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The best use of California's dead trees: Leave them in the mountains

The best use of California's dead trees: Leave them in the mountains
Large swaths of brown dead trees on the Western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east of the San Joaquin Valley on July 28, 2015. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Science refutes virtually every claim in Jacques Leslie's ode to logging. Dead trees, which Leslie would have removed from the Sierra Nevada and used for energy, don't make wildfires worse; in fact, they can slow hot fires moving through the forest canopy. High-severity fire isn't "catastrophic"; it's natural and critical to forest regeneration. ("A beneficial way to dispose of the Sierra's lost trees: Use them for energy," Opinion, March 17)

Burning trees for energy isn't "carbon negative." Even "gasification" plants emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal plants. Some carbon may end up as "biochar," but the rest goes straight into the atmosphere. Dead trees, in contrast, can keep carbon safely stored for decades.

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Cutting millions of trees would cover California in logging roads and skid trails, wrecking habitat and polluting water. Think dead trees are ugly? Ever seen "salvage" logging?

Dangerous trees leaning over homes and roads must be removed. But ignoring the science so a few can profit from the drought really would be tragic.

Kevin Bundy, Oakland

The writer is the climate legal director and a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.

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To the editor: Despite efforts by the White House to deny human-caused climate change and destroy all the programs and policies that would mitigate it, California must remain in the forefront on research and innovative action on this most important challenge.

The California Public Utilities Commission must embrace emerging technologies such as gasification of dead trees to produce clean electricity. We taxpayers and ratepayers must be willing to pay a little more now to avoid much greater damage and expense later.

Karin Costello, Santa Monica

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