Judge Requires EIS in BLM Case, Finding That “(Thinning) Treatments Have Been Found to Create Highly Flammable (Conditions)”

Great grey owls in the Klamath Forest. Credit: KS Wild/ Dan Elster
A US District Court judge recently ruled in favor of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center that a full EIS must be prepared on a wildfire prevention-justified logging project in Oregon. See recent legal ruling below, in particular the bolded sections below from judge’s decision. The science is clear that thinning can act as a barrier to species migration esp. those species like the spotted owl who depend on dense forest. It is not credible to state that there is no controversy around this, as the Forest Service claims.
P. 28-29 Judge Clarke’s Recommendations and Findings:

” When presented to the public, the IVM Program received deep public disapproval and skepticism during its comment phase: Neighbors and advocates disputed the lack of transparency and site-specific analysis, as well as the nature of the Program, which sacrifices habitats for commercial logging. AS and KS Plaintiffs presented substantial evidence that BLM’s chosen logging prescriptions would not have the intended effect and would instead exacerbate fire issues. For example, some studies found that treatments like Open and Intermediate, which create open conditions through thinned portions of forests stands and rely on regeneration, not only remove the habitat and connectivity that is required for NSO survival, but those treatments have also been found to create highly flammable young stocks interspersed throughout the thinned units. Another study found that the regrowth and replanting required in younger plantation stands will eliminate the effort to mimic past fire regimes, and the gap openings will increase fire hazard in these stands. Other research concurred that open conditions and more intensive forest management can lead to accelerated levels of fire severity in this region specifically, and that thinning and group selection openings may indirectly increase surface wind gusts and temperatures, increasing severity of surface fire behavior.

You can read the judge’s ruling here.

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