A philosophy of fire management holds that the current heavy fuel loading in forests can be safely reduced by directly removing wood:
- Remove standing live or dead trees with logging and/or thinning operations.
- Remove standing or ground wood with organized firewood harvesting.
Read the following sources to learn the arguments for or against various mechanical harvesting management options for reducing forest fuels and mitigating the forest fire management dilemma of the Southwest:
- Logging or thinning the forests:
- The Effects of Thinning and Similar Stand Treatments on Fire Behavior in Western Forests: This 1999 U.S. Forest Service publication (27 pages total, ~20 pages of text and figures) describes how various strategies of removing trees (either harvesting or thinning) can be used to alter fire behavior.
- Scott, J. 1998. Reduce fire hazards in ponderosa pine by thinning. This article argues for thinning out trees in ponderosa pine forest to reduce high fuel loading.
- Reinhardt et al. 2008. Wildland fuel treatment in the western US. This article covers goals and objectives of treatment strategies for reducting fuel loading in western forests.
- A sane timber resolution lies in reach: This 1995 Arizona Daily Star guest comment, by Peter Aleshire, a teacher at Arizona State University West, summarizes the forest fire dilemma and proposes using the logging industry to restore forest health.
- Timber industry seeks to ease logging rules: This 1996 Arizona Daily Star article discusses a call by timber industry officials to allow more logging in western forests in order to reduce fuel loads and the hazard for experiencing large, destructive fires.
- Environmental challenges, economics cut state logging: This 1998 Arizona Daily Star article discusses how current environmental and economic constraints have reduced the usefulness of logging as a forest management tool. Can logging or thinning still be an effective tool in forest fire management?
- Options weighed to halt fire hazard in Pinalenos: This 1993 Arizona Daily Star article describes a call for public comment on mechanical thinning strategies that the U.S. Forest Service might consider to reduce fuel loading in forests.
- Healthy Forest Initiative: This Wiki site covers the Healthy Forest Initiative, which was enacted in 2003. Not everyone agrees with HFI, and this site covers pros and cons of HFI. At a minimum, something is being tried in the quest for reducing fuel loading and fire hazards in western forests. Any web search on this title would hit various sites either pro or con on HFI.
- Technology Increasingly Tames Wildfires: This is an National Public Radio interview with a fire science expert in California who mentions about mechanical the forests in order to reduce fire severity once fire starts. He has other interesting comments in this 6+ minute audio.
- Plan would boost forest thinning in N. Arizona: This 2008 AZ Daily Star article touts thinning as a solution to overcrowded forests in Arizona.
- Putting woods workers to work: This 2008 Tucson Weekly commentary notes the added benefit of mechanical thinning of Arizona's forests: full employment for woods workers. See bottom of page 2.
- Fuel reduction and forest restoration treatments: once is not enough: This 2008 US Forest Service Science Findings discusses prescribed burning AND mechanical thinning, including advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.
- Bioenergy From trees: This 2009 US Forest Service Science Findings discusses economics and forest implications of cutting trees to reduce fire hazard AND make money at the same time.
- Efficacy of Hazardous FuelTreatments: This 2013 NAU study finds treating forests before they burn in big, damaging fires can work.
- 4FRI close to clearing major environmental hurdle: This 2014 Arizona Daily Sun article updates on forest thinning projects in northern Arizona.
- 4FRI is struggling: This 2015 Payson Roundup article updates the 4FRI forest thinning projects in northern Arizona. The project is moving "painfully slow."
- Another about 4FRI struggling: This 2015 Arizona Daily Sun article notes the slow pace and daunting magnitude of mechanically thinning thousands of acres of forest land.
- Can more fire wood be produced for home heating or power consumption?
- Can you afford a cord? Firewood prices in upward spiral: This 1997 Arizona Daily Star article discusses the economics and management of firewood harvesting in the Southwest. Is firewood harvesting a viable strategy for reducing forests fuel loading in a controlled manner? What about the effects of smoke on urban air quality?
- Firewood on Mount Lemmon: This 2006 Arizona Daily Star news clip announces a give-away of firewood on Mt. Lemmon, part of the program to reduce fuel loading and fire wildfire hazard on the mountain.
- Firewood on Mount Lemmon: This 2003 Arizona Daily Star news clip announces a give-away of firewood on Mt. Lemmon, part of the program to reduce fuel loading and fire wildfire hazard on the mountain.
- Janowiak, M.K. and Webster, C.R. 2010. Promoting ecological sustainability in woody biomass harvesting. Journal of Forestry 108(1):16-23: : This 2010 Journal of Forestry article lists positive benefits to mechanical thinning of forests.
- Biomass Appeal: This 2014 article describes converting a coal-fire power plant to one that burns wood. Can this idea be extended elsewhere, e.g., to reduce fuel loading in forests of the Southwest?
- Bioenergy from Forests: This 2015 US Forest Service publication gives pros and cons to burning wood chips for energy and for reducing forest fuel loadings.
Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721 USA
Comments to Paul Sheppard: sheppard @ ltrr.arizona.edu, (520) 621-6474
Copyright © 20012016, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona
Revised May, 2016