Ecologists: Logging Won’t Help Forest Fires

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-ND)

Dozens of wildfires burn across the county, and political leaders call for increased logging to reduce forest fires. Our guests say thinning woodlands won’t eliminate the risk of fire. They say forests need to burn and trying to regulate the flames jeopardizes the ecological integrity of America’s forests.

Chad Hanson is a research ecologist. He co-founded the John Muir Project in California in 1996. Hanson says it’s impossible to stop the nation’s wildfires, and he argues human beings shouldn’t try. He says fire promotes biodiversity and that research shows cutting down mature trees and harvesting trunks on the forest floor increases fire intensity instead of diminishing the danger.

Matthew Koehler is executive director of the Wild West Institute, an organization looking to protect and restore forests in the Northern Rockies. He says logging in the late 1800s and early 1900s damaged Wisconsin’s natural environments. He says paper mills want aspen trees, not native hardwoods and white pine, and industry has fundamentally changed the composition of Wisconsin woodlands.

United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says the administration must use aggressive methods to manage forests. Hanson says people misunderstand how fires and forests work. He says legislation proposed in Congress could make forest fires more dangerous. Koehler says politicians advocating for commercial logging threaten forests and the people who own property nearby. Both Hanson and Koehler say the push for increased logging in America’s forests goes against scientific proof of what’s best for the woods.

Do you think logging helps the health of a forest? Or should we preserve natural processes and allow fires to burn? Email us at Find WPR’s The Ideas Network on Facebook, and tweet @WPRMornings.

Episode Credits

  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Kealey Bultena Producer
  • Chad Hanson Guest
  • Matthew Koehler Guest