A forestry professor once wrote whenever we “hear ‘the science is clear,’ it should raise a red flag about both the science itself and the person making the proclamation.” The professor adds:
“…for an individual who states in a policy context that ‘the science is clear,’ there seems a high likelihood that they have: a) an incomplete or incorrect conception of the relevant science, b) an advocacy agenda that invokes science, or c) both traits.”
Forest management dates back at least 8,000 years. Forest science has evolved and improved over time. We’ve learned from past mistakes and continue to gain a better understanding of forest ecology. The way we harvest and process trees to make wood products has evolved too.
While we still have more to learn, researchers have found active forest management can help reduce the intensity of wildfire while improving the health and diversity of forest landscapes, conserving wildlife habitat, sequestering and storing more carbon, and adapting these landscapes to climate change.
These researchers appear to be increasingly frustrated by those who claim the “science is clear” as part of an agenda to stop or slow needed forest management work.
According to the Sacramento Bee, at least 111 scientists have co-authored at least 41 scientific papers to rebut claims they say are misleading the public and bogging down vital work needed to protect wildlife, communities and make forests more resilient to wildfire. As one researcher told a reporter:
“I and my colleagues are getting really tired of the type of activism that pretends to be science and in fact is just self-serving garbage. If a lot of these environmental groups continue to stand by these antiquated and really counterproductive viewpoints, all we’re going to see is more catastrophic wildfire that destroys the very forests that they pretend to love.”
In response to claims that forest thinning, fuel breaks and other forest management failed to stop or slow Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, another researcher told ABC News those conclusions were “pretty misleading,” “irresponsible” and “self-contradicting.”
Anti-forestry groups have an outsized influence over federal forest policy and have been very successful in blocking modest reforms that would enable public lands managers to do more work on the ground. As wildfires destroy more of our forests and communities, opinion makers may be finally fed up with the gridlock, obstruction and litigation that has stymied science-based forest management. In an unusual editorial, the Sacramento Bee wrote:
By weaponizing federal protections — such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act — to obstruct or outright kill various wildfire prevention projects, environmentalists imperil the very ecosystems they wish to protect.
Let’s hope Congress is listening as they prepare to spend billions of dollars to support wildfire mitigation and active forest management, without addressing the real obstacles and obstruction that is preventing this work from being done.