Forest and Fire Ecology: Information and Resources

Check out this New Message for Smokey about the importance of high-intensity wildfires:

You can also learn more from the following link:…/new-documentary-gives-s…/

And you can also listen to a podcast interview discussing the ecological necessity of high-severity fire:…/

Also check out this great presentation on fire ecology and the importance of mixed severity fires by Dominick DelaSalla, PhD.

Here is a wonderful video summarizing the importance of post-fire ecosystems by the Wild Nature Institute:

Other information and links to fire ecology information:


The Forest Service needs to do away with post-fire (“salvage”) logging on all National Forests. Post-fire logging is an outdated, ecologically destructive practice that harms important and delicate habitats.

Western conifer forests have evolved with fire and are adapted to it, and in fact need fire. Wildfires, including high-severity fires, create important habitats, lessen the severity and frequency of disease and insect outbreaks, and facilitate seed germination in some plant species. Post-fire forests are one of the most biodiverse and important habitats, and are home to many at-risk, sensitive, and listed species. Post-fire areas are rich in snags (standing dead trees) used for nesting and foraging by many species, including woodpeckers. Fires also stimulate the growth of many species of native wildflowers, certain berries and fungi (such as Morels), and provide habitats for small mammals and forage for deer and elk. Post-fire habitats are among the most important for wildlife, and are unfortunately very rare compared to historic proportions because of continued fire-suppression and post-fire logging. In an Open Letter to Members of Congress from 250 Scientists Concerned about Post-fire Logging (2013), scientists state that “Post-fire habitats created by fire, including patches of severe fire, are ecological treasures rather than ecological catastrophes, and that post-fire logging does far more harm than good to the nation’s public lands.”


The wealth of scientific studies done on post-fire logging have come to an overwhelming consensus that post-fire logging has extremely negative impacts on numerous species, sensitive ecosystems, snags and downed wood (both very important for wildlife habitats), water quality, and forest regeneration. Richard Hutto, in his study Towards Meaningful Snag-Management Guidelines for Postfire Salvage Logging in North American Conifer Forests (2006) goes so far as to state: “I am hard pressed to find any other example in wildlife biology where the effect of a particular land-use activity is as close to 100% negative as the typical postfire salvage-logging operation tends to be.”

There is no scientific evidence to justify salvage logging on an ecological basis, and projects on public lands should focus on truly restorative activities, such as road removal. Numerous scientific studies point to a suite of possible long-term problems caused by post-fire logging, including erosion, increased sedimentation, soil compaction, and negative impacts to wildlife and hydrology. Post-fire logging can also increase future fire risk. Donato et al. (2006) found that post-fire logging actually increases the risk of future high intensity fires, particularly when slash is left on the ground. Thompson & Spies (2010) found that areas that had previously experienced burning and “salvage” logging after the 1987 Silver Fire in southwestern Oregon had more extensive crown damage during the 2002 Biscuit fire than areas that had not been “salvage” logged after the Silver Fire. Post-fire logging can also negatively affect forests’ ability to regenerate, which can facilitate non-native plant species’ establishment and spread. Post-fire logging can also exacerbate or create problems with invasive species through other mechanisms, such as logging equipment spreading invasive plant seeds.

Post-fire areas are too ecologically valuable to sacrifice for marginal economic benefit to a few individuals and corporations while the public pays for the costs of ecological degradation. Post-fire logging needs to be eliminated on public lands.

Learn more about the beauty and importance of burned forest! Links to great resources:

The Chaparral Institute (posted 2014). 11 Reasons Why Burned Forests are Beautiful.

DellaSala, D. Ecosystem Benefits of Wildfire vs. Post-fire Logging Impacts

DellaSala, D.; Hanson, C.; Bond, M.; Hutto, R.; Odion, D.; Halsey, R. (2014). Fireside chat: Lessons from Fire Ecology and Post-fire Landscapes. Presentation accessed at: through

Geos Institute (2013). Open Letter to Members of Congress from 250 Scientists Concerned about Post-fire Logging.

Geos Institute- example pictures of post-fire logging:

Hutto, R. 2006. Towards meaningful snag-management guidelines for postfire salvage logging in North American conifer forests. Conservation Biology 20(4) pp 984-993. Accessed online at:

Hutto, R. (posted 2013). Exploring with Dick Hutto. Produced by the Audubon Society.

Sierra Forest Legacy webpage on post-fire logging that contains many good science citations:

Wuerthner, G. (2015). Post-fire Logging- a Bad Deal for Forest Ecosystems. Article in Wildlife News.

4-H filming. After the Burn:


Other citations for the scientific studies and research on the importance of post-fire areas and the negative impacts associated with post-fire logging are listed below. The Forest Service has not disclosed or analyzed many of the research studies condemning post-fire logging.

Beschta, R.; Rhodes, J.; Kauffman, B.; Minashall; Karr, J.; Perry, D.; Gresswell, R.; Frissell, C.; Hauer, R.; 2004. Post fire Management on Forested Public Lands of the Western United States. Conservation Biology 18 (4) p. 957–967

Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project (2014). Nourished by Wildfire: The Ecological Benefits of the Rim Wildfire and the Threat of Salvage Logging

D’Antonio, C. 1992. Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grasses/fire cycle, and global change. Annual Review of Ecological Systems 23 p. 63-87

DellaSala, D. A., Williams, J. E., Williams, C., & Franklin, J. F.; 2004. Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: a Synthesis of Fire Policy and Science. Conservation Biology, 18(4), 976-986

Donato, D.; Fontaine, J.; Campbell, J.; Robinson, W.; Kauffman, J.; Law, B.; 2006. Post-wildfire logging hinders regeneration and increases fire risk. Science (New York, N.Y.) 311 (5759) p. 352

Hanson, J.; Stuart, J.; 2005. Vegetation responses to natural and salvage logged fire edges in Douglas-fir/hardwood forests. Forest Ecology and Management 214 p. 266–278

Karr, J.; Rhodes, J.; Minshall, W.; Hauer, R.; Beschta, R.; Frissell, D.; 2004. The Effects of Postfire Salvage Logging on Aquatic Ecosystems in the American West. BioScience 54 (11) p. 1029

Keeley, J. 2006. Fire Management Impacts on Invasive Plants in the Western United States. Conservation Biology 20 (2) p. 375-384

Lindenmayer, D.; Noss, R; 2006. Salvage Logging, Ecosystem Processes, and Biodiversity Conservation. Conservation Biology 20 (4) p. 949-958

Lindenmayer, D.; Burton, P.; Franklin, J.; 2008. Salvage logging and its ecological consequences. Island Press, Washington D.C., USA

Reeves, G. H., Bisson, P. A., Rieman, B. E., & Benda, L. E. (2006). Postfire Logging in Riparian Areas. Conservation Biology, 20(4), 994-1004.

Thompson, J and Spies, T. 2010. Factors associated with crown damage following recurring mixed-severity wildfires and post-fire management in southwestern Oregon. Landscape Ecology 25 pp.775-789

Titus, J.H. ; Householder E.; 2007. Salvage logging and replanting reduce understory cover and richness compared to unsalvaged-unplanted sites at Mount St. Helens, Washington. Western North American Naturalist 67(2) p. 219–231

Wagenbrenner, J.; MacDonald, L.; Coats, R.; Robichaud, P.; Brown, R. (2015). Effects of post-fire salvage logging and a skid trail treatment on ground cover, soils, and sediment production in the interior western United States. Forest Ecology and Management, vol. 335

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