by science and informed choice but by court order and self inflicted myopia.
    Current forest management is in reality nothing more than value judgements disguised as environmental imperatives and as a consequence everything suffers.

  4. MingoV:

    My brother-in-law and his wife spent decades working for the Forest Service in the Cascade Mountains. They were fire fighters in summer months and performed forest management (designating trees for lumbering) and wildlife detection (counting owls) at other times. Those years of fire fighting and management were lost after multiple fires in recent years destroyed forest areas that had been "preserved" as spotted owl habitats.

    I blame those wasted efforts on taxonomists and environmentalists. Modern taxonomists do not follow the classification rule that animals that can interbreed belong to the same species. Example: Barred owls and spotted owls can breed with each other and produce live, fertile offspring (that can breed with either type of parent or with mixed types). They should be designated as one species with two subspecies. (That's how dogs and wolves are categorized.) Barred owls are not endangered, so obviously a species that consists of both barred and spotted owls is not endangered. Calling the spotted owl a separate species led to environmentalists demanding protective efforts in the northwest forests that 'backfired.' Similar misclassifications are responsible for many of the "species" on the Endangered Species lists and thus many more misguided efforts at species protection.

  5. Not Sure:

    As soon as we can get the Right People in charge of environmental management, all these problems will evaporate.

    I expect this should happen any day now...

  6. Jeff:

    We must destroy the forest to save it.

  7. a_random_guy:

    Two points here...

    The problem with the timber industry comes when they clear-cut a forest, and then replant it as a monoculture. You see this in many places: All trees are the same species, the same age, and are planted in a nice, neat grid. This is not a forest - this is an agricultural crop! If the logging companies want to raise crops, they need to do it private land, just like any other farmer.

    This kind of "forestry" has no place on public lands. Forests on public land should be managed to contain trees that are a mix of species and ages.

  8. a_random_guy:

    Sorry, forgot the second point, but others already mentioned it: forest fires are not (usually) disasters. They are a natural part of the forest lifecycle, and for particular plants within a forest they may even be essential.

  9. mark2:

    @ a random_guy. I agree with your points. One problem is that we have prevented fires so long that the undergrowth is too dense. this causes extra hot fires which destroy trees, or seriously damage trees that normally would not be damaged by smaller fires.

    I don't think we have the labor power necessary to clear out the accumulated brush from all the years of mismanagement, so the fires will just have to burn strong.

  10. Jeff:

    "I don’t think we have the labor power necessary to clear out the accumulated brush from all the years of mismanagement, so the fires will just have to burn strong."

    One more job Americans won't do.

  11. Mark2:

    @Jeff, it is true that illegal Mexicans have pot farms in our CA national forests and routinely burn them down for free!

  12. colson:

    @a_random_guy - I'm a little sketchy on your two points (and agree with your subsequent third point added afterwards).

    There are a combination of things that don't quite make sense. From almost every image Ive seen of modern clearcuts, the stumps are left in the ground. Assuming nature, being nature, a previously unharvested section of timber will not be aligned in a straight grid. If the stumps are not in a straight grid, it's a b*tch to replant in a straight grid. You'd have to rip out the stumps entirely and replant. Removing the stumps wouldn't make a whole lot of sense (aside from if you were going to build a road to reach further into the forest). The decay from what is left behind would be important to the regrowth of the forest

    From a few sources I've read (state forestry services - Michigan and West Virginia), "clearcutting" (the modern context used in discussion is usually referring to methods that are no longer used) is as more of a tool to ensure that both loggers can obtain an equitable harvest and creating a clear-cut opening will generally encourage equal, if not more, diversity. This is why modern clearcuts will checker a forest, opening pockets for the sun to reach the land and let nature take care of itself.

    If there is a case where a monoculture replanting has taken place in the past, clearcutting would be one potential method for reversing that mistake. young trees that would otherwise be crowded out in a monoculture stand now have room to grow.

    Other corrections to past mistakes - take-the-good-stuff logging where only the good stuff was cut leads to poor genetics. If the poor quality trees are the only trees left standing, and those trees reproduce, you end up with a poor quality of forest with stands that are no longer even marketable.

    I would agree there have been a lot of mistakes within the logging industry in the past. But just as every industry matures, so has the logging industry. I'm more inclined to say modern logging methods and techniques used here in the United States are some of the most advanced in the world and modern clearcutting is just one of the tools to built on the knowledge of those mistakes.

  13. tomw:

    I wonder if the owls know about the 'protected areas' designed just for them. Seems the have wings and such to enable them to fly to areas, protected or not, that appeal to their selected 'lifestyle'.
    To designate an area as protected for one species is ludicrous unless they are caged or otherwise constrained from moving out and leaving the 'protected area' bereft of their presence.
    IOW, who designated such 'protectors' God?
    Just made me think of the Limbaugh story about the rescued critter that was nursed back to health over several months, with countless hours spent in rehabilitation, and when said critter was released into the sea, a shark came and ate it after about 10 seconds of freedom.
    Remember, while you are planning your life, or planet, God is deciding that it is a good time to play a trick on you...
    Sure sounds like what I thought hubris meant.