Michael Martin: Forest thinning is not the answer

April 1, 2014 

Regarding “ Thinning targets Sierra’s thirst” (Page A1, March 25): I am stunned by the ignorance displayed in this article.

Using the article’s own graphic, it is easy to see that a dense canopy shades the forest floor, which is the very thing that conserves snowmelt, wicks water into the soil and shades out the undergrowth that Professor Bates states is the cause of forest fires. By contrast, the picture of the thinned forest shows that much of the ground is exposed to the drying effects of the sun. By the way, this graphic is completely specious, since it shows old-growth trees that would be the first ones targeted by any lumber company allowed access to forested land.

History has shown repeatedly that deforestation equals desertification – the Sahara (which was fertile farmland 2,000 years ago) and America’s Dust Bowl in the 1930s are stark reminders of what happens when vegetative cover is removed from the soil in hot climates.

If the state is serious about managing its watershed, it should be planting more trees, and installing swales and other earthworks designed to slow runoff and increase water infiltration above the Valley floor. This would translate into longer seasonal stream flows and increased groundwater recharge.

MICHAEL MARTIN

Modesto

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