Report: Logging Not Effective Against Bark Beetles

MONTE VISTA, Colorado, October 6, 2005 (ENS) – A conservation group Wednesday published research showing that there is no evidence that logging can control bark beetles or forest defoliators once an outbreak has started.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation released an 88-page research compilation that the group says casts doubt on a logging project in headwaters of the Rio Grande in southwestern Colorado.

The County Line project was proposed with the justification that it would reduce the chances of a spruce beetle insect infestation spreading across public forests.

In September a coalition of citizens and conservationists filed an administrative appeal of the logging project with the Lakewood office of the U.S. Forest Service.

The research report, “Logging to Control Insects: The Science and Myths Behind Managing Forest Insect Pests, is a synthesis of independently reviewed research. It includes a summary of studies on the importance of insects to forest function and the methods used to control forest pest insects, and a compilation of summaries of over 150 scientific papers and Forest Service documents.

“The findings are very clear,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and author of the report. “A review of over 300 papers on the subject reveals that logging is not the solution to forest insect outbreaks and in the long run could increase the likelihood of epidemics.

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 used forest insect outbreaks as a justification for increasing logging and limiting environmental protections.

Currently, the Rio Grande National Forest is promoting a logging project that would remove 29 million board feet, over 7,000 logging trucks full, to control spruce beetles.

The logging project will have significant impacts on water quality and soils in the upper Rio Grande watershed that is so critical to the lives and well-being of the San Luis Valley, the conservation group says.

Although insects have been a part of the ecology of temperate forests for millennia, many in the timber industry see them only as agents of destruction, the report points out. “A century of fire suppression, clear-cut logging, road-building, grazing, urban encroachment, and the selective removal of large trees has upset the ecological balance in forests across North America, often making them more vulnerable to insect infestations.”

“Some foresters believe the solution to the problem is increased logging,” the report acknowledges. But the authors found little or no evidence to support this assumption.

“There is an urgent need for federal and state agencies and land managers to reevaluate their current strategy for managing forest insects,” they said, “which often relies on intensive logging – and to adopt a perspective that manages for forest ecosystem integrity.”

Contrary to numerous assertions, late successional and old-growth forests are highly productive and remarkably resistant to potential pests, the report says.

The Forest Service is using insects as a ruse to turn over valuable public resources to private logging corporations, said Bryan Bird, a forest ecologist with the Forest Guardians. This new report cast a serious shadow of doubt onto the legitimacy of the logging and its effects on insects. There is too much uncertainty for the Forest Service to assume such risks to water and wildlife in southern Colorado.

Mike Dombeck, chief of the U.S. Forest Service in the Clinton administration, agrees.

“Scott Hoffman Black’s masterful synthesis of the state-of-the art science in “Logging to Control Insects” is a must for those who care about forests and forest management,” wrote Dombeck. “It explodes many of the myths about logging to control insects and demonstrates the need for forest managers to work with and not against nature.”