Turn dead trees in California into furniture

More than 102 million dead trees now litter California’s drought-flayed forests, according to the latest aerial survey, a finding likely to fuel a heated public-lands debate during the incoming Trump administration.

The new number marks an increase of 36 million dead trees since the last Forest Service survey in May.

“That’s a hell of a lot of wood,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview Friday.

Vilsack, whose department includes the Forest Service, cited the sobering new survey as one more reason to reform the agency’s wildlands firefighting budget. A dramatic increase in forest fires has consumed a growing share of the Forest Service’s overall spending.

The majority of the dead trees are located in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region. The Forest Service also identified increasing mortality in Northern California, including in Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas and Lassen counties. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years, according to the Forest Service.
The latest dead-tree survey also will almost certainly contribute to other efforts to adjust public-lands management, including on the roughly 20 million acres of National Forest land in California.

In particular, some Western lawmakers want to speed salvage logging as a way to boost the timber industry and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. In the wake of the 2013 Rim Fire that burned 257,314 acres in Mariposa and Tuolumne counties, for instance, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, introduced legislation that in its initial form would have shielded Rim Fire-related salvage logging plans from the customary judicial review, environmental study and public comment periods.

The Obama administration opposed McClintock’s initial bill, which passed the Republican-controlled House in a modified form and then stalled in the Senate. Although the GOP majorities in both House and Senate have since narrowed, the incoming Trump administration will be able to support similar efforts.
It is absurd to waste all that money on firefighting preparedness rather than turning the danger into an asset that can be used to make builders and furniture makers productive.  In fact, some of the defects in those trees becomes valuable to specialty furniture makers and bowl turners.  The spalting in the wood is seen as attractive in custom furniture.


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