Forests Called Crowded Scientists: Thinning Needed among Old Growth Trees

Article excerpt

Pest epidemics and wildfires pose a major threat to forests throughout the West because of decades of mismanagement, scientists say.

The alarm was sounded last week by 35 scientists who proposed a program of thinning, salvage logging and prescribed burning.

The group's report was published by American Forests, a moderate conservation group.

The report broadens the spotlight on a problem that has already generated deep concern in the Northwest. Millions of acres of forests in eastern Oregon and Washington have been blighted by insects and disease, causing state politicians to declare them disaster areas.

Environmental groups seek to carve out reserves for old growth forests, but the new report suggests that some thinning among old growth trees would protect them from fires in neighboring stands.

The scientists blame the decline of the forests on indiscriminate fire suppression. Broad efforts to put out all forest fires began shortly after the turn of the century, in part to preserve timber and protect water quality. The addition of air power made these efforts more effective after World War II. …