3 Apr 2008, 4:19pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Some Brief Comments on the RRSNF’s AMR Proposal

by Dave Skinner, Hydra Project, Whitefish MT

As an irate citizen pressed for time, I wish to make brief comments on the RRSNF’s proposal to implement Appropriate Management Response protocols upon unplanned ignitions on the RRSNF. First, I have some involvement and interest in the area. Several of my Montana logging friends have worked on wild-fires on the RRSNF, including most recently the Biscuit. Since then, my buddies have been kept busy at home here in Montana fighting fires closer to home. I myself have visited the RRSNF several times in the past few years, either alone or with various forestry professionals. I am intimately familiar with the post-Biscuit “unsalvage” fiasco (code word: Rich Fairbanks/FSEEE) as well as the subsequent Donato/DellaSalla/Kauffman boondoggle. Let’s just say I am not happy with the prospect of the US Forest Service setting itself up for another disaster in southwest Oregon — as well as nationally.

I hereby request that RRSNF prepare an EIS preparatory to implementing AMR. I also request a CD copy of either that requested EIS, or at least a CD of the proposed EA; with PAPER copies of whatever maps would be included with paper copies of the EIS/EA. My mailing address is listed below.

I want to especially point out the concession before Congress by professors Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin that unmanaged wildfire poses a great threat of loss to the so-called “old growth” Late Successional Reserves. To quote: “Prescribed fire is a useful tool in forest restoration but is not sufficient alone—mechanical silvicultural activities typically will be required.”

Now, both gentlemen have been profoundly wrong before, however, in this case they both realize it. While their call for mechanical treatment is limited by their adherence to the Beschta philosophy that no fire area ever be salvaged or “old growth” tree ever be cut (and I point out both the Sugarloaf project and Franklin’s 90-minute “peer-review” of the Donato salvage “science” travesty), they have nonetheless conceded the point.

If these gentlemen say prescription burns cannot accomplish their intended purpose without unacceptable risk, then logic forces the question of what sort of risks are presented by unscheduled or non-programmatic ignitions?

Until the risk is moderated by fuels pre-treatments on the appropriate landscape scale, then implementing an AMR program on an unprepared landscape is absolutely certain to have significant impacts upon the human and natural environment — not just those “precious” LSR’s, but as the Biscuit/Tiller and so on have proved, dang near every stick of every age class on every stinking acre of USFS-administered ground in western Oregon.

In the main, I concur with the comments prepared by the Western Institute for Study of the Environment and join their call for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement before implementation of any so-called “Appropriate Management Response” to unscheduled wild fire events on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

I furthermore encourage you to advise your superiors in the Washington office that implementation of an AMR policy on other national forests without full Environmental Impact Statements, in light of the clear environmental uncertainties of AMR implementation, would be in itself arbitrary and capricious.

Thank you for your consideration. Please do the right thing.

10 Apr 2008, 9:37am
by John Marker

Mike and Dave have raised serious management questions in their comments to the Rogue-Siskiyou that need answers before management starts watching smoke plumes form over the forests. I have probably been retired too long to understand the thinking behind the proposal to manage land by random fire events.

It is time, in my opinion, to restore an updated 10 AM policy of attacking every fire with the objective of control before 10 AM the following day. I say updated policy because the original policy was so stern in some areas that common sense was ignored and suppression costs were excessive. However, the idea of overwhelming a fire start made sense. Today, with the fire technology and equipment plus a better understanding of fire and its effects, the objective of the 10 AM policy can be carried out with more precision and cost effectiveness.

However, in those times gone by, one of the problems in evaluating fire costs was the lack of good information about damages done and potential damages avoided. Too often fire fighters assumed a fire that wasn’t burning trees “didn’t hurt anything.” This problem of costs and values still hasn’t been fully addressed by managers or political decision makers.

Political leaders, and many members of the public, have little or no understanding of how to connect the dots between the impacts of a stand replacement fire in Idaho and salmon runs in the lower Columbia, for example.

Mike mentioned the use of net value change as one important tool to use in evaluating fire costs and losses. I agree, but to use the approach values and costs have to be assigned to things other than trees. We use to joke about putting a value on a sunset, and maybe today that isn’t a joke.

Today economists and others have developed acceptable methodology to assign values and costs to water, habitat, recreation areas, scenery, trees, and cost of health issues caused by wildfire smoke. But it has been several years since I have heard any fire spokesperson remind the public that values other than structures are being damaged or destroyed.

I fully support the use of fire as a management tool when it is used like any other tool, in the right place at the right time, with strong control measures in place. I hope land managers take a serious look at fire and its very serious ramifications to natural resources, public health and welfare, and what their actions will mean to future generations.

Thanks Mike and Dave for daylighting the issue of fire use.

10 Apr 2008, 10:33am
by Mike

Thank you, John, for your understanding and concern. The damage done by wildfires does indeed exceed the value of timber burned. The loss of habitat, wildlife, clean water, clean air, and other resource values is easily ten times the cost of fire suppression. The tragedy today is that Congress is looking at ONLY the costs of fire suppression and not at the damages done to the natural resources of this country. Even the losses sustained by adjacent private property owners are ignored, as are short- and long-term effects to public heath, safety, and the well-being of the surrounding communities.

If your house burns down, the loss you suffer far exceeds the budgetary costs to the Fire Dept for fighting the fire. Undoubtedly you understand this, as does your insurance company. Unfortunately Congress, the WFLC, and the USFS are not taking values lost to wildfires into consideration, whether in budgeting for fire suppression or in their “Appropriate Management Response” to fires. They think they can “save money” by not fighting fires. In truth the values lost to fires are enormous, and ignoring those is an extreme economic and environmental mistake.



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