I would like to believe that Rep. Scott Tipton cares as much about the health of national forests as he claims in his recent effort at misdirection in The Durango Herald column, “The truth about forest health.”
The truth is, Tipton’s voting record regarding environmental protections – and the healthy quality of forests, deserts, oceans, rivers, wildlife and the very air we breathe – has been abysmal throughout his political career.
His forests proposal would undermine both environmental protections and democratic citizen participation in favor of commercial logging. Fire is well understood to be a natural and essential part of Western forest ecology, but decades of U.S. Forest Service management that demonized fires to prioritize logging interests has led directly to overgrown forests throughout the West.
Our hotter and drier, beetle-friendly, and increasingly carbon-choked, climate makes the situation particularly combustible. Selective thinning of younger, spindly “ladder fuel” trees can be beneficial to forest health. But only at the very end of Tipton’s column do we find that his solution is, “commercial thinning,” e.g., dodging Endangered Species Act protections to bulldoze roads into ecologically critical roadless areas and logging big, commercially valuable trees, while leaving an inevitable wake of invasive plant species and fragmented wildlife habitat.
Our forests are overgrown, and they do need active management attention, but the remedies must be selected by scientists who are permitted to deal with the realities of the hotter, drier world we live in. Giving them back to the loggers is a quack prescription for healthy ecosystems.