Sunday, September 27, 2009
Story last updated at 9/27/2009 - 2:30 am
Thinned forests won't produce more deer
The Wilderness Society's Karen Hardigg claimed in a Sept. 10 letter to the editor that paying a timber company $670,000 in stimulus tax dollars to thin a second-growth forest will "yield long-term dividends in the form of increased subsistence opportunities, improved wildlife habitat, and economic opportunities for local contractors." Problem is there is no market for the thinned trees.
Not only is the proposed thinning an illegal use of stimulus dollars by mis-appropriating road maintenance funds, but it also will not produce more deer.
Sitka black-tailed deer populations fluctuate considerably. During years with mild winters, deer populations are not limited by forage and generally increase. But severe winter weather with persistent deep snowfall can depress populations substantially through starvation and reduced fecundity. During these periods of heavy snow deer rely on the forage found in low-elevation, old-growth forests. Although the forage quality in these forests is generally poor, the multi-layered forest canopy intercepts and holds snow, allowing deer access to this forage.
The Wilderness Society's claim that second-growth thinning will increase deer populations misses the mark because thinned, second-growth forests do not intercept snow.
Whatever increased forage grows in thinned, second-growth forests will be unavailable to deer during the only time in which forage limits deer populations. In addition, forage plant species recruitment into thinned, second-growth forests often take so long that the canopy has re-closed before forage species become established.
Executive Director, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
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