18 Jan 2008, 1:50pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Resident Stewardship

The most important things grown in Oregon, the things we most desire to sustain, are not Douglas-fir, salmon, spotted owls, or watershed values. The most important things grown in Oregon are children, human children. That’s what we need to sustain: children and their parents. Without people, there really is no point to sustaining anything else.

Children should grow up where it is clean and green, where there is real dirt, real grass, real trees, and a big outdoors to explore.

Once upon a time human beings considered themselves to be a part of nature. Once there was a time when human beings were the Caretakers of Creation. We were part of nature, nature was part of us. Humanity has tended our landscapes for thousands of years.

That time has apparently passed. Today modern humanity is widely considered to be an infection, a cancer on nature. Ask any environmentalist, “What is the most overriding problem facing the planet today?” and he or she will tell you: too many people.

They will not have to think about it. The response will be knee-jerk automatic. The dogma has been memorized and re-memorized: too many people.

A long time ago forests were valued as home, the neighborhood, places where people lived.

Today, in contrast, forests are valued as dehumanized places. Dehumanization outweighs all the old, passé values. As long as a landscape is devoid of humanity it does not matter if the forest is old or young, beautiful or ugly, green or burned to snags and soot. A “forest” can be a burned-out wasteland, lacking in every respect including trees, but if it is dehumanized, then all is well.

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16 Jan 2008, 6:44pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Pine Beetles Eat Colorado

At a Denver news conference yesterday the US Forest Service announced findings that “mountain pine beetles will kill the majority of Colorado’s large-diameter lodgepole pine forests within three to five years.”

From the Denver Post [here]

Beetle-kill rate in Colorado “catastrophic”

By Howard Pankratz, The Denver Post

GOLDEN — Federal and state forestry officials say that at current rates, mountain pine beetles will kill the majority of Colorado’s large-diameter lodgepole pine forests within three to five years.

In a news conference this morning, Regional Forester Rick Cables and Jeff Jahnke, the Colorado State Forester, announced the results of the 2007 aerial survey of the state’s forests.

The survey concluded that the beetle infestation claimed 500,000 new acres of trees last year, bringing the total number of acres up to 1.5 million since the first sign of the outbreak in 1996.

Officials described the infestation as a “catastrophic event” that has now crossed into Front Range areas.

“Dead and dying trees that were isolated to five northern Colorado counties last year can now be seen in some Front Range areas, as well as southern Wyoming,” Cables said in a statement released at the U.S. Forest Service regional office in Golden.

“The bark infestation has spread dramatically,” he said. “This is an unprecedented event.”…

But there is no way to stop the beetles, and he anticipated that the forests would soon mirror those of Yellowstone National Park after fires swept through in 1988.

He said that areas full of dead trees would be susceptible to fires for the next 15 or 20 years.

He was optimistic, however, that those areas would regenerate. He said that within 10 years, there should be a carpet of lodgepole saplings about waist high.

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15 Jan 2008, 10:46pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

The Largest Land Grab since the Louisiana Purchase

The US Forest Service has announced their Open Space Conservation Strategy. The Strategy involves the promotion of “wilderness values” on 400 million acres of private land.

“If people have an incentive to hold on to wildlands (rather than develop them), we as a society benefit from that,” she [Gail Kimbell] said in an interview. “We all benefit from keeping wildlands wild.”

That statement is absurd. The real motive underlying the USFS Open Space Strategy is to apply their newest and most favored wildland management tool, wildland fire, to private lands. The Strategy originated with the Nature Conservancy, the biggest international “non-governmental organization” in the world. The Strategy is in line TNC’s strategy of purchasing private land and converting it to public land at a hefty profit (in 2006 TNC’s non-taxable income was over a $1 billion). Burned out private properties can be had more cheaply.

And quite a few private lands, at that. Total USFS land is 192 million acres nationwide, including Alaska. The addition of 400 million more acres of private land more than triples their burning zones. Consider that Oregon is approximately 50 million acres total. The new Strategy will encompass an area 8 times the size of Oregon. It should be noted, however, that the Feds already own more than half of Oregon, and hold similar proportions of all western states. An additional 400 million acres encompasses almost all the land west of the Continental Divide.

The new Strategy is the largest land grab since the Louisiana Purchase.

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15 Jan 2008, 5:47pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Time for a better forest policy

The following editorial (unsigned) appeared this morning in the Portland Oregonian [here].

Mark Rey looked really happy to be in Portland on Friday.

We thought it might be because Rey, whose job as undersecretary of agriculture includes oversight of the U.S. Forest Service, liked the view across the verdant West Hills. But maybe he was just thrilled not to be in Montana . . . where a federal judge was threatening to slap him in jail.

The story begins in 2002 when air tankers dropped thousands of pounds of flame retardant on a fire raging around Fall Creek in central Oregon. One ingredient in that chemical soup was ammonium phosphate; it killed an estimated 20,000 fish in the creek. That rate of piscine mortality prompted a Eugene-based group called Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics to file a lawsuit. Two years later, Judge Donald Molloy ruled in Missoula that the Forest Service had violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it failed to go through a public process to analyze potential harm from retardant. He promptly ordered a formal environmental analysis. Last week the judge said the Forest Service, and Rey, have been duplicitous ever since. Then he took to talking about holding Rey in contempt of court and rattling those keys to the cell.

It was Rey, the judge understood, who years earlier had slapped an embargo on an agency environmental analysis of retardant, one more reminder of the sad track record of this administration in opting to ignore science for political ends.

We have long held reservations about federal policy regarding wildfire in the West. We start with mounting concern over the rate at which firefighting costs are raging through Forest Service resources. In 2006, the agency spent $1.6 billion — more than 40 percent of its entire budget — putting out fires. That left it with a brutally abbreviated balance to spend on all the other things we think it should be doing: planning and conducting timber sales, managing recreation areas and wildlife habitat, and massively ramping up the tree-thinning and brush maintenance that would make our public forests far less susceptible to fire in the first place.

All too soon, another fire season will be upon us. Once again the vast infrastructure of the firefighting community will be brought to bear. Clearly we face growing challenges in protecting housing, especially in that increasingly controversial interface between urban and wild lands. And clearly decades of policy that permitted fuel loads to accumulate in the woods means letting fires run their natural course is rarely a viable option.

That’s why the administration must move now to chart a new course, especially here in the West, for managing fire on public lands. And why the environmental community must partner in, not set up roadblocks to, this process. Appealing though it may seem to some, jailing high-ranking government officials is not the answer.

15 Jan 2008, 3:13pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Region 6 Regional Forester Retiring

This morning US Forest Service Region 6 (Pacific Northwest) Regional Forester Linda Goodman announced her retirement at the end of March. The following statement accompanied her announcement:

This morning, I sent the following message out to all Region 6 employees and had a conference call with our Regional Leadership Team telling them I am retiring the end of March. I wanted you all to hear from me personally of my plans and to tell you how much I have enjoyed working with you. The message below applies to all of you, too! Thank you for all that you have done for me. I feel very blessed with good friends and colleagues!

Dear R-6 Employees:

When I think about my almost 34 years with the Forest Service, I know how lucky I have been. I have had the opportunity to work with dedicated professionals who love the land and are committed to America’s forests and grasslands and our youth for today and future generations. Whatever the area our employees work from administration to Job Corps to natural resources to cooperative programs, I know they are providing service to America and can be proud of what they accomplish every day. I also know that we have leaders in place that I have great confidence in leading us to even a higher level. Our Chief has the vision, dedication, and the compassion to make tough choices each and every day.

This week is my official fifth year (plus another six months as acting!) as your Regional Forester. I have been honored to serve in that position and feel good about where the region is and where we are heading. Together we have made the region a good investment and are focused on the land. We have an outstanding leadership team and one that will continue to focus on our priorities of landscape resiliency, infrastructure and public service, and organizational leadership. I have every confidence in their ability. I also have enjoyed working with our many partners and know that they will continue to be engaged in national forest management; we can’t do it alone.

Because of all of that, I am comfortable announcing my retirement effective the end of March. It is not easy leaving the people I care so much about but I have made friendships that will last a lifetime and I will always care about our employees and the Forest Service. Thank you for all that you have done for me; I can’t begin to tell you how much you all mean to me.

And remember what Teddy Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Our work is worth doing. Please take care of yourself and your coworkers - everyone goes home every night.


14 Jan 2008, 7:26pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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A Moral Obligation

The Big Sky Coalition is a new environmental organization in Montana (see [here] and in our Favorite Links). In their own words:

The Big Sky Coalition represents a diverse group of Montanans who believe that current forest management policies are resulting in annual catastrophic fires. These fires present a negative impact on the health and economic interest of Montana citizens.

Representing what we believe to be a silent majority of Montanans with common sense, we hope to become a unified voice of reason that will provide a more balanced approach to environmental issues. We are prepared to be your advocate and fight for your rights!

Our mission is to work with federal and state agencies to bring about changes in the current fire management program.

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14 Jan 2008, 12:45pm
2007 Fire Season
by admin

Suing the Feds For Incinerating Forests

The residents of Yellow Pine, ID, are preparing to sue the US Forest Service for deliberately burning 1,250 square miles of National Forests in and around Yellow Pine. The devastation is incredible, and the forests, wildlife, businesses, residents, and visitors of Yellow Pine have received an environmental and economic blow that they will not recover from [here, here, here].

The lawsuit is in discovery mode; no claim has been filed yet. SOS Forests has been asked to ask you, our wise and experienced readers, if you might have any information that might be pertinent. Are you aware of any claims filed against the USFS that involve the negligent build up of fuels and/or their Let It Burn policies. Are you aware of (and do you have documents relating to) the fire planning that preceeded the 2007 fires? Do you have information regarding the fire control efforts (or lack thereof) made by the USFS in the Yellow Pine fires of 2007.

If so, please send them to me, and I will forward them to the proper parties.

13 Jan 2008, 7:33pm
Forestry education
by admin

Meme Games

I have received a small amount of negative feedback (polite, indirect, but still negative) regarding the term “restoration forestry.” The negativity expressed has some validity; words are tricky things. I am not all that enamored with the term myself.

To be honest, I have been searching for the right buzzword or meme (an idea that spreads from person to person within a culture). Restoration forestry, or forest restoration, are examples of pregnant phrases that might (or might not) resonate politically but actually have no precise definition, and/or mean very different things to different people.

Memes are idea viruses. Every marketer searches for memes to infect the public with notions about his or her product. Things go better with Coke. Not your father’s Oldsmobile. Forests: Tend Them Or Lose Them. Warmer Is Better. Etc.

Our forest problems will not be solved with memes, though. A better approach is to advance the discourse, which is the intention of W.I.S.E.

Forestry does have major conceptual (abstract structure) problems, and “forestry” itself is a meme that means different things to different people. Some folks, like Sen. Ron Wyden the other night, think that thinning is not logging, but of course it is. The conceptual problem here is that too many see forestry as commercial extraction of resources and not as stewardship of ecosystems.

To some foresters, at least to me, the task is the latter, not the former. Unless we are talking about private tree farm land, in which case the idea is to grow and harvest profitable crops, as in any farm business. This is an important distinction. Private tree farming and public forestland stewardship are two completely different land uses. Forestry ought to be adept at both; sadly, in its current manifestations, it is adept at neither.

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11 Jan 2008, 2:41am
Politics and politicians
by admin

Wyden’s Open House

So I went to Senator Ron Wyden’s open house in Corvallis. And it was strange.

At first it seemed like a normal political event, held in the high school library. More than half the audience were high school students. Ron was a little late, ten minutes, and launched into a short and friendly stump speech. He joked with the students, and then took questions.

Ron tried to get mostly questions from the students, but adults kept breaking in. They were angry; angry at Bush, the Iraq war, at global warming, Republicans, and at Ron Wyden (a Democrat) for not being more outrageously liberal than he already is, which is a lot, as he kept reminding them.

There were a couple of questions regarding his new forest policy. He gave a long answer, but the gist of it was not in exact accord with the scientific testimonies he purports to support, nor with his statements reported in the press. He said “thinning in second growth stands” three times. He brought up his attempt to reach agreement between “the environmentalists and the timber industry.”

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Wyden calls for thinning

This article appears in this morning’s Corvallis Gazette Times [here].

Senator sees possibility for economic revitalization; OSU expert testifies for change in forest policy

By Nancy Raskauskas
Gazette-Times Reporter, Jan. 10, 2008

Sen. Ron Wyden has announced that he is working on legislation to overcome gridlock in national forest logging projects designed to reduce wildfires.

The Oregon Democrat told a round table of timber industry leaders, conservation groups and federal agencies Wednesday that the public has made it clear it wants to protect old-growth forests, and the national forests should be turning out a steady supply of logs for the timber industry, but that timber policy has varied widely depending on who is in the White House.

“We need to hustle to reduce fire risk, protect ecology and get merchantable timber to the mills to increase job opportunities in Oregon communities,” Wyden said.

On a related issue, Wyden said his primary goal in the coming Senate session was to pass a separate bill restoring federal payments to timber-dependent counties that have been hurt by cutbacks in logging on national forests.

Wyden, who plans to introduce a bill next month, identified two key issues to break the thinning gridlock: the U.S. Forest Service lacks the funding it needs to do major thinning projects, and too many projects that log large trees to pay for thinning are being delayed by appeals and lawsuits.

He noted that less than 100,000 acres of forest have been thinned since the 2003 Healthy Forest Restoration Act appropriated $760 million to reduce hazardous fuel buildup on 20 million acres of national forests.

According to Wyden, he was heavily influenced by the testimonies of K. Norman Johnson and Jerry F. Franklin at a recent subcommittee meeting to make a legislative change.

Johnson is a distinguished professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and Franklin is a professor of ecosystem sciences in the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington.

They presented a joint testimony on Dec. 13 to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, which is chaired by Wyden. Although their views are not necessarily the views of their institutions, their opinions carried considerable weight because of their long history in forest research in the Northwest.

Johnson and Franklin were two members of the “Gang of Four” that was charged with steering a new course of action to protect the Northern spotted owl in the early 1990s.

The pair were also influential on the panel that formed the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994, which set aside millions of acres of public forests in “reserves and preserves,” and has been used to steer forest practices in the Northwest for more than a decade.

Yet, in their Dec. 13 testimony Johnson and Franklin stated, “We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs.”

They called for a focus on “forest restoration” and active management in the national forests of Oregon and Washington with an emphasis on reducing stand densities that can contribute to catastrophic wildfires and Western pine beetle infestations in old-growth stands.

“To conserve these forests, we need to modify stand structure (e.g., treat fuels) on one-half to two-thirds of the landscape,” they testified.

“Johnson and Franklin are extremely influential in this debate,” Wyden said Wednesday.

According to Wyden, following their advice means initiating large-scale thinning projects of more than 50,000 acres at a time.

“It’s a move away from the ‘boutique thinning’ we have been doing over small areas,” Wyden said. “There is a unique opportunity right now to make a change. What it’s going to require is legislation.”

Associated Press Environmental Writer Jeff Barnard contributed to this article. Nancy Raskauskas can be reached at 758-9542 or nancy.raskauskas@lee.net.

Town hall tonight

Sen. Ron Wyden will visit Corvallis today for a Benton County Town Hall meeting from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Crescent Valley High School Library, 4444 N.W. Highland Drive, Corvallis.

9 Jan 2008, 8:54pm
Forestry education
by admin

Commercial Forestry vs. Restoration Forestry

There are two main branches to professional forestry: the care and maintenance of commercial tree farms and the care and maintenance of native forests.

Tree farms and native forests are two different land uses. Forests and tree farms differ structurally, biologically, ecologically, in their uses, and in their management.

Forests are vast tracts of native vegetation with an abundance of trees; tree farms are agricultural businesses. Forests have natural histories; tree farms have artificial histories. Forests are mostly publicly-owned; tree farms are mostly privately-owned.

Commercial forestry

Commercial forestry is tree farming. It is an agricultural business that produces commodities for sale and profit. Like any business, tree farming must show a profit or face bankruptcy and loss of equity (i.e. without profits the landowner loses the land). The objective of commercial forestry then is to make a profit growing tree-derived commodities.

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8 Jan 2008, 4:28pm
Federal forest policy
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Comments on the WOP

I have submitted my comments regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the revision of the resource management plans of the western Oregon BLM Districts. You may also do the same by visiting the BLM WOP Revision site [here]. You have until Jan 11 to submit comments.

Here are mine:

I. Do away with Site Potential Tree Height

Site Potential Tree Height is pseudo-scientific fraud. It does not exist. There is no such phenomenon. The concept cannot be measured. It is not a metric.

The BLM might as well use 400 frog hops, or 37.4 watermelon seed spits.

SPTH was made up out of thin air during the secret, invitation-only, public-excluded meetings following the Clinton Timber Summit of 1993. SPTH appears nowhere in forestry or forest science literature prior to those meetings.

SPTH had never been measured or correlated to riparian conditions, because the concept did not exist. SPTH had never even been thought of, let alone studied. And it hasn’t been studied since, either. There are still zero scientific reports of studies on SPTH. None, zip, nada. It’s not science. It sounds like science, but it most assuredly is not.

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7 Jan 2008, 3:53pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Zero Riparian Buffers

Today I broke with my standard practice of NOT writing letters to the Dead Tree Press. I don’t know what came over me. At any rate, here is what I wrote and gave away for free to the unthinking, ungrateful, pulp-pushing media moguls.

To the editor:

Riparian buffers, such as those proposed in the BLM revision of their Western Oregon Plan, are killing forests and poisoning streams. Massive build-up of fuels in regulatory riparian zones lead to catastrophic megafires that denude entire watersheds, cause excessive post-fire erosion and sediment smothering of salmon spawning gravels, increase stream turbidity, alter stream pH’s, reduce dissolved oxygen, coat the gills of fingerlings, and fertilize algae, all of which lead to even more fishery problems in the future.

At recent Senate hearings top forests scientists agreed that aggressive active forest management is desperately needed now to remove excess fuels and restore forest ecological functions, in order to prevent further destruction of Oregon’s old-growth forests. Your newspaper failed to cover that story, but it is very important and you should do so now.

Forest restoration is not just for ridgetops. The forest fire crisis is a landscape-scale problem and requires landscape-scale solutions. That means forest restoration treatments should be carried out right up to the edge of streams.

To protect riparian zones and their aquatic habitat we must tend them, not abandon them to catastrophic fires. Creating huge regulatory riparian buffers where forest restoration is excluded is not the environmentally beneficial option.

Mike Dubrasich

6 Jan 2008, 9:23pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Revise the 2007 Energy Act

The Oregon Chapter of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees has written a letter to our Congressional Delegation regarding the language in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, in particular those clauses that eliminate federal forests as a source of biofuels material [here, here, here].

Full text:

Dear Representative Hooley:

I am writing to you with concerns about the recently enacted Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Specifically, Sec. 201. DEFINITIONS (1), (1) RENEWABLE BIOMASS, disturbs me. I interpret it to mean that dead and dying material and forest thinnings on federal forest lands are not to be considered as renewable biomass. The attached letter written by a friend and colleague in Colorado provides more detail about this issue, and our shared concerns.

The conditions he describes as existing in Colorado are duplicated in many areas of Oregon. To eliminate the use of woody material from federal lands for production of biofuels borders on the irrational. There is no scientific or social justification for a definition eliminating federal lands as a source of material for the production of alternate fuels.

As you well know the national forests and BLM managed forests are by statute charged with the sustained production of renewable resources for the public welfare. As my colleague points out, there are many valid scientific, economic and social reasons for aggressive utilization of dead material and forest thinning.

I urge you to take necessary legislative actions to revise this misguided section of the Energy Independence Act of 2007, and to encourage the use of federal forests as a source of alternate fuels. The utilizations of forest biomass for biofuels will also improve forest health, protect watersheds, aid carbon control, reduce risk of fire damage, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and help improve the economic wellbeing of rural communities in and adjacent to the federal forests.

Your assistance is appreciated:

John F. Marker, Director
National Association of Forest Service Retirees

cc: Oregon Congressional Delegation

If any of the Delegation produce responses, we will post them too.

6 Jan 2008, 6:07pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Forests: Tend Them or Lose Them

To go over this again (without apologies), the reason that the recent Johnson-Franklin testimony to Congress [here, here] is important is because the authors call for treatment of old-growth forests in order to prevent their destruction.

Without aggressive management on a landscape-scale, our old-growth forests will be lost to fire, insects, and/or disease. So says the Father of Old Growth, Jerry Franklin.

The authors’ point-of-view is the opposite of that of the No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot anti-forest crowd. It is the opposite of the Burn It Today, Black Forests Are Beautiful, Whoofoo Everywhere crowd.

It is the opposite of the Mother Nature Knows Best crowd.

The point-of-view expressed was that of Tend Them or Lose Them.

That’s a big deal, given the stature of the authors, and a big turnaround.

It might be best not to get hung up in the petty details of personality, or the exact treatment that’s best for each individual acre. Instead it might be better to recognize the general message:

Without human treatment, specifically restoration forestry, our old-growth forests will die out, most likely due to catastrophic fires, and will not be replaced.

With professional stewardship our forests have a chance; with abandonment to assured destruction they do not.

Forests: Tend Them or Lose Them

That’s the message.

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