NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2004

California's forests are thicker than they were 100 years ago, putting wildlife populations at risk and increasing the chance of catastrophic fires, says author George E. Gruell.

Among the risks, say Gruell:

  • Thick trees block out sunlight and inhibit the growth of non-tree herbs and shrubs, which wildlife populations depend on for food; so highly dense forests means that smaller plants are less available.
  • Intense wildfires created by overgrown forests lead to devastating impacts on the environment -- increased erosion, air pollution, damage to watersheds, and the destruction of protected wildlife habitat.

The Forest Service expects to reduce the percentage of forest lost to fires to 30 percent over the next 50 years. Part of the plan includes harvesting less than one percent of "medium" trees (those with trunks between 20 and 30 inches in diameter), but environmental activists oppose cutting even a small number of trees.

But thinning forests may be the only solution to preserving them. It could also save lives, enhance critical wildlife habitat and improve other resource values, says Gruell.

Source: George E. Gruell, "Other View: The Real Picture of Sierra Nevada Forests," The Sacramento Bee, July 2, 2004


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