Salvage logging

Salvage logging is the practice of logging trees in forest areas that have been damaged by wildfire, flood, severe wind, disease, insect infestation, or other natural disturbance in order to recover economic value that would otherwise be lost.[1]

Although the primary motivation of salvage logging is economic, it has also been suggested that salvage logging may reduce erosion, reduce intensity of future wildfires, and slow buildup of pest insects.[2] However, there is little evidence to support such claims,[3] and most evidence supports the view that salvage logging is harmful to forest health and function.[4]

As with other logging operations, the harvesting may be either by selection, thinning or clearcutting, and a regeneration plan may be put in place after the logging. Salvage logging may include removal of remaining live trees in predominantly dead stands.


One highly publicized instance of salvage logging followed the Biscuit Fire in Oregon and California in 2002. Since the fire, the United States Forest Service has been salvaging burned timber in the area. The process was expedited when President George W. Bush signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act allowing salvage logging to occur more quickly and with reduced threat of lawsuits.[5] President Bill Clinton signed an earlier piece of legislation promoting salvage logging (commonly referred to as the Salvage Rider) as part of the Omnibus Rescissions Bill on July 27, 1995.[6]

Forests across western North America impacted by recent mountain pine beetle infestations are currently being salvage logged.[7] Salvage logging after windthrow is also common.[8]

Ecological impactsEdit

Salvage logging is of particular concern ecologically because disturbed landscapes tend to be under appreciated and undervalued, and therefore more imperiled than other successional stages on the landscape.[9][10] Concerns include simplification of forest structure,[8] degradation and destruction of wildlife habitat,[11] little or no impact to future fire risk, changes in nutrient cycling, and increased erosion.[8]

Salvage logging operations generally take the largest snags and surviving trees, leaving lower density stands dominated by small-diameter snags.[12] Bird species diversity is negatively impacted by this structural change because cavity nesters preferentially nest in larger trees.[13][14] Impacts on diversity of insect communities are mixed.[15][16]

While proponents of salvage logging argue that it reduces the harmful effects of future fires in the logged area, opponents maintain that the costs and benefits of salvage logging have not been scientifically studied, and that there is evidence the practice actually increases damage from future fires and reduces natural regeneration due to soil disturbance and the addition of logging slash.[3][17]

Erosion has not been shown to increase in salvage logged sites as compared to other burned areas except in extremely wet years.[2][18] There is little evidence that nutrient loss is increased by salvage logging despite the removal of organic matter from the site.[2]


In the United States, salvage logging is a controversial issue for two main reasons. First, legal provisions for salvage logging can be used to justify cutting down damaged trees in areas that are otherwise protected from logging.[5] Salvage logging may be exempt from most environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.[citation needed]

Salvage logging may also encourage arson, either after a failed lumber sale or to gain permission to log in protected areas, such as old growth forest or regions set aside for the protection of endangered species.[19][20]

See alsoEdit

  • Sanitation harvest or cutting or logging is to remove trees for protection against a pest or potential pest.


  1. ^ "SAFnet Dictionary | Definition For [salvage_cutting]". Archived from the original on 2015-11-17. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  2. ^ a b c D., McIver, James; Lynn, Starr; Or.), Pacific Northwest Research Station (Portland. "Environmental effects of postfire logging: literature review and annotated bibliography". Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  3. ^ a b Donato, D. C.; Fontaine, J. B.; Campbell, J. L.; Robinson, W. D.; Kauffman, J. B.; Law, B. E. (2006-01-20). "Post-Wildfire Logging Hinders Regeneration and Increases Fire Risk". Science. 311 (5759): 352. CiteSeerX doi:10.1126/science.1122855. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 16400111.
  4. ^ Lindenmayer, DB (27 February 2004). "Salvage Harvesting Policies After Natural Disturbances" (PDF). Science. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b "16 U.S. Code Chapter 84. Healthy Forests Restoration Act" – via
  6. ^ Public Law 104-19 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Additional Disaster Assistance, for Anti-terrorism Initiatives, for Assistance in the Recovery from the Tragedy that Occurred at Oklahoma City, and the Rescissions Act 1995
  7. ^ Bewley, Dan; Alila, Younes; Varhola, Andrés (2010-07-15). "Variability of snow water equivalent and snow energetics across a large catchment subject to Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and rapid salvage logging". Journal of Hydrology. 388 (3–4): 464–479. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.05.031.
  8. ^ a b c Lindenmayer, Burton, and Franklin (2012). Salvage Logging and its Ecological Consequences. Island Press. ISBN 978-1597264037.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Noss, Reed F.; Lindenmayer, David B. (2006-08-01). "Special Section: The Ecological Effects of Salvage Logging after Natural Disturbance". Conservation Biology. 20 (4): 946–948. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00498.x. ISSN 1523-1739.
  10. ^ Swanson, Mark E; Franklin, Jerry F; Beschta, Robert L; Crisafulli, Charles M; DellaSala, Dominick A; Hutto, Richard L; Lindenmayer, David B; Swanson, Frederick J (2010-03-02). "The forgotten stage of forest succession: early-successional ecosystems on forest sites". Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 9 (2): 117–125. doi:10.1890/090157. hdl:1885/60278. ISSN 1540-9295.
  11. ^ Hanson, Chad T.; Bond, Monica L.; Lee, Derek E. (2018-01-18). "Effects of post-fire logging on California spotted owl occupancy". Nature Conservation. 24: 93–105. doi:10.3897/natureconservation.24.20538. ISSN 1314-3301.
  12. ^ Russell, Robin E.; Saab, Victoria A.; Dudley, Jonathan G.; Rotella, Jay J. (2006-08-15). "Snag longevity in relation to wildfire and postfire salvage logging". Forest Ecology and Management. 232 (1–3): 179–187. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2006.05.068.
  13. ^ Saab, Victoria A.; Dudley, Jonathan G. (1998-01-01). Responses of cavity-nesting birds to stand-replacement fire and salvage logging in ponderosa pine/Douglas-fir forests of southwestern Idaho. doi:10.2737/RMRS-RP-11.
  14. ^ Saab, Victoria A.; Russell, Robin E.; Dudley, Jonathan G. (2007-02-01). "Nest densities of cavity-nesting birds in relation to postfire salvage logging and time since wildfire". The Condor. 109 (1): 97–108. doi:10.1650/0010-5422(2007)109[97:NDOCBI]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0010-5422.
  15. ^ Koivula, Matti; Spence, John R. (2006-11-15). "Effects of post-fire salvage logging on boreal mixed-wood ground beetle assemblages (Coleoptera, Carabidae)". Forest Ecology and Management. 236 (1): 102–112. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2006.09.004.
  16. ^ Phillips, Iain D.; Cobb, Tyler P.; Spence, John R.; Brigham, R. Mark (2006). "Salvage Logging, Edge Effects, and Carabid Beetles: Connections to Conservation and Sustainable Forest Management". Environmental Entomology. 35 (4): 950–957. doi:10.1603/0046-225x-35.4.950.
  17. ^ McIver, J. D.; Ottmar, R. (2007-01-30). "Fuel mass and stand structure after post-fire logging of a severely burned ponderosa pine forest in northeastern Oregon". Forest Ecology and Management. 238 (1–3): 268–279. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2006.10.021.
  18. ^ Silins, Uldis; Stone, Micheal; Emelko, Monica B.; Bladon, Kevin D. (2009-12-15). "Sediment production following severe wildfire and post-fire salvage logging in the Rocky Mountain headwaters of the Oldman River Basin, Alberta". CATENA. Sediment Sources and Sediment Delivery under Environmental Change. 79 (3): 189–197. doi:10.1016/j.catena.2009.04.001.
  19. ^ "Eugene Register-Guard - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  20. ^ COLE, RICHARD (1995-09-24). "Arson for Profit Is Catching Fire in Nation's Forests : Crime: Motives include clearing timber, selling supplies to firefighters, even firefighting itself. The Southeast has been hit particularly hard--90% of the forest fires on federal land there are deliberately set". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-11-16.