29 Nov 2007, 4:50pm
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Avoiding Crown Fires

Fuels reduction thinning can help

published in the Eugene Weekly, 11/29/07

We have serious disagreements with the Viewpoint (11/1) by Tim Hermach on fire ecology and fuels reduction with thinning. We recognize that protection of old-growth forests is necessary, since enough old growth has been clearcut — too much, in fact. Given the fact that logging reduced Oregon’s old forests by approximately 80 percent over the 20th century, people are justifiably skeptical about yet more logging in these forests. However we also fear that we may lose much of our remaining old growth to fires, especially in the mid- and low-elevation ponderosa pine zone of Eastern Oregon…

In his column, Hermach said, “In fact, recent science demonstrates that forests that were thinned before a wildfire, including the Biscuit Fire, ended up with more dead trees than the forests that were left to nature. Not surprisingly, many of the forests around Lake Tahoe had already been ‘thinned,’ some of them up to six months before the fire, which — at best — did next to nothing to prevent the fire, and — at worst — intensified the blaze.”…

In fact, thinning and slash treatment have been successful in reducing severe fire in eastern Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Tahoe, the Biscuit Fire and parts of northern California. Studies show that when the slash from thinning is treated by burning or crushing into small pieces, fires stay mostly on the ground with canopy fire reduced considerably, but without such slash treatment, fires can indeed burn hotter. Thinning opponents have sometimes singled out areas without treated slash to support their case. For example, ignoring the full range of treatment effects at Tahoe, one of Hermach’s colleagues widely distributed pictures of the one treatment area that had not had thinning slash treated, and consequently burned severely, using it to argue that thinning didn’t work…

Even when we disagree, we respect opponents who present evidence soberly and accurately, but we cringe when scientific literature is ignored or misrepresented. We are not contending that thinning in all locations is advised, helpful or even economical, but Hermach and others have blatantly misrepresented studies of wildfire behavior in stands thinned for fuels treatments. Whether due to sloppiness or purposeful cherry-picking to support a point of view, such distortions do a disservice to those trying to understand how to best protect our forests and rural communities… [more]

29 Nov 2007, 2:56pm
Latest Wildlife News
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Domestic wolf brings headaches in Idaho

By JOHN MILLER - Associated Press Writer
Edition Date: 11/29/07

Law enforcement officers in southwestern Idaho have been told by federal wildlife managers not to shoot a domesticated wolf that’s been killing and maiming livestock for a month, for fear they might mistakenly kill one of the roughly 800 federally protected wild wolves that roam the state.
The adult wolf, which weighs as much as 180 pounds, escaped Oct. 29 from its pen in Owyhee County on the southern bank of the Snake River.

Virtually all federally protected wolves are in the Idaho mountains north of the river.

Still, Sheriff Gary Aman said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials advised him to hold his fire, for now - in the rare event that one of the protected animals swam the waterway and has taken up residence in his remote region of sagebrush, rattlesnakes and just 11,000 people.

“There could be a one-in-a-million possibility that this could be one of their other animals,” Aman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “It’s maddening. This is a very, very aggressive, vicious animal. It’s used to being around humans, it depends on humans for food and it’s been out for almost a month.”… [more]

29 Nov 2007, 2:50pm
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Wolves to be removed from southwestern New Mexico

Associated Press - November 28, 2007 8:45 PM ET

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - More endangered Mexican gray wolves have been targeted for removal from the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says two adult females and pups of the Aspen Pack will be removed using “the most effective method.”

The wolf reintroduction program requires the permanent removal of any wolf linked to three livestock killings a year - either by trapping and keeping it in captivity or by shooting it.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown says the Aspen Pack has killed a horse and five cows since the beginning of the year.

The pack’s alpha male and another pup already have been captured and placed in captivity.

Federal biologists began releasing wolves on the Arizona-New Mexico border in 1998 to re-establish the species in part of its historic range after it had been hunted to the brink of extinction in the early 1900s… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 8:02pm
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Low timber prices stifle plans to boost logging


PORTLAND — Bush administration plans to boost logging in Northwest national forests have collided with low timber prices blamed on the housing slump.

The U.S. Forest Service is running short of money to draw up new timber sales.

Government and industry officials say lumber prices are as low as they have been for years, down by about half from the peak in 2004.

Thus the Forest Service earns far less for timber, meaning less money for future logging projects.

“We didn’t know this was going to happen,” said Peggy Kain of the Forest Services regional office in Portland. “The market hasn’t been this bad in a very long time.”

Some mills are cutting back production.

“It’s probably as bad as its ever been, maybe worse,” said Kevin Binam, of the Western Wood Products Association… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:56pm
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Mexico Funds Will Protect Butterflies

JESSICA BERNSTEIN-WAX Associated Press Writer

(AP) - CERRO PRIETO, Mexico-President Felipe Calderon unveiled a sweeping plan Sunday to curb logging and protect millions of monarch butterflies that migrate to the mountains of central Mexico each winter, covering trees and bushes and attracting visitors from around the world.

The plan will put $4.6 million toward additional equipment and advertising for the existing Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, covering a 124,000-acre swathe of trees and mountains that for thousands of years has served as the winter nesting ground to millions of orange- and black-winged monarch butterflies.

Calderon said it would help boost tourism and support the economy in an impoverished area where illegal logging runs rampant.

“It is possible to take care of the environment and at the same time promote development,” the president said… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:55pm
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Trees giving bizarre clues to climate change

By Sandi Doughton

CARSON, Skamania County — Suspended 20 stories in the air, Ken Bible looks down on the crown of a 500-year-old Douglas fir and ponders a mystery.

It’s not the obvious one: How does a man without superpowers hover above the treetops?

That’s easy. The University of Washington forest ecologist rose to his lofty perch in a metal gondola hoisted by a 285-foot-tall construction crane.

The vantage point allows Bible to study the upper reaches of this old-growth forest, where a reproductive orgy is under way.

“We’ve never seen anything like this here,” he says, reaching over the edge of the open-air gondola to grasp a limb laden with cones… Scientists’ thrill ride… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:46pm
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State of timber-Forests’ future full of changes, challenges

By PERRY BACKUS of the Missoulian

Editor’s note: Today, the Missoulian concludes a four-part look at the past, present and future of timber cutting in Montana.

HAMILTON - Tom Robak knew he’d struck a public chord that day he opened up his post office box.

A week hadn’t yet passed since Robak and others had hosted a meeting in Hamilton earlier this month that drew close to 650 people on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The crowd had come to learn about the new group - Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense - that planned to challenge forest management policies it believed were causing catastrophic wildfires.

When Robak turned the key, he was shocked to see his box stuffed full of letters supporting the coalition. The envelopes contained almost $3,500 in donations.

“We had no idea when we started if this was something that people would be interested in,” Robak said. “Now we know there are people out there who want to see something different happening on forestlands.”

All around the state, people from all walks of life are looking for answers to the complicated question of just what should happen on the millions of acres of national forests in Montana.

Some call for more logging to thin the forests. Others want a hands-off approach, allowing nature to take its course. Some say timber cutting should pay for restoration efforts to rebuild streams, control noxious weeds and improve wildlife habitat. Others say that amounts to ecological extortion… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:43pm
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State of timber-Culture, fire play roles in CSKT forest plan

Editor’s note: Today, the Missoulian presents the third in a four-part series on the past, present and future of timber cutting in Montana.

RONAN - In 2000, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes adopted a new forest management plan that immediately cut the annual timber harvest on tribal lands on the Flathead Reservation almost in half, from 32 million board feet a year to 18.1 million.

What changed?

For one thing, a plan that spoke of cultural and spiritual values in the same breath as economic ones.

For another, a plan whose intent was to use logging in an attempt to mimic the role wildfire played in a forest’s ecosystem prior to the major fire suppression efforts of the last century.

“The forest management plan is based on the natural process of fire,”James Durglo, head of CSKT’s forestry department, says. “I don’t think many have been developed that way.” … [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:41pm
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State of timber-DNRC’s harvesting production on rise

Editor’s note: Today, the Missoulian presents the second in a four-part series on the past, present and future of timber cutting in Montana.

By JOHN CRAMER of the Missoulian

The state of Montana doesn’t own much of the forest within its borders compared with the big boys on the block - the U.S. Forest Service, Plum Creek Timber Co. and other private owners.

But while the bigger players have had trouble producing lumber in recent years - constrained by everything from economic downturns and lawsuits to foreign imports and debates about squishy science - state officials have been quietly tending their little plots of earth.

Since it went into the public-land logging business in 1889, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has seen its share of ups and downs in timber production.

But in the past decade, the state of Montana has steadily increased its harvest and sales volumes of timber coming off the state’s school trust lands.

That’s meant a relatively steady flow of money for public schools, where most of the state timber revenue goes.

That revenue dropped significantly in the past year because of a national sub-prime mortgage crisis, a resultant drop in homebuilding and a decreased demand for lumber, but agency officials expect timber profits to bounce back when the economy stabilizes… [more]

27 Nov 2007, 7:39pm
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State of timber-Tracing history of an industry in decline

By MICHAEL JAMISON of the Missoulian

Editor’s note: Over the past three decades, the national forest timber harvest has crashed. Some blame environmental regulation. Others blame overharvest in the 1970s and 1980s. Still others point to supply-and-demand economics, and an emergent international import-export lumber business. But most agree the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region - where harvest has been reduced from 1.2 billion board feet to just 114 million - could produce far more logs if the market would bear them. How to get at that timber, however, remains a point of considerable controversy. Today, the Missoulian begins a four-day series looking at timber cutting in western Montana.

KALISPELL - About a month ago, a brand-new Bitterroot Valley-based group rallied up in Hamilton, calling for more trees to be cut from national forests.

A whole lot of people turned out.

At the same time, the Flathead National Forest offered up for sale 3.4 million board feet of timber, trees already cut and lying right there alongside a road.

Not one bid was submitted.

That you can get the people to rally but you can’t get the mills to bid “proves that public-land timber management is more complicated than some people think,” said Denise Germann, a spokeswoman for the Flathead forest. “We offered the trees, and nobody came to the table. The mills just didn’t want it.”… [more]

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