Bald Hills Road follows the divide between Redwood Creek and Klamath River. Traveling it recently I noticed, across Redwood Creek, a large area in which many trees appeared orange. Binoculars revealed 100 acres or so in upper Panther Creek in which every hardwood tree is dead. About half the trees redwoods and firs are alive and green.
The dead trees are a human artifact the result of workers poisoning every hardwood tree. From an industrial perspective, this is good management. The redwood and fir trees have market value; the hardwoods are not worth the cost of removing them.
But just across the ridge to the west is Little River and at the base of Little River lie Trinidad and Westhaven. The dead hardwood trees over the ridge will begin to shed branches next winter; for the next eight to 20 years, larger branches and then tree trunks will accumulate on the forest floor. If a lightning or human fire occurs there during that period there is a good chance the accumulating fuel will create a firestorm ("Feds should pay cost of fighting fires," July 3). If west winds push that fire over the ridge, Trinidad and Westhaven will be at risk.
Fire is not common in coastal areas where timber corporations own most of the forest. But when a fire does occur, it tends to burn hot. How many trees are Simpson-Green Diamond and Sierra Pacific Industries poisoning each year in Del Norte and Humboldt counties? How much is this poisoning adding to the risk to communities around the forest? And when the big fire comes, will the timber corporations accept responsibility for private property losses?
While the media regularly focuses on fire risk in national forests, the greater risk resulting from practices of the timber corporations are rarely mentioned. Why do you suppose that is the case?