Logging won't help control pine beetles

Mar 12 2012 - 2:50pm


I am cringing at what Howard Field stated in his guest commentary of Mar. 11, "Nature lovers create the very thing they despise." He said "....this fact should make the radical environmentalist cringe...." well I cringed, but not at the fact he stated, rather, I cringed at his conclusions that the pine beetles destruction of lodgepole pines throughout the west are to be blamed on environmentalists.

The pine beetle usually doesn't target the very young pines or the older larger pines. Huge stands of middle-aged trees can then be infested with the beetle. The result is large fires that recycle all that dead wood. The lodgepole pine has evolved to withstand these fires by producing cones that open, releasing their seed, after a fire, allowing for a regeneration of the pines.

This symbiotic relationship between the pine beetle, lodgepole pine, and other conifers has been going on for millennia. Field would have us believe that it has only been within the last few decades that the beetle problem happened because environmentalists have stopped the logging of our national forests. I wonder how these beautiful forests ever survived for millennia before there was a Forest Service, loggers, or environmentalists?

Have we learned from our mistakes of fire suppression? Yes. Could we have had some better management practices, allowed more logging, etc.? Probably.

Would this have stopped the pine beetle infestations? Absolutely not! Would more logging stop forest fires? No.

I cringed at one other conclusion Field offered, "Forest regeneration from proper tree harvests are more timely, and leave more healthy and more inhabitable tree stands for wildlife than forests burned by fires." Perhaps to some, this may seem to be the case. It definitely is not the case in tropical rain forests. The best example for regeneration of lodgepole pine forests is Yellowstone. Numerous studies have shown how those destructive fires actually benefited the regeneration of the forests and helped improve wildlife habitat.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where we have to manage almost every aspect

of the natural world. We are continuing to learn and to modify those best management practices. We have made mistakes in the past and are learning from them. We need to quit playing the blame-game because things don't seem to operate the way we would like them. Remember, we have only been on the scene for a short time in the history of this planet. To say we know the intricacies of relationships in the natural world that have been going on for millennia would be ludicrous and foolish.

Douglas M. Sill


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