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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19 Jun 2009, 1:43pm
Management Philosophy Policy
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Re-Inventing the United States Forest Service: Evolution from Custodial Management, to Production Forestry, to Ecosystem Management

Doug MacCleery. 2008. Re-Inventing the United States Forest Service: Evolution from Custodial Management, to Production Forestry, to Ecosystem Management, IN Reinventing Forestry Agencies: Experiences of Institutional Restructuring in Asia and the Pacific, Edited by: Patrick Durst, Chris Brown, Jeremy Broadhead, Regan Suzuki, Robin Leslie and Akiko Inoguchi. Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission, FAO-UN, RAP Pub 2008/05.

Douglas W. MacCleery is Senior Policy Analyst, Forest Management Staff, USDA, Forest Service, Washington, DC

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:


Forest policy and institutional frameworks in all countries are fashioned according to their larger sociopolitical context, traditions and history. A major factor in shaping the historical sociopolitical context in the United States has been decentralization. At the time of their independence from England, the 13 original colonies entered the union as largely autonomous entities or “states” — and over time they have guarded this status jealously. In spite of this, over more recent decades, many policy and institutional functions have been centralized at national or federal levels. This trend has been slow at times — and has often been resisted by the states — with occasional attempts to reverse such centralization.


Throughout the nineteenth century, United States policy encouraged rapid settlement and economic development of its western territory. To accomplish this, a variety of approaches were developed, including transfer of federal (public domain) lands to individual farmers, ranchers and corporations, especially railroad companies that built transportation infrastructure.

After 1850, the population grew rapidly (20 to 25 percent per decade) and settlement of the western territories accelerated. Concerns began to be voiced over some of the environmental and economic implications of rapid development, including: (1) accelerated deforestation (forests were being cleared for agriculture at the rate of almost 3 500 hectares per day); (2) massive wildfires due to logging and land clearing (wildfires annually razed 8 to 20 million hectares); (3) extensive areas of “cut-over” land or “stump lands” remained unstocked or poorly stocked with trees for decades (estimated at 32.5 million hectares in 1920); (4) significant soil erosion by wind and water in some places; and (5) major wildlife depletion due to commercial hunting and subsistence use (Trefethen 1975; Williams 1989; MacCleery 1992). It was gradually recognized that these conditions were jeopardizing future economic development, as well as being concerns in their own right.

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22 Mar 2009, 6:27pm
Ecology Management Policy
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Australian Bushfire Management: a case study in wisdom versus folly

Roger Underwood. 2009. Australian Bushfire Management: a case study in wisdom versus folly

Roger Underwood is a renowned Australian forester with fifty years experience in bushfire management and bushfire science. He has worked as a firefighter, a district and regional manager, a research manager and senior government administrator. He is Chairman of The Bushfire Front, an independent professional group promoting best practice in bushfire management.

One man’s wisdom is another’s folly - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago, still a young man, I watched for the first time the grainy, flickering black and white film of the British infantry making their attack on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The stark and terrible footage shows the disciplined soldiers climbing from their trenches and, in line abreast, walking slowly across no-man’s land towards the enemy lines. They scarcely travel a few paces before the German machine gunners open up. They are mown down in their thousands. They are chaff before a wind of fire.

I can still remember being struck nerveless by these images, and later my anger when I realised what that calamitous carnage represented. It spoke of the deep incompetence of the Generals who devised this strategy of doom and then insisted upon its implementation. It spoke of front-line men led by people without front-line experience. It spoke of battle planners unable to think through the consequences of their plans, and who devalued human lives. It spoke of a devastating failure of the human imagination.

Worst of all, the strategies of the World War I Generals demonstrated that they had not studied, or that they had forgotten, the lessons of history. In the final year of the American Civil war, 50 years earlier, the Union army had been equipped for the first time with Springfield repeating rifles, replacing the single shot muskets they had previously used and still were being used by the Confederate army. The impact on Confederate soldiers attacking defenders armed with repeating rifles was identical to that later inflicted by machine guns on the Western Front. But it was a lesson unlearnt, of collective wisdom unregarded.

None of you will have any difficulty in seeing where this analogy is taking me.

The catastrophic bushfires in Victoria this year, and the other great fires of recent years in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are dramatic expressions not just of killing forces unleashed, but of human folly. No less than the foolish strategies of the World War I Generals, these bushfires and their outcomes speak of incompetent leadership and of failed imaginations. Most unforgivable of all, they demonstrate the inability of people in powerful and influential positions to profit from the lessons of history and to heed the wisdom of experience.

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1 Apr 2008, 6:43pm
Management Policy
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Comments to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Regarding “Appropriate Management Response”

Dubrasich, Michael E. and Gregory J. Brenner. 2008. Comments to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Regarding “Appropriate Management Response”. Western Institute for Study of the Environment.

Full text [here]

Note: If you would like a free CD with the Comments and the Appendices (450+ MB), please email W.I.S.E. a request with your address.

Selected Excerpts:

Executive Summary

The purpose of this document is to request that the Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before altering or amending their Forest Plan to include unprepared fire, known as Wildland Use Fires.

We believe unprepared fires can have significant effects upon natural resources and the human environment. The National Environmental Policy Act requires the preparation of Environmental Impact Statements before the U.S. government engages in activities that might have significant effects.

The EIS process aids in revealing, analyzing, and public discussion of the potential effects before they happen. That is a beneficial process, as well as required under federal law.

This document is a statement of our rationale for requesting an EIS process. We present this document to the Rogue River – Siskiyou National Forest so that they might understand and comply with federal law. …

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6 Mar 2008, 10:16am
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NAFSR Budget Recommendations for the USFS FY2009 Budget

George M. Leonard - Chairman, Board of Directors, National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR)

Recommendations to the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Regarding the FY2009 Budget for the U.S. Forest Service

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

The following recommendations relate to all programs of the U.S. Forest Service. In developing these recommendations, we used the FY2008 Omnibus appropriation, as enacted, as the starting point. We find the Administration’s FY2009 budget proposals for the Forest Service to be irresponsible. We believe the base funding for all programs should be the FY2008 appropriation level adjusted for pay act and other uncontrollable costs (an increase of $77 million across all program areas). …

The most critical issue that needs to be addressed in the Forest Service budget is the funding of fire suppression. The current procedure of including the ten-year average cost of fire suppression within the agency’s discretionary budget is destroying the capability of the Forest Service to carryout the remainder of its statutory missions. From 25 percent in FY2000, fire funding is now approaching 50 percent of the budget. The suppression cost trend means the ten-year average is going to continue to grow, further cannibalizing funding for other programs. While the overall Forest Service budget has increased nine percent over the last six years, the diversion of funds to fire suppression has had a major impact on the workforce available to carry out the multiple-use mission of the agency. The number of foresters, biologists, and other resource specialists, along with supporting technicians, is a good measure of the capability of a resource management agency to carry out its mission. As illustrated in the following table, the capability of the Forest Service has been seriously compromised. …

There is wide spread recognition of the need to thin our overstocked forests to reduce their vulnerability to fire, insects, and disease. Funding for hazardous fuel reduction is important and must be continued, but it is only scratching the surface. Annual growth on the currently roaded portion of the timberlands on the National Forests is about 4 billion cubic feet. Not all of the material that needs to be removed has economic value, but portions are suitable for conventional wood products. Much more is suitable for energy production, including ethanol. Capturing these economic values is essential for making real progress in improving the conditions of our forests. It can also contribute to meeting our energy needs. …

One of the primary purposes for which the National Forests were established is to provide favorable conditions of water flow. Our forested watersheds provide much of the water that meets the needs of our growing population, particularly in the West. Resource management specialists and supporting technicians available to protect and enhance our watersheds have declined by 44 percent in the last six years. This decline must be reversed. …

The National Association of Forest Service Retirees believes that the National Forests and Grasslands should be managed so they are an asset to the communities within and adjacent to these lands. In too many instances, rather than being an asset, the overstocked, insect-infested, poorly maintained, understaffed Forests are becoming a liability. We believe the funding increases recommended above will begin the process of restoring the capability of the Forest Service to provide proper stewardship for these national treasures.

5 Mar 2008, 12:16pm
Management Policy
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The “Roadless Rule” and Global Warming - What You Should Really Know

Hageman, Harriet M. The “Roadless Rule” and Global Warming - What You Should Really Know. Wyoming Agriculture Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

On Oct. 19, 2007 the parties to the ongoing dispute over the “Roadless Rule” appeared once again before Judge Brimmer to argue about whether the Rule violated numerous federal environmental statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Wilderness Act. The current dispute is a continuation of the State of Wyoming’s 2001 lawsuit, and stems from Judge Brimmer’s 2003 decision (found at 277 F.Supp.2d 1197 (D.Wyo. 2003)) to enjoin enforcement of the Roadless Rule based on the fact that it violated NEPA and the Wilderness Act.

Despite Judge Brimmer’s injunction, and because of the numerous lawsuits that have been filed challenging any sort of active and effective forest management, many National Forest Managers have continued to adhere to the mandates of the Roadless Rule, thereby implementing an illegal, politically-driven, and ecologically-devastating policy.

In 2004 I explained in several editorials that the Roadless Rule is bad for forest health and is bad for Wyoming. It was developed in the waning days of the Clinton administration to deny access, management and use of, 58.5 million acres of National Forest lands (30% of the National Forests; 2% of the total land mass of the United States; 3.2 million acres in Wyoming). It was adopted following what was arguably the most truncated, superficial and scientifically-devoid NEPA rulemaking in history. The alleged “public process” associated with the Roadless Rule was politically driven rather than scientifically supported, with less than thirteen (13) months having elapsed between the announcement of the proposed Rule and publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

It was an illegal, Washington, D.C. driven, one-size-fits-all approach to management of 1/3 of our National Forests. It was designed to ignore the physical aspects, management considerations, economic issues, and social/cultural dimensions that make each National Forest unique. It treated Wyoming’s National Forests exactly the same as the National forests in North Carolina and Puerto Rico, and violated the individualized Forest Management Plans that have been painstakingly developed pursuant to the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Roadless Rule bypassed scientific analysis; hijacked local participation in forest management; and anointed Washington, D.C. as the supreme authority on forest management decisions …
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14 Dec 2007, 1:27pm
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Your Political Will Does Not Mean A Damn Thing

Petersen, James D. Your Political Will Does Not Mean A Damn Thing. Speech to the Lolo Resource Advisory Council, Hamilton, Montana, November 27, 2007

James D. Petersen is Executive Director, The Evergreen Foundation [here]

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

Good evening,

Thanks for inviting me to join you.

Before I get started, would everyone in this room who works in the forest products industry please stand.

My message to the rest of you in this room is that if western Montana’s already teetering sawmilling infrastructure collapses – as it already has in Arizona and New Mexico – you can forget about your dreams for restoring western Montana’s beleaguered national forests, including those here in the Bitterroot Valley…

But radical environmentalists will tell you a very different story. They will tell you that the dead and dying trees that need to be removed from national forests… should be removed at taxpayer expense – that the trees that need to be removed from overstocked, diseased and dying forests should then be piled and burned or simply buried in the ground – at costs exceeding $1,000 per acre. Let me assure you, there is not enough gold in Fort Knox to pay for all of the restoration work that needs to be done in the West’s national forests.

Why would any environmentalist take such a bizarre stand, when everyone knows that some of the trees that need to be removed… have commercial value – and that some of these thinning projects could actually pay for themselves?

The answer is both simple and direct: radical environmentalists hate the free enterprise system more than they love the environment.

And the law is on their side. All of the angels in Heaven are no match for the astonishing power Congress has granted to environmental extremists – and until Congress finds the courage to stuff the litigation genie back in the bottle, there is nothing that you or anyone else can do to reverse the eminent ecological collapse of the West’s federally-owned forests. So a fairly strong case can be made for the fact that I wasted my time driving down here to talk to you – and you are wasting your time listening to me…

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8 Dec 2007, 1:32pm
Management Policy
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Back to the Rim: The Story of the Warm Fire

By Mike Dubrasich

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

The Grand Canyon is a national icon, a symbolic monument that echoes through American literature, art, and science. The Grand Canyon is a piece of our national identity.

It is thus ironic (or perhaps entirely appropriate) that the principal feature of the Grand Canyon is nothing. The GC is a big hole in the ground. The viewer’s startling revelation is in regards to what is not there (terra firma) rather than what is there (thin air)…

To be sure, the shape of the nothingness is also important. The sides of the empty space are spectacular cliffs, with domed and flat-topped pinnacles and spires. The enclosure of the void is colorful and sculpted with form and line, but what makes the terrain so amazing is its sheer verticality. From the top it’s a long ways to the bottom, and more or less straight down…

There is another feature of the Grand Canyon. If you stand at the northern edge and look away from the Canyon, that is, with your back to the Rim, you will see a forest. It’s not just any forest, either. It is the Kaibab Forest, the ponderosa pine forest of the Kaibab Plateau, one of the most magnificent forests in the world…

The Kaibab Forest has never captured the American imagination in the way the Canyon has. This is ironic (and tragically inappropriate in our opinion) because the Kaibab Forest has substance, while the Grand Canyon is, principally, nothing.

The Kaibab Forest is a ponderosa pine forest. About half the forest is nearly pure pine, and a third is mixed conifer (ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, Colorado blue spruce, white fir, and subalpine fir). Pure spruce forests, aspen groves, and meadows make up the rest…

For at least the last 9,000 years people have been living in the Kaibab Forest. Thousands of archaeological sites have been found, indicating that the entire Forest has been almost continuously occupied by somebody or other since way back when. The residents were variously hunters, gatherers, farmers, and herders. They were human beings. They interacted with the landscape just like human beings everywhere: through the agency of fire.

People have been setting fire to the Kaibab Plateau for thousands of years. They set fires to clear land for farming, to remove hazards, to drive game, and for dozens of other practical reasons. They probably also set fires by accident, although the majority were likely by intent.

Lightning fires also occurred every year. However, the lightning fires encountered a pre-burned landscape and so they behaved like anthropogenic fires. Catastrophic fires that killed all the trees across vast tracts were rare, because fuels were never allowed to build up to catastrophic levels…

The early explorers widely attributed the open character of the Kaibab Forest to anthropogenic fire, although Indian burning was called “Paiute forestry” by detractors. John Wesley Powell, the greatest Grand Canyon explorer, was a supporter of anthropogenic fire as a forest management tool, and had a public political fight with Gifford Pinchot over the practice. Both men’s careers were crippled by the battle, but Pinchot’s ideas prevailed.

Over the last 100 years the US Forest Service has fought tooth and nail against Paiute forestry. The animus ran and runs deep, so deep that the USFS denies to this day the impact of Prehistoric Man and anthropogenic fire on American forests.

This Denial of the Obvious is a form of institutional intellectual schizophrenia. An odd mix of the precise detail, together with a romantic but false grand impression so characteristic of the eco-religious, suffuse the USFS oeuvre…

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6 Dec 2007, 4:06pm
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National Forests at a Crossroads

by John F. Marker

[John Marker is a retired Forest Service District Ranger, Fire Management, and Information Officer and a co-founder of Wildland Firefighter Magazine. This article was first published in National Forestry, (Sp ‘07, here), the magazine of the National Forestry Association, 374 Maple Ave East, Suite 310, Vienna, VA 22180.]

Reaffirmation of the mission of the National Forests

The Organic Act of 1897 was explicit in describing the reasons for establishing the National Forest System: to provide a sustainable supply of water and timber for the use of citizens, and to allow other uses that did not diminish the ability of the forests to provide the primary resources. However, legal and policy debates over management of the lands for the past 40 years or so have clouded the original intent of the Act. Today, in my opinion, few people understand the fundamental reason the National Forests were established, including some agency employees and too many political leaders.

It seems to me the future of the forests rests upon some form of new top-level federal process to clarify both the purpose of the forests and the direction that their management should be heading. A second component of the process must be a public awareness program to promote understanding of the National Forests’ essential natural resources role, which is essential before successful land management can be carried out. Clearly, a serious effort needs to be made to resolve the endless controversy surrounding the concept of scientific forest management, and a clarification of the mission.

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4 Dec 2007, 2:09pm
Management Policy
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Helms Testimony October 3, 2007

Testimony of Dr. John A Helms: Responses to Questions for the Record
Following Sept 24, 2007, Hearings by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Full text [here]

Selected excerpts:

Wildfires require a combination of fuel, temperature, and oxygen. Of these, the only factor that can be managed is the presence and distribution of fuels. Given that the most intense and catastrophic fires occur in dense forests, and since experience has shown that when wildfires encounter less dense and more open stands fire intensity commonly drops (USDA PSW 2007), it seems clear that increased efforts must be made to thin overly-dense stands. In doing so, irregular mosaics of stand density should be created that remove ladder fuels to reduce opportunities for fire to burn into tree crowns.

Since it is clearly impossible to rapidly treat all 180 million acres the Forest Service estimates are in hazardous condition, current efforts to create “Defensible Fuel Profile Zones” (DFPZs — Quincy Library Group/USDA FS, California), “shaded fuelbreaks” (Agee et al. 2000) and “Strategically Placed Landscape Area Treatments” (SPLATS or SPOTS in California’s Sierra Nevada — USDA FS) are all worthwhile exploring. These are areas 1/4 - 1/2 mile wide, usually along roads or strategically placed in which fuel loadings are reduced to reduce potential for crown fires, interrupt fire spread, and to provide defensible space to fight the fires.

Although not free from criticism, these efforts are initial steps in the right direction. More adaptive management and pilot studies (such as the Fuels Management National Pilot Project 2007 funded by the Forest Service) are needed to demonstrate efficacy and cost effectiveness and to communicate lessons learned from these and other projects and forest treatments (Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center 2007)…

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