The Wilderness Society Wants to Incinerate Your Forests

Let us connect the dots. Pay attention now. I will do this carefully and slowly, because I don’t want your brain to explode.

The Wilderness Society lives in Washington DC. They are a corporation. They have assets: in 2006 they reported assets of $54,000,000. They have income: in 2006 they reported revenues of $37,000,000. They have a president. His name is William H. Meadows. They have members, because they are a kind of club. TWS (that’s their pet nickname for The Wilderness Society) claims 300,000 members.

TWS is what is generally known as a “special interest group.” They have special interests. They lobby Congress. They get involved in elections. They sue people, especially the Federal Government. They also sit on important boards and commissions.

We mentioned one of their lawsuits two posts ago. TWS sued the US Forest Service, specifically the Plumas national Forest, for an “improper” SEIS, which is the acronym for Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

It seems the Plumas NF wanted to thin some forests, to make those forests less likely to burn up in catastrophic forest fires. They called that proposed thinning “creating Defensible Fuel Profile Zones” which are areas approximately 1/4 to 1/2 mile wide where fuel loadings are reduced, usually along roads. In order to do the thinnings properly and legally, the Plumas NF first did a plan and analysis, called an SEIS (see previous paragraph).

That involved making a plan, evaluating it, and presenting it to the public for the public’s input. It was all very “by the book.” The Plumas NF followed all the laws, such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Planning Act (NEPA), and even one you may not have heard of, the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act. In the HFQLGFRA the U.S. Congress directed the Plumas NF to do exactly the the kind of forest thinnings they laid out.

That’s how closely the Plumas NF followed the law; they were told by Congress (and President Bill Clinton, who signed the HFQLGFRA) that they MUST do these thinnings and so they did, or tried to anyway.

But the Wilderness Society (TWS, remember them? see the beginning of this essay) did not like all that. TWS is very stuffy about the law. They felt that, somehow, the laws was not being followed just right, so they sued. TWS sued in Federal Court, but they lost at the trial level, so they appealed. TWS’s appeal was accepted by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and last week that court ruled in favor of TWS [here].

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Plumas NF must not do those thinnings. The Court agreed with TWS that those thinnings violate the law, specifically NEPA. The Court said that the Plumas NF did not “rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives” as required under NEPA, and so they must not do the thinnings.

Let me say that again, slowly. There is a Federal law called NEPA, the National Environmental Planning Act. NEPA says that before Federal agencies do actions in the environment, first they must create plans. Those plans must be made public, too. The public must see some alternatives in those plans, and the Federal agencies must explore all the reasonable alternatives. They must explore them rigorously. That’s the law.

TWS didn’t think that law, NEPA, was followed correctly, so they sued, and won their lawsuit.

Is all that clear so far? You may be left with the impression that TWS is a “watchdog” organization, a special interest group whose special interest is making the US Forest Service obey the law. That is certainly what the TWS would like you to think.

TWS is also a USFS service provider. The USFS pays TWS millions of dollars every year to provide special services. Among those are providing paid advice to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC). The WFLC is the Federal Advisory Committee that oversees the National Fire Plan. That’s the plan that tells all the Federal land management agencies how they will fight fires. Those agencies are the USFS, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), NPS (National Park Service), BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), and the USFWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service).

TWS sits in on all the WFLC meetings. They have advised the WFLC to have a Let It Burn program, and the WFLC has taken that advice to heart. On February 22, 2007, the WFLC altered the National Fire Plan to include Wildland Fire Use (WFU) [here, here, and here]. WFU fires are fires that the USFS allows to burn. They just watch them, without trying to contain, control, or extinguish them.

TWS is very big on WFU fires. They like them. They promote them. From TWS’s own website [here]:

Wildland Fire Use (WFU) — using naturally-burning fires in designated, remote sections of forests — is widely accepted by scientists, policymakers and land managers as an important tool for helping to restore forest health and mitigating the escalating costs of fire suppression.

Good fire management often involves a mix of approaches, from full suppression action to WFU; managers must follow a complex series of steps when they make the choice to allow a fire to burn in a given area.

Before WFU can be expanded, Congress must reform incentive structures and institutional pressures that encourage unnecessary fire suppression; the public must also be educated about the ecological benefits of fire.

Regardless of the alleged virtues of WFU fires, or their alleged acceptance by scientists, policymakers and land managers, or the alleged uneducated condition of the public, WFU fires are Federal actions that take place on Federal forests.

No WFU has ever undergone a NEPA process. In fact, the entire WFU program promulgated by the WFLC on the advice of TWS has never had a single Environmental Impact Statement written. There have been no alternatives presented to the public, no “rigorous” examination of the absent alternatives, no public involvement process, no request for comments from the public, no nothing.

On one hand, TWS sued the USFS for an “unrigorous” EIS on the Plumas NF thinning project, and on the other they have pushed for a Let It Burn program nationally with no NEPA process at all!

Does that strike you as hypocritical and duplicitous? That’s how it strikes me.

The TWS makes a big noise about forcing the USFS to “obey the law” when it suits TWS, but then they advise the USFS to ignore the law when that option suits TWS.

What do the Plumas NF lawsuit and the national WFU program have in common? In both cases the outcome desired by the TWS is incineration of our public forests.

The Plumas NF thinning was designed to save our forests from catastrophic destruction by fire. TWS opposed those thinnings. The WFU program is one that encourages forest fires to burn unimpeded by fire suppression. TWS favors WFU.

In other words (if any more are needed) TWS wants to burn, baby, burn. They will sue if fires are prevented, but will take your tax dollars and ignore Federal lawbreaking if the outcome, in either case, will lead to more forest fires.

Here is what a WFU looks like after the fire has burned:

It doesn’t take a scientist, policymaker, or a land manager to see how destructive WFU fires can be. That is total annihilation of a forest. But that’s what TWS desires. That’s their goal.

And they are more than willing to sue the government, and/or subvert the law, to achieve their goal.

The 9th Circuit Court judge in the Plumas NF case accused the USFS of extortion, collusion, and bribery in their efforts to thin public forests to prevent total annihilation by fire. However, those accusations are more properly directed at TWS. Whereas the Plumas NF was trying to save forests, TWS uses strong arm tactics to destroy them.

Now I hope all that was pretty clear. I hope your brain did not explode. I know it is difficult for the average citizen, who has been pepper sprayed by propaganda his or her entire life, to understand that a so-called “environmental” group is not really pro-environment. You have been lied to your whole life, which should not surprise you, frankly, but probably does.

But all the above is not a lie; it is the truth. TWS subverts the law, suing when it pleases them, spitting on the law when it pleases them, in order to destroy public forests with catastrophic holocausts.

Here are the names of the TWS Governing Council Officers:

Brenda Davis, Chair
Doug Walker, Vice Chair
Hansjörg Wyss, Vice Chair
Scott A. Nathan, Treasurer
Marcia Kunstel, Secretary
Caroline Getty, At-Large
David Bonderman, At-Large

Here are the names of the TWS Governing Council:

Edward A. Ames
James R. Baca
Thomas A. Barron
Richard Blum
David Bonderman
William M. Bumpers
Bethine Church
Bertram J. Cohn
Dr. William J. Cronon
Dr. Brenda S. Davis
Christopher J. Elliman
David J. Field
George T. Frampton, Jr.
Dr. Jerry F. Franklin
David H. Getches
Caroline M. Getty
Reginald “Flip” Hagood
Marcia Kunstel
Kevin Luzak
Molly McUsic
Michael Mantell
Heather Kendall Miller
Scott Nathan
Jaime Pinkham
Rebecca L. Rom
Theodore Roosevelt IV
Patrick Smith
Cathleen Douglas Stone
Douglas W. Walker
Hansjörg Wyss

Here are the names of the TWS staff concerned with Wildland Fires

Tom Fry
Bo Wilmer
Michael Francis
Greg Aplet
Bob Ekey
Chris Mehl
Craig Gehrke
Pete Morton
Chris Lancette

19 May 2008, 12:04pm
by Bob Z.

Dang it, Mike! Now when someone does a Google search on Pete Morton, the Wilderness Society, or Jerry Franklin, they’re going to be led directly to your column! Then, if they read it, they will likely be sadly disillusioned. That can’t be good, can it?

I was sorry to see Jaime Pinkham’s name on the list. He is an old OSU Forestry grad. Either I have badly misjudged his professional abilities, or he is being used (in which case I have badly misjudged his professional abilities), or he is a mole, or else a true voice in the Wilderness. I can only hope it is the third or fourth option because he seems like a good guy and I hate making misjudgments.

Keep up the good work!

19 May 2008, 1:30pm
by Mike

I’m sorry to see all the names on that list.

As for sad disillusionment, maybe the dear reader can consider it a rude awakening at worst, or better yet, welcome honesty and overdue illumination.

20 May 2008, 6:12pm
by Mike

And don’t think the Wilderness Society is the only one.

The Eugene, OR, radical group FSEEE has filed another lawsuit to halt the use of fire retardant on forest fires [here]. Andy Stahl claims fire retardant is “toxic” to endangered species. What are actually toxic to plants and animals alike are raging inferno holocausts.

Lawsuits like that are not intended to save wildlife or forests; they are intended to kill them. It’s one more case of so-called “environmentalists” who are blatantly attempting to destroy public forests.

23 May 2008, 10:45pm
by Joe B.

Here is a direct quote from the Wilderness Society mouthpiece in Idaho. AMR stands for appropriate management response; you may recognize it as let it burn.

“AMR should be promoted and publicized in south-central Idaho and elsewhere as the preferred fire management strategy, across the spectrum of WFU-point protection-WUI, to demonstrate economic and ecological viability. Community and fire fighter safety can be secured with an AMR strategy and more people should be aware of its practical application.” — from Idaho Fire Story 2007 by John McCarthy, Idaho Forest Program Director, The Wilderness Society

What is extremely disturbing about that publication are the quotes from the Payette’s Sam Hescock after the 2007 fires that cannot be hidden from the casual user of the forest since all the roads drive right through the aftermath.

“No one has ever seen anything like this.” — Hescock on realizing that every single person who accesses the Boise and Payette forests this summer is going to have their stomach turned.

Or this gem…

“All of the north slope on the South Fork (Salmon River) got hit hard, the rest is fine. Anything we had burn, had (seed tree) survivors. I’m not at all unhappy,” he said afterward. — Hescock

Moving on from Hescock:

“The fire perimeter map does show most of the forest has seen fire in less than 25 years.” — McCarthy

Ya think? Of value in this report is a map of all the fires since 1985. Yep, pretty much it has all burned now. Yet fire officers want to burn more, this time west of Yellow Pine. Let me see, west of Yellow Pine, prevailing winds, yep, bye bye little hamlet.

One guy makes sense in the Wilderness Society diatribe. He works for the Boise Forest.

“It didn’t do wildlife and fisheries any favors.” — Mike Diem, resource staff at Cascade district.

I’m surprised that quote made it in, but McCarthy quickly covers it by quoting a retired fisheries guy from the Payette:

David Burns, recently retired fish biologist for the Payette, differs. He compared the fires of 2007 to 2000, 1994 and back to the late 1980s, when big fires came back to central Idaho. “I don’t see a reason to panic. We’ve seen fires exactly like it before in this part of the world and we didn’t see huge problems.”

Burns pointed to fires in Johnson Creek and the upper South Fork Salmon River in 2007 as similar to the big Corral and Blackwell fires in 1994, Big Creek and Burgdorf fires of 2000, all well over 100,000 acres each. “Nothing catastrophic happened, fish are doing fine, nothing terrible happened,” he said.

The biggest thing of value in this 20 some odd page booklet is the fact that McCarthy ends forever the debate residents and fire managers had last summer when residents said the fire managers were letting it burn and the fire managers said no this is a containment fire, we just can’t contain it. McCarthy drives the nail in that coffin with…

“Most of the big fires were managed with a focus on Appropriate Management Response (AMR) and point protections. The AMR strategy protected people and communities, provided safety for fire fighters and allowed fire to play its ecological role of reducing dry fuels and recycling nutrients.”

I can almost hear the lawsuits being filed now.

I wonder if the Forest Service even sees the stark contradiction between their statements during the fires and their puppet master organization proudly promoting AMR, now that 700,000 acres in the Payette and Boise forests have been incinerated.

23 May 2008, 11:24pm
by Mike

The twit gibberish penned by McCarthy is what passes for forest science these days. No research, no data, no analysis, no peer review, just a lot of baseless claims.

That’s why the Wilderness Society is fearful of being taken to court. They sue at the drop of a hat, but getting sued scares them because there is zero science supporting their contentions. TWS is being paid by the USFS to spout this crap, too. And they provide a revolving door of cushy pay-off jobs to ex-USFS employees. It’s incestuous and corrupt, and overflowing with junk science lies.

It’s horrific that the Payette has burned through their entire acreage in 25 years. So much for old-growth. In fact, that’s it for any tree or shrub over 25-years-old. Scorched earth wastelands. Done illegally, without one public hearing let alone a NEPA process. Makes you sick when you see the gyrations TWS lawyers go into when they demand “rigorous” NEPA for every acre of Healthy Forest thinning.

It’s not about forests for TWS. It’s not about the environment. It’s about burn, baby, burn.

They are sick, baby, sick.

24 May 2008, 3:06pm
by Backcut

They sure don’t mention the microburst that happened on the Boise National Forest’s Rabbit Creek Burn of 1994. I was working on the salvage project in 1995 and a massive thunderstorm occurred over part of the 200,000 acre fire area and blew out a huge slide that dammed up a fork of the Boise River with 150,000 cubic yards of rock, soil and debris. Eco-groups filed for injunctions against the ongoing salvage logging projects but, after a helicopter flight for the judge, it was easily determined that the slide originated well above the extent of the salvage logging.

Uncontrolled wildfire is NEVER good for the environment!

30 Aug 2008, 1:53pm
by Mike Lazzarino

I found this searching for the Plumas NF’s Land Management Plan, hoping to find it on line. I was looking for info on roadside hazard trees.

TWS stops the thinning projects and now we have the Earth Island Institute stopping a major roadside hazard sale. This sale is in an area that has burned 3 times in 3 years 90,000+ acres.

We would like to reprint your prose regarding this subject, on our website, if we can get your permission.

Mike Lazzarino, Sierra Access Coalition

30 Aug 2008, 2:52pm
by Mike Dubrasich


Once anything gets posted on SOS Forests it is automatically given, donated, bequeathed to the public. All is yours. Quote, cite, link to at will.

So the Earth Island Institute wishes to ban hazard tree removal? Whatever for? To kill people who dare venture onto public lands? Why must the American public die at the hands of radical enivro nut outfits? Isn’t murdering forests enough? Now they want to murder citizens, too?

Let’s hope the American Judicial System isn’t enamored of public murder of innocent citizens whose only “crime” is to visit the public property they own.

Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir
Western Institute for Study of the Environment
Lebanon, OR

2 Sep 2008, 3:08pm
by YPmule

As a resident of Yellow Pine - and volunteer fire fighter - I thank you for sifting thru the lies to publish the truth of what is going on. Politics is not good for forest health.

The entire East Fork of the South Fork River washed out during a thunder storm the 3rd week of July. There is nothing left up there, no grass, soil or trees. Talk about sediments in the river!! This did not need to happen, but the FS lit back fires on a red flag wind day, and poof, we had fire headed for us from a new direction. (Like we needed that with the Riorden and Monumental fires headed our way.)

Currently there is a WFU east of our village that once a week someone flies over and records the acres burned. I’m amazed there was anything left to burn.

Again thank you for your information and keep up the good work.

2 Sep 2008, 4:26pm
by Mike

That would be the Pepper WFU Fire

Location: 6 miles E of Yellowpine, Valley Co., ID

Specific Location: Lat 44° 56´ 56″ Lon 115° 21´ 12″

Date of Origin: 08/21/2008 (First official report 08/29/08)
Cause: lightning

Situation as of 08/29/08 at 11:00 AM
Personnel: 0
Size: 137
Percent Contained: 0%
Desired maximum Fire Size (MMA): not reported

Est. containment date: 10/31/08 (in other words, whenever)

Sam Hescock is in charge of this fire, too. Sam burned down 470,000 acres of the Payette NF last year.

2 Sep 2008, 7:32pm
by Joe B.

An Oct. 31 containment date? That’s a snowfall ender and not a containment date.

2 Sep 2008, 8:41pm
by YPmule

Mike; that is correct. A few of the locals are keeping an eye on it. Its closer to Salt Creek than to Pepper Creek.

Again thank you for your informative story. Every day we go outside and we get to see what the WFU “experiment” has done.



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