Letter to the editor - Conserve, not log, forests
September 1, 2020
The Bozeman Municipal Watershed logging project, the South Plateau Landscape logging project near West Yellowstone, and other plans to log public lands in Montana ignore the scientific fact that logging exposes soil to the sun and wind, to heat and drying.
The drying out of the continent, particular in the West, is more than a matter of episodic droughts, more than lack of precipitation. Hotter climate extremes increase the drying, as does logging.
The current trend is “progressively lower river flows, drier landscapes, higher forest mortality, and more severe and widespread wildfires — not year on year, but instead a clear longer-term trend toward greater aridification,” according to an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (June 2, 2020).
A recent study on Missouri River’s vast watershed confirms that there has been “a general drying of the basin” in the late 20th and early 21 centuries, drying resulting in lower flows in the river (a fact not negated by seasonal floods, the damage of which often comes from human activity on and near the river). That article is also in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (May 26, 2020).
The lumber industry captured the Forest Service at the beginning of its history, just as the livestock industry captured BLM. But such industry control of public agencies should be history, not present practice. The people of the nation own the public lands, not any industry privatizing profit from the public resources, be it timber or grass.
The Forest Service should protect the public interests in national forests through conservation. Forests protect watersheds! They also protect wildlife, wildlife habitat and corridors, native flora, and nature’s carbon storage capability on those watersheds.
Please conserve forests and thereby help to conserve our increasingly valuable watersheds, our quantity and quality of water.