County leaders, scientists stake out positions

The lead scientist for the Geos Institute, a conservation group in Ashland, is advising against salvaging timber in areas burned by last summer's fires, while the Jackson County Board of Commissioners is adamantly in support.

"The best thing you can do for these forests after they have gone through a fire is just leave them alone," said Dominick DellaSala, a forest ecologist and chief scientist at Geos.

DellaSala was the lead author of a letter signed by some 250 scientists sent to Congress on Oct. 30. It asked lawmakers to reject bills that call for setting aside U.S. environmental laws to speed salvage logging on federal lands in the West.

"We urge you to consider what the science is telling us: that post-fire habitat created by fire, including patches of severe fire, are ecological treasures rather than ecological catastrophes, and that post-fire logging does far more harm than good to the nation's public lands," the letter concluded.

But the Jackson County commissioners strongly disagree. The board sent a letter on Oct. 24 in support of salvaging the burned timber to members of the Oregon congressional delegation as well as U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry officials.

"If you get to it fairly quickly, it is worth as much as green timber," said Commissioner John Rachor, who worked for ODF at one time.

Saying that overstocked, unmanaged forests led to out-of-control wildfires, the board stated that it supports forest restoration efforts and the immediate salvage of timber.

"Delay in actions will result in significant ecological and economic effects," the letter said, "including guaranteed loss of the economic value of the damaged timber; loss of replanting opportunities; increased fuel loads which lead to the risk of further catastrophic wildfire; increased negative impacts to riparian areas and water quality; increased carbon and nitrous oxide emissions from the decay of the damaged timber; and insect infestation."

It also stressed that a portion of the receipts should be given to the counties.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.


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