Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Trump order to prevent wildfires may not help much, and would increase logging on public land

President Trump's recent executive order, meant to prevent wildfires, would dramatically increase logging on public land, Sara Sorcher reports for The Washington Post.

The order, issued the Friday before Christmas, "instructs the secretaries of agriculture and interior to consider harvesting a total of 4.4 billion board feet of timber from forest land managed by their agencies on millions of acres, and put it up for sale. The order would translate into a 31percent increase in forest service logging since 2017," Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin report in another story for the Post. "In addition to removing trees, Trump asked his secretaries to remove forest brush and debris that help fuel fires from more than 4 million acres and treat another 1.5 million acres to control tree-destroying pests."

Some experts say such actions won't help very much. Jennifer Balch, a fire ecologist and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Sorcher in an email that, while treating federal forests near homes is sensible, it won't help with the huge wildfires out West. Hot and dry weather is the biggest problem, she said, and that problem will continue to get worse in the future.

The Trump administration wants the logging to continue even though the U.S. Forest Service is closed for the duration of the federal shutdown and can't do the more effective work of clearing the dry brush that helps wildfires spread, Sorcher notes.

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