Rules Should Apply to Federal Forests, Too
Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Warren Weathers and Maureen Weathers For The Register-Guard
Our family-owned forest and the years of work we've invested improving wildlife habitat and forest health are being destroyed by insects invading from adjacent national forest lands.
These insect outbreaks, while initially manageable, have been allowed to explode as a result of the federal government's inability to take emergency action. Adoption of Rep. Greg Walden's Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act could prevent problems like this.
Three years ago, the Silver Complex fire burned 200,000 acres of the Fremont National Forest. Onerous federal regulations have prevented the Forest Service from intervening to stem the disaster by removing the dead and dying timber - food and shelter for bark beetles.
As a consequence, the mountain pine beetle population has flourished along the southern edge of the Silver Complex fire, killing virtually all lodgepole pine larger than 4 inches in diameter, then moving into Ponderosa pine after all susceptible lodgepole is killed. Locals now refer to the upper Sycan River area as `the Red Forest." The resulting massive fuel loads inevitably will produce yet another 200,000-acre fire.
The `Red Forest' beetle epidemic has spread 15 miles south of the Silver Complex burn and now surrounds our family forest. As the mountain pine beetles' federal food supply is consumed, they fly across the national forest boundary and attack our trees.
Unfortunately, the only way to stop the beetles' spread is to cut down the tree that is under attack while the insect is still beneath its bark. We can't legally cut down infested federal trees, so we can't protect our family forest from the horde of insects breeding on the neighboring federal land. We can't recover the value of the trees we are forced to harvest prematurely, because Forest Service road use fees make uneconomic the cost to salvage, and the infestation will not wait for log prices to improve.
However, if we don't salvage the lodgepole before the beetles kill it, it will burn when the inevitable firestorm ignites the thousands of acres of beetle-killed trees on the adjacent national forest. This coming fire also will destroy all of the remaining green trees on our family forest, including white fir, whitebark pine and the lodgepole seedlings and saplings too small to be food for the beetle. …