26 Jul 2008, 7:29am
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

A Burning Desire

The following essay was written in 1999, but it is just as valid today because things haven’t changed. We repost from the Free Republic [here].

© 1999 by Mark Edward Vande Pol, all rights reserved.

If environmentalists were left to their own devices, do they have a better way to manage wild-lands? Criticisms by environmentalists about private enterprise are so ubiquitous it is high time to critically analyze of one of their proposals. How often are their plans submitted for scrutiny, peer review, or an EIS? The sad part is that it is so easy to do. The cited text is reprinted off the Sierra Club web site.

Sierra Club Policy: Public Lands Fire Management

Sierra Club Board of Directors March 17-19, 1989:

(Yep, this is the current policy, adopted immediately AFTER the Yellowstone Fire.)

1. Fire is a natural, integral, and valuable component of many ecosystems. Fire management must be a part of the management of public lands. Areas managed for their natural values often benefit from recurring wildfires and may be harmed by a policy of fire suppression. Long-term suppression of small wildfires may build up conditions making occasional catastrophic conflagrations inevitable.”

Recurring fire is a natural occurrence in the West, unless people have suppressed fire for sixty years. That process of suppression has been harmful. The fuel load is not at a ‘natural’ level. It will not result therefore in a ‘natural’ fire. ‘Inevitable’ implies, ‘It is too big a problem and too much potentially harmful work to do anything to mitigate’. It is inferred that nobody is responsible for a conflagration if it happens because it’s ‘natural’. If the fuel level was forced by human activity, does ignition absolve those who had a choice of the time of ignition and the composition of the fuel?

2. Every fire should be monitored. Naturally occurring fires should be allowed to burn in areas where periodic burns are considered beneficial and where they can be expected to burn out before becoming catastrophic. Human-caused fires in such areas should be allowed to burn or be controlled on a case-by-case basis.

Note the prejudice toward unplanned fires. They want monitoring but not planning. Are they crazy? They just said that catastrophic fire was ‘inevitable.’ Who is going to be responsible for determining whether it will go out by itself or progress to a catastrophe on a case-by-case basis? Weather in the mountain regions of California is highly changeable, localized, and unpredictable. Are they going to get everybody together for a meeting before they decide while the fire builds? Who controls the fire if the only plan for ignition is that there should be no plan?

If this policy is adopted,

- No one is making sure that the impact on air quality is minimized.
- No one has prepared fire boundaries to prevent it from getting out of control and becoming a conflagration.
- No one has established limits and boundaries based upon escape capability of animals.
- No one has surveyed the location for endangered species.
- No one could have an effective fire plan to protect people or structures, because the preconditions (such as wind) are unknown. Indeed the Club tries to prevent such fuel reductions.
- No one has planned the location, assessed the fuel load, and estimated the likely temperature of the fire and decided if that is acceptable to prevent excessive mortality in large trees or firing of the topsoil.
- No one is responsible for fire mortality of ancient specimens. Consider the fuel load of white fir building in ancient Giant Sequoia groves.
- No one has acquired plant specimens and prepared adequate replacement numbers of endangered or threatened species for repropagation after the fire.
- No one has prepared an erosion control plan to minimize the risk of subsequent landslides or damage to water quality.
- No one has any option to select weather conditions to assure that it has a chance of staying under control.
- No one has the option to select a sequence of fires in such a way that downwind regions have been burned first so that prevailing winds do not carry smoldering embers over the fire line into a dense fuel load zone.

And, most important,

- No one has assessed the unrestricted propagation of exotic weeds into an open germination medium, with little competition, and minimal vegetation to capture airborne seeds before they travel for miles. There would also be no surface obstructions to stop seed from flowing downhill in surface runoff.
- No one has developed a control plan for those exotics and obtained the resources to execute that plan.

One could go on. It’s easy.

3. In areas where fire would pose an unreasonable threat to property, human life or important biological communities, efforts should be made to reduce dangerous fuel accumulations through a program of planned ignitions. New human developments should be discouraged in areas of high fire risk.

What is an “unreasonable threat” and how is that determined and by whom? If there has been sixty years of fire suppression then a threat to biological communities seems highly likely. Note no mention of exotic species abetted by fire. If it is an “unreasonable threat” to property, we should just burn it anyway? Note they talk of planned ignitions only when it’s dangerous and an unreasonable threat. I guess they want the conflagrations with loss of life and property to be “human error” or some other piece of PR that advances the cause. Why won’t they allow someone to chop up the excess fuel, get it on the ground, away from structures and prime botanical specimens and then light it?

Where is there not a high fire risk in the West? Do they mean there should be no more new development? If they do they should tell their Democratic Party masters. Real estate and development interests are among the biggest Democratic donors in California politics.

4. When fires do occur that pose an unacceptable threat to property or human life, prompt efforts should be undertaken of fire control.

Whoever was monitoring and didn’t put it out fast enough when the wind changed is at fault if that house burns down or the people die. How do you allocate sufficient equipment for all those unplanned fires? God forbid if, during the fire season, that equipment might be fighting a fire somewhere else they didn’t plan one. It had better be a “prompt” response!

Prompt enough to absolve the misbegotten progenitors of a plan like this?

“Go to a large remote area with a high fuel load, interspersed with homes, with minimal water available. Don’t touch any of the fuel. Start and contain a series of small fires (it would take thousands of them) without a single one getting out of hand. If they get out of control, put them out REALLY fast!”

On whose insurance policy?

5. In areas included in or proposed for the National Wilderness Preservation System, fires should be managed primarily by the forces of nature. Minimal exceptions to this provision may occur where these areas contain ecosystems altered by previous fire suppression, or where they are too small or too close to human habitation to permit the ideal of natural fire regimes. Limited planned ignitions should be a management option only in those areas where there are dangerous fuel accumulations, with a resultant threat of catastrophic fires, or where they are needed to restore the natural ecosystem.

Name a place in California that has NOT been altered by fire suppression. Limited ignitions only where it is dangerous? Where the threat is catastrophic? Minimal exceptions? The purpose of a plan should be to restore a natural fire balance. How are they going to get it done that way? Is this the best the Sierra Club can do?

6. Land managers should prepare comprehensive fire management plans. These plans should consider the role of natural fire, balancing the ecological benefits of wildfire against its potential threats to natural resources, to watersheds, and to significant scenic and recreational values of wild lands.

Is there a basic problem with sitting in an office writing a plan and not being out in the field dealing with the problem according to established forestry principles with which most of the wilderness managers are familiar? In my engineering experience, we discover the inefficacy of such plans as soon as we start to implement them. Not only that, but if you are too busy not planning the ignition, there are simply too many interactive variables for which to account. Relative humidity, temperature, wind, and fuel moisture content ALL radically change the way that a fire progresses. It sounds like a plan that is too complex to be realistic. Deal with the FUEL first, then plan the ignition.

Now it IS possible to have a plan if you intend to ignite it under conditions known to be controllable and non-destructive. That might be possible, and in fact should be done.

Note the idea of fuel mitigation prior to a fire doesn’t even get discussed. They want scenic considerations taken into account? If the forest isn’t healthy it won’t stay scenic. It won’t be too scenic after any kind of fire. Not too many people will want to camp there for a couple of years at least, especially after one of those ‘unavoidable’ conflagrations (there is an awful lot of dust). Why should that even be a consideration when it comes to ecological health?

7. Methods used to control or prevent fires are often more damaging to the land than fire. Fire control plans must implement minimum-impact fire suppression techniques appropriate to the specific area.

You don’t get to fight conflagrations exactly the way you would prefer. The minimum impact is not to have a conflagration at all.

8. Steps should be taken to rehabilitate damage caused by fighting fires. Land managers should rely on natural revegetation in parks, designated or proposed wilderness areas, and other protected lands. Where artificial revegetation is needed, a mixture of appropriate native species suited to the site should be used.

How big would a nursery have to be in order to revegetate the acreage of all likely conflagrations to be started by unplanned ignitions? It should have all the local genotypes of plants in adequate quantity for all of the areas subject to serious fire risk ready to go. While they are at it, they should also collect all the necessary local insects, amphibians and other animals and provide them their specially selected diet. How many horticulturists, entomologists, and animal behavior specialists are we going to need? Keep them from cross breeding or contamination by humans while you are at it!

Conflagrations are a serious risk to biodiversity. It is better to plan not to have them.

9. The occurrence of a fire does not justify salvage logging or road building in areas that are otherwise inappropriate for timber harvesting. Salvage logging is not permitted in designated wilderness areas or National Park System units.

It justifies anything but have a way for somebody to cover some of the horrific cost of clearing, replanting some of those natives, and assuming the risk of lighting it on fire! It might even help to offset some of the cost of monitoring and assisting the reestablishment of various native species, and keeping out the pests. Oh, but the government can thin as long as they don’t sell logs! Then in the next breath they tell you that they don’t have the “funding”. Meanwhile somebody logs somewhere else to provide the wood. The real reason they won’t allow thinning in advance is that it is not directly under their control.

Nobody knows how to solve problem of a sixty-year fuel load in an area infested with pests and exotic species optimally in all of the circumstances as exist. NOBODY. Government certainly does not have the resources to do it. Government does not have all the local knowledge to manage all of the controlled burns needed. On private lands, they don’t know where the water is, they don’t know where the roads are, the patterns of breezes, they don’t know the site-specific information that only a landowner can. Indeed, government is in the way.

It doesn’t have to happen this way!

If we were to reduce the fuel risk by removing some of the fuel prior to the burn we could manage these fires. The problem is that it would cost a lot of money. That means it won’t get done. Somebody could make some money to pay for at least part of it by selling logs. This can be done with less impact than that inevitable conflagration. God forbid, these people just can’t bring themselves to admit that an occasional stump might be preferable to a conflagration. The stump will break down in about 20 years and we can start over with a fire management plan that is similar to what they propose.

The Clean Air Act must be amended to minimize impact on controlled burning plans. When we have wild fires with unplanned ignitions there is air pollution. If it is a wild fire they call it smoke instead. When we don’t plan the ignition (as is proposed in the majority of cases by the Sierra Club) we have no choices about the atmospheric conditions that minimize the air pollution impact of the smoke. When we have conflagrations, the recovery time greatly increases. There is more erosion from the runoff and subsequent water pollution of the lakes.

The Sierra Club plan is a good one if only if you had forests in a primeval condition, but they have not been primeval for a very long time. The problem with the Sierra Club plan is that the ideal circumstances upon which it presupposes hardly exist. To assume that the forests will return to primeval condition, or even benefit from hands-off management after species have been selected for fire response by anthropogenic means for 10,000 years is beyond mere stupidity.

For a political organization of the size and power of the Sierra Club, to demand that the solutions be ideal when the situation precludes that possibility is either psychotic or represents an agenda having nothing to do with forest management. It’s offensive. They should look at the size and scope of the fires this year and be ashamed. The response has been one of denial and blame.

It’s time they were held accountable. Clinton Executive Order - 12986 exempted ALL members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources from civil liability. The Sierra Club is a member. That EO was a TOTALLY unconstitutional violation of 14th Amendment equal protection.

George Bush should rescind that EO, now.

Mark Edward Vande Pol is a medical device engineer, author, and hobbyist in habitat restoration science. He has no interest in commercial logging. His book: Natural Process: That Environmental Laws May Serve the Laws of Nature details the adverse environmental impact of political and legal ecosystem management. He proposes an alternative, free-market environmental management system capable of evolving an objective pricing system for ecosystem resources. Order a copy at http://www.naturalprocess.net.

26 Jul 2008, 8:33am
by Wayne Kraft

Vande Pol says: “The Sierra Club plan is a good one if only if [sic] you had forests in a primeval condition, but they have not been primeval for a very long time.”

What is a forest is “primeval condition?” Is there such a thing?

26 Jul 2008, 10:04am
by Mike

A primeval condition existed prior to the arrival of human beings in this Hemisphere somewhere between 13,500 and 25,000 years ago, according to the best anthropological estimates. Since then humanity has played a major role in altering and tending our landscapes.

All that is unknown by Sierra Clubbers, who are largely clueless regarding history and everything else environmental.

26 Jul 2008, 12:57pm
by bear bait

Mike: Primeval is possibly what we now have. The managed forest, put on a pedestal by ecofreaques, from pre-Columbian Americas has mostly been lost, and the vestigial portions are quickly being consumed by fire. Chaparral is most likely the real post-fire response, and getting rid of all those crooked oak trees and redwood groves makes chaparral life easier. More fire more often, and free from the dampening of large groves of trees or aboriginal firing of meadows to maintain grasses, pines, oaks, and savannah conditions desired by humans, is probably the natural progression of things. Lots of dirt sliding downhill, and vast sand beaches building on the coasts, covering the rocks and reefs, is no more than nature’s way of changing channels. It is not better or worse than what is there now. It is just different.

You have to wonder if spending tons of money to save outdated, left over species, as the world matures and goes forward, is such a good idea. Maybe the whole concept of Endangered Species is faulty. It must be, because the Sierra Club is doing their darnedest to eliminate habitat by their fire policies, and its implementation by the Federal land managers. We have to either work better to protect the ESA species, or quit spending the money and put it to better uses. Also, if wildfire is so beneficial, then the time has come to fire it all, and make a mass improvement on the Public Estate. If we burned it all now, and not next year or the year after, we could have a hell of a head start on the natural renewal deal. Maybe we could clean the air for once and for all.

I have often wondered if we were to rid ourselves of trees at elevation, and in many places, elevation is where there is enough water to grow trees, then we might see more snow cover over winter, and higher stream flows for a longer time in spring and summer. Also, without the trees, snow is more likely to reflect solar energy and some light rays back into space where they came from, thus cooling the climate that is in such sore need of cooling. Why, we could maybe stop the pernicious climate change that worries so many.

26 Jul 2008, 2:59pm
by Mike

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” …

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

Not to burn it and destroy it. It is classless and puerile for the Sierra Club, and their clones like the Wilderness Society, to set themselves up as alleged protectors of nature and then promote the wholesale, mindless incineration of nature. For the “good of the planet” we must burn, baby, burn, until every living thing is roasted in hellfire? Their Big Lie is Hitlerian. It is prime evil.

If they hate forests, then just stay away from them. Let the people who care for forests care for forests. Urban geekazoids with a Hate Humanity agenda are wiping priceless, heritage forests off the face of the Earth. They are the serpents in the garden, despoilers, annihilators, demolishers.

Let there be stewardship.

26 Jul 2008, 3:53pm
by Mike

By way of illustration of the Sierra Club mindset, I post the following comment lifted off another blog. The commenter signed his/her note “Anonymous,” which belies his/her first point, that they don’t care what other people think. The hatred for humanity, private property, and forests comes blasting through like a fire storm.

Here’s what I think, (and trust me I could care less what people think of my views, so if you respond to this with insults it will: show me that your very touched by my points, (which will make me feel warm and fuzy inside) prove my point, won’t change my opinion and will make me laugh).

Let’s look at the big sur area, it’s a little community pushed up against the coast by a very nice forest (well obviously it needs a facial now but….anyways), out in this huge forest you would expect to find wildlife, campgrounds, tributary’s and all the other beautiful things that a large forest would be made of. As you go on a camping trip you decide to take a hike. As your taking a hike…..BAM all of a sudden there’s a house….whoa where did this come from you wonder….why is this here in this FOREST….this shouldn’t be here, is what one would think….and sadly it ruins the perfect camping trip….as you pack up your items disappointed that your camping trip is ruined….you start thinking why? why is there houses in this forest??? hmmmmmm….but you just can’t figure it out…..knowing that (A) Our forests and wild habitats are disappearing because of these disgusting homes out in our forests (ours as in people that live on this earth and share the earth) (B) What if once in a blue moon a huge lightning storm started a fire and went right towards these houses in these FORESTS that shouldn’t be there…hmmmm…nope not possible (C) If it did happen by that small chance then who would protect these homes from fires. Well firefighters couldn’t do it because these disgusting creatures that built and/or live in these homes are too busy yelling and being in the way.

Lol I know my story was a little overboard….but I don’t care the truth is the truth lol. I could go on forever with this which I really could but I’ll just get to my points.

The following only applies to the: ungrateful, disgusting, selfish, know-it-alls I keep reading about. This is not for the appreciative, respectful home owners.
(1) Disgusting creatures building and/or living in houses in the forest which is a dangerous fire problem. Should not be allowed anymore.

(2) For the disgusting creatures living in these houses from now until the end of time: There needs to be a law passed saying, “If anyone is to live in the potential path of a destructive wildfire (which will be determined by a head USFS person) you will be ordered to get the H*** away from the fire area by at least 50 miles if you have 24 hours notice or more.”

(3) Heavily tax the ungrateful creatures, thou’ should pay more tax money to help thy’ pay for thee’ cost of protecting the houses of ungrateful disgusting creatures. Having crews of firefighters protect these houses is taking them off the line where they should be. Therefore resulting
in spreading of fire lines, which therefore leads to large perimeter, which therefore makes hard containment.

There’s so much more to it….this is the end.

By the way i’m not:
-A firefighter or exfirefighter
-An author or am I trying to be one.
-A homeowner or one that’s been in the path of danger.

I just think people think they have a right to be selfish, inconsiderate, know-it-alls which is disgusting and needs to be brought to their attention and corrected.

27 Jul 2008, 8:41am
by Mary M.

There is not one creature or human on earth that does not give and take from the environment. Why are all traditions of stewardship that produce fruitful and diverse landscapes being targeted for elimination?

Urban folks can ‘recycle’ the refuse of resources produced by heavily polluting big biz technologies, most often resourced from other nations, but that is a far and inferior cry from actual fruitful stewardship of the landscape. Urbanites are now being taught to despise all stewardship, which also includes broadly beneficial uses that have proven to greatly enhance natural abundance and diverse landscapes.

I suppose it is a value judgment to imply that a landscape of rich diversity might be preferable to a more biologically desertified one. Yet those who want our forests untouched by human hands and to be ultimately destroyed by fire have historically claimed to be saving exactly what they are destroying, forests biological diversity etc.

The public is led to believe that this renewal by holocaust leads to biological enrichment including lots of different warm fuzzy creatures and plants as seen in National Geo and all those glossy corporate ads in magazines nowadays. By now the phony environmentalists have the public so thoroughly hogwashed that the public (or at least the Media) believes that unless we allow holocausts (which destroy all natural resources and values) to occur, the values will be lost. This is a huge and cynical con game. Roll over Orwell.

The current “burn baby burn” hysteria is also based on a value judgment — that humans are not natural and possibly don’t even belong on Earth, and therefore whatever happens to the landscape in their absence is superior. The urban paradigm of gross consumption and an almost complete physical and cognitive removal from the natural world devolves the human presence on Earth to merely consumers of natural resources. Occasionally these aliens wander outside their consumption bubbles for the “privilege” of viewing (only) the “real” natural world. This effective isolation from their true impacts on nature, combined with the phony environmental propaganda they face daily, facilitates the mental disconnect.

They can now embrace and support the demonization of the presence of innocent (and beneficial) rural cultures regardless of the true reality of their existence. Weirdly, this is promulgated as ecologically superior thought and consciousness. The fellow that Mike quotes above apparently cares not whether a human interacts with nature in a beneficial way, but is only disgusted by evidence of human presence/habitation outside an urban environment.



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