“Thinning” in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Burn piles in the Uintas.

UPHE strongly disagrees with the multi-agency strategy of “thinning” and burning trees to prevent forest fires.

Those operations are now being conducted close to home, in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Forest fires produce the most toxic air pollution the average person ever inhales, whether it is one caused by human accident, an act of nature, or deliberately. Smoke from a “prescribed burn” can cause the same harm as smoke from a forest fire. 

For at least the last 20 years, a growing body of research concludes that in most circumstances, thinning and burning actually increases the risk of wildfire. The process dries out the forest floor, increases the temperature of the forest and increases the wind, all major contributors to wildfire risk. In fact, forests left to grow thicker naturally burn less often. The idea that our forests are “unhealthy” and “overgrown” is a narrative started by the logging industry and mistakenly adopted by the Forest Service, and other land management agencies. 

Dr. Brian Moench’s presentation on forest management with the John Muir Project’s Dr. Chad Hanson.

It is often the case that after cutting down trees, these contractors then spray toxic herbicides right on top of our watershed to prevent regrowth of vegetation.   

Further, we recoil at the destruction of forests in other countries because of the climate consequences, but cutting down trees in the US and in Utah reduces the carbon absorption of our forests, just like it does anywhere else. This is forest malpractice, climate malpractice, and public health malpractice.

When you see or smell smoke from “prescribed burns” we suggest you call the forest service and complain for all these reasons.

Find more information from UInta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest’s management plans here.

Red Castle, Mountain Home Ranger District, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Photo by Oscar Mena, 09-14-2005.