Fire is the real threat
Regarding the Twisp River Road resident “adamantly opposed to the Twisp Restoration project, currently planned to begin next month” — let us assume the writer is referring to the Mission Project scheduled for this year. Either way, was the writer in the valley during the fires last summer? Winthrop was threatened from two directions, we suffered some of the worst air quality on the planet and 10% of the watershed burned.
Stating “thinning in some instances can increase fire spread” is uninformative. What instances? What were the outcomes? The purpose of fuels reduction is not to eliminate fire — it is to restore fire behavior to a range that doesn’t destroy our forests and communities. If restoring fire resilience wasn’t a project goal, I too would be adamantly opposed.
The claim that this project is not grounded in science is wrong. I have studied the Mission Project plans with no other ‘”agenda” than wanting the best ecosystem outcomes. They present data-driven, ecosystem-based planning far more sophisticated than I have seen in decades of involvement with forest management.
And, let’s put the traffic concern into perspective. “Noise, pollution and danger” from logging trucks? Really? Compared to firefighting? Last year, truck traffic hauling timber felled to create fuel breaks was fully equivalent to that of a planned timber sale. Then, add the firefighting traffic: light and heavy trucks, equipment, and aircraft — and their horrific carbon footprint. The cost of protecting the “bucolic” Twisp River corridor from extreme wildfires in recent years includes the lives of three firefighters and several tens of millions of dollars.
The Mission Project will thin about 10,000 acres within a 50,000-acre area. For commercial logging, that averages around three 18-inch diameter trees per treated acre. Last year, fire “treated” 126,000 acres, “clearcutting” (killing) 50,000 acres of forest. If that was natural, we would have virtually no mature forests on the landscape. Try picturing the U.S. Forest Service randomly clearcutting 50,000 acres in a year. It’s time to move beyond the idea that chainsaws pose the greatest threat to our forests (I do remember those days). Now, extreme fire does.