Carroll's nonsensical diatribe


Dear HCN, High Country News disappointed readers of Writers on the Range last month by printing the nonsensical diatribe of Frank Carroll ("Logging is Beginning to Look a Little Better," Jackson Hole Guide, 7/31/02). He blames the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity, and "their actions over the last two decades" for the recent catastrophic fires in the West. Ludicrous! But then again, Carroll's paycheck comes from the timber industry.

Carroll elects to play the blame game, but at this point, that isn't very constructive. However, if one must seek causation for catastrophic fire in the West, it undoubtedly lies with the very agency entrusted with forest management, and its policy of total fire suppression. Even Forest Service personnel will confirm that the buildup of ground and ladder fuels is the direct result of 100 years of the "Smokey the Bear" policy of extinguishing every fire in the forest. (Not because of "two decades" of environmental litigation, as Carroll claims.) Of course, the agency didn't know any better - fire ecology is a relatively recent field of scientific inquiry (at least for us Anglos).

Secondly, Carroll grossly overestimates the effectiveness of the environmental movement. According to Carroll, the Sierra Club has effectively halted commercial logging on public land. (Would that it be so. Maybe they should hire Carroll to write their grant proposals.) To the contrary, far too little public land management policy has been influenced by environmental groups, resulting in a loss of approximately 96 percent of original forested land in the continental United States. Furthermore, contrary to Carroll's elucidations, true fuel-reduction projects are seldom if ever appealed by environmental groups. Those which are challenged tend to be regular ol' commercial timber sales dressed up to appear as forest health projects.

Carroll also generalizes the management requirements of a "healthy" forest, which are actually quite diverse, often depending upon various characteristics of the specific ecosystem. Yes, some forest ecosystems are adapted to a low intensity-high frequency fire regime (such as low-elevation ponderosa pine forests in Montana) and could potentially benefit ecologically from thinning projects that remove an over-accumulation of ladder fuels. Other forest ecosystems, however, are adapted to stand-replacing crown fires and should not necessarily be "thinned" to prevent these fires. However, Carroll, the logging company spokesman, neglects to tell us this.

Forest lovers, beware: Carroll is not alone in what he advocates. The White House and some members of Congress, politicians whose political coffers are stuffed by the timber industry, are also deceitfully using this summer's fires to call for an increase in commercial logging on public forests.

Frank Carroll calls on the Sierra Club to help "search for honest answers." I challenge him to write an honest editorial.

Derek GoldmanMissoula, Montana

You can read Frank Carroll's essay - and several opposing opinions - at
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