The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) said Tuesday it will open the door for the logging of forested areas for the first time in nearly 50 years, in an effort to reduce the amount of trees that are lost to fires.
The move is the latest step in the agency’s effort to stop wildfires and other problems caused by trees that have become resistant to the weathering process used to preserve the forest.
The USFS is also preparing to start cutting down the trees that once supported the pine forests of the Northeast, a move that could dramatically reduce the number of trees needed to support the timber sector.
The Forest Service said it will take over the operation of the Forest Service Timber Reserve in northern New York state, which currently houses about 5,000 to 10,000 trees, and it will cut down the remaining trees and burn them.
In the future, the agency plans to allow logging on all forested lands.
Forest Service officials say logging is necessary to preserve forests and to help reduce the risks of fires, and the agency has been working for years to help the industry protect the forests from the damaging effects of fires.
Forestry groups and conservationists have long criticized the Forest Department for failing to do enough to protect trees, particularly in areas where logging is allowed, such as forests in northern Florida and in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
The Forest Department is a major provider of timber to the industry in those areas.
The new decision comes after a two-year review by the agency, which found that logging was not working and that logging could be beneficial.
Forest firefighting teams in the western United States have been working in recent weeks to contain the spread of wildfires in the Southeast and North.
The fires have scorched large parts of the Southeast, killing at least nine people and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
In addition to helping save the forests, logging also has been linked to a reduction in the amount and severity of wildfires that occur in the forests of western North Carolina, the Appalachian Mountains and parts of California.