Waiting for the Next Spark

Got this message from a reader, Southern forestry expert W.V. (Mac) McConnell:

Climate change is causing wildfires to burn more fiercely,
pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
than previously thought, according to a new study
 published in Nature Geosciences.
Photo Credit:NRCan-CFS

Hi Ms. Campbell: I just ran across your article on this topic (forest health) and realized that California , while a long way from Florida , has very similar problems. If you think that your readers would be interested, please use this information as appropriate.

A Look at the Record: Apalachicola National Forest 2000-2009 Planning Period

In 2000 the three National Forests in Florida began operating under a 10 year Land and Resource Management Plan. Here are the results of timber resource management on the largest of these forests, the Apalachicola, for the planning period that has just ended.

Land managers have two principal tools available (to manage forests): fire and timber harvesting. The 10 year record for fire use is good: 86% (947,000 acres) of the planned prescribed burn area was treated. Now, let’s look at how well the Forest managed the timber resource and how this has affected some other key components of the ecosystem.

The Forest grows enough wood each year to make a line of stacked cords ~360 miles long. How much wood did we actually cut? The 10 year average annual cut was .95 MMcf or 5% of the total annual growth Inventory increase. The rest of the forest reduction was due to 30% mortality.


On the Apalachicola National Forest during the past 10 years — the forest increased by 35%, 30% of it died, while just 5% of timber was harvested. Left unchecked, the current growth conditions will lead to greater density, increased tree mortality and sharply declining forest health.

So What?

The same situation is playing out in California’s forests — they’re dying faster than they’re being harvested. Harvesting has pretty much been halted in California and we’ve got thousands of acres of cord wood piling up — waiting for the next spark.


Sustainable harvesting to maintain forest health. Actively manage the forests and put people back to work cutting timber before it’s too late.

With thanks to Mac, note that in California,the state’s wildland fire fighting agency, CalFire, has just declared the official start of fire season. Disaster is just one careless spark away. Get out in the environment, but please take care.

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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