Our forests evolved with active fire management by Indigenous peoples over thousands of years. However, over the past 200 years, the US government has managed these forests to suppress fire and maximize timber harvests, leaving our forests unhealthy. We need intentional fire to regain forest health so that they can become resilient to climate change and end the systematic colonial violence against Indigenous people and First Nation’s foods.
The shift from holistic forest management to for profit management of our forests has resulted in the transformation of once diverse ecosystems into overly dense monoculture timber plantations. The conversion of forests to monocultures and fire suppression has generated excessive forest fuels that are waiting to be burned due to increased drought from anthropogenic climate change. These devastating wildfires will continue to occur unless we allow land management to be guided by Indigenous peoples and their practices. If we continue to log the forests after fires, there will be no forests to manage this way in the future.
There are two types of post fire logging that are currently occurring on public lands, hazard tree removal along roads and “salvage” logging projects. Hazard tree removal projects are 100-200 foot wide clear-cuts along side roads and do not adhere to environmental regulations like slope restrictions, buffers for drinking water, and protecting critical wildlife habitat. “Salvage” (post fire) logging projects are timber harvests after a wildfire to profit off the burned trees, which are indisputably worth more standing. The lack of regulation around burned forests enables the state and federal government to log old growth forests, which would have been protected otherwise. These types of post fire logging are the most destructive things that can be done to our landscapes.
In Oregon, tens of thousands of acres of proposed hazard tree removal is underway without public comment, in addition to the thousands of acres of “salvage” logging proposals happening on public land managed by the state, forest service, and BLM. This may be the largest timber grab we have ever seen in decades. Pacific Northwest forests are crisscrossed with logging roads that could circle the planet 13 times. If we allow management agencies to perpetuate colonial violence towards the land through “hazard tree removal” management, with no public process or any process whatsoever for choosing what “hazard” trees to cut down, these amazing forests will never be the same. The negative impacts this kind of management has on the land, streams, wildlife, and drinking water are ones that cannot be ignored. The increased risk of landslides, wildfire, sedimentation into streams and rivers, and the further fractionation of our forests will have an overwhelmingly negative impact to the region for future generations.
But what if there was another option? What if instead of prioritizing hazard tree removal on roads to nowhere (public subsidy to the timber industry and their Wall Street investors), we prioritized public health, climate change, drinking water, wildlife, forest health, and water-bodies. What would that look like to you? We all have a role in how we respond to crises like this, and when the state/corporations are taking advantage of us all and the land, its important for us to stand together and fight for what’s right.
As of April 9, 2021, 23,525 trees have been removed from the Riverside, Archie Creek, Beachie Creek, Holiday Farm fires which represent 98% of the total planned hazard tree removal in Oregon. (Top Pie Chart) The percent of hazard trees removed out of the total number of trees planned to be removed. (Bottom Bar Graph) Number of trees planned to be removed and the number of trees that have already been logged. Data shown is from the Wildfire Debris Management Task Force of ODOT.