In 2012, the citizens of the City of Flagstaff, AZ voted for and approved Proposition 405, a $10 million bond to thin the forest surrounding Flagstaff’s vitally important watershed. Now, the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is objecting to the project, and like a broken record, they are once again claiming that thinning will harm the “Mexican spotted owl.”
Over the past several decades, environmentalists have almost destroyed the U.S. and Arizona’s lumber industry, and the livelihoods of the families who relied upon this important, historic industry. The environmentalists claim that logging endangers the spotted owl. However, since that time, scientists have determined that the more aggressive barred owls, great horned owls and northern goshawks were actually killing the spotted owls, not forest thinning. Researchers have also learned that spotted owls like to sit on tree branches and use their keen night vision to scan for prey in the dark. They are “perch and pounce” predators, hunting by sight in open spaces where they can fly underneath and between trees for wood rats, mice, voles, rabbits, gophers, bats, birds, reptiles and arthropods. Hunting by sight is greatly enhanced by an open, clean, thinned forest, not an overgrown, unhealthy congested forest where the forest floor has not seen fire, and is cluttered with dead wood and overgrown with invasive non-native plants.
Climate Change and Devastation
According to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officials, years ago, the CBD sued in order to stop a fully planned, NEPA approved and much needed thinning project in Eastern Arizona in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. In June 2014, the San Juan fire burned 7,000 acres of overgrown forest, releasing an incredible amount of greenhouse gas, air and water pollution, killing countless endangered, threatened and other wildlife (including spotted owls), and destroying critical habitat. In those areas where the USFS had completed the forest treatment with thinning and controlled burns, the forest was spared and looks beautiful today. However, due to the CBD lawsuit, the 7,000 acres that were not treated were burned instead, and look horrible, blackened, scarred and lifeless today.
Historically, northern Arizona forests had about 50 trees per acre, where mature ponderosa pine trees drink about 300 gallons of water per day when the soil is wet. After years of lawsuits by environmentalists challenging forest thinning projects, our unhealthy Arizona forests can now approach 1,000 trees per acre, where trees must compete for sunlight and water, and are prone to catastrophic crown wildfires, and death by bark beetles and disease.
Due to environmentalists, like the CBD and the Sierra Club, our forest health and environments have dramatically changed for the worse. The ecosystems and climate has also changed, for example, where Arizona’s scarce water resources are now stored in overgrown, congested forests, instead of flowing into aquifers, streams, rivers and