Stop Thinning Forests

Stop Thinning Forests is a community compilation, sponsored by Deep Green Resistance, of research and voices that speak in defense of our forests against the atrocities that are being committed on those communities in the name of “fire mitigation” and “forest health.”

The Forest Service, in partnership with the timber industry, uses propaganda to promote the idea that thinning helps lessen fire severity while improving forest health. The research on the benefits of forest thinning is financially backed by the timber industry, and congressional passing of bills that promote thinning are backed by the lobbying efforts of the industry. The main goal for thinning forests is to increase revenue by allowing the timber industry to get into forests that were previously protected by environmental laws. Recent legislation has allowed the industry to bypass those laws and profit from forest products in the name of “forest health and restoration.” The Forest Service has consistently worked with the timber industry as a result of financial incentives and has been responsible for creating the infrastructure through use of federal tax dollars in the form of subsidies that enable the industry to “get the cut out.”

Individual land owners have recently been encouraged by the Forest Service to thin their lands with available grant monies under the guise of protecting their homes from fire and to improve the health of the forests. The available grant money filters down to the Forest Service from federal legislation that allows industry to get into our treasured, and last remaining, intact forests. Thinning private lands is offered as another incentive that generates money for the Forest Service while creating the appearance that the Forest Service is promoting a policy of “fire mitigation” and “forest restoration,” extending to the wildland/urban interface. Private land owners have the power to become informed and make rational decisions to protect their homes from fire that will not devastate the forest community. It is essential that individuals making these decisions become informed about federal forest policies and the history of the Forest Service before making decisions that will disrupt and harm the forest communities where we live.

Here is a recent on-the-ground report back from Deanna Meyer, a Deep Green Resistance organizer in Colorado:

I went up to check on my neighboring forest who is being destroyed as I write with heavy equipment. These photos show some of the results. Pictures could never show the true devastation, and this place, which is very important to me, is now unrecognizable.

This is at a church in Sedalia, Colorado and this tax exempt church accepted hundreds of thousands of tax payers’ dollars to destroy this forest. All of this is in the name of “fire prevention.” Research analyzing millions of acres throughout the West where fires have occurred shows otherwise.

Here in Colorado, all we need to do is look at the 3 largest fires in our history, all occurring this year, and pay attention to all of the acres that were “thinned” just like this. They did NOT fare any better than the untouched forests and in many areas they burnt even faster and hotter because of wind breaks and dried out soil.

All of this is horrific and heartbreaking, but the soil stands out the most to me. It takes thousands of years to create healthy soil and mycelial networks. This land now is a barren dustbowl with some wood chips thrown on top. The mycelium, grasses, sedges, forbs, and trees who were there and holding the soil together are now completely obliterated from the heavy equipment, mulching and utter destruction of at least a foot of soil who used to be sinking carbon and healing the land.

Every time our forests start to heal themselves from the decades of colonizing destruction, the Forest DISservice and private land owners come in and log it again. When you look at the forests that have not been touched for decades, they are healing and thinning themselves out. Just because they look “messy” to colonizers who can’t stand the idea of not having control over every living biome that exists does not alter the fact that the forests know best what to do with themselves and our meddling with them is biocide.

7 thoughts on “Stop Thinning Forests”

  1. Only when forests start thinning and clear-cutting humans will humans have an excuse for thinning and clear-cutting forests.

    Same principle applies to “managing” and shooting wolf and mountain lion populations. Until they start managing and shooting the human population, we have no right to manage and shoot theirs.

  2. This issue is a lot more complicated and deep than this essay purports. The facts about the timber industry driving BS claims about “thinning” forests in order to prevent fires are true, but this is just scratching the surface of the real story.

    Humans have been killing trees and ruining forests since the beginning of civilization, as Derrick Jensen has pointed out. This is an ancient problem.

    The colonizers in the U.S. started suppressing natural wildfires in order to be able to kill the trees themselves so they could sell the wood and its products. Natural wildfires are, well, natural, and they are also and necessary for ecosystem health, as these forests have evolved with them. Conifers can’t reproduce without wildfire, because they need fire to open the cones and release the seeds, to give just one example.

    Colonizer fire suppression caused forests to be unnaturally dense. One negative result of that is that when the forests burn, they burn hotter and the fires are bigger, because there’s a lot more to burn. So it IS true that some forests need to be thinned back to their natural density level. But those decisions need to be made by ecologists who prioritize the interests of the forests and the life within them, not by timber companies or their lackeys in the Forest Disservice who only care about making money by killing trees.

    Next is the issue that people living in the wildland/urban interface zones advocate for killing trees and in fact are directly responsible for killing them by purchasing homes in what used to be part of the forests but were destroyed in order to build those homes. These people are correct that if you kill all the vegetation, the area will be safe from fire because there would be nothing left to burn. The problems with that “solution” are that it’s immoral to kill anything you don’t eat and humans don’t eat trees, and that making an area safe from fire by killing vegetation destroys the area.

    Then there’s the issue that about 90% of forest fires nowadays are caused by humans, i.e. NOT natural wildfires, which are almost always started by lightning.

    So, a lot of considerations here, and this essay barely scratches the surface of this issue. Generally humans should not be killing trees at all, but thinning unnaturally dense forests in order to restore them to their natural density is an exception.

  3. “When you look at forests which have not been touched for decades they are healing and thinning themselves out.”

    Really? Where?

  4. @Eric
    George Wuerthner is an old Earth First!er from the 1980s and I have no reason to disbelieve anything that he says. However, his comments about unnatural fire suppression are contrary to everything I’ve read on the subject, and I’m not reading industry or Forest Disservice propaganda. I have no doubt that the industry and their lackeys in government would lie in order to make more money by killing trees, but this is not a simple issue. I’m not saying who’s right or wrong, I simply don’t know and I don’t have the large amount of time that it would require to properly research this. I would take George at his word, but I would definitely like to discuss this with him and flesh out the facts & issues regarding fire suppression.

  5. Ok. I’ll ask again. Where are the “untouched for decades” forests which are “healing and thinning themselves out”?

    I have spent a few nights of insomnia searching for references to this topic and have found zero support for this statement.

    First – “healing” of a forest is an absolute useless term without an agreed upon definition. Second – the only references I could find on the topic of “self thinning” were speaking of single species “managed” forest plantations which do not fit the “untouched” part of the statement.

    I also have had a close relationship with a couple of forested areas in the watershed I live in, one for about fifty years, the other for about 25 years. The 25 year old friendship changed dramatically with a highly destructive fire this summer – even the soil is gone. The 50 year old friend is dying.

    I know there are many factors involved but I have no way to know what these factors are or what the differences might be between the amazing untouched and self thinning forests and the forests I am familiar with.

    I am genuinely interested in being proven wrong but lacking any concrete examples my bullshit alarm is going off – unless by “healing” and “thinning” you actually mean “the forest is gone, the soil is gone and the forest wildlife is not adapted to live in a fucking desert”.

    1. You should reach out to the author, Heidi, to get her answer. You can find Deanna Meyer or Stop Thinning Forests online with a quick search. In my experience here in the Pacific Northwest, forests that often regrow thickly after natural disturbances such as landslides or intense fires have historically thinned out as they age, so that by the time trees are several hundred years old, many of the original cohort have died (from windfall, disease, etc.), creating a less uniform, more diverse set of age-classes among the trees as the true giants continue to grow up and various ages grow up underneath them. The high canopy cover tends to create a more open, “parklike” setting in old growth in this region (although often dense with brush and herbaceous plants), and when for example wind falls a large tree, youngsters who have waited for decades will take advantage of new light to grow rapidly. But this is only my experience in one region and a few forest types.

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