March 4, 2006

Does Salvage Logging Kill Seedlings?

The very useful High Country News has been following the saga of Dan Donato, a graduate student at Oregon State University who has been leading a study of the effects of salvage logging in Oregon. And I've followed this story with more than ecological interest, because I have met the young man, as he's married to my daughter's first cousin.

The linked story describes the drama well:
  • The publication of initial results in the journal Science and the uproar attending it from timber industry-supported interests.
  • The withdrawal of funding for the study by the Bureau of Land Management, with timing suggesting that it is motivated by concern that the results don't support agency policy.
  • The demand by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA) that the BLM's decision be investigated as politically motivated and the almost immediate reversal of the funding decision.
  • The visit by two other U.S. Reps. Brian Baird (WA) and Greg Walden (OR) to southern Oregon and conduct a "hearing," in which it's clear that Rep. Baird is displeased with the study's report.
I'm pissed about this because Brian Baird is my congressmember and I find him generally useful. But this last episode looks like political intimidation of the process of gathering scientific knowledge. It disturbs me that Rep. Baird has chosen to support the practice of the Bush administration of punishing scientists who report data that calls into question their preferred policies. Rep. Baird has stated that salvage logging "lessens impact" on the environment. He should back this assertion up with data, not intimidation of those out in the field gathering that data.

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