To better understand the forest thinning process, I visited the recent (1-2 years ago I believe) thinning project on Mohawk-Chapman Road in the Graeagle area. I have hiked that area many times in the last decade. It was nice and cool, but overgrown. It now looks like a war zone.
Numerous trees were removed and looks like a few remaining hairs on a hairless dog. Now there are many wide-open spaces sprinkled with minimal Fir, Cedar, and some Pine trees. The Forest Service finally learned that trees like to grow in clumps (not like rows of carrots) and have actually left some (read minimal) Pine/mix clumps. Few large Pine trees were spared.
As I walk thru these open areas, I notice how much warmer and arid they are compared to a more tree filled area. The forest floor is beat up from the machines and road building. There is very little surface vegetation. Large and small burn piles abound. There were no birds, squirrels or other animals present, although I did see some bear droppings – probably going dumpster diving close by.
My point is that mechanical thinning is devastating to the forest. It could take decades or centuries for the forest to restore itself if that is even possible. Human caused climate disruption and fire suppression is the main culprit.
This thinning project is just a logging project – that’s why few old/large (i.e. marketable) trees remain. The Forest Service is allowed to mechanically take trees less than 30 inches in diameter. To achieve an ‘old growth’ forest look, shouldn’t most/all large healthy trees be spared? Oh, that’s right – those are moneymakers for the millers.
Here are a few suggestions for a project of this magnitude: construct well thought-out firebreaks and roads that also act like firebreaks. The thickets of sucker trees/saplings and dead or diseased trees must be removed. Smaller trees under 12 inches should be removed unless they are well placed and thriving. Larger trees that are dead or dying must be removed. Logging machinery must be used sparingly if at all. The idea here is to minimally treat the forest so that it can regrow. Heavily treated forests may never regrow and thrive and instead resort to scrubland.
Finally, we need to make forest survival the top priority and make lumber a more sustainable industry subordinate to forest health.