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Houston Regional Group - News
Feature -
National Forests and Grasslands in Texas


In June 2012 the U.S. Forest Service (FS) prepared a Public Drought Response Plan (PDRP) for the 675,000 acres National Forests and Grasslands in Texas (NFGT) in response to trees that died due to the 2011 drought. The four national forests in Texas are the Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Angelina, and Sabine.

The Sierra Club provided comments to the FS about the PDRP. The comments stated that the Sierra Club believes that the FS has a genuine concern for the safety of its employees and the public. However, the Sierra Club is concerned about the overall direction of the PDRP which can be described as overwhelmingly exploitative and timber oriented.

The Sierra Club is very disappointed at the logging bias of the PDRP and requested that it be rewritten to account for basic biology and ecology and not the attitude of "we have to log to save the forest" and "we have to log to make money to restore the forest we just logged".

For the past eight months the Sierra Club participated and collaborated with the FS by attending meetings and providing comments over twenty times about salvage logging and similar issues. However, the Sierra Club has seen little recognition or use of the issues that it has brought to the attention of the FS.

Some of the issues that the Sierra Club brought to the attention of the FS included:

1. The excessive hype that the NFGT used to describe the death of trees by drought and the potential for catastrophic fire. The FS has used drought to justify work it wants to do in the NFGT which includes the ramping up of its timber program. Fomenting fear is not the way to professionally address what needs to be done on the public's national forests.

2. Risk and hazard data for safety and fire potential is missing from the PDRP. The PDRP is not based on the best, sound science.

3. The PDRP openly advocates increased use of trees from the NFGT for biomass to energy projects. This will result in reduced use of prescribed or natural fire which maintains the forest, downed trees, and standing dead trees (snags), root wads, and other tree parts will be logged instead of providing organic material and nutrients for soil, enhancement of soil biota, moisture retention, shelter and food for wildlife, and check dams to reduce erosion and protect water quality concerns.

4. Biomass logging interferes with natural decay processes and restoration of soil richness and fertility, does not teach sustainable forestry or respect for forests because forests are considered only for money-making, creates considerable air pollution, encourages the logging of old-growth or mature forests, takes resources and political will away from implementation and use of cleaner energy sources like solar and wind energy, and releases climate change gases like carbon dioxide quicker .

5. The FS also proposes increased salvage logging which reduces important downed trees and snags and does not assist in the ecological recovery of naturally disturbed forests. Logging disturbed areas via timber salvage is a tax on ecological recovery.

The Sierra Club will continue to press the FS to use the best, sound science based upon biological and ecological facts when dealing with the dead-tree ecological legacies that drought and other forest disturbances create when talking about genuine ecological restoration of the NFGT.

by Brandt Mannchen

Last updated:  11/20/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.