Tuesday, February 07, 2006

When forest science gets burned

A few days ago over at Blue Oregon, Russ Sadler wrote a superb piece on the goings on over at Oregon State University.

For background, one of OSU's grad students published a study in the journal Science that runs counterintuitive to the conventional wisdom of the OSU professorial community. The student found that at least in the short term, logging and human reforestation techniques actually create more fuel in burned areas than just allowing the forest to regenerate itself. The rub however? Several OSU professors attempted to block the publication of the study, saying it didn't account for the long term science of reforestation by humans.

Oregon State University College of Forestry Dean Hal Salwasser eventually apologized for the University professors who attempted to block the publication.

Russ picks up from there:

Donato and five OSU and U.S. Forest Service scientists concluded that logging in the Biscuit Burn in Southern Oregon damaged seedlings growing back on their own and littered the forest floor with tinder the could fuel future forest fires.

They argued that “can be counterproductive to goals of forest regeneration and fuel reduction.”

The Donato study conflicts directly with an earlier study conducted by OSU academic heavyweights John Sessions and Mike Newton that concluded salvage logging and reforestation after the Biscuit Burn could regenerate the forest faster than more natural methods.

The Donato study was politically inconvenient because the Bush administration and Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon) are using the Sessions-Newton study as the basis for Walden’s latest amendments to the “Healthy Forests Act” of 2003.

There's that Walden fella again. Stunning that his name would come up in connection with a bill that Bush is pushing, eh?

It seems that Donato's study has made nail biters out of more than just the Oregon State professors. The anti-science Bush Administration is yanking the funding to study the Biscuit Burn:

The federal government has abruptly suspended funding for Oregon State University research that concluded federally sponsored logging after the 2002 Biscuit fire in southwest Oregon set back the recovery of forests.

The action came after a team of scientists from OSU and the U.S. Forest Service published their results last month in Science, the nation's leading scientific journal.


Shorter Bush: If you can't get science to back up what you're doing..end the science.

The Bureau of Land Management's spokespuppet prattled away about the illegality of using federally funded research to influence federal legislation. Mostly because the journal Science neglected to remove a citation toward Walden's participation in the Bush bill.

That's hogwash, frankly. The US Department of Forestry has been studying and monitoring the Tillamook Burn region for ages. Are we to believe that none of this is used to determine how the federal government is deciding how to craft Walden's legislation? Especially given that the scientific outcome is similar to that of Sessions/Newton?

If Donato's study had backed up Walden's and the OSU professor's contention that logging burned areas created less fire danger, they'd be citing it as a fresh, new work that proves they're right. Donato's funding would be in place and his stipend check would be sitting in his local bank.

Welcome to your front row seat for War on Science, Daniel Donato.

(H/T to Kevin at PreemptiveKarma)