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Maintaining Montana Forests Through Selective Timber ThinningIn 2017, Montana has had an awful fire season due to limited precipitation and less snowfall than usual. KPAX News, a Montana news outlet reported on September 23 of this year that there have been twenty-one fires that have consumed 1,295,959 acres of forest–two of the worst fires reported were Lodgepole Complex Fire and the Rice Ridge Fire. And on the 30th of September, Tom Kuglin of the Missoulian reported that over $400 million dollars have been spent on fighting these fires. With the amount of damage to the wilderness, homes and other structures being burned down, as well as the health issues that coincide with that amount of smoke, many arguments have arisen as to the best preventative measures to take. This year has been different on account of the deterioration of the moisture provided by snowpack says Danna Rogge in her October 2017 article called “A Million Acres Scorched by Montana Wildfires” published on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Since the Montana wildfires have been increasingly detrimental in the past decade, and more than one million acres have been destroyed, the act of thinning trees is essential and proper management is key to maintaining the integrity of the forest. While the negative effects that occur when this is not done properly must also be taken into account. Logging, clearcutting, and thinning are all ways that people have argued will prevent fires. However, there are several reasons why these can potentially be detrimental to the environment in those areas. Those effects were researched by Kevin Satterberg, and three other, in his dissertation “Forest Recovery After Four Wildfires in Western Montana” in 2015. All of which should be taken into consideration when determining the next course of action. While there are positives and negatives to both sides, there needs to be a discussion about the levels of importance that are awarded to the immediate threat of fires and the long-term effects of habitat degradation and the changing climate. More importantly, the discussion between the sides needs to be more efficient and understanding.  One of the main reasons that logging is seen as such a negative thing is the fact that timber is not a renewable resource. Some logging companies have taken advantage of those resources and logged at a rate that was faster than the trees could grow in response, which has fueled this connotation. More specifically, clearcutting is what is often brought up in the opposing argument. Extensive clearcutting has been scientifically proven to be linked several detrimental occurrences. One of which is flooding mentioned by Simon Ayres in his article “deforestation and Flooding”. The altering and flooding of rivers when trees are logged too close to the water, and the topsoil that is removed post flooding. Furthermore, while the trees that are removed fail to deflect the precipitation that may cause flooding also deflects the sunlight that can be harmful to the aquatic life that resides there. Additionally, the amount of animal habitat available can potentially, and will likely, be reduced. A study conducted by Nell J. Frederickson published in Forest Ecology and Management that looked explicitly at amphibians found that the population decreased by 50% when just 38 square meters of the forest was cut down. Similarly to the amphibians, the bird population is also drastically affected. Not only is their food drastically limited, their homes are also demolished. Thinking about the immediate effects it has on the ecosystems, a more pressing and global issue presents itself.  The increasing amount of carbon dioxide that is threatening the future generations is not something that can not be ignored. Since the trees use to carbon to grow, they are essential for removing the CO2 from the atmosphere that is such a large contributor to climate change, as explored by Vanessa Schipani in her 2017 article “Warming to Blame for Western Wildfires?”. The article was published on, which is part of The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of  Pennsylvania. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that more than 750 million metric tons of-of carbon are absorbed by forests in the U.S. Furthermore, forests also account for 10% of the country’s CO2 emissions.  There’s is clear evidence that proves the relationship between logging and higher carbon concentration in the atmosphere. Evidence of this can be seen through President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan in 2013. During the time that plan was implemented, climate change was slowed down due to the reduction of logging. Since then, there has been a push to reverse that plan and the logging efforts have increased. For example, in Montana, Champion Lumber Company began to log at the times the rate that trees were able to grow back. The effects inflicted by that company, and others, have been severe. The progress that was made by the Obama administration was reversed, and climate change has essentially been sped up. Taking to account all of those things are crucial to the earth and its vitality. However, despite the negative effects, the positive is still evident and should be recognized as well. One of the major benefits of logging, as an industry, are the jobs that are created as a result. There is a dire need for jobs in the United States as the unemployment rate is still extremely high. The national unemployment rate is currently 4.1%, and the Montana unemployment rate is 3.9%. This is alarming for several reasons, as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Firstly, high unemployment rates, in general, hurt the economy significantly. Companies suffer from less consumer demand, as well as the state due to the reduced number of people paying taxes annually. A few about of jobs can also potentially lead to lower wages overall.  Furthermore, those rates also affect communities. There is clear evidence to deduce that unemployment has severe symptoms of poor mental health, it can increase the chance of criminal involvement, and contribute to Montana’s already high suicide rate. Worldwide, unemployment was attributed 45,000 deaths, says the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Logging is one of the main industries that create jobs; there are 55,300 people employed by logging companies nationally. Looking at that number regionally, 7.2 thousand of those workers are employed in the state of Montana at the 438 companies. One of the dominating reasons this is such an important job source is that does not require a college degree or even a high school diploma. The New York Times released an article by Floyd Norris that remarked that only 40% of adults over the age of 25 have college degrees and only 65.9% of youth go on to a university, blue collar jobs are needed more than ever. Public opinion on the matter in the areas where there is the most logging often includes the positives. Kyle Schmauch, for example, tweeted on February 28, 2014–in response to Senator Daines new bill–that: “More #jobs in #Montana with @DainesforMT’s forest management bill. #logging #timber” (@KyleSchmauch). Although the argument that concerning the positives of more jobs is hard to belittle, it is not as pressing as climate change, the imminent threat of fires is clearly the most time sensitive. Since it has been established that extensive commercial logging and clearcutting should not be apart of the solutions to prevent wildfires due to the evidence presented concerning the unfavorable outcomes.  For one, the selective thinning can be used to change how the fire would burn. Prediction is the most efficient way to change the role that a fire would play and reduce the damage. Selective thinning in general can also help to remove the smaller tree and brush that can serve as kindling for the fire. In the film directed by Hugo Sindelar called “Voices of Fire,” a documentary film about wildfire in the west, aired on PBS Montana reiterated that there are approximately 11 million acres of dead foliage in the United States. Ted Giesey, the head of woodland management in Kalispell, Montana, has taught wildfire prevention for more than 20 years and used to do commercial logging, stated in a personal interview on November 30, 2017, that “logging is really critical–selective logging that is.” He went on to mention that “I think one of the most important things is teaching fire prevention”. Another major benefit that thinning can produce is the slower speed at which the fire in advance. A clear example of this can be seen in Cle Elum, Washington. In this experiment conducted by The Nature Conservancy, 100 acres of the forest was thinned. The area that was thinning was selectively chosen by density to ensure that the negative effects that often coincides would not occur. The biggest peril of wildfires is the threat that is posed to homes and other structures. It would be important for the thinning take place in areas that are highly populated to keep the fire away and reduce the risk of property damage. As for the environment, the forest can benefit from selective thinning be extracting the lower quality trees and providing more room for the other trees to prosper. Moreover, forest management is essential to helping climate change as well. Considering the aforementioned data concerning trees imperative role in keeping the carob levels reduced, detrimental fires that can wipe out over a million acres of forest is more destructive than even clearcutting. The fewer amount of trees there are, the higher the concentration of CO2 there will be in the atmosphere.The environment is not the only thing that can benefit from fewer wildfires. In a study conducted by Tavis B. Paveglio, and colleagues, published in Forest Science in 2016 called “Understanding the Effect of Large Wildfires on Residents’ Well-Being: What Factors Influence Wildfire Impact?” research is presented to depict the effects that wildfires have on human health. The retinas and respiratory systems are specifically targeted with large amounts of smoke in a particular area. Furthermore, despite the divide on the best way to approach this issue, almost all of “Montanans” agree that in order to get the resources for effective change and environmental protection, there needs to be more awareness on the subject. Although she is not from Montana, Terri Ehrlich embodies the opinion in her Facebook comment on September 17, 2017, stating: “Welcome to life in the West. If it doesn’t happen on the East Coast, or in Texas or California, it doesn’t get reported by the news media. Over one million acres have burned in Montana this year.” Many believe that change has yet to occur because these fires are not being acknowledged by anyone who is not directly affected. However, this could also be considered a logical fallacy–the black and white fallacy. The media didn’t report the Montana fires, so they must not report anything. This is definitely a leap since the media has obviously not neglected every issue that wasn’t “on the East Coast, or in Texas or California.” This is a common fallacy made when wildfires are discussed.Despite the need for more media coverage, this issue is still pertinent. Michael Moore, along with others, wrote a book in 2002 called Montana on Fire! Summer of 2000 which exemplified the history of wildfires and how this has been an issue that needs to be addressed. With the level of destruction that is being caused, and has been caused in the state of Montana due to wildfires since before Moore’s research, it is clear that selective thinning in the forests is essential to reduce the damage of those fires. However, the way in which that thinning is conducted is extremely important. With the amount of evidence presented that clearcutting and extreme logging can dismantle entire ecosystems and drastically contribute to the changing climate, it is imperative that every factor is taken into consideration on this subject.Works [email protected] “More #jobs in #Montana with @DainesforMT’s forest management bill. #logging #timber.” 28 Feb, 2014, 7:17 AM,, Simon. “Deforestation and Flooding.” Cambrian Wildwood, 10 Dec. 2015.Forests Absorb Carbon Dioxide – Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) – Northern Research Station – USDA Forest Service,, Nell J. “Impacts of Selective Logging on Amphibians in a Bolivian Tropical Humid Forest.” Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 25 Feb. 2004, Kuglin, Tom. “$400 Million Spent on Montana Wildfires This Year.”, 2 Oct. 2017, Moore, Michael., Ken. Blackbird, and Lee Enterprises. Montana on Fire! : Summer of 2000. Helena, MT: Farcountry, 2000. Print.”Montana Economy at a Glance.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, MTN. “KXLH Special Report: Montana Wildfires 2017.” Home –, 23 Sept. 2017,Norris, Floyd. “Fewer U.S. Graduates Opt for College After High School.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Apr. 2014, Paveglio, Travis, Chad Kooistra, Troy Hall, and Michael Pickering. “Understanding the Effect of Large Wildfires on Residents’ Well-Being: What Factors Influence Wildfire Impact?” Forest Science 62.1 (2016): 59-69. Web.Rogge, Dana. “A Million Acres Scorched by Montana Wildfires.” USDA, 3 Oct. 2017,Satterberg, Kevin, Strand, Eva, Hudak, Andrew, and Smith, Alistair. Forest Recovery after Four Wildfires in Western Montana (2015): ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Web. Schipani, Vanessa. “Warming to Blame for Western Wildfires?”, 11 Oct. 2017, Ehrlich, Terri. Comment on “Montana wildfire updates for Sept. 17, 2017.” NBC Montana, 18 Sep. 2017, 6:47 p.m.,″Ted Giesey.” Telephone interview. 30 Nov. 2017.”Voices of Fire,” a documentary film about wildfire in the West, National Critical Zone Observatory, 5 Sept. 2017,

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