18 Dec 2010, 11:31am
Economics Management Philosophy
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Traditional and local ecological knowledge about forest biodiversity in the Pacific Northwest

Charnley, Susan; Fischer, A. Paige; Jones, Eric T. 2008. Traditional and local ecological knowledge about forest biodiversity in the Pacific Northwest. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-751. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 52 p.+

Full text [here]


This paper synthesizes the existing literature about traditional and local ecological knowledge relating to biodiversity in Pacific Northwest forests in order to assess what is needed to apply this knowledge to forest biodiversity conservation efforts. We address four topics: (1) views and values people have relating to biodiversity, (2) the resource use and management practices of local forest users and their effects on biodiversity, (3) methods and models for integrating traditional and local ecological knowledge into biodiversity conservation on public and private lands, and (4) challenges to applying traditional and local ecological knowledge for biodiversity conservation. We focus on the ecological knowledge of three groups who inhabit the region: American Indians, family forest owners, and commercial nontimber forest product (NTFP) harvesters.

Integrating traditional and local ecological knowledge into forest biodiversity conservation is most likely to be successful if the knowledge holders are directly engaged with forest managers and western scientists in on-the-ground projects in which interaction and knowledge sharing occur. Three things important to the success of such efforts are understanding the communication styles of knowledge holders, establishing a foundation of trust to work from, and identifying mutual benefits from knowledge sharing that create an incentive to collaborate for biodiversity conservation. Although several promising models exist for how to integrate traditional and local ecological knowledge [TEK and LEK] into forest management, a number of social, economic, and policy constraints have prevented this knowledge from flourishing and being applied. These constraints should be addressed alongside any strategy for knowledge integration.

Keywords: Traditional ecological knowledge, forest management, biodiversity conservation, American Indians, family forest owners, nontimber forest product harvesters, Pacific Northwest.

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30 Aug 2010, 1:14pm
Economics Philosophy Policy
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The Market Illiteracy Embodied in the Politically Correct Version of Sustainability

Travis Cork III. 2010. The Market Illiteracy Embodied in the Politically Correct Version of Sustainability. W.I.S.E. White Paper No. 2010-4

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

The forest products industry has been practicing sustainable forestry for much of the Twentieth Century. During this time we have seen substantial gains in the management and utilization of forests, particularly on forest industry lands. “Although the forest industry occupies only about one-seventh of total U. S. timberland, its land produces a full fifth of national timber growth, a quarter of the growth of softwoods, and about a third of the annual timber harvest.” 1/

The forest industry has signed on to the sustainable forestry initiative, no doubt for public relations, but it does not need market illiterate bureaucrats and GAGs (green advocacy groups-The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, et al.) telling it how to practice sustainable forestry. …

Depletion is not caused by lack of resources, but by a lack of institutions, specifically private property rights and free-markets, that allow for a rational and sustained use of resources. In America, it is a manufactured crisis. If depletion of forest resources were a real problem, the responsible solution would be to find ways to increase productivity. Locking up more of the American land base (50 percent or more with Reed Noss’ Wildlands Project) and restricting utilization on remaining lands is neither a serious nor an ethical approach to depletion. But then the crisis-mongers are not concerned about the depletion of resources but the control of resources.

A statist perspective of sustainability

Sustainability is defined as

meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The American Forest & Paper Association expands this to include forestry.

Sustainable forestry means managing our forests to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic which integrates the growing, nurturing, and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, and wildlife and fish habitat.

What bureaucrat or academic can make an accurate measurement of my “sustainable” allotment of forest resources (or any other resource) in quantifiable terms; e.g., cords, tons, board feet, cubic meters, kilograms, etc.?

Who is the soothsayer, seer, or mystic that can divine what future generations will want from the forest or any resource?

Who can determine the annual removal of wood products or any resource compared to the volume estimated to be sustainable?

The answer is no one.

History tells us “no exhaustible resource is essential or irreplaceable… The relevant resource base is defined by knowledge, rather than by physical deposits of existing resources.” 7/ Unless suppressed by government force, human intelligence and ingenuity break the bonds that carrying capacity imposes on other species. …

Sustainability, as defined, is vague and inoperable highfalutin rhetoric. It is evidence that the natural resource community, at least in the public sector, academia, and some corporate boardrooms, is ignorant of market economics and responsible social behavior. This ignorance puts the productive future of the forest resources sector very much at risk.

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15 Nov 2009, 11:08am
Economics History Management Policy
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Spark and Sprawl: A World Tour

Stephen J. Pyne. 2008. Spark and Sprawl: A World Tour. Forest History Today, Fall 2008.

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

Wildland-urban interface” is a dumb term for a dumb problem, and both have dominated the American fire scene for nearly twenty years. It’s a dumb term because “interface” is a pretty klutzy metaphor and because the phenomenon of competing borders it describes is more complex than that geeky term suggests. At issue is a scrambling of landscape genres beyond the traditional variants of the American pastoral. It is a mingling of the quasi-urban and the quasi-wild into something that, depending on your taste, resembles either an ecological omelet or a coniferous strip mall. That means it also stirs together urban fire services with wildland fire agencies, two cultures with no more in common than an opera house and a grove of old-growth ponderosa pine. It is an unstable alloy, a volatile compound of matter and antimatter, and it should surprise no one that it explodes with increasing regularity.

It’s a dumb problem because technical solutions exist. We know how to keep houses from burning on the scale witnessed over the past two decades. We know convincingly that combustible roofing is lethal; we have known this for maybe ten thousand years. The wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire problem (a.k.a., the interface or I-zone) thus differs from fire management in wilderness, for example, where fire practices must be grounded, if paradoxically, in cultural definitions and social choices; there is no code to ensure that the right fire happens in the right way.

That the intermix problem persists testifies to its relatively trivial standing in the larger political universe, even as construction pushes ever outward into the environmental equivalent of subprime landscapes, which from time to time then crash catastrophically. In that regard it remains on the fringe. …

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30 Oct 2009, 9:04am
Economics Management
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The relationship of respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions to the southern California wildfires of 2003

R. J. Delfino, S. Brummel, J. Wu, H. Stern, B. Ostro, M. Lipsett, A. Winer, D. H. Street, L. Zhang, T. Tjoa and D. L. Gillen. 2008. The relationship of respiratory and cardiovascular hospital admissions to the southern California wildfires of 2003. Occup. Environ. Med. 2009;66;189-197.

Note: lead author is Dr. Ralph J. Delfino, Epidemiology Department, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:


Objective: There is limited information on the public health impact of wildfires. The relationship of cardiorespiratory hospital admissions (n=40 856) to wildfirerelated particulate matter (PM2.5) during catastrophic wildfires in southern California in October 2003 was evaluated.

Methods: Zip code level PM2.5 concentrations were estimated using spatial interpolations from measured PM2.5, light extinction, meteorological conditions, and smoke information from MODIS satellite images at 250 m resolution. Generalised estimating equations for Poisson data were used to assess the relationship between daily admissions and PM2.5, adjusted for weather, fungal spores (associated with asthma), weekend, zip code-level population and sociodemographics.

Results: Associations of 2-day average PM2.5 with respiratory admissions were stronger during than before or after the fires. Average increases of 70 mg/m3 PM2.5 during heavy smoke conditions compared with PM2.5 in the pre-wildfire period were associated with 34% increases in asthma admissions. The strongest wildfire-related PM2.5 associations were for people ages 65–99 years (10.1% increase per 10 mg/m3 PM2.5, 95% CI 3.0% to 17.8%) and ages 0–4 years (8.3%, 95% CI 2.2% to 14.9%) followed by ages 20–64 years (4.1%, 95% CI 20.5% to 9.0%). There were no PM2.5–asthma associations in children ages 5–18 years, although their admission rates significantly increased after the fires. Per 10 mg/m3 wildfire-related PM2.5, acute bronchitis admissions across all ages increased by 9.6% (95% CI 1.8% to 17.9%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admissions for ages 20–64 years by 6.9% (95% CI 0.9% to 13.1%), and pneumonia admissions for ages 5–18 years by 6.4% (95% CI 21.0% to 14.2%). Acute bronchitis and pneumonia admissions also increased after the fires. There was limited evidence of a small impact of wildfire-related PM2.5 on cardiovascular admissions.

Conclusions: Wildfire-related PM2.5 led to increased respiratory hospital admissions, especially asthma, suggesting that better preventive measures are required to reduce morbidity among vulnerable populations.

We present here the largest study to date evaluating the relationships of hospital admissions for cardiorespiratory outcomes to wildfire-associated PM2.5 using data from the catastrophic wildfires that struck southern California in the autumn of 2003. We linked PM2.5 concentrations estimated at the zip code level to a population-based dataset of hospital admissions using spatial time series analyses of data before, during and after the fires. Strong, dry winds from inland deserts fanned flames from nine distinct fires, which burned nearly three quarters of a million acres and destroyed approximately 5000 residences and outbuildings. The wildfires generated large amounts of dense smoke that covered much of urban southern California (2003 population of 20.5 million). PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations far exceeded US federal regulatory standards. The goal of the present study is to assess the impact of this large wildfire event on serious morbidity.

8 Sep 2009, 11:31am
Economics Management
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Two Forests Under The Big Sky: Tribal V. Federal Management

Alison Berry. 2009. Two Forests Under The Big Sky: Tribal V. Federal Management. Property and Environment Research Center Policy Series No. 45, 2009

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:


Two forests: similar resources, different outcomes. In northwest Montana, the U.S. Forest Service and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) oversee adjacent forests rich in pine, larch, and Douglas-fir. Both forests are managed for multiple resources, including timber production, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. Despite many similarities, their economic and environmental performances differ.

National forests in the United States are not the harvest machines they once were. At the peak in 1987, these forests yielded 13 billion board feet in timber. Today, they produce a small fraction of that output. The harvest in 2008 was 2 billion board feet (USDA Forest Service 2008a). Critics of the Forest Service’s timber sale program may argue that this is a positive change since the Forest Service lost $88 million annually from below-cost timber sales in the late 1990s (USDA Forest Service 2001a).

There was also evidence of bloated operating costs and poor stewardship of watersheds and wildlife habitat (O’ Toole 1988; Leal 1995; Fretwell 1999). While the Forest Service is staffed with trained professionals, cumbersome regulations, environmental appeals, and political meddling interfere with responsible forest management.

With the decline of timber harvests, federal forest management and funding has increasingly focused on wildfire suppression. In 1991, 13 percent of the Forest Service budget was dedicated to fire management; by 2008 that figure had risen to 45 percent (USDA Forest Service 2008b). Although the agency’s stated goal is to reduce the risk of wildfire, most fire spending is devoted to a handful of large conflagrations — not prevention or restoration to avoid costly emergencies (O’Toole 2002; Berry 2008). …


The evolution from federal control to tribal control of reservation forests offers an interesting comparison to national forests. Resources on Indian reservations were managed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for much of the last century. Although the BIA was put in charge ostensibly “to protect Indians and their resources from Indians” (Morishima 1997), it became clear that the agency did not always serve the best interests of the tribes. One study comparing tribal versus BIA management of forest resources on Indian reservations found that “as tribal control increases relative to BIA control, worker productivity rises, costs decline, and income improves. Even the price received for reservation logs increases” (Krepps 1992).

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24 Aug 2009, 3:18pm
Ecology Economics Management Policy
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Impacts of California Wildfires on Climate and Forests: A Study of Seven Years of Wildfires (2001-2007)

Thomas M. Bonnicksen. 2009. Impacts of California Wildfires on Climate and Forests: A Study of Seven Years of Wildfires (2001-2007). FCEM Report No. 3. The Forest Foundation, Auburn, CA.

Full text [here]

See also FCEM Reports No. 1 and 2 [here]

Selected Excerpts:

Executive Summary

This study (FCEM Report No. 3) and the previous study (FCEM Report No. 2), use a new computer model, the Forest Carbon and Emissions Model (FCEM), to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and insect infestations, and opportunities to recover these emissions and prevent future losses.

This report shows that the wildfires that scorched California from 2001 to 2007 seriously degraded the state’s forests and contributed to global warming. Political and economic obstacles to managing forests and restoring burned forests are the root causes of the wildfire crisis.

The impact of California’s wildfires on climate and forests is one of the most important issues of our time. It is imperative to take action now to prevent the annual recurrence of disastrous and costly fire seasons.

The wildfire crisis is becoming more serious each year. Fires are getting bigger, more destructive, and more expensive. In 2001, California wildfires burned one-half million acres. In 2007, 1.1 million acres burned, and an estimated 1.4 million acres burned in 2008 destroying 1,000 homes. This was the most destructive fire season in the state’s history and 2009 could be worse.

From 2001 to 2007, fires burned more than 4 million acres and released an estimated 277 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from combustion and the post-fire decay of dead trees. That is an average of 68 tons per acre. These wildfires also kill wildlife, pollute the air and water, and strip soil from hillsides. The greenhouse gases they emit are wiping out much of what is being achieved to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to battle global warming.

The emissions from only the seven years of wildfires documented in this study are equivalent to adding an estimated 50 million more cars onto California’s highways for one year, each spewing tons of greenhouse gases. Stated another way, this means all 14 million cars in California would have to be locked in a garage for three and one-half years to make up for the global warming impact of these wildfires.

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4 Aug 2009, 10:40am
Economics Management
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U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The “One-Pager” Checklist

Zybach, Bob, Michael Dubrasich, Gregory Brenner, and John Marker. 2009. U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The “One-Pager” Checklist. Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center [here], Advances in Fire Practices, Fall 2009.

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

What are the actual costs of a wildfire?

Official Forest Service tallies usually include suppression expenses only. Media reports sometimes include estimates of damage to homes and infrastructure. But the economic impacts of wildfires are far-reaching and new (and old) research shows the need for improved cost estimates of wildfire.

Large wildfires consume more than just suppression expenses (“costs”) – they also do measurable short- and long-term damages (“loss”) to public and private equity and resources. Traditional fire appraisal uses the term “cost-plus-loss” to account for all the economic impacts of wildfire. This econometric analysis method is sometimes expressed as LCD (least cost plus damage) or C+NVC (costs plus net value change). The goal (economic utility) of fire suppression is to minimize cost-plus-loss.

Recently analysts, government officials, and the media have drawn increasing attention to the escalating frequency, severity, and costs over and above fire suppression associated with large-scale forest wildfires – including losses of human lives, homes, pets, crops, livestock and environmental damage.

* The Western Forestry Leadership Coalition recently released a report entitled “The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.” (Dale et al 2009). The authors examined six major US wildfires, and compared suppression costs and tactics with “total costs.” Two examples of this process were the 2000 Cerro Grande fire in New Mexico (shown to have suppression costs that reflected only 3% of total damage estimates), and the 2003 Old, Grand Prix, and Padua fire complex in California, in which suppression costs were only 7% of total costs to date – with total losses expected to increase dramatically in years to come (Dunn et al, 2005).

* The 2003 fires in San Diego and Southern California were a disaster by any measure – 24 fatalities, over 3,700 homes destroyed. At the time, the costs of the suppression efforts were staggering, $43 million. However, Matt Rahn, a researcher from San Diego State University, recently presented findings that put this figure at less than 2% of the total long-term cost of the fire (Rahn, 2009).

* The Hayman Fire (2002) burned 138,000 acres and cost $42,279,000 ($307/acre) to suppress. But Professor Dennis Lynch of Colorado State University estimated that an additional $187,500,000 ($1,358/acre) in losses had accrued within a year. Suppression costs were only 18% of the total, and Dr. Lynch stated, “I recognized the need to follow costs into subsequent years to more completely identify a fire’s true impact” (Lynch, 2004).

To date, our own findings paint a far different picture than that commonly reported by the media or understood by the public. We have found that total short-term and long-term cost-plus-loss attributed to wildfires typically attains amounts that are ten, 20, or 30 times reported suppression expenses.

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25 Jun 2009, 10:55am
Economics Management Policy
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Fire History and Research, Big Bar Ranger District, Northwestern Trinity County, California: Critique of Fire Suppression Practices

Concerned Citizens for Responsible Fire Management*. 2008. Fire History and Research, Big Bar Ranger District, Northwestern Trinity County, California: Critique of Fire Suppression Practices. Report to Congressman Wally Herger, October 2008

* David Rhodes, Committee Chairperson, Lewiston, 37 years in Trinity County, retired, 30 years with the U. S. Forest Service (all in fire and fuels management); 11 years on the Angeles National Forest with 5 of those years as Hotshot Crew Foreman and the remainder as Fire Prevention Technician and Engine Captain. 19 years on the Big Bar Ranger District in Fire, Fuels Management and Law Enforcement, the last 15 of those years as Fire Management Officer. Large Fire Qualifications, Class I Operations Chief, Class II Incident Commander, Division Supervisor, Helitorch Burn Boss, and Fire Behavior Officer, and Class II Planning Section Chief. Incident Commander on the Shasta-Trinity Class II Fire Team for 14 years. Fuels Management Qualifications: Prescribed Fire Manager for Multi-Burns, Burn Boss, and Helitorch Burn Boss.

Charley Fitch, Redding, California resident for the last 42 years, having lived in Southern, Central and Northern California amongst the National Forests, employed by the Forest Service. Twenty of the years were in Trinity County as District Ranger for the Big Bar Ranger District, later incorporated into the Trinity River Management Unit, before retiring in January 1999. Fire suppression experience with the Forest Service included fire assignments ranging over 35 years. Positions included Crew Boss, Sector Boss, Division Supervisor, Forest Supervisor’s Representative, Planning Section Chief Type II, Liaison Officer for both Type I and Type II Incident Teams as well as Line Officer for fires located within my Ranger District. I am a professional forester with a degree from Colorado State University in Forest Management. Other experience with fire beyond being a firefighter was as a project leader for controlled burns and a land manager dealing with post-fire land management.

Michael Jameson, Weaverville, resident of Trinity County for 18 years, retired California Department of Forestry (CALFIRE). Started with CDF as a seasonal firefighter in 1978 with the San Bernardino Ranger Unit. Promoted to Engineer in San Bernardino and worked in both schedule A and schedule B contracts (Structure and Wildland Fires). Promoted to Captain in 1987 at the Fenner Canyon Camp in Los Angeles County, transferred to the Pilot Rock Camp in San Bernardino and then Trinity River Camp in Lewiston in 1990. Qualified for Division/Group Supervisor, Map display processor, Field Observer, Strike Team Leader and Task Force Leader. 25 years all in fire control.

Clarence Rose, Weaverville, Trinity County resident since 1974. Oregon State University graduate, B.S. in Forest Engineering, 1974. California Registered Professional Forester since 1977. Member of California Board of Forestry, 1985-89. Founder and co-owner of R&R Timber Co., Inc., a logging company which was active in contract logging in Trinity County from 1979-1998, averaging 2000+ truckloads of logs per year, and which provided contract heavy equipment (dozers, water tenders) to CDF and USFS. Currently owner and manager of 1,000 acres of sustainably managed commercial timberland in Trinity and Shasta County. Member of Weaverville Community Forest steering committee, which works with Trinity County Resource Conservation District to attain fire-safe, fire-resilient forests on public lands in the Weaverville basin. Volunteer missionary in Russia (1994-95) and Ukraine (2001-2005). Member of initial board of directors of Mountain Communities Healthcare District, which owns and operates the formerly county-owned Trinity Hospital.

Jerry McDonald, Lewiston, 40 years in Trinity County, retired, 30 years with the Forest Service, 27 of those years in fire and fuels management. District Fire Management Officer, Calaveras and Miwok districts, 4 years; retired as Stanislaus National Forest fire staff operations; Type II Team Deputy Incident Commander and, Operations Section and Safety Officer, Type I Team Safety Officer; prescribed fire manager for helitorch and hand fire; Interdisciplinary team leader and NEPA team leader for fuels and fire projects; fuels committee chair for Stanislaus National Forest for 5 years; member of Forest Service Southwest Region fuels committee for 6 years; HAZMAT coordinator, Spill Response coordinator; agency representative on fires and other projects, including with CDF; Forest representative for local fire companies in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

Frank Grovers, Big Bar, 11 years in Trinity County with an RV park business along the Trinity River; 40 years in sales experience in the U.S. and foreign countries, dealt with different teenagers in a counseling capacity, involved with church and local community; three children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren. 2008-09 Trinity County Grand Jury.

Stan Stetson, Hayfork, in 1968 began working summers for the U.S. Forest Service in Trinity County while attending Humboldt State College. Upon graduating continued to work seasonally in fire prevention, fuels and fire suppression until 1973 when I received a permanent appointment. Worked as Engine Foreman until 1979 when I became a Timber Sale Administrator. Retired after 36 years, all in Trinity County, having served as Division Supervisor, Strike Team Leader, Burn Boss, Logistics and Ground Support Leader in Fire organization and Supervisor in Timber sale preparation and administration. Three years with Watershed Center as Project Coordinator for fuels reduction and thinning operations. Present Commissioner of the Hayfork Fire Protection District. Currently retired and concerned citizen.

Dana Hord, Junction City, Trinity County resident 1993-present, business owner, Trinity River Rafting, Big Flat. Trinity River Rafting features scenic quality of the Wild and Scenic Trinity River and is tourism based. Appointed Member of Trinity Adaptive Management Working Group for Trinity River Restoration Program, 2001-present, representing Big Bar Community Development Group. Dana has been actively involved in the transition of the local economy from one focused on commodity production to one that is more dependent on tourism and recreation. Ms. Hord has a degree in sociology, and experience in small business management, grants administration, and public relations. Junction City Volunteer Fire Dept., 2002-present, trained in wildland fire suppression, and structural fire protection. Former Aide, U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa. Daughter of Donna Hord, deceased, Shasta County GOP delegate.

Gay Berrien, Committee Secretary, Big Bar, 45 years in Trinity County in Denny and Big Bar; retired U.S. Forest Service employee, clerk and archaeological technician for 30 years mostly Big Bar Ranger District; wrote all news releases for Big Bar for first several years of 1970s including articles on fire suppression, fuels reduction, controlled burns, special high elevation fire study (study by a fire behavior specialist, first such study in Forest Service Southwest Region), attended 32-hour fire training (but only participated in one controlled burn from 9 a.m. one morning until 9 a.m. the next and was on fire standby at Denny Guard Station one day), responded to fire assignments as initial attack and communications dispatcher, fire information officer, personnel time recorder, and procurement officer; Trinity County Historical Society board of directors, 2008-09 Trinity County Grand Jury.

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:


Cover Letter to Congressman Herger/Introduction ………. 3
Meet the Committee ……………………………….. 12
Fire Location Map 1999-2008 ……………………….. 14
One-Page Summary of Catastrophic Fire Analysis ………. 15
2006 Catastrophic Fire Analysis ……………………. 16
Fire and Forest Management on the Big Bar District …… 23
Local Businesses Affected by 2006 & 2008 Fires ………. 28
Heritage Resources in Iron/Alps Complex 2008 ………… 29
Big Bar Ranger District Annual Rainfall …………….. 31
Typical Fire Suppression 1930s-1970s ……………….. 33
Jim Jam Fire of 1951 ……………………………… 36
Denny Guard Station Removal ……………………….. 37
How Liability Fears Affect Fire Suppression …………. 41
Fires Burned Nationwide by Decade Compared with Timber Harvest, Fire Suppression Policies and Local Rainfall* ………………………. 43

* added after October 10 meeting with Congressman Herger


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2 Apr 2009, 12:19pm
Ecology Economics Management
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Bushfires, Prescribed Burning, and Global Warming

Roger Underwood, David Packham, and Phil Cheney. 2008. Bushfires, Prescribed Burning, and Global Warming. Bushfire Front Inc. Occasional Paper No 1, April 2008 [here]

Roger Underwood is a former General Manager of the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) in Western Australia, a regional and district manager, a research manager and bushfire specialist. Roger currently directs a consultancy practice with a focus on bushfire management and is Chairman of The Bushfire Front Inc.. He lives in Perth, Western Australia.

David Packham is Senior Research Fellow, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Victoria.

Phil Cheney is Honorary Research Fellow, CSIRO, Canberra, ACT

Full text:

This is not a paper about climate change or the contentious aspects of the climate debate. Our interest is bushfire management. This is an activity into which the debate about climate change, in particular “global warming”, has intruded, with potentially damaging consequences.

Australia’s recent ratification of the Kyoto Treaty has been welcomed by people concerned about the spectre of global warming. However, the ratification was a political and symbolic action, and will have no immediate impact on the volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and therefore will not influence any possible relationship between CO2 emissions and global temperatures.

However, the ratification could have an impact on Australian forests. Spurious arguments about the role of fire contributing to carbon dioxide emissions could be used to persuade governments and management agencies to cease or very much reduce prescribed burning under mild conditions.

Decades of research and experience has demonstrated that fuel reduction by prescribed burning under mild conditions is the only proven, practical method to enable safe and efficient control of high-intensity forest fires.

Two myths have emerged about climate change and bushfire management and are beginning to circulate in the media and to be adopted as fact by some scientists:

1. Because of global warming, Australia will be increasingly subject to uncontrollable holocaust-like “megafires”.

2. Fuel reduction by prescribed burning must cease because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus exacerbating global warming and the occurrence of megafires.

Both statements are incorrect. However they represent the sort of plausible-sounding assertions which, if repeated often enough, can take on a life of their own and lead eventually to damaging policy change.

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