Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests

Will it increase support for salvage logging?

Of course it will!

Will it increase support for Tester’s Wilderness plus logging bill? Yes!

Will there actually be an increase in salvage logging? Hard to say.

Some points needs to be made. First, this beetle epidemic is not just a Montana thing. It extends from the Yukon nearly to Mexico among pine trees. Logging of green trees to get ahead of beetle infestation is hopeless. It hasn’t worked anywhere in Canada or the United States because this is an extraordinary event fueled by a series of warm winters.

Secondly you can offer the dead trees for sale, but the timber operator needs to make a profit.  They are presently trying to ramp up the salvage in Canada and the United States.  If demand for a product is stable, an increase in the supply drives down the price. The price offered for lumber or chips from dead pine is already low because of the depressed economy. A ramp up of logging will drive the price still lower.

These salvage sales might find no one who will log them. Fortunately, dead lodgepole pine, left standing, does not deteriorate nearly as fast as dead spruce or fir, so some of these might still be worthwhile 5 years from now.

Finally, these dead forests will not necessarily all burn. Dead pine burns like gasoline while it still wears its dead red needles, but after they drop, the fire danger goes down rapidly in many stands. However, when they topple over in the wind on top of each other, the fire danger goes up again.

Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests. By Jennifer McKee. Missoulian State Bureau


Here is George Wuerthner’s interesting and detailed  essay, which I mentioned and others too in the comments.

It turns out that yesterday there was an essay in Writers on the Range about the big beetle kill in Colorado. Folks, including editorial writers, need to understand that this is not a Montana beetle kill or a Colorado beetle kill. It is a continental beetle kill.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission sets wolf hunt quota today

Commission will decide today whether an Idaho wolf hunt will be accepted by wolf conservationists or whether a bitter battle begins-

Update: Commission sets wolf quota at 220 wolves.
More information will follow when I get it. Here is some.
Idaho’s wolf hunting limit set at 220
. Idaho Statesman. From what I read, including the comments in the Statesman, it looks like I’m shaping up as a moderate on this one.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission meets in Idaho Falls today to set the wolf kill quota just 2 weeks before the wolf season begins. Tags will go on sale Aug. 24. In July, Montana set a wolf quota of 75 after seeking public comment and developing computer models of various quotas and their estimated effect on wolf populations.

Idaho hasn’t sought public input. As I write this, how the quota was determined is not clear.  Some indications are they will have a quota as high as 500 to 700 wolves. Idaho has the best wolf habitat in the lower 48 states as indicated by its current population of perhaps 1000 wolves compared to adjacent Montana with just half as many despite having wolves in the state since the 1980s, beginning with natural in-migration from Canada.

Some people think wolf hunting will prove difficult and the quota won’t be filled. Outdoor writers Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman is a well know person who holds to this school of thought.  Others believe there will be a slaughter — wolves being easy to find while elk or deer hunting coupled with a very long hunting season. I tend to the latter because of the length of the season and the likelihood that a fair number of hunters will shot two, tag one, and leave the other.

My view is that I am not against a wolf hunt, but a real hunt of any game animal does not as its purpose reduce the population by very much. If the Commission announced they were going to reduce the state’s elk population by half, for example, that would not be a hunt. Of course, they wouldn’t do that.

Because wolves have not been hunted before  in Idaho, and Idaho so much different geographically than Alaska, a lot of information needs to be gathered. It will be important to see if the Commission puts in place a mechanism to gather critical information, especially so that they can see if a wolf hunt (or reduction) has any effect on elk, deer, or moose populations. Will wolves become more wary of humans?

It is also important to see if the hunt has an effect on livestock depredations. Conventional wisdom is that a reduction in wolves will reduce the number of sheep and cattle killed, but others believe that because wolves are a pack animal and learn what is prey from their pack, disrupted packs will send orphaned pups, wounded wolves and subadults into the herds of livestock.

I for one, would not protest a quota of 100 or 200 animals (comparable to Montana), not that I think any hunt is a biological necessity. However, a high quota with lax oversight will spark a bitter battle. It’s all up to the Fish and Game Commission what they want. For those who want the wolf relisted, a high quota with lax enforcement is more likely to yield success in their lawsuit than a more measured approach. Montana’s Commission (Fish, Wildlife and Parks) seemed to sense that.

Idaho Fish & Game to set limits for first wolf hunt. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman.

Idaho officials to set wolf hunt quotas today. Associated Press