NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 3, 2008

In the green scheme of things, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD), trees are a good thing and deforestation is bad.  We must plant as many trees as we can to suck up all that CO2, the pollutant that sustains all plant and therefore all animal life on earth.  Old-growth forests must be protected from those nasty loggers.

Trouble is, according to Thomas Bonnicksen, professor emeritus of forest science at Texas A&M University, forests left in "pristine" condition have too many trees and too many dead ones, both of which provide fuel for the devastating forest fires that ravaged California last year.


  • A recent study by Bonnicksen shows that four large California wildfires produced 38 million tons of greenhouse gases through fire and subsequent decay of dead trees
  • 10 million tons came from the fires themselves, and 28 million tons came from the post-fire decay.
  • This is equivalent to the emissions from 7 million cars for an entire year.

The four fires studied involved forests averaging 350 trees per acre where 50 an acre is considered normal.  Some California forests have more than 1,000 trees per acre, with young trees growing under big trees, serving as ladder fuel and dead trees and woody debris on the ground.

Bonnicksen advocates thinning the forests so they're less like time bombs waiting to explode.  Harvested trees can be turned into long-lasting wood products that store carbon, he notes, adding that it's important to remove trees destroyed by fires and insects so that they don't decay and send more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Reducing the number and severity of wildfires may be the single most important short-term action we can take to lower greenhouse gas emissions and really fight global warming, says Bonnicksen.

Source: Editorial, "Save The Earth -- Hug A Logger," Investor's Business Daily, March 31, 2008.


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