Dead Trees Provide Critical Habitat. They do not Pose the Fire Risk Claimed.
Dead Trees have next to Nothing to do with Devastating Wildfires
Dead Trees, Bark Beetles, and Questionable Claims
about Forest Density
Scientific studies have consistently found that trees killed by drought and or beetles (drought is what weakens the trees to allow for beetle attack) do NOT increase risk or severity of wildfire. The most comprehensive study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded, "the annual area burned in the western United States has not increased in direct response to bark beetle activity" (Hart et al. 2015). A study from the University of Montana stated "weakening or eliminating environmental laws to allow more beetle timber harvest treatments is the wrong choice for advancing forest health in the United States" (Six et al. 2014).
Other papers concerning tree mortality, beetles, and logging for "restoration" in our forests: Fire risk and dead trees
"High severity fire was more prevalent in stands with low MPB (mountain pine beetle) mortality due to the higher proportion of live trees (and therefore fine aerial fuels) remaining."Agne, M.C., T. Woolley, and S. Fitzgerald. 2016. Fire severity and cumulative disturbance effects in the post-mountain pine beetle lodgepole pine forests of the Pole Creek Fire. Forest Ecology and Management 366: 73-86.
"While research is ongoing and important questions remain unresolved, to date most available evidence indicates that bark beetle outbreaks do not substantially increase the risk of active crown fire in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and spruce (Picea engelmannii)-fir (Abies spp.) forests under most conditions. Instead, active crown fires in these forest types are primarily contingent on dry conditions rather than variations in stand structure, such as those brought about by outbreaks."Black, S.H., D. Kulakowski, B.R. Noon, D.A. DellaSalla 2013. Do bark beetle outbreaks increase wildfire risks in central U.S. Rocky Mountains? Natural Areas Journal 33 (1): 59-65.
"We found no evidence that pre-fire tree mortality influenced fire severity. These results indicate that widespread removal of dead trees may not effectively reduce higher-severity fire in southern California’s conifer forests."Bond, M.L., D.E. Lee, C.M. Bradley, C.T. Hanson. 2009. Influence of pre-fire tree mortality on fire severity in conifer forests of the San Bernardino Mountains, California. The Open Forest Journal 2: 41-47.
"Our results suggest that mountain pine beetle outbreaks in Greater Yellowstone may reduce the probability of active crown fire in the short term by thinning lodgepole pine canopies."Simard, M., W.H. Romme, J.M. Griffin, M. G. Turner. 2011. Do mountain pine beetle outbreaks change the probability of active crown fire in lodgepole pine forests? Ecological Monographs 81(1): 3-24.
Logging for "restoration"
"The likelihood of thinning treatments and wildfire overlapping in time and space is quite low when the treatment is most effective (less than 20 yrs). In fact, the chance that thinning will influence fire behavior is based on a number of improbable factors..."DellaSala, D.A., and M. Koopman. 2015. Thinning combined with biomass energy production may increase, rather than reduce, greenhouse gas emissions. Geos Institute, Ashland, OR.
"Ecosystems recovering after disturbance can be species-rich early successional environments but their habitat values can be impaired by post-disturbance, management."Lindernmayer, D., S. Thorn, and S. Banks. 2017. Please do not disturb ecosystems further. Nature Ecology & Evolution 1: 1-3. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0031 | www.nature.com/natecolevol
"Though it may seem to some laypersons that a post-fire landscape is a catastrophe, numerous scientific studies tell us that even in the patches where forest fires burn most intensely, the resulting wildlife habitats are among the most ecologically rich and diverse on western forestlands and are essential to support the full range of forest biodiversity."Open Letter to U.S. Senate and President Obama from 285 Scientists Concerned about Post-fire Logging and Logging of Old Forest on Federal Public Lands, November, 2016.