Editor’s note: From Jim Petersen’s EVERGREEN MAGAZINE’s Fall, 2015 issue — via a tip from Nick Smith’s news service.
The bar graph on our cover is the central feature in the most important Evergreen report we have published in our 30-year history. It quantifies the natural disaster that is unfolding in Idaho’s National Forests, a calamity unprecedented in state history.
Frankly, the data represented on this chart is last thing we expected to find when we began our seven-month investigation of forest collaboratives at work in Idaho’s national forests. In hindsight, we should not have been surprised that our research also took us to western Montana and eastern Washington where we are still working.
This report is specific to Idaho’s National Forests. The news is terrible. By volume, 80 per cent of gross annual growth on timberlands in Idaho’s National Forests dies annually: 555 million cubic feet – a solid block of wood the size of a football field stretching 1.8 miles into the sky. 1.8 miles this year and another 1.8 miles – or more – next year. And so it goes, year after year.
Insect and disease infestations are the driving forces behind ecological collapse in Idaho – and across the 11 western states. Federal forests hold too many trees for the carrying capacity of the land. Resulting systemic stresses – triggered mainly by drought – attract insects and root diseases that are killing trees by the hundreds of millions. Catastrophic wildfire is the inevitable result.