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The National Forests Should be Off Limits to Logging

The National Forests Should be Off Limits to Logging

Photograph Jeff Gunn | CC BY 2.0

Logging, conducted ostensibly to “thin the forest,” “reduce fuels” or for so-called “restoration,” causes a net loss of carbon from forest ecosystems.

One of the best strategies for reducing CO2 levels is by protecting our forests. Yet few environmental groups, even those who focus on climate change, advocate for the reduction of logging on federal lands.

Indeed, there are economic studies that demonstrate that protecting all our federal forests from logging/thinning and subsequent carbon sequestration that occurs is far more valuable than any wood produced.

Another study concludes that thinning forests costs more than the wildfire suppression costs that “may” be avoided. Not to mention, that most thinned forests will not encounter a fire during the period they might be effective.

Wildfires are not a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Even in the largest blazes, only a very small percentage of carbon stored in forest stands is released into the atmosphere by fire.

Even the remaining burnt trees hold more carbon than thinned/logged forests. In a forest fire, what burns are the fine fuels like needles, cones and small branches. The actual tree trunks seldom burn. So even in a high-severity blaze, the bulk of the carbon is left on site, stored in the snags and roots. These carbon storage units last for decades. During that same period, regrowth of vegetation packs even more carbon on to the site.

By contrast, logging forests remove the carbon that would otherwise remain stored on site. In addition, research shows that 45-60 percent of the carbon stored in trees that are logged is released as CO2 emissions during processing into wood products.

Policies that are advocated in the latest Farm Bill and elsewhere to speed taxpayer-subsidized logging/thinning on public lands ignores the significant value of these lands for carbon storage.

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