Cambrian: Opinion

We can't afford to save dying trees that will sap water

I  understand there is a forest management team now working on our present forest and the fire potential. The comments I make herein may already be under consideration.

For credibility, I have a degree in forest management from Oregon State University, 1953.  I have worked with the U.S. Forest  Service on fires in the Los Padres National Forest, the Angeles National Forest, and with Cal Fire in  the Cleveland National Forest.  

Because of fire injuries, I “re-careered” to civil engineering and surveying — but I have not forgotten the basics in forest management.

The primary requirement in successful forest management demands that dead and dying trees be removed as soon as possible to minimize groundwater competition. 

Environmental rules and values as normally applied with a “no yield” position favor the environment value above all else. In the environmental equation, there is no factor for the human for whom the environment is ultimately  protected. Regardless of other impacts in this case at hand,  if there is some green on the tree, it must be allowed to remain until it dies. Such rigidity in application of environmental requirements is beyond reason. 

I have encountered this rationality many times in my civil engineering practice. This is the worst position that a forest management program can take. There is one basic forest management rule that applies to wet or dry conditions: “Hydrate the forest.” In normal wet conditions, upcoming trees are  vigorous, and the best mature trees can be harvested with certainty that younger, healthy trees will be ready for the following harvest.  

Forest improvement consists of removing dead and dying trees that are sapping groundwater from more viable and healthier trees. In drought conditions, we can’t afford to  waste groundwater on trees that are beyond resurrection. The very practical problem we now have is obviously fire. Dead and dying trees that will contribute to fire regardless of a few green branches  must — not should — be removed.

Also our very “big” problem is the cost of removal of the dead and dying trees. Some of us who do not have trees adjacent to or near our homes may want to take the position that they will not be affected by a fire. 

Wrong! The draft or suction behind the fire frequently lofts burning material well in advance of the main blaze. The denser the forest, the farther the lofting. Every residence in Cambria can be subject to fire because of the lofting effect.

For that reason, I suggest the following: We have need for forest-management funds to do what has to be done in cleaning up the forest. All of us need to enter the effort by contacting our political representatives — county, state and federal — urging their cooperation in securing funds. 

An additional source that I would encourage, considering the potential detriment we face and the typical political laxity, is a fund based on 0.25 percent of our respective home or business value.  

I know — we have had a lot of expense as a community with a water problem that should have been solved years ago, and certainly this would be a hardship for many of us, but of  what value would the water project be if there were no Cambria? It should not be a tax and hopefully it would be tax deductible.

The fund would last one or possibly two years, depending on when and if the county, state and federal monies are received.  

If such funds do arrive, reimbursement on a pro rata basis may be possible — but the bottom line is that the funds are needed now. If the forestry team  can incorporate this program, I will be happy to donate $1,500 — or should we wait 3-plus years to solve the emergency as we did with water?

Lynn and I have a small home and moderate retirement income.  I have experienced what fires can do. Don’t mess with them.