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Letters to the Editor: Why hasn’t California banned logging that worsens fires and destroys forests?

Deer in a burned forest.
Deer make their way past scorched trees caused by the Dixie fire in Greenville, Calif.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The Times’ Aug. 21 article about rethinking forest management strategies rightly rebukes clear-cutting for removing the oldest, most fire-resistant trees.

But it’s not just that clear-cutting has “almost no benefits to the forests or to their surrounding communities.” Clear-cutting results in tree plantations that burn faster and more intensely than the old-growth forests they replace.

Because plantation trees are closely spaced with intertwining branches, they have a greater chance of spreading wildfires. During California’s deadliest fire to date, the 2018 Camp fire, the blazes scorched through heavily logged areas with extreme speed and intensity.

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As the Camp fire demonstrates, logging forests doesn’t stop fires, it actually makes towns like Paradise and Concow more susceptible to swift, wind-driven blazes.

California should prohibit clear-cutting to protect its people and towns from future tragedies.

Caroline Harris, Menlo Park

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To the editor: Before-and-after photos illustrate an important benefit of mechanical thinning of forests in strategic locations.

Adequate spacing between trees offers the pilot of retardant-dropping planes an opening to the forest floor. On a good day, the retardant drop will slow the ground-level fire enough to allow engines, dozers and hand crews to place an effective line on the perimeter of the fire.

The combination of a crown fire and ground-level fire moving through thick, untreated forest can prove to be too much for even a large load of retardant. In the same way that snow clings to the limbs of trees, retardant can stick in the branches of a thickly growing forest, slowing the crown fire, while the surface-level fire continues unabated.

The town of Westwood — not the habitat of the UCLA Bruins, but the Lassen County settlement on Highway 36 — had extensive forest treatment with adequate spacing between the pine trees. Westwood is still intact, and nearby Greenville isn’t.

Gene Nielsen, Crescent Mills, Calif.

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To the editor: Thank you for publishing an article that reflects independent science on the threat of wildfires and the role of forest management.

Your article reinforces the notion that forest ecologists and fire scientists have been advocating: We should spend funds on protecting homes and communities by creating defensible space instead of on vegetation removal programs.

Even though the article impugns clear-cutting methods that result in the removal of the biggest, most fire-resistant trees, this only touches the surface. Destroying the entire forest ecosystem and eliminating biodiversity magnify the problem of catastrophic wildfires in addition to causing other significant long-term environmental impacts.

My organization, Forest Unlimited, encourages a deeper examination of clear-cutting and other logging practices while there is time left to have this discussion.

Larry Hanson, Forestville, Calif.

The writer is board president of Forest Unlimited.


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