In forest thinning debate, facts matter
George Wuerthner gets the prize for biggest stretch with his analogy “thinning is just like medieval doctors bleeding their patients.” But he is just getting warmed up.
He moves right along, hits the usual points, tries to conflate thinning and logging. He even uses the term “thinning/logging” as if they were the same thing. He can be forgiven for this; he is from out of town. If he were local he would know that most of our thinnings are skinny, half-dead fir poles that are barely worth cutting for firewood.
He pronounces that:
“High winds blow fire through thinned stands and usually transport burning embers far beyond a fire front. Any fuel reductions are easily circumvented.”
“Fuel reductions” have enabled firefighters to stop wildfires all over the West. Scientists have documented these events in peer-reviewed papers published by universities and experiment stations.
Weurthner claims that the Camp fire in Paradise, California, proves that fuels don’t matter. He claims that previous wildfires near Paradise were “fuel reductions” and that therefore fuels don’t matter. This distortion of fuel dynamics is not helpful. Fuel loading and arrangement is a complex topic. To use just one local example, places that burned at high severity may become brushy snag patches, a fuel type that re-burns repeatedly. Just Google the Biscuit fire if you don’t believe it. Fuels matter.
We need facts and data to address the very complex problem of wildfires in a warming Northwest. Bumper-sticker solutions will not successfully address our wildfire problems.
Preserve past, create affordable housing
Southern Oregon values its history. We need high wage jobs and affordable housing. Daily we face threats to our quality of life and the historic buildings that help support it. We can protect and invest in our history to create construction jobs, keep existing, affordable, housing, or we can watch it crumble, destroying our heritage and clogging the landfill.
There are two bills in the Oregon Senate that assertively address these issues.
SB 927, the Public Participation in Preservation Act, gives the public a voice in decisions about historic designations. By including the public, we can work together as a community to preserve our main streets and historic neighborhoods and create jobs. We can build our economy, support business and create new housing in upper floors while reducing waste. SB 927 returns the authority to designate historic places to elected government that know their communities.
A related bill, SB 929, the Preservation, Housing and Seismic Safety Act, provides support for restoration and seismic upgrades. It uses tax credits to support property owners making improvements that keep historic buildings standing, habitable and productive. It’s a program already adopted in 30 other states and it’s time Oregon did the same. Ppriority will be available to projects that create housing and a dedicated 30 percent of the total funding can only be used in designated rural areas to create opportunity.
We’ve all seen the benefit when a historic building is restored. Look at Jacksonville, Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass. Beloved Southern Oregon projects, from the Ashland Springs Hotel to the Holly Theatre, the Butte Creek Mill and many more help define our communities. These two bills will support similar work statewide. Please contact your legislator and ask them to support SB 927 and SB 929. We’ll all benefit!