By Jessica Karraker
When our overpopulated forests are rife with standing dead and diseased trees, a single heat source finds this to be the opportune fuel source for a catastrophic chain reaction, the type we are currently witnessing.
The Chiwaukum fire in Leavenworth, after being put out, will look similar to the Tumwater Canyon along U.S. 2 and the Entiat Ridge in 20 years. In 1994, three areas burned, referred to as The Hatchery Creek Complex, Rat Creek, and The Tyee Fire. Twenty years later, you can still see the damage that was done to our forests from raging flames that burned intensely through overpopulated forests, depleting the soil of nutritional value that allows for regeneration. These fires started on July 24, 1994 and were not out until Dec. 24.
Had the U.S. Forest Service gone into these timberlands, or had the work bid on by loggers to thin out overpopulated areas, we would not be seeing as aggressive of fires; and the men and women who are currently attempting to cease this beast would have a better chance of stopping it.
Our forests are not being properly managed because the fear is that loggers will displace an owl by felling a tree, harming the homes of native species, or running out wildlife. But by mismanaging our forests on false practices and data, we have now created the perfect situation for a catastrophic chain reaction that is threatening communities, destroying wildlife habitat, and putting lives of men and women on the line.
Fires that have the opportunity to ignite in these densely over populated tree stands burn faster, more intense, unpredictably, and create their own weather systems within the smoke columns, creating spot fires. Had our forests been managed, right now we would be seeing a lower intensity fire that would crawl along the ground instead of burning up the trees, crowning, and jumping farther and faster. Healthy logging is not clear-cutting. Healthy logging is thinning trees, eliminating the standing dead and diseased, allowing for the conservation of our timberland, creating and maintaining healthy forests for humans to enjoy and for animals to live in, and avoid risking lives of those who are fighting to protect our homes and community.
We need to become informed and act on the knowledge that these forest management policies are just policies. We need to bang down the doors of our elected representatives so that we the people can make a change and create a plan of action so that in the future we may be able to avoid high intensity fires that have been proven to destroy the mineral integrity of the land that it burns, causing it to be uninhabitable. We have the right to be heard and to make a change for the betterment of our community, natural resources, and the wildlife we have the privilege of sharing our forests with.
Our forests have the right to be conserved, not preserved.
Jessica Karraker lives in Ellensburg.