17 Apr 2008, 11:34am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

The USFS Is Fundamentally Racist

And so is most of modern forest science. The USFS administrators and most forest scientists today (as well as most “environmental” groups) fail to understand or even acknowledge that Native Americans have had profound influences on our landscapes for millennia.

Euro-Americans did not encounter a wilderness. They came to a continent that had been occupied and resided upon for ten thousand years or more by actual human beings. Except for the tops of mountain peaks accessible only with modern technical climbing gear, every single acre in the continental U.S. had been trod with moccasins.

Every single acre had been explored, walked upon, and utilized by the human beings who had lived here continuously since before the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation. Anthropogenic fire had been visited upon all landscapes a zillion times. The vegetation had been totally altered, and over 40 species of wildlife had been hunted to extinction, by the long-resident humanity.

Every landscape was criss-crossed with roads. Lewis and Clark did not bushwhack from the Mississippi to the Pacific; they traveled on ROADS, Indian roads, roads that had been in place and heavily used for thousands of years. The Corps of Discovery arranged for guides to show them the right roads to take. The word “road” appears in the journals of L&C hundreds of times.

The Corps of Discovery did not “live off the land.” Yes, they hunted some, but there was very little game. For the most part, they purchased food from the resident human beings.

The resident human beings had established fields and tracts where they gathered roots and berries, drove game, captured fish in weirs, and produced through agricultural techniques the necessities of their lives: food, clothing, and shelter. Native Americans did not flit from bush to bush like butterflies, leaving no mark. On the extreme contrary, they modified the environment to suit their needs virtually everywhere.

The modern USFS and forest science establishments are utterly clueless about that. They still think of America as a recent wilderness. That kind of thinking is racist as well as completely wrong. The “science” is rank with Euro-centric falsehoods stemming from deep-seated racist blindness. The managers of our National Forests are completely oblivious to the landscape uses and patterns established by resident human beings.

The current Let It Burn philosophy imposed on our landscapes by blind racism is destroying the ancient human heritage. The urge to declare Wilderness Areas and Roadless Areas is nazi-like racism at it’s worst. The denial of the American Holocaust whereby millions of people were slaughtered over a 500 year racist jihad and ethnic cleansing is as objectionable and ethically bankrupt as the denial of Hitler’s Holocaust (or even more so).

Our forests and landscapes are being destroyed by a sick and twisted bureaucracy that is fundamentally racist to its core.

For an illustration of these points, Section VII of the W.I.S.E. Comments to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (March 30, 2008) regarding their proposed imposition of Let It Burn fires are posted in full below. The language is intellectual and academic, but make no mistake, the message is that the USFS culture of racism is hurtful and destructive.

We stand in opposition to overt and destructive racist policies. Please join us in our struggle to right this terrible wrong. This country belongs to all of us, not to a handful of nazi-like racist bosses steeped in bigotry and historical revisionism. We must overcome the Euro-centric lies that are wrecking our landscapes, watersheds, and priceless heritage forests. Open your eyes, see the truth, and speak the truth. Help us to stop the racist USFS from their jihad of destruction.


VII. Probable Significant Impacts/Effects on Historic/Cultural Resources and Values

The RR-SNF proposed amendments to their LRMP will engender WFU fires in unknown places at unknown times. Those fires will significantly impact historic and traditional Native American cultural sites within the boundaries of the RR-SNF. Therefore, in addition to compliance with NEPA and the ESA, the USFS must comply with the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and afford the Council [the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)] a reasonable opportunity to comment on such undertakings. The procedures in this part define how Federal agencies meet these statutory responsibilities. The section 106 process seeks to accommodate historic preservation concerns with the needs of Federal undertakings through consultation among the agency official and other parties with an interest in the effects of the undertaking on historic properties, commencing at the early stages of project planning. The goal of consultation is to identify historic properties potentially affected by the undertaking, assess its effects and seek ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects on historic properties. …

(c) Timing. The agency official must complete the section 106 process “prior to the approval of the expenditure of any Federal funds on the undertaking or prior to the issuance of any license.” This does not prohibit agency official from conducting or authorizing nondestructive project planning activities before completing compliance with section 106, provided that such actions do not restrict the subsequent consideration of alternatives to avoid, minimize or mitigate the undertaking’s adverse effects on historic properties. The agency official shall ensure that the section 106 process is initiated early in the undertaking’s planning, so that a broad range of alternatives may be considered during the planning process for the undertaking. …

The agency official should plan consultations appropriate to the scale of the undertaking and the scope of Federal involvement and coordinated with other requirements of other statutes, as applicable, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Archeological Resources Protection Act and agency-specific legislation. The Council encourages the agency official to use to the extent possible existing agency procedures and mechanisms to fulfill the consultation requirements of this part. …

From 36 CFR PART 800 — PROTECTION OF HISTORIC PROPERTIES (incorporating amendments effective August 5, 2004) Section 106, National Historic Preservation Act. (see Appendix A)

That the RR-SNF contains historic and traditional Native American cultural sites in an undisputed, well-known fact. Among the groups in residence at Contact were the Klickitat, Dakubeted, Chetco, Taltucuntude, Chasta Costa, Tututni, Gusladada, Sixes, Karuk, Shasta, Cow Creek, Takelma, Yurok, and Klamath. (Zybach, Bob. 2007. Precontact History and Cultural Legacy of Forest Research Sites in Southwestern Oregon. Oregon State University and USDA Bureau of Land Management Internet Report) (see Appendix A).

Native Americans utilized specific sites in the RR-SNF for acorn orchards, berry patches, camas fields, home sites, religious sites, gathering and collecting sites, hunting copses, and fishing sites. These were interconnected by a network of trail systems that date back many hundreds and even thousands of years (Ibid).

Using a sophisticated computer system and software (Idrisi GIS from Clark Labs, 2002), Dr. Ken Carloni modeled the most ergonomic (not too steep) and least cost (shortest) travel routes between ten known archaeological sites on the adjacent Umpqua National Forest. The model was field-validated, leading to on-the-ground discovery of the ancient trails and additional sites, including an ancient summer village.

The trail and homesite system in the Little River watershed is at least 2000 years old, and was used by Native Americans of the Yoncalla, Upper Umpqua, Cow Creek, and Molalla Tribes. Similar trail systems and Native American use sites occur in the RR-SNF (Zybach 2007).

Strong historical development indications seen in modern vegetation species conditions and structures, together with archaeological artifacts, yield evidence of the validity and veracity of Dr. Carloni’s computer-predicted trail and campsite system. Among the evidence is the presence of ancient meadows and remnant open, uneven-aged, park-like forests along the travel routes. Both types of vegetation are thought to have been maintained by anthropogenic fire (Indian burning).

In the same paper Dr. Carloni also reported strong evidence against climate as a controller of fire frequency prior to 1850. He compared precipitation history (derived from previous tree ring studies) and fire history (also from previous studies) with the ages of existing trees to see which factors (climate or fires) influenced tree recruitment, and whether climate history and fire history were correlated. They were not, according to his research:

Fire scar frequencies from 1590 to 1820 show no relationship to precipitation. However, from 1850 to 1950 a significant negative correlation (p = 0.005) exists between climate and scar frequency. These results suggest that in post-aboriginal times [but not earlier] high rainfall years are associated with fewer fires than low rainfall years …

Tree recruitment from 1590 to 1820 is [also] uncorrelated with yearly precipitation … [and] no correlation is evident between fire scar frequency and tree recruitment in the years from 1590 to 1820. From 1850 to 1939, however, dramatic positive correlations exist between fire scar frequencies and tree origins … This suggests that the recently observed short pulses of even-aged recruitment following wildfires (Pickett and White, 1985; Oliver and Larson, 1990; Bonnicksen, 2000) may be more of a post-aboriginal phenomenon.

From Carloni, Ken. The Ecological Legacy of Indian Burning Practices in Southwestern Oregon. 2005. Doctoral dissertation, Oregon State Univ. (see Appendix A).

Instead, Dr. Carloni reported, Native Americans were a prime factor in ancient fire ignition. The landscapes encountered by Lewis and Clark were not pristine, untrammeled wilderness. Dr. Carloni summarizes:

Intentionally or not, humans have been initiators of broadcast burning in nearly every habitat they have encountered worldwide (Pyne, 2001), and there is a long local history of burning for agro-ecological purposes in southwestern Oregon … A growing body of evidence documents the influence of Native Americans on their landscapes through the use of systematic landscape fire (Pyne, 1982; Boyd, 1986; Lewis, 1990; Robbins, 1997, LaLande and Pullen, 1999; Lewis and Fergeson, 1999; Williams, 2001; and others) …

Pacific Northwest native societies were deeply integrated into their landscapes, and used a wide variety of materials collected over extensive areas (Lewis, 1993; Boyd, 1986; Beckham and Minor, 1992; Blackburn and Anderson, 1993; LaLande, 1995; Williams, 2001). But local material cultures persist only to the extent that key species and habitats on which they depend remain abundant, productive and resilient (Perlin, 1989; Diamond, 2005). Archaeological evidence from the Umpqua indicates that material cultures remained relatively unchanged for approximately 2000 years before contact (Isaac Barner, pers. comm., 2000) suggesting that the stewardship practices of recent peoples were sustainable …

Historic Indian-set fires tended toward higher frequencies and lower intensities with regular intervals separating them relative to lightning sparked fires (Boyd, 1999; Lewis and Fergeson, 1999; Williams, 2001). (Ibid).

It was this recognition of the impacts on the landscape, of frequent, regular fires set by the ancient residents that led Dr. Carloni to his discoveries.

Given the numerous historical reports of aboriginal burning in and near the Umpqua Basin, it is highly likely that the Indians of Little River were using landscape fire systematically for agro-ecological purposes as well. But if Indians were systematically burning forested landscapes, what ecological signals might we expect to observe?

At the landscape level, we should find historic meadows, savannas and parklands located near archaeological sites and near the historic trails connecting them. It is reasonable to surmise that Indians would burn more extensively and more often around the areas where they spent the most time …

The pattern of the modeled pathways fits the corridor, yard and mosaic pattern common to indigenous landscapes in many parts of the world (Lewis and Ferguson, 1999). It is also reflected in early sketches (see 2.16) and in the following quote from S.C. Bartrum, first Umpqua National Forest Supervisor, writing about conditions in 1899 on what is now the Umpqua National Forest: “There were no trails into the interior of the Reserve, only a very few short cattle trails close to the Reserve boundary line. There were of course the old Indian trails, indistinct and impassable in many places, routed to reach the apex of all high points, presumably for observation purposes regardless of location and grade, with grades varying from level to 35 or 40 percent, and some too steep for horse travel.” (Ibid).

Similarly, it is highly likely that the Indians of the areas now within the RR-SNF used landscape fire systematically for agro-ecological purposes such as the creation and maintenance of berry patches, camas meadows, and Madia fields (Zybach 2002,, 2003, 2007). And similarly, landforms such as historic meadows, savannas, and parklands are historic and traditional Native American cultural sites. Medicine wheels and other Native American religious sites may be found within the RR-SNF (pers. comm. J. Neitling). Indeed, many of the old-growth trees on the RR-SNF show signs of Native American use as hearth trees and bark-peeled trees (Dubrasich and Tappeiner 1995, Keane et al 2006).

The historical (actual) forest development pathways on the RR-SNF were mitigated by human beings, and evidence of this can still be found in the field (Dubrasich, Tappeiner 1995). Dr. Carloni noted that many other researchers have also found strong evidence of human influence over forest development:

Early descriptions of much of the forest as being in an open, park-like state (LaLande and Pullen, 1999) are consistent with the recent findings for stands in the Oregon Cascades and Coast Range (Tappeiner et al. 1997; Poage, 2000; Sensenig, 2002). Tappeiner et al. (1997) found early growth rates of old-growth trees to be more typical of trees grown at low stocking densities (100-120 trees/ha) than of trees currently growing in young, un-thinned stands (often >500 trees/ha). They suggest that periodic, low intensity fire was likely responsible for reducing stocking levels rather than self-thinning.

Vestiges of these open stands and their connections to native management are often found near sites with documented aboriginal activity and are evidenced by (a) very large, old “relic” trees with highly branched “open grown” architecture imbedded in a matrix of substantially younger, even-aged cohorts (Fig 2.12), (b) annual rings from relic trees showing suppressed growth only as far back as the origin of the young even-aged cohort in which they are imbedded (pers. obs.), and (c) origin dates of the even-aged in-growth cohort that commonly post-date the period of Indian occupancy. (Ibid).

Dr. Carloni also noted that in the absence of anthropogenic fire, the vegetation has changed:

A shift in the proportions of tree species across the landscape also suggests a change in fire intensity … and reveals a trend toward recruitment of more fire intolerant “avoider” species (Agee, 1993) (e.g. hemlock, true firs) in the 1820-1990 time span compared to the 996-1820 period. This analysis suggests a change from a high frequency, low intensity fire regime that favored “resistor” species (e.g. Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine) to one that now favors fire avoiders …

While post-clearcut plantations are even-aged (and often single species), native stands in southwestern Oregon typically have a range of sizes and ages distributions … When an even-aged stand is defined as one in which 80% of the trees germinate within 3 decades, only 11 of the 180 stands in these two datasets are even-aged (6.1%) …

While the age and spatial structure (and therefore fuel structure) of young stands in southwestern Oregon increases their risk of high severity fire, mature stands are also at increasing risk. Because of their open understories and lack of contiguous crowns, historic old-growth forests would have been highly resistant to high mortality crown fires. But during the last century and a half, many late seral stands have become thickly in-grown with a younger, shade intolerant conifer seedling cohort dating from the late 1800s through the present. (Carloni 2005).

The presence of uneven-aged or multicohort old-growth stands on the RR-SNF constitutes strong evidence that such stands were shaped by frequent, regular, seasonal, low-intensity fire set by the human residents of those landscapes for thousands of years. The old-growth trees are the result of human manipulation of the landscape.

The old-growth trees on the RR-SNF are in fact artifacts of the human occupation and use of Southwest Oregon for thousands of years.

Finally, Dr. Carloni provided some sage advice to land managers:

Evidence that the indigenous people had an active hand in influencing the fire regimes that shaped their landscapes has important implications for current managers. Rather than a conversion of unmanaged land to managed lands, the changes witnessed in the last 150 years are more indicative of a change from one management regime to another, with a brief period of passive management in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The message to land stewards is clear: taking no action will not tend to return the landscape to aboriginal conditions …

Landscape fires in southwestern Oregon have gone from (1) being regular, frequent, and of low intensity, to (2) being irregular, infrequent, and of high intensity … Increases in the time between fires and the intensity of the blaze have apparently also been accompanied by an increase in the size of fires …

While it is no longer possible to “restore” the forest to aboriginal conditions, it is possible to emulate indigenous ecosystem dynamics. A return to a “corridor, yard and mosaic” pattern is still possible in a warming climate. While a return to native dynamics for its own sake is not a compelling reason to change current management, there are some important ecological and social reasons for doing so …

Since material cultures often reflect their landscapes (e.g. bedrock mortars in acorn country; woven nets, weirs, and traps where salmon run), stable human cultures infer stable landscape resources. And since local material culture was stable for at least 2000 years in southwestern Oregon (Beckham and Minor, 1992), then the pre-Euro-American socioecological system represents the last known stable state …

If we desire a predictable suite of ecosystem goods and services that are comparable (but not necessarily equivalent) to those available to native managers, then historic ranges of ecosystem conditions represent reasonable management sideboards. Given that the historic landscape of the Little River watershed is to a great degree the product of active aboriginal management, it will take active management on the part of land stewards to recreate and maintain analogous conditions. (Ibid).

And some sage advice to researchers, too:

The history of a landscape is intertwined with the history of its peoples; one needs to know both before one can really understand either. (Ibid).

Dr. Thomas J. Connolly, Ph.D. repeats much the same advice:

I am struck by what appears to me as an intellectual bias; derived not from intent but from the inevitable inertia developed within a particular field of study. For example, fire and vegetation histories are freely considered in terms of possible correlations to lightning strike history, solar flare activity, and other physical phenomena, while the exceptionally well-documented human influences on fire history are often regarded as too speculative for serious consideration. Our perceptions are limited by our understanding; there is much to be gained by developing a rich critical understanding and appreciation of the tools, models, and theories of other disciplines.

From Anthropological and Archaeological Perspectives on Native Fire Management of the Willamette Valley. 2000. Thomas J. Connolly, Museum of Anthropology, University of Oregon Paper presented at the 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pacific Division (Symposium: Fire History in the Pacific Northwest: Human and Climatic Influences), June 11-14, 2000, Ashland, Oregon. (see Appendix A).

Native Americans utilized specific sites and left ecological conditions altered from what might be thought of as “natural.” The alterations were not haphazard; instead they were well-considered and practiced modifications based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).

From Dr. Frank Lake, regional expert on historic Native American uses of the land and the cultural landscapes that resulted:

The environmental condition of watersheds found in Northwestern California and Southwestern Oregon have been greatly altered over the last 200 years by anthropogenic, climatic, and biophysical influences. Changes in land management practices from that of indigenous peoples to private and public land managers modified culturally significant habitats, water quality, fish and wildlife populations, and the composition and structure of habitats of high tribal value. Additional landscape effects have resulted from changes in the use of fire, mining, American settlement, use of forests, shrubs and grasslands, logging, road construction, agriculture, and dam construction. …

The landscape patterns of Indian burning are a cultural legacy (Kimmerer and Lake 2001). Changes resulting from the cessation of Indian land-use practices to that under the governance and management of Euro-Americans (Johnson 1999) have resulted in the modification of ecological processes (fire, nutrient cycling, and hydrology). For example, Kimmerer and Lake (2001) state: “Every ecosystem in North America has been affected in some way by a fire regime . . . manipulated by indigenous people. Much forest science, including ecological classifications of vegetation types, arose from observation of forest that were essentially in transition from conditions of indigenous fire management to post-colonial fire suppression. Our understanding of forest processes may thus be based on an anomalous, transitional landscape” (Kimmerer and Lake 2001:37).

The landscape has become more prone to catastrophic wildfire as a result of the change in the occurrence and frequency of burning (Kimmerer and Lake 2001, Taylor and Skinner 2003). Patterns of Native American burning and wildfire include similarities and differences in sources and locations of ignition; locations and extent of fire boundaries; timing, frequency, seasonality, intensity, and specificity of occurrence of fires; and effects of fire on local human and wildlife populations (Walstad et al. 1990, Agee 1993). Taylor and Skinner (2003) in their report about research on historical fire regimes and forest structure in the Klamath Mountains acknowledge the change from frequent low to moderate severity fires to increased high severity fires. These authors conclude after analysis of fire scars of the fire record of 1628-1995 that there was an average period of two years between fires. Characterization position of fire scars relative to growth rings indicates that 76.2% of the fires burned mainly between mid-summer through fall, thus nearly a fourth of the fires occurred during other seasons. Late winter-spring (dormant) season of burning is not characteristic of lightning ignition.

From Frank K. Lake. Traditional Ecological Knowledge to Develop and Maintain Fire Regimes in Northwestern California, Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion: Management and Restoration of Culturally Significant Habitats 2005. Doctoral dissertation, Oregon State Univ. (see Appendix A). Emphasis added.

Allowing WFU fires ignited by lightning to burn in mid-summer in areas of RR-SNF thus alters the traditional, anthropogenic vegetation patterns established by Native Americans. The culturally modified landscape will be lost as a result. That is a tragic consequence that will ensue if the proposed amendments to the RR-SNF LRMP are adopted. It is also a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Lightning fires did not shape the forests and landscapes of the RR-SNF. Anthropogenic (human-set) fires did. From a recent report of a study comparing lightning-ignition frequency to anthropogenic fire frequency by Dr. Charles Kay:

It is now widely acknowledged that frequent, low-intensity fires once structured many plant communities. Despite an abundance of ethnographic evidence, however, as well as a growing body of ecological data, many professionals still tend to minimize the importance of aboriginal burning compared to that of lightning-caused fires.

Based on fire occurrence data (1970–2002) provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, I calculated the number of lightning fires/million acres (400,000 ha) per year for every national forest in the United States. Those values range from a low of <1 lightning-caused fire/400,000 ha per year for eastern deciduous forests, to a high of 158 lightning-caused fires/400,000 ha per year in western pine forests. Those data can then be compared with potential aboriginal ignition rates based on estimates of native populations and the number of fires set by each individual per year. Using the lowest published estimate of native people in the United States and Canada prior to European influences (2 million) and assuming that each individual started only 1 fire per year—potential aboriginal ignition rates were 2.7–350 times greater than current lightning ignition rates. Using more realistic estimates of native populations, as well as the number of fires each person started per year, potential aboriginal ignition rates were 270–35,000 times greater than known lightning ignition rates. Thus, lightning-caused fires may have been largely irrelevant for at least the last 10,000 y. Instead, the dominant ecological force likely has been aboriginal burning.

From Kay, C.E. 2007. Are lightning fires unnatural? A comparison of aboriginal and lightning ignition rates in the United States. Pages 16–28 in R.E. Masters and K.E.M. Galley (eds.). Proceedings of the 23rd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: Fire in Grassland and Shrubland Ecosystems. Tall Timbers Research Station, Tallahassee, FL. (see Appendix A).

Numerous anthropologists, historic landscape geographers, forest historians, and forest scientists have recognized that anthropogenic fire was the principal disturbance agent across the entirety of North America for thousands of years. Another example:

Abstract: Indigenous and traditional peoples worldwide have used fire to manipulate their environment for thousands of years. These longstanding practices still continue and have considerable relevance for today’s land managers. This discussion explores the value of documenting and understanding historic and contemporary fire use attitudes and practices of the varied cultural/ethnic groups that interact with land managers concerning fire and fuels management in the American Southwest. Current research with historic records and present-day communities is reviewed.

From Raisha, Carol, Armando Gonza´ lez-Caba´, and Carol J. Condie. The importance of traditional fire use and management practices for contemporary land managers in the American Southwest. 2005. Environmental Hazards 6 (2005) 115–122. (see Appendix A).

The fact of historic anthropogenic influences on our landscapes may not be widely understood by land managers or society at large, yet numerous experts have grasped the importance of anthropogenic fire.

The last few decades, however, have seen significant changes in the ecological basis for defining nature, as well as wilderness “untrammeled by Man” (Botkin 1990). Where for almost a century, ecologists and environmentalists have viewed ecosystems as in perfect harmony with climax vegetation everywhere before the European settlers came to North America: “Early ecologists recognized the presence of disturbance but focused on the principle that the land continued to move toward a stable or equilibrium condition. Through the years, however, scientists have acknowledged that equilibrium conditions are largely the exception and disturbance is generally the rule. Natural forces have affected and defined landscapes throughout time (Federal Wildland Policy 1995: 1).

Human activities have also influenced and changed ecosystems. Researchers today are tending to believe that the concepts of “nature,” “natural,” and “wilderness” are human constructs and that people have been part of ecosystems since before recorded time. People, in this contemporary notion, are part of ecosystems, have evolved with ecosystems, have used parts and pieces of ecosystems for survival, and have changed portions of ecosystems for their needs:

No forests [shrublands or grasslands] are unaffected; humans have been a part of the ecosystem over the past ten centuries of major climatic change, so that all forests have developed under some kind of human influence, although its intensity has varied greatly over time and space. This influence must be accounted for as an important part of any study of forest structure and dynamics (Russell 1997: 129).

By the time European explorers, fur traders, and settlers arrived in many parts of North America, millions of acres of “natural” landscapes or “wilderness” were already manipulated and maintained for human use, although the early observers did not recognize the signs (e.g., Blackburn and Anderson 1993; Botkin 1992; Denevan 1992; Doolittle 1992; Lewis 1973 and 1982; Pyne 1995; Shrader-Frechette and McCoy 1995; Stevens 1860; Stewart 1954, 1955, and 1963; Whitney 1994; and Wilson 1992).

Early explorers and fur trappers often observed huge burned over or cleared areas with many dead trees “littering” the landscape, without knowledge of whether the fires were natural or Indian caused. Written accounts by settlers remain incomplete, although many noted that there was evidence of burned or scorched trees and open prairies or savannas with tall grasses in every river basin (e.g., Lorimer 1993; McClain and Elzinga 1994; Russell 1983; Stevens 1860; and Whitney 1994). The abundance of rich prairie land (”ready for the plow” without having to clear the land) was one of the primary reasons for settlers to head west to the Oregon Territory (including the current states of Oregon, Washington, and parts of Idaho) and California, and eventually to “back-fill” the Great Plains. Dennis Martinez noted that:

The North America that European peoples invaded and settled was not a “virgin” land undisturbed by people. There was no “pristine wilderness” here. Prairie and forest were to a large extent the creation of indigenous peoples. The main justification by Europeans for genocide–that land was not used to its productive potential by its Native inhabitants–was false. (Martinez 1998: 13).

From Williams, Gerald W. 2002. “Aboriginal Use of Fire: Are There Any ‘Natural’ Plant Communities?” IN: Wilderness and Political Ecology: Aboriginal Influences and the Original State of Nature. Charles E. Kay and Randy T. Simmons (eds.) The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, UT: 179-214. (see Appendix A).

Patch dynamics and natural mixed severity fire regimes are notions frequently heard these days, but they are little more than eco-babble. If the Chetco Nation landscape was subject to infrequent, lightning-ignited stand replacing fires since the Pleistocene, where did the uneven-aged, older cohort trees come from? How did open, park-like stands and savannas arise? Stand-replacement fires lead to even-aged thickets, very different from the historical forest conditions on the RR-SNF.

The Biscuit Fire killed many tens of thousands of acres of old growth trees. Entire Late Successional Reserves were destroyed. The former forest contained Douglas-firs, sugar pines, Brewers spruce, incense cedars, and ponderosa pines from 200 to 600 years old. How did those old trees get there in the first place? It was not from stand-replacing, mid-summer, lightning-ignited fires.

There have been human beings living in Southwest Oregon since the Pleistocene. Those people set fires every year for millennia. They did not fight fires, or prevent fires, instead they set them. Human beings torched most of the West every year, year after year, for at least 10,000 years, according to the best available science (Bonnicksen 2000, Stewart 2002, Pyne 1995, 2004, Carloni 2003, Zybach 2007, and many others). The ancient human mediation and human impact was not “natural” in any sense of that word. Thousands of years of annual fires induced a savanna/woodland, essentially a prairie with scattered trees. It was the elimination of aboriginal fires, not modern fire suppression, which allowed an incendiary thicket of young conifers to arise under the older cohorts.

Modern fires in dense thickets are stand-replacing. That is, they kill all the trees. Historic fires were far different. The ancient anthropogenic fires were light-burning, low-intensity fires that protected the larger trees and allowed individual trees to grow to very old ages.

The historic development pathways that led to the old-growth trees extant in the RR-SNF today were human-mediated. Abandoning the old-growth of today to stand-replacing fires is an alteration of the historical stand development pathways and as a result will not lead to old-growth stand development in the future (Dubrasich and Tappeiner 1995, Poage 2001).

The multi-cohort stand structure found on the RR-SNF is not limited to SW Oregon. From Flagstaff to Wenatchee, from the Oregon coast to Montana, multi-cohort stands are the norm in un-logged forests. Such forests have complex canopy structures, as well. Complex multicohort canopies are preferred habitat for many rare species, such as spotted owls (Dubrasich and Tappeiner 1995, Dubrasich et al 1997).

To abandon such forests to catastrophic fires is to destroy the existing complex and historical structures and replace them with fire-type chaparral. Even without fire the older cohorts are dying from moisture stress caused by the dense competition from the younger cohorts (Johnson and Franklin 2007). It may seem counter-intuitive, but our forests are getting younger every year as the older cohort, heritage trees succumb to insects and diseases (Dubrasich and Tappeiner 1995). Even without timber harvest spotted owl habitat is declining, as is the owl population. In the fourteen years since inception of the Northwest Forest Plan spotted owls populations have fallen by one third to one half (US Fish and Wildlife Service, Draft Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl, 2007, see Appendix A).

We have to understand that doing nothing is not going to protect or perpetuate old growth forests. Nor will allowing catastrophic fires to burn unchecked in fuel-laden forests save the old trees. Wilderness is a political designation, not an ecological condition. We have to come to grips with the reality of the “natural” history of our forests and the historical landscape development pathways that gave rise to our modern forests. We need to examine the forest dynamics that are occurring now, and decide what kind of forests we want our grandchildren to experience. If old growth, multi-cohort, spotted owl habitat forests are the desired future condition, then we have to manage stocking and fuels, and reintroduce frequent, non-catastrophic, low-intensity fire to achieve that condition. Otherwise we will continue to convert ancient forests to chaparral.

Ecosystem management cannot succeed in promoting stewardship if it fails to recognize that humans are an integral and natural part of the North American landscape. Ecosystem management has the potential for widening the gap between people and nature. Subdividing landscapes into ecosystems could create the false impression that ecosystems are real things. This illusion becomes more dangerous when people think that they live on the outside and nature exists on the inside of ecosystems.

Biologists developed the ecosystem model to describe physical, chemical, and biological interactions at a particular time within an arbitrarily defined volume of space (Lindeman 1942). They usually exclude people because the boundaries are sometimes drawn around small parts of the landscape, such as watersheds. Because management decisions come from outside, ecosystems appear as separate entities. Therefore, ecosystem management may reinforce the myth that nature exists apart from people if it does not explicitly state otherwise.

A corollary myth assumes that climate dictated the structure and function of ecosystems. On the contrary, climate provides either a favorable or unfavorable physical environment for certain plants to grow. It does not dictate which plants grow in that environment. Similarly, climate does not dictate human behavior. It only sets temporary limits. Human innovations in technique and technology can and do push back those limits. Therefore, climate is not the sole determinant nor even in many cases the dominate force in guiding the development of particular ecosystems. American Indians selectively hunted, gathered plants, and fired habitats in North America for at least 12,000 years. Unquestionably, humans played an important role in shaping North America’s forest ecosystems.

Interpretations of the impacts made by indigenous people in North America are largely limited to what can be postulated in terms of paleontological, anthropological, and archaeological evidence. None of these approaches have been completely persuasive to skeptics who require more substantial and corroborative evidence before accepting the significance of the environmental changes induced over 12,000 or more years by hunting-gathering societies and, for the last 2,000 years, by indigenous farmers as well. Taken together, however, the evidence shows a clear and convincing pattern of indigenous human influences on prehistoric, historic, and contemporary ecosystems.

In this chapter, we argue that the success of ecosystem management depends on understanding reciprocal relationships between native forests and indigenous peoples. Consequently, we concentrate on the development of forests prior to European settlement. Particular emphasis is placed on American Indians consciously and actively managing landscapes through the selective killing of animals, the cultivation of preferred plants, and the widespread manipulation of habitats with fire.

We also concentrate on what indigenous people did to survive and prosper. We believe it would be inappropriate to use today’s ideas and values as standards for judging their actions. Therefore, our chapter focuses on the management practices of indigenous people that succeeded for them and maybe useful to us (Rides at the Door and Montagne 1996).

Finally, we argue that local knowledge and practices that followed European settlement provide analogues for reconstructing pre-European settlement conditions as well as for suggesting answers to contemporary management problems. Equally important, we believe that ecosystem management cannot succeed unless current human residents of forests become intimately involved in decisions that affect their lives and surroundings.

The romantic 20th century idea of a natural area or wilderness as a place without human influence became meaningless in North America when Paleoindians pushed southward between the continental ice sheets and perhaps along the Northwest coast 12,000 or more years ago. They found two unexploited continents with bountiful game. Their populations grew and by 11,200 years ago there may have been millions of Paleoindians living from coast to coast in both North and South America (Fiedel 1987, Roosevelt et al. 1996).

From Thomas M. Bonnicksen, M. Kat Anderson, Henry T. Lewis, Charles E. Kay, and Ruthann Knudson. 1999. Native American influences on the development of forest ecosystems. In: Szaro, R. C.; Johnson, N. C.; Sexton, W. T.; Malk, A. J., eds. Ecological stewardship: A common reference for ecosystem management. Vol. 2. Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science Ltd: 439-470. (see Appendix A)

The best available science has found that forest structures are human- induced via anthropogenic fire. Open, park-like stands were the historical norm.

Abstract: Diameter growth and age data collected from stumps of 505 recently cut old-growth Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) trees at 28 sample locations in western Oregon (U.S.A.) indicated that rapid early and sustained growth of old Douglas-fir trees were extremely important in terms of attaining large diameters at ages 100–300 years. The diameters of the trees at ages 100–300 years (D100–D300) were strongly, positively, and linearly related to their diameters and basal area growth rates at age 50 years. Average periodic basal area increments (PAIBA) of all trees increased for the first 30–40 years and then plateaued, remaining relatively high and constant from age 50 to 300 years. Average PAIBA of the largest trees at ages 100–300 years were significantly greater by age 20 years than were those of smaller trees at ages 100–300 years. The site factors province, site class, slope, aspect, elevation, and establishment year accounted for little of the variation observed in basal area growth at age 50 years and D100–D300. The mean age range for old-growth Douglas-fir at the sample locations was wide (174 years). The hypothesis that large-diameter old-growth Douglas-fir developed at low stand densities was supported by these observations.

From Nathan J. Poage and John C. Tappeiner, II Long-term patterns of diameter and basal area growth of old-growth Douglas-fir trees in western Oregon. Can. J. For. Res. Vol. 32, 2002 (see Appendix A) emphasis added.

These can only have been the product of frequent, regular, seasonal anthropogenic fire. Further, only under anthropogenic fire regimes do individual trees survive to great ages.

Irregular lightning fire leaves hiatuses during which thickets of young trees invade. When the infrequent lightning fire finally occurs, all the trees die in the ensuing conflagration. Depending on lightning fire alone as the principal disturbance agent will lead to short-lived thickets of trees, not old-growth.

The WFU fires proposed by the RR-SNF will alter the historical anthropogenic fire regimes and destroy the living old-growth trees. And they will prevent future old-growth from developing because the historical forest development pathways will have been altered.

Allowing lightning fires to burn unchecked in unprepared forests across the historic, cultural landscape that is the RR-SNF is not stewardship. Stewardship is the active participation of human beings in caring for our natural world. The motto of the US Forest Service is “Caring for the Land, Serving the People.” Caring for the land is different than abandoning it to lightning fires. Caring for the land means tending it.

The word tending, as in Tending the Wild, is meant to encapsulate the essence of the relationship that the indigenous people of California had with the natural world in pre-Columbian times. It also suggests the timeless wisdom inherent in this relationship, wisdom that we sorely need today. Tend means “to have the care of; watch over; look after.” Thus the word connotes a relationship of stewardship, involvement, and caring very different from the dualistic, exploit-it-or-leave-it-alone relationship with nature characteristic of Western Society…

Now that the book [Tending the Wild] is being published, it is my fervent hope that certain benefits will be realized. First, I hope that greater understanding of the stewardship legacy left us by California Indians will foster a paradigm shift in our thinking about the state’s past — particularly with regard to wildland fire — and the necessity of prescribed burning in the management of the state’s natural resources today. Second, increased appreciation for the diverse indigenous cultures of California could lead to collaborative projects that reestablish access to the land and maintain culturally significant plant resources for the perpetuation of native traditions [and landscapes]. Third, experiments and cross-disciplinary studies to … assess the degree to which particular ecosystems and plant species are dependent on indigenous disturbance regimes could be launched. Fourth I would like to encourage people to pursue studies in natural history and ethnobiology, both of which emphasize tactile contact with and direct learning from nature and indigenous peoples. And fifth, we desperately need to foster a new vision of human-nature relationships and the place of humans in the natural world…

By the eighteenth century, wilderness areas in Europe had come to be viewed as places for self-renewal, where one could escape the hectic, burdensome life of the cities for the tranquility and purity of nature. The splendor and nobility of nature had become linked with God’s creative energies and omnipotence. Coupled with this favorable view of wilderness was the idea of the noble savage—a kind of wild man uncorrupted by the vices of civilized life—who lived a simple, harmonious, unfettered existence in nature…

Many of the late-nineteenth-century Americans… including John Muir, were strongly influenced by Romanticism and its proponents. Muir and those with similar views responded to the destruction and exploitation of California’s natural resources with a preservationist ethic that valued nature above all else but which defined nature as that which was free of human influence…

Muir was clearly troubled by the Indians he encountered, unable to fit them into his worldview…

Muir’s view of California nature was a necessary counterweight to the view that had prevailed before—that nature was there to be used, exploited, and commodified—but it left us with a schizophrenic approach to the natural world: humans either conquer nature and destroy its integrity, or they visit it as an outsider, idealizing its beauty and largely leaving it alone. These seemingly contradictory attitudes—to idealize nature or commodify it—are really two sides of the same coin, what the restoration ecologist William Jordan terms the “coin of alienation”…

According to the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577), wilderness is “an area where the earth and [its] community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain, An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which … generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

[Yet] much of what we consider wilderness today was in fact shaped by Indian burning, harvesting, tilling, pruning, sowing, and tending…

From Anderson, M. Kat. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources. 2005. Univ. Calif. Press.(see Appendix A).

Native American voices must be heard. Ignoring or denying historical anthropogenic influences violates the law, and it also will destroy the very values that society holds most dear in regard to our forests.

Native American land managers are well aware of their heritage. Besides the examples given above, the following excerpts from Evergreen Magazine, Winter 2005-2006, entitled “Forestry in Indian Country: Models of Sustainability for Our Nation’s Forests?” express expert modern application of traditional ecological knowledge:

From A School of Red Herring by Gary S. Morishima, Technical Advisor, Quinault Nation:

Tribes have been managing natural resource systems for thousands of years, but protecting tribal legacies for the future is no simple task. The resources that are essential to sustain tribal cultures are coming under relentless attack from a variety of economic and political forces … To a great extent, these threats stem from the introduction of an invasive species several centuries ago … Europeans.

From Sovereignty, Stewardship, and Sustainability by Larry Mason, Project Coordinator for the Rural Technology Initiative at the College of Natural Resources, University of Washington:

Tribes are known to have been managers of natural resources for 10,000 years or more. In many areas of the United States, ecosystems found by early European settlers were not virgin wilderness untouched by the hand of man, but were instead forests altered through time by many generations of Natives that burned, pruned, sowed, weeded, tilled, and harvested to meet their requirements for firewood, fish and game, vegetal foods, craft supplies, and building materials. Periodic underburning not only produced desirable vegetative conditions but reduced fuel accumulations that might otherwise sustain intense fire. A severe fire in a tribal territory would have meant not only loss of property, resources, and lives, but also a long-term disaster for the well-being of the community.

From The Yakama’s Prescription for Sustainable Forestry by Markian Petruncio, Ph.D., Administrative Forester, Yakama Nation, and Edwin Lewis, Forest Manager, BIA, Yakama Agency:

Forest restoration implies that a forest will be returned to a prior condition. Nineteenth-century forest conditions on the Yakama Reservation appeared to be more sustainable than present conditions. For example, open pine stands were maintained in a healthy condition by frequent, low-intensity fires. The forestry program [on Yakama Nation lands] is using historic species composition and stand densities as references for restoration of forest health. … The pathway to sustainable forestry requires proactive management.

From The Forest Is In Your Hands by Nolan Colegrove, Sr., Forest Manager, Hoopa Valley Tribal Council, Forestry Division:

We tended and managed the forest with many tools that were created from nature, but the most effective tool was controlled fire. … The tending of the forest with the use of fire produced annual crops which provided the daily necessities of the people; but what also occurred, by conducting low intensity burns annually for hundreds of years, was that the condition of the forest was healthy and in balance.

From Ecosystem Management and Tribal Self-Governance on the Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana by Jim Durglo, Forest Manager, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes:

The Tribes understood that both Indian-lit and lightning fires shaped the forest. Here in the Northern Rockies, fire, more than any other factor except climate, shaped the structure of our forest. It determined the kinds and ages of trees, how close together they grew, and the number and types of openings that existed. … From the stories of elders, the historical accounts of early Europeans, and the findings of modern scientific research, we know that Indians have been purposefully burning in the area for at least 7,000 years.

From The Gift of Fire by Germaine White, information and education specialist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana:

As Salish and Pend d’Oreille people, our view of fire was and is quite different from the modern western view. In our tradition, fire is a gift from the Creator brought to us by the animals. We think of it as a blessing, that if used respectfully and in a manner consistent with our traditional knowledge, will enrich our world. This belief explains our long tradition (12,000 years plus) of spring and fall burning …

On my last trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area with one of our tribal elders, Harriet Whitworth, we followed the trails she had followed seventy years previous with her mother and grandmother, trails her family had followed for multiple generations. When we arrived at Big Prairie on the South Fork of the Flathead River, Harriet described what it was like when she was a little girl. She said it was a big, open, park-like area where there were enormous ponderosa pine trees, an abundance of grass, and many animals … [with] many clearings, a series of prairies in one place, and Harriet talked of how beautiful it was when she was a child.

Now there is only a little bit of a camp and small prairie or meadow left, and the big pine trees are crowded with Douglas-fir trees. Being there in that place and listening to the stories of how it used to look just a single elder’s lifetime ago showed me in a vivid way what it means to exclude fire from the landscape.

From Petersen, James, ed. Forestry in Indian Country: Models of Sustainability for Our Nation’s Forests? Evergreen Magazine, Winter 2005-2006. (see Appendix A).

These insights have direct application to the RR-SNF. The presence of Native Americans and traditional ecological practices were brought forth by the late Henry T. Lewis, Ph.D. in a symposium held in 1989 in Medford. (Henry Lewis was the leading researcher of anthropogenic fire in North America during his lifetime.):

To conclude my retrospective epilogue, three years ago I was asked to contribute a paper to a conference in southwestern Oregon. I explained to the symposium organizers that my original research on California had somewhat abruptly and artificially ended at the political boundaries of the state, and I had collected only a few references for their area of concern. I also mentioned that a comprehensive study had been carried out on the Willamette Valley of central Oregon by Robert M. Boyd (1986), though southwestern Oregon should have been included as a natural geographic extension and part of my earlier study.

In my presentation to the conference I summarized my earlier research on California, northern Alberta, and northern Australia, emphasizing the kind of work that should and could still be done using published and archival sources on indigenous uses of fire in southwestern Oregon. To my pleasant surprise, several Native American participants at the conference pointed out that there were still older people who knew about and understood the techniques and consequences of traditional burning practices; I refer briefly to some of that information in the published version of that paper (Lewis 1990b:82-83). The comments of one participant at the conference, while talking about her background in the South Umpqua River region, are worth repeating here because they add directly to what I wrote about California twenty years ago:

[That participant was Susan Crispen Shaffer, Chairman of the Cow Creek Indian Tribe. In Mrs. Shaffer’s own words:]

“Indians were the first environmentalists. Our ties to our Mother Earth are different than those of the people who came after us. We have always understood that we must protect the resources that sustain us. The fall burning practices to keep our forests clean were common. This was to keep the forest clear of fallen logs, underbrush, and other debris that collected. It also served the purpose of killing unwanted bugs and insects, harmful to the forest. By keeping the forest floor clean there was an assurance of plentiful food for the game animals which were the main food source for many tribes. It also provided a clear view of the animals for the hunters. Fish habitat was protected as well. In my Great-grandfather’s diaries, he has many entries of burning. My Great-uncle [Bob Thomason] continued this practice and when the Forest Service came to the Tiller Ranger District here in the Umpqua National Forest in Douglas County, Oregon, their system was not to burn. Here was this old Indian fellow that they knew was continuing to do the burning – what to do with him? They ended up hiring him so that they could keep an eye on him! Some old timers maintain that he sometimes still had a little smoke going here and there!”

“When I was a very little girl, I remember asking Uncle Bob, ‘When do you do the burning?’ His reply was always, ‘When the time is right.’ He would often go out in the field, away from the house and sniff the air, also wet his finger and hold it up (although there was no wind that I could perceive), and say, ‘Not yet’ or ‘It’s time.’ I never knew on what he based his reasoning. The fires were set annually, but I’m sure on a rotating basis. As for the time of the year, it would appear that some burning was done in the early Spring, although the bulk of it was in the Fall, perhaps after the first rain, for even in aboriginal times the annual fires were recognized as a way to balance the ecology. After Fall fires, there was a quick greening, providing food for the forest animals.”

From Lewis, Henry T. In Retrospect. IN Blackburn, Thomas C. and Kat Anderson, eds. Before The Wilderness: Environmental Management by Native Californians, pp 389-400. 1993. Malki Press - Ballena Press (see Appendix A).

The RR-SNF proposed amendments to their LRMP will engender WFU fires in unknown places at unknown times. Those fires will significantly impact historic and traditional Native American cultural sites eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (”National Register”) and impact Native American religious and cultural practices, as well.

Prior archaeological surveys, ethnographic work, oral histories, cultural impact assessments have amply demonstrated and documented that the RR-SNF is home to hundreds (perhaps thousands) of archaeological sites and traditional use areas.

In addition to compliance with NEPA and the ESA, the USFS must comply with the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The proposed amendments will encourage WFU fires that will have significant impacts on historic and cultural resources and values. Federal law requires NHPA consultations and public involvement before such impacts are realized.

17 Apr 2008, 3:17pm
by bear bait

Hear! Hear! The truth at last! Make them see the truth, even if you have to drag them screaming from their cubicles.

Just ask yourself one question: Why would humans on the North American continent have less an impact of vegetative response than those in Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa?

I once read a paper that described how central African pygmy people hunted in the deep forests, quite successfully, and traded meat and sexual favors for crops grown in small slash and burn ag fields that soon used up their fertility. The more or less sedentary ag people would burn and hack out another small field, abandoning the prior one. Those were the clearings in the forest elephants used for some needed browse. Over time, those clearings became the new forest, and renewal ran its course. The pygmies and poison arrows kept the elephant population in some sort of control, the meat allowed the ag folks to get protein and the pygmies starches and simple sugars. The elephants got a place to feed and the forest got renewal. It all worked, and I have no doubt that was the case in North America before zealots looking for relief from the drudgery of city life found their Eden in the unclaimed public domain that became the National Forest.

So the question becomes: Why do things that happen far away have subscribers, and things that happen in our own backyard have no subscribers?

Humans were here BEFORE the forests as the Ice Age became an interglacial period, and forests began anew. People directed and kept things that worked and discarded things that did not. What the earliest Europeans found was a working landscape that soon was without managers due to introduced disease and holocaust. And it went “wild” on them. Now we don’t know how to deal with it so we destroy what we don’t understand. You would think that ignorance to that degree would not exist in the 21st century, but it does. The fire season is upon us, and reason has left the room. I am not as afraid of George Bush as I am those who work for him without oversight. The year of the arsonist in khaki is upon us. Adios heritage forests, spotted owls, reasonable forest management opportunities.

17 Apr 2008, 3:38pm
by Mike

Bush is a wienie. His “compassionate conservatism” turned out to be un-leadership and a grossly insensitive abandonment of responsibility. More Clintonism from the little man behind the curtain.

And the Civil Service marches to an authoritarian beat, smash and burn, laying waste to the countryside in a Hitlerian blitzkrieg. Jackbooted thugs on a religious mission to rid the nation of free people by incinerating our landscapes.

Once again the “master race” has turned out to be Neanderthal ogres. The White Witch has returned to Narnia, and an icy frost covers the scorched earth wastelands.

18 Apr 2008, 11:23am
by Forrest Grump

Good stuff. However, I’m not sure if it’s “racist” as much as it is “left.” The cracking point to me is that of human utility. Lefties have a thing about the proletarians, for all the high-minded yap there’s an amazing undercurrent of contempt. Yo, like Obambi?

Away from leftism, there’s another problem. If you are a deep-ecologist kook, the concept of landscapes — even beautiful ones chockablock with good stuff to eat and look at — being a result of human intervention, is an enormous intellectual leap. And to be honest, those gullible enough to fall for deep ecology and its anti-everything spinoffs probably used up their lifetime leap factor when they fell into the “deep” pit. The only way to motivate them to climb out is to render the pit uninhabitable…meaning, shut down the agencies that harbor them. Force them to seek sustenance in another way.

Back to the left side, there happens to be a right and a left in tribal thinking as well. It is my observation that the public face of Indians tends to be a bit more slanted to the politically correct side…possibly because there are those who seek political legitimacy for their framework about both the red and white worlds by seeking the, um, Reddest of the red? And have you noticed that the left always seems to be the side playing the race card (a modified form of “classism”) whenever convenient?

In that way, I think it’s going to be difficult to separate the human side of Indian historic patterns from the “Indian way” and the various victimologies rife in tribal politics. As long as history is separated into Indian and White (for ideological reasons of right and left) rather than recognized as human history over time, we’ll not see the results we should.

18 Apr 2008, 3:04pm
by Mike

Excellent points. I don’t back away from the Racism charge, but the virulent elitism displayed by the USFS and others is indeed directed at more than one race. What we are viewing is basically the anti-human being philosophy.

The current “victimology” is oriented toward placating various oppressed factions, which often are poorly defined as races. Race in the human species is a muddy thing, and scientifically unsupportable. Are there 5 races? Or 10? Or 141? Or 10,000? The thing cannot be defined with quantifiable, replicatable science. The variation within the bins exceeds the variation between the bins, meaning the binning process is flawed.

But the anti-human philosophy/religion is the force behind it all. Some hold that AGW (anthropogenic global warming) is a bad thing merely because people cause it. That avoids the questions of whether AGW actually exists or not, or whether AGW might result in useful, positive, survival-enhancing outcomes (like longer growing seasons, more rain, more bio-productivity, more bio-diversity, less cold-related costs and suffering, etc.). It assumes as a first principle that anything humanity does to the planet is wrong, bad, and/or evil.

Similarly, the Wilderness Movement assumes as a first principal that any “untrammeled” area is preferable to any area that exhibits the sign or impact of mankind. Natural lightning fire is “good” because it is not man-made and may erase any man-made features that previously existed. The erasure of the actual human history writ upon the landscape is seen as a “good” rather than a loss of valuable heritage. Heritage is NOT valued but instead despised.

However, some of us DO value heritage, whether it is that of our own families or of the First Residents to whom we may not be related.

More than that, for forests scientists it is a BIG MISTAKE to deny the reality of historical human impact and influence on our forests. Failure to understand the reality of our forest histories is an impediment to knowledge and a gross miscalculation on the part of supposedly unbiased observers. Bad science is worthless to the society that funds it, as well as leading to bad stewardship decisions and rampant destruction.

Fundamentally, racism and the anti-human philosophy are two aspects of the same twisted thinking, and that thinking is Evil with a capital “E” regardless of how it might be manifested.

18 Apr 2008, 4:57pm
by Forrest Grump

In the context of the last, I suggest a Wiki visit to Wilderness. At the bottom of the page is an essay by ecohistorian William Cronon that, while sympathetic, really lays out the ideo-religious aspects of wildernism/wildernists and by extension, environmentalism.

18 Apr 2008, 6:27pm
by Mike

I have a stack of works on Wilderness to post in the Colloquia. I apologize for not getting to them sooner. Too many distractions. Among them are two William Cronon essays. Here is the link and opening paragraphs from the one excerpted at Wiki:

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature

by William Cronon

(from William Cronon, ed., Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995, pp. 69-90)

The time has come to rethink wilderness.

This will seem a heretical claim to many environmentalists, since the idea of wilderness has for decades been a fundamental tenet—indeed, a passion—of the environmental movement, especially in the United States. For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization, that all too human disease, has not fully infected the earth. It is an island in the polluted sea of urban-industrial modernity, the one place we can turn for escape from our own too-muchness. Seen in this way, wilderness presents itself as the best antidote to our human selves, a refuge we must somehow recover if we hope to save the planet. As Henry David Thoreau once famously declared, “In Wildness is the preservation of the World.” (1)

But is it? The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems. Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history. It is not a pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of an untouched, endangered, but still transcendent nature can for at least a little while longer be encountered without the contaminating taint of civilization. Instead, it’s a product of that civilization, and could hardly be contaminated by the very stuff of which it is made. Wilderness hides its unnaturalness behind a mask that is all the more beguiling because it seems so natural. As we gaze into the mirror it holds up for us, we too easily imagine that what we behold is Nature when in fact we see the reflection of our own unexamined longings and desires. For this reason, we mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture’s problematic relationships with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem. …

18 Apr 2008, 9:55pm
by Rocky


Like you said, L&C followed roads made by the Indians, and the only times they got lost were when they lost the road or took the wrong one. Also, before disease killed most of the Indians there were far fewer animals because they were predated by the Indians for food. DeSoto saw lots of Indians but few bison were mentioned in his journals. LaSalle saw lots of bison and few Indians 150 years later in the same place.

By the way, not just L&C but most Western explorers followed Indian roads.



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