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Removing deadfall good for forests

Tree-removal experts are on the job in the Sierras, removing trees killed by drought and pests such as bark beetles, and that’s good news, particularly for the publicly owned woodlands. The sooner those trees are gone, the better.

Not all believe it’s a good idea to manage forests by removing dead and dying trees. They believe nature should be left to take its course. But that philosophy does nothing for the forests and nothing for the people who depend on the forests.

Private foresters believe in managing their trees like crops. That means they try to protect their timber stands against fires by getting rid of fuel in the form of deadfall. That means they try to conserve water on their lands by removing brush that sucks up rainfall and snowmelt the trees otherwise could use. That also means that where necessary, they will cut roads into timberlands to provide access for timber workers to do their jobs. And it also means they replant areas that have been cut or burned.

Yes, letting nature take its course does have a noble sound to it, but nature is taking its course when a drought comes along; it is taking its course when it allows infestations of bark beetles to girdle and kill trees. It takes its course when lightning strikes a too-dry forest and sets it on fire. It takes its course when the growth of brush runs amok and acts as kindling in dry woodlands. It takes its course when range fires roast alive the thousands of animals using the forests as home.

Nature is not always our friend. That’s why most of us live and work inside buildings — buildings made of wood that grows in the forests. We do that to protect ourselves against nature when nature decides to make things too hot, or too cold, or too wet.

Anyway, it’s good to see all those dead trees being taken away, perhaps to where nature can’t get at them.

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