I am encouraged by recent government proposals to lower fire risks in our forests, but the proposals to cut only small trees is a concern.
It is critical as a part of planning to determine the physiological needs of various species of plants involved. These should include all factors which could affect the plant's survival, reproduction, growth rate, density and susceptibility to destructive insects and disease. This effort will give a solid base for making decisions. Natural resource management must be based on the physiological needs of resources, not on emotion.
Old-age trees should be removed if they are showing impending death, with spike tops, lightning strikes or other indications that the trees might not live for several more years. Leaving these old-age trees adds to the fire hazard. These large trees would soon add to the 100- to 1000-hour fuels contributing to unstoppable fires, such as in Yellowstone, Los Alamos and the Rodeo Fire.
My recommendation is to have a sanitation cut, removing disease- or insect-infested trees, no matter what size. That should be done while the stand is healthy and will continue to reproduce itself.
Managing for an old-age stand is a design for disaster. These trees create fuel which, along with thousands of other trees that have died from various causes, create hundreds of tons of 1000-hour fuels. A stocking density based on a predetermined basal area should result in the desired condition sought.
Ponderosa pine will be healthier and more attractive when managed as an uneven age stand.
Maintaining an old-age stand can also create an opportunity for major insect infestations as well as fire. An example of this is the loss of the entire spruce-fir stand to insects on top of Mount Graham at Safford.
Timber sales removing large trees would recover a big part of project cost. A large percentage of the timber industry has been put out of business due to the shut down of logging on national forests across the country.
I believe one of the best uses of funds planned for allocation for thinning would be to revive the timber industry. This would have multiple benefits. It would allow the majority of the hazard reduction needed to be completed in a productive way, furnishing jobs and providing house logs, lumber, pulp and other wood products rather than depending on low-quality foreign imports.
Cecil Sims, Payson