- News Home
5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Forest Fire Plan Kindles Debate
29 August 2000 7:00 pm
Fires burning in the western United States have already scorched over 2.5 million hectares of forest this summer. Now the White House wants to prevent such conflagrations by paying loggers to cut smaller trees. The proposal is generating heat among ecologists, who say the approach may not be right for all forests.
Some leaders of western states blame this summer's record-breaking blazes on current forest management policies, including suppressing wildfires and logging only mature trees. In response, the Clinton Administration said last week it will soon release a plan that emphasizes aggressive cutting of smaller trees. The plan is expected to propose paying loggers nearly $825 million a year to remove trees too small to be commercially valuable from 16 million hectares of western forests.
The plan draws heavily from insights into fire control on federally managed lands made by ecologist Wallace Covington of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. In one case, for example, the Forest Service paid professional loggers to remove 90% of the trees from a 36-hectare swath of low-altitude ponderosa pine in the Kaibab National Forest near Flagstaff. When a wildfire unexpectedly swept through the area last June, it burned the sparsely populated stand far less severely than the denser surrounding forest. With less fuel, the flames could no longer leap from treetop to treetop and could only spread along the underbrush.
But other ecologists say different combinations of cuts and burns may achieve the same results as widespread logging with less disruption to the forest. Covington's approach "doesn't use as wide an array of possible tools as we're using," says Phil Weatherspoon of the Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station in Redding, California. The station sponsors an 11-site project that is examining various fire prevention schemes, from mechanical cutting alone to just prescriptive burns. Forest managers, he says, should get data on the potential costs and ecological consequences of various approaches before proceeding.