The great environmental writer, advocate and author George Wuerthner has taught me much over the years, including on the topics of about the devastating effects of the cattle industry on American land. And just how much public land is given over to the industry. And how badly cattle degrade land. And how much precious water in the American West goes to grow feed for cattle, not humans. While most people worry about shorter showers and replacing thirsty grass lawns (good things to do), cattle are drinking the west dry since our cattle evolved in the wetter climate of Europe.
Wuerthner’s articles appear on many of this website’s pages, including the Eating Animals page, Regenerative Ranching page, and my Wildfire page
I also credit Wuerthner with first educating me about wildfire, in his compendium by this same name, Wildfire. With the foundational belief that wildfire is natural, unavoidable and beneficial. I’ll add an additional descriptive for 2023: desirable.
He has recently been weighing in on a topic I like to call, The Big Logging Industry Lie: a new but already widespread industry narrative. It goes like this: we need to cut down millions of trees in order to make today’s drought and climate-stressed forests healthy, thus more resilient to wildfire, and thus “save” forests from both “catastrophic” fire which destroy both forests and so many of our homes. Sound familiar?
The Big Logging Lie is just a new wrinkle on the same old logging drive; felling trees for profit. Global warming be damned — to a hotter Hell on Earth. Even federal (National Forest Service) and state government agencies (e.g., Cal Fire) get coerced by the industry’s lie, by its powerful political influence and the millions of industry, public relations, and Washington D.C. lobbyist dollars driving it. Agencies like Cal Fire (California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Prevention) need funding to justify their existence and billions of dollars in “wildfire reduction” funds generate make-work projects, like the “California Vegetation Treatment Program.”
One real danger: repeating lies often makes them seem true, or partially true to many people. (Hence the dark artistry of Roy Cohn and his pathological, presidential, star pupil.) Examples include the fossil fuel industry’s public relations term, “clean coal,” the chemical industry’s peddling”the safe use chemical herbicides” and Big Beef’s latest nostrum, “regenerative ranching.” Repeating lies until they find a receptive audience is an old, proven tactic, one used by propagandists throughout history.
Interestingly, even in these contentious times, there is consensus that today we need forests and trees more than ever. There is a popular consensus that trees do all good things, including: sequester atmospheric carbon, producing oxygen, stabilizing hillsides, filtering groundwater, enriching soil, creating planet-cooling shade, providing precious bird and insect and mammal habit, and so on. Trees even soothe the human soul, something we need in our fast-paced, separated-from-nature, technological era more than ever, as screens and smartphones keep us inside, and even heads-down when outside, removed from the natural world which soothes and sustains us.
The Big Logging Industry Lie — that we must “manage” or “thin” forests with chainsaws and fossil fuel-consuming machines, on a giant scale — has been pushed on the public with powerful corporate public relations campaigns. And the lie is repeated by state and federal agencies whom we want to trust, and which do many good things, too. Our trust is being abused, betrayed.
The forest “thinning” mantra directly contradicts our society’s established “we need more trees” belief. Yet many believe this new, contradictory “chainsaw management” narrative. (Dig deep enough and you’ll find we all have contradictory beliefs; such is the nature of beliefs.)
So which is it, A or B?:
A) Trees are precious natural resources and we need more to sequester carbon in our climate crisis?; or
B) Forests today, because of past wildfire suppression practices, are now dangerously “overgrown” and “unhealthy,” so we must cut down millions of trees to “restore” forest health and prevent “catastrophic” wildfires.
(ANTI-PROPAGANDA GUARDRAIL: it’s not B, it’s A.)
My hope is by seeing A and B together, you might question B, even though you’ve heard it in the media lately, and maybe even wondered about it. The Big Logging Lie is being sold to the public, and many sane people (on both sides) have bought in to it.
George Wuerthner addresses the Big Logging Lie in a March 3, 2023 article, “Blue Mountains Don’t Need Active Management,” (in Oregon.), published in The Wildlife News: https://www.thewildlifenews.com/2023/03/03/blue-mountains-dont-need-active-forest-management/
EXCERPTS (I hope these entice you into reading Wuerthner’s article, a quick, valuable read):
We are witnessing higher mortality from natural processes primarily due to warming temperatures and significant drought. The on-going drought across the West is the most severe in 1200 years. Extreme drought drives all other mortality factors. It makes some trees more vulnerable to insects or disease and it is absolutely the reason we are seeing large wildfires.
The continued myth that fire suppression is causing wildfires ignores the overriding role of climate/weather in wildfires.
Ironically, proponents of chainsaw medicine never count the trees they kill with machines as a problem, but if the trees die from insects or fire, that is a “loss.” But they fail to acknowledge that “healthy forest ecosystems” require dead wood, snags and other physical biomass in the forest. In essence, logging is strip-mining the forest biological legacy that sustains forest ecosystems.
It is critical to understand that natural evolutionary processes like drought, fire, insects, and other sources of mortality select the most vulnerable trees, leaving behind the individuals who are most adapted to the current climate/weather conditions.
In truth, logging reduces the natural ability to resist environmental variation. Logging creates “unhealthy” forests and degrades forest ecosystems.
READ Wuerthner’s WILDLIFE NEWS March 3, 2023 article, “Blue Mountains Don’t Need Active Management,” : https://www.thewildlifenews.com/2023/03/03/blue-mountains-dont-need-active-forest-management/
READ MORE ABOUT: wildfire.
READ MORE ABOUT: home hardening and defensible space — the effective alternative to ineffective deforestation projects like the one depicted in the illustration below, featuring Cal Fire’s “CalVTP.”