Sick to the stomach. That’s how I felt after reading this story.
But surprised? No. The USFS and other government agencies commonly ignore regulations and prioritize the economy over the natural world. That’s been their way for more than 150 years.
The insanity is clear. Mick Lamar, chief of the local fire crew, defended the line as ‘less damaging to the forest’ than a fire would have been. “Nobody wants a vacation home on a blacked-out hillside,” he said.
Does he not understand that fire is natural and essential to many forests? That vacation homes are less important than endangered species? That burned forests contain more biodiversity than logged forests?
Of the cut, one biologist said that “trees larger than allowed were cut, streamside buffers ignored, and operating just ran all over the place compacting soils.” Another said, “Why don’t we STOP and THINK and PLAN?!”
That wasn’t going to happen.
We invite you to read this Seattle Times article and come to your own conclusions about the effectiveness of forest policy and the priorities of this culture when it comes to destroying the planet vs. protecting the economy.
As the fall rains finally began, Janet Millard hoped it would calm fear of the fire burning miles away in north central Washington during last year’s historic fire season. But Millard, a spotted owl specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, was mistaken.
Managers on the Wolverine fire still opted to cut one of the largest firelines ever in Washington, logging 114 acres of critical spotted owl habitat and felling big trees — including a giant that had stood for centuries, so large, it was a one-log load on a semi truck. Steel-tracked heavy equipment tore up fragile ground along streams. Erosive soils unique to the area were bulldozed.
Cut by the U.S. Forest Service with none of the usual environmental review, the firebreak was up to 300 feet wide and stretched more than 50 miles, from the Entiat drainage on the east, to Twin Lakes to the west. Loggers cut enough trees to fill more than 930 logging trucks.
Yet the fire never came anywhere near.
The Wolverine fire looked threatening when the decision to cut the line was first made last August. By then, the fire was moving fast, and making runs of as much as three miles a day during Washington’s historic and deadly fire season. firelines are intended to slow the advance of a blaze, and give crews time and safer space to work.
But field notes, emails and documents released by the Forest Service under a Freedom of Information Act request by The Seattle Times show Forest Service employees working on the firebreak believed there was no emergency by the time the logging began about two weeks later.
Some tried to stop the cutting, but they were overruled.
As work on the line progressed, Cindy Raekes, a fisheries biologist then working at the district, wrote her supervisors about the damage she was witnessing.
Most controversial was more than 10 linear miles and 237 acres cut mainly through heavy forest on the western side of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Wenatchee River Ranger District. That portion of the line was farthest from the fire risk — and did the most environmental damage, with about half of it logged in nesting, roosting and foraging habitat in one of the last best stands for the spotted owl in all of Eastern Washington.