27 Jul 2008, 8:29pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Shall the USFS Allow Fires to Incinerate Our National Forests?

Part I

In a recent 3-part series the Idaho Statesman asked the rhetorical question, “Are we wasting billions fighting wildfires?” Authors Heath Druzin and Rocky Barker answered their question with, “We can protect cabins, make the forests healthier and save money by allowing more fires to burn,” and parodying Smokey Bear’s famous dictum, “‘Only you’ can change how we deal with fire.”

The 3-part serial is [here, here, and here].

The authors quote yours truly:

Michael Dubrasich, a Lebanon, Ore., consulting forester, is critical of forest policy, too. The federal government is wasting timber and backing away from its historic role of protecting private property.

“The fires that start on unkempt federal land and spread to private property are irresponsible spillovers perpetrated upon American citizens by their own government,” Dubrasich said.

So that was nice. But by and large the authors made a case for Let It Burn, despite my wise words. For that reason, and in defense of our forests and forest-based communities, I offer this rebuttal.

Let It Burn is illegal, destructive of a multitude of forest and human values, is not cost-effective, and is the worst idea that ever came down the forest pike. Let me count the ways.

1. Let It Burn Is Illegal

This is the crux of the matter at hand. The USFS has adopted a policy and is undertaking actions (and an unknown number of future actions) in the form of unfought forest fires that have significant effects upon forests and natural resources and on surrounding properties, communities, habitats, watersheds, and airsheds.

Those significant effects must be evaluated through the NEPA process of drafting an Environmental Impact Statement, together with all the public involvement the EIS process entails. The public must have a suitable opportunity to evaluate and comment upon federal actions that impact the environment under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act).

All other USFS actions that impact the environment go through the NEPA process. Forest thinnings designed to prevent catastrophic fires begin with EIS’s. Often, in fact usually, environmental groups sue to halt such actions under NEPA law. Environmentalist demand NEPA compliance, and the courts agree, for virtually everything the USFS does, except incinerating forests.

Yet that is what the law requires and the public desires. Failure to evaluate the effects of Let It Burn fires on the environment and the avoidance of public involvement in those decisions is extra-legal and undesirable.

Recent modifications of the National Fire Plan direct national forests to apply Wildland Fire Use and other Let It Burn euphemisms via something they call Appropriate Management Response. AMR indeed has very significant and intense effects upon society as a whole (both human and national), the affected region, the affected interests, and the locality, both short- and long-term. Federal forest fires:

- negatively affect public health and safety;

- impact the unique characteristics of the geographic area including natural, historic, and cultural resources and ecologically critical areas, including but not limited to threatened and endangered flora and fauna, historical/cultural values, water quality, air quality, climate change, public recreation, public scenery, and local, state, and national economies;

- result in highly controversial effects on the quality of the human environment;

- involve highly uncertain, unique, and unknown risks to the human environment;

- establish precedents for future actions with significant effects and represent a decision in principle about a future consideration;

- are related to other actions with cumulatively significant impacts;

- adversely affect districts, sites, highways, structures, and objects listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and cause loss or destruction of significant scientific, cultural, and historical resources;

- adversely affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats that have been determined to be critical under the Endangered Species Act of 1973; and

- threaten violations of Federal, State, and local law and requirements imposed for the protection of the environment.

The stated objective of the recent modifications of the National Fire Plan are to obtain “resource benefits”:

The application of the appropriate management response to naturally ignited wildland fires to accomplish specific resource management objectives in predefined areas designated in Fire Management Plans. -– “fire use” as defined in the federal Wildland Fire Management Policy, from Zimmerman, G. Thomas and Richard Lasko. The Changing Face of Wildland Fire Use. 2006. Fire Management Today, Volume 66, No. 4.

All major Federal actions that will have significant effects and impacts on resources and the human environment require EIS’s and a NEPA process, regardless of whether the federal government deems those impacts beneficial or not. From Sec. 1508.27, the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.), sec. 309 of the Clean Air Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 7609), and E.O. 11514 (Mar. 5, 1970, as amended by E.O. 11991, May 24, 1977). Source: 43 FR 56003, Nov. 29, 1978:

“Significantly” as used in NEPA requires considerations of both context and intensity:

(a) Context. This means that the significance of an action must be analyzed in several contexts such as society as a whole (human, national), the affected region, the affected interests, and the locality. Significance varies with the setting of the proposed action. For instance, in the case of a site-specific action, significance would usually depend upon the effects in the locale rather than in the world as a whole. Both short- and long-term effects are relevant.

(b) Intensity. This refers to the severity of impact. Responsible officials must bear in mind that more than one agency may make decisions about partial aspects of a major action. The following should be considered in evaluating intensity:

Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse. A significant effect may exist even if the Federal agency believes that on balance the effect will be beneficial.

It does not matter what kind of spin the USFS puts on Let It Burn. The law requires a NEPA process and there has never been a NEPA process for Let It Burn. That’s called “breaking the law.” The Idaho Statesman may very well advocate lawlessness and illegality on the part of the USFS. That is their (the ID Statesman’s) constitution right. They could also, if they were consistent and something other than hypocrites, demand a repeal of NEPA.

But NEPA is on the books right now, and the law is very clear on the matter. Federal actions that impact the environment require a NEPA process. No such process has taken place, and the USFS is perforce breaking the law when they deliberately burn vast tracts of the public estate.

2. Let It Burn Is Arbitrary and Capricious

Appropriate Management Response (AMR) results in impacts and effects that are difficult to predict because the location, timing, and fire management choices made by USFS officials are unknown. The AMR is a generalized program that may be implemented in various ways.

Typically Let It Burn fires are are lightning-ignited; that is, their place and date of origin are unknown ahead of time and unpredictable. USFS officials deem such fires “natural” as if that were some sort of excuse. In fact, the decision whether to let a forest fire rage out of control is a very human one.

One of the spur-of-the-moment decisions when a lightning fire erupts is to map out an intended burn zone, called a Maximum Manageable Areas (MMA).

MMAs have no size limitations. MMAs are designed to be consistent with the set of circumstances surrounding each fire situation. … MMAs now have much greater flexibility in their application. They are not a strict prescription element and can be changed in response to changing fire situations. — from Parks, Jacquie M. 2006. True Story: A 4-Million Acre “Mega” Maximum Manageable Area. Fire Management Today, Volume 66, No. 4.

MMAs are typically vast in extent. They have no size limitations. One MMA in Region 1 encompasses 4 million acres on six National Forests, the Bitterroot, Salmon-Challis, Payette, Clearwater, Nez Perce, and Boise NFs (Ibid). In 2007 over a million acres of those forests were allowed to burn in the largest and most devastating fire catastrophe in Idaho since 1910.

Furthermore, MMAs are typically adjusted at the time of the fire. There is no guarantee that projected MMA boundaries will be adhered to while the fire is burning. During the Warm Fire (2006) on the Kaibab NF, the MMA was adjusted four times, while the fire was burning.

Because Let It Burn fires are lightning-ignited, there is no way to predict when they will occur with any degree of accuracy or precision. The decision to implement such a fire is made in response to the lightning fire when it is ignited, not ahead of time.

There is no opportunity for public input into the decision to implement Let It Burn because time is of the essence. The decision is made within hours or even minutes after the lightning strikes. That is not the case with prescribed fires or any other forest management treatment undertaken by the USFS. Prescribed fires and other treatments are generally subject to the NEPA process which includes EIS preparation, public notice and consultations. None of those provisions can be undertaken when the decision space is hours or minutes. The public is in effect excluded from expressing their concerns or contributing important information when the Let It Burn decision is made.

The decision to declare Let It Burn is a spur-of-the-moment choice made by unknown, unnamed employees of the USFS. There is no accountability or consequences that accrue to the decision-makers, regardless of the outcomes of the fire.

3. Let It Burn Has Significant Effects on Flora, Including Old Growth Trees

The effects of fire on forest vegetation are significant. In fact, fire has the most significant impact of any forest disturbance agent short of volcanic eruptions.

Our national forests are well-known to contain old-growth trees, often in designated Late Successional Reserves (LSRs), that are protected by judicial order from human-caused disturbance. Unchecked wildfires destroy old-growth, the very vegetation values that are protected under law.

From the testimony of Dr. K. Norman Johnson and Dr. Jerry F. Franklin, December 13, 2007, Hearing of Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources [here]:

We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs. This is not simply an issue of fuels and fire; because of the density of these forests, there is a high potential for drought stress and related insect outbreaks. Surviving old-growth pine trees are now at high risk of death to both fire and western pine beetle, the latter resulting from drought stress and competition. …

Without action, we are at high risk of losing these stands—and the residual old-growth trees that they contain—to fire and insects …

Furthermore, it is critical for stakeholders to understand that active management is necessary in stands with existing old-growth trees in order to reduce the risk that those trees will be lost.

Activities at the stand level need to focus on restoring ecosystems to sustainable composition and structure—not simply to acceptable fuel levels. Objectives of these treatments need to include: Retention of existing old-growth tree populations; shifting stand densities, basal areas, diameter distributions, and proportions of drought- and fire-tolerant species.

To conserve these forests, we need to modify stand structure (e.g., treat fuels) on one-half to two-thirds of the landscape. This level of restoration will create a matrix of more natural and sustainable forest, which has a greatly reduced potential for stand-replacement fire and insect mortality, interspersed with islands of dense stands.

Recognition that such areas should receive early attention is recent; there has been a tendency to think that stands with numerous old-growth trees should be left alone or, at least, be of much lower priority for treatment. The reality is the opposite! Forests that still retain substantial numbers of old-growth trees should be priorities for treatment because these are irreplaceable structures that are at great risk from uncharacteristic wildfire and bark beetle attack. Hence, reducing the potential for accelerated loss of these old trees should be at the top of the agenda.

This is what the top forest scientists today are saying: catastrophic fire kills old-growth trees. We must treat our forests so that fires do not destroy critical and legally protected flora (plants) such as old-growth. That treatment is called forest restoration and entails much more than “fuels management.”

It certainly entails something other than Let It Burn! The contentions in the Idaho Statesman series that forest scientists welcome catastrophic forest fires and think that such fires benefit forest vegetation is 180 degrees off kilter. The opposite is true. Forest scientists know that modern forest fires kill the very trees that society most values.

What do other leading forest scientists say?

Healthy forests and their associated wildlife habitats and watersheds are priceless assets providing the nation with critical values and uses. The sustainable management and conservation of forests is crucial to societal welfare. When forests are allowed to become overly dense the trees lose vigor and become susceptible to insects, disease, mortality, and fire. … The argument that forests, especially national forests, should be left unmanaged and that “nature knows best” is understandably appealing. However it does not recognize that the condition of our national forests is far from “natural”. — from Helms, John A. 2007. Responses to Questions for the Record Following the September 24, 2007, Hearings by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, October 3, 2007.

The fires of this year, and the past several decades, have forged a consensus that the problem of catastrophic wildfire is severe. Almost everyone agrees that restoration is the most scientifically rigorous and environmentally and economically reasonable way to proceed. … We are at a fork in the road. Down one fork lies burned out, depauperate landscapes-landscapes that are a liability for future generations. Down the other fork lies health, diverse, sustaining landscape-landscapes that will bring multiple benefits for generations to come. Inaction is taking, and will continue to take, us down the path to unhealthy landscapes, costly to manage. Scientifically-based forest restoration treatments, including thinning and prescribed burning, will set us on the path to healthy landscapes, landscapes like the early settlers and explorer saw in the late 1800s. — from Covington, William Wallace. 2002. Testimony regarding the Wildland Firefighting and National Fire Plan, before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, July 16, 2002.

National Forests in Oregon are at extreme risk from catastrophic fire. The Biscuit Fire of 2002 destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of heritage forests, principally in the Siskiyou N.F. The B&B Fire of 2003 and adjacent fires of the last ten years have destroyed nearly 150,000 acres of the Deschutes N.F. These and numerous other fires of the past 15 years have decimated old-growth stands and converted priceless, heritage forests to brushfields. … If we continue on the present course, we will lose many more millions of acres of heritage, old-growth forests and the habitat they provide to important wildlife species. We will continue to lose thousands of private homes each year to escaped federal fires. National Forests across the state of Oregon are in a condition of unnatural density. Fires in forests overburdened by dense fuels tend to become stand-replacing. That is, most trees are killed by such fires, including old-growth trees. — from Dubrasich, Michael E. 2007. Testimony Regarding Forest Restoration in Oregon submitted to the US Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, for inclusion in the Record of the Hearing regarding forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction efforts in the forests of Oregon and Washington, held Thursday, December 13, 2007.

Wildfire consumption of canopy cover and surface litter was significantly correlated to decreases in native plant species and increases in non-native plant species, at least in the first post-fire year. While we found some evidence that fuel treatments themselves may also promote non-native species, the effects of severe wildfire were more significant. — from Omi, Philip N., Erik J. Martinson, and Geneva W. Chong. 2007. Effectiveness of Pre-Fire Fuel Treatments. Final Report JFSP Project 03-2-1-07. Joint Fire Science Program.

And from one of the most respected forest scientists in America, Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen. Ph.D. (author of America’s Ancient Forests–From the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery. 2000. John Wiley and Sons):

Misguided attempts to “save” our forests by leaving them alone and letting them burn are accelerating their decline and endangering thousands of people at the same time. …

The problem is that many forests are too crowded with trees. Anyone with a trained eye or who knows forest history can see that. In forests throughout the Sierra Nevada, for instance, history tells us that roughly 50-70 trees stood per acre in a relatively open mosaic. Today 500-700 trees per acre often stand on public forestlands in the Sierra, upwards of 1,000 trees per acre in some areas. Unnaturally dense forests provide fuel for unnaturally intense and large wildfires. More trees mean more fuel, which translates to bigger, hotter, more damaging fires. …

Too many trees is also the reason that catastrophic fires have become more common in recent years. With an abundance of dead, dry trees in the forests, fires burn hotter than natural. They can easily jump 8-lane highways and blow right through or around fuel breaks. Intensely hot fires create strong winds and can hurl firebrands, or bits of burning trees, up to a mile away. There is nothing natural about a 200-foot wall of flames racing across the landscape. …

Historically, forest fires were generally low-intensity affairs. Fires might cover large areas, but flames stayed close to the ground with relatively modest temperatures. Today’s infernos sometimes tower above the ground and reach 3,000 degrees F, hot enough to melt metal. They can travel 20 miles in a day and sterilize soils. …

Today’s high-intensity crown fires, however, often leave in their wake devastated moonscapes of dead trees and baked, eroding soils. …

So, the Forest Service started letting some fires burn, even though they were often catastrophic. Since 1980, the size of wildfires on national forests has doubled and it may double again if we let forests keep getting thicker. By 2005, two-thirds of America’s national forests were at significant risk of severe wildfire. That’s more than 130 million acres.

The forests we would leave to nature are not natural, so the fires that burn them are not natural either. Such “hands-off” attitudes, often inspired by the myth of the pristine forest, lead to inaction that fosters the kind of catastrophic fire that can erase forests from the landscape for centuries. …

Wildfires are increasingly high-intensity crown fires that burn hotter than their historic predecessors. …

A relatively lifeless moonscape can frequently replace a dense forest after a catastrophic fire. High-intensity blazes can eradicate virtually all vegetation on a site and sterilize the soil, altering wildlife habitat for centuries if the land is not replanted (studies show the vast majority of severely burned public forestland is not reforested). …

Fire, however, is simply destructive. In New Mexico’s Cerro Grande Fire, 20 Mexican spotted owl nesting sites were lost. Between 1999 and 2002, the USDA Forest Service identified 11 California spotted owl nesting sites as lost to wildfire. In 2002, the Biscuit Fire destroyed tens of thousands of acres of critical spotted owl habitat in Southern Oregon and Northern California, including 49 known nesting sites. Unless we thin and manage forests, more habitat loss lies ahead. …

With more trees on the landscape, wildfires burn hotter across larger areas. The extra fuel—unharvested trees and dense brush in overgrown forests—makes fires harder to put out. Furthermore, wildfires near heavily populated areas can prove more difficult and costly to fight. These fires pose the greatest threat to human lives and must be battled to the fullest extent possible.

From Bonnicksen, Thomas M. 2007. Protecting Communities And Saving Forests–Solving the Wildfire Crisis Through Restoration Forestry. Published by the Forest Foundation.

To Be Continued …

28 Jul 2008, 7:49am
by John Marker

Mike, your response to the fire series in the Idaho Stateman serves a critical need as we see more and more stand replacement fires burning the forests, primarily public, in the West, and also in some parts of the East.

I certainly hope your rebuttal series has wide readership and encourages some very serious and thoughtful discussion about the future of the national treasures, the public’s forests.

As you progress with your writing, I hope you will include comments about the impact of some environmental organiztion’s efforts to eliminate forest management activities requiring the cutting of trees. Certainly their activity in filing appeals, using the courts and media campaigns has influenced current fire and forest management policies.

28 Jul 2008, 10:53am
by Bob Z.


An excellent post. I’m glad you were quoted in the Idaho paper because it shows that the media is paying attention; at least to some degree.

I would like to reiterate what John Marker says, in that your rebuttals deserve wide readership and serious discussion. That has been the case for some time now. The question is: How can that best be achieved?

Keep up the good work. Common sense and good stewardship remain sorely needed in the management of our National Forests and of our nation’s forest wildfires. Those attributes used to be taken for granted, and now that they are missing most people need to be told. Maybe this is a start.

28 Jul 2008, 7:02pm
by Doug L.

Mike, An excellent start on a comprehensive response.

One, at least to me, significant factor that is too often overlooked with the let burn or Appropriate Response Mind set: if the decision is to” let it burn,” it also is an abdication from the real world of likely more fires to cope with. Resources are tied up with the “let it burn fire(s)”, so the next fires that occur are compromised with a reduction in suppression forces available and may likely become a let burn event de facto.

That is exactly what happened in the recent California lightning fires. When initial attack forces are committed to let burn operations, the most competent local fire suppression forces become attendants to the let burn situation and the next series of fires become more dependent upon remote fire crews with no effective initial attack capability. The travel delay in their arrival assures a larger fire and the opportunity for a major conflagration to develop. That situation is a very likely outcome when fuels, weather and procrastination combine as a peculiar strategy that lacks strategic thinking and unintended consequences analysis.

It is my belief that the let burn strategy is extremely dangerous to fire fighting personnel, especially when fire hazard is extreme. Lacking rainfall of any appreciable amount beyond March, wouldn’t one conclude that low fuel moistures and very hot weather should have a fire agency prepared to take aggressive initial attack, without a pause for evaluation?

28 Jul 2008, 7:24pm
by Mike

Doug, Thank you for the kind words. I wholeheartedly agree that procrastination has many repercussions.

I intend to discuss public safety and firefighter safety in one the upcoming segments of this rebuttal. There are many facets to the issue; safety is a key consideration.

I also like your point about a cascade of effects that follow what might seem to be a simple, local decision. There are always far-reaching consequences, which are often are poorly considered at the time.

Think how much better it would be if our forests were prepared to receive fire without total incineration, if restoration forestry was practiced that would potentially lessen or subdue accidental fires, if scientific stewardship was applied before the lightning strikes, instead of trapping ourselves into untenable situations through inaction.

We know the fires are going to come. Why not prepare for them in creative and adaptive ways? Forest fires can hardly be called accidental when we know for years ahead of time that they will arrive sooner or later.

6 Aug 2008, 5:10pm
by janet j

All this sounds well and good. I live in Willow Creek, CA, small town/ ex-logging community, in Humboldt County, home of Six Rivers National Forest and the Shasta-Trinity. My husband has fought fires for the USFS for 30 years out of the S-T.

This news just hit-9 dead in a crash of a crew transport helicopter that came out of the WC Helibase working the Iron Complex. The copters fly right over my house, and have been for 6 weeks.

I too never thought of “Let It Burn” as anything but a waste of resources. Now I see it differently. If living in 3 months worth of smoke is the choice between deaths, (we now can count 11 since June 21’s lightning storms right here within a 35-mile radius) I’ll take the smoke. The problem is our small communities get in the way, and before we know it, the fires are burning over the ridges and into our neighborhoods. It’s hell, and I don’t know the answer.

It’s a crying shame that city-people don’t see how much is spent in the fire camps, on wages, supplies, food, how the businesses in the affected areas suffer (who wants to come to a mountain valley full of smoke?), and how the Forest Service is not allowed to clean up the forest, can’t even in fact, because during the Clinton-Gore presidency of the ’80s the back (read “logging”) roads were deemed evil and put out of service. So now when there is a lightning fire, there is no way to get to it.

And the funds that used to come from logging that paid for so many services, i. e. money to work crews in the winter, to the counties for schools, roads, etc., is no longer there. Don’t think that you know it all because of your study of the studies, you need to get out of your ivory towers and start walking the national forests of this great country. Yes, the forestry schools have modern up to date practices, but the money is not there for the public lands. We pay the USFS firefighters unemployment all winter so they can run ragged all fire season trying to take care of something that is impossible. It would be great if all your studies and hot air would actually do something to solve the situation.

6 Aug 2008, 5:18pm
by Mike

In the emotion of the aftermath of the terrible tragedy on the Buckhorn Fire [here], it is best not to jump to conclusions of blame. There will be an investigation, and we hopefully will all learn lessons from the findings.

For the record, the Buckhorn Fire is one of the Iron Complex fires that have been burning since June 20. The Shasta-Trinity NF decided to “use” those fires to “treat” the forest. Long after other CA lightning fires ignited June 20-21 have been contained and controlled, the Iron Complex burns merrily along. Today it was reported to be 87,306 acres total and 79% contained. There are 1,217 personnel on the Iron Complex today. $50 million has been spent to date.

Anytime so many people are committed to a dangerous undertaking that is extended and extended, the chance of accidents grows larger and larger. Initial direct attack is also dangerous, but turning fires into summer-long projects increases the probability of Murphy’s Law events.

Andrew Palmer, 18, a firefighter with the Olympic National Park headquartered in Port Angeles, was killed on the Iron Complex last month. The latest incident brings the total to 10 fatalities on this one fire alone.

Let It Burn does not mean all the firefighters go home. It means project fires that last all summer long. It means rural communities in evacuation or threat of evacuation for months at a time. It means smoke that billows across airsheds for weeks and weeks.

There are other options, such as active management and restoration forestry, but they have their own hazards. The road network that Clinton et al destroyed was a lifesaver as well as a forest-saver, but it was not built without risk. Woods work is dangerous. For that matter, forest recreation can be dangerous, too. There are hazards galore. We live in a dangerous world. Science is not going to change that fact. Applied science in the form of good stewardship can lessen dangers to some degree, but it cannot eliminate them.

Our prayers and sympathies go out to the bereaved. We too have lost loved ones in forest fires and other forest work. This is a difficult time for all concerned.

16 Aug 2008, 10:40am
by Ray B.

Mike: Like you I protested the one-sided Idaho Statesman articles. You are doing a great job letting people know that there are compelling reasons to put out forest fires (preferably with initial attack when they are small).

I have a Forestry degree from the U of Idaho and put myself through college working on Forest Service Fire Crews. From first hand experience I can declare the huge fires in Idaho’s wilderness areas will affect our endangered salmon, steelhead, and bull trout for many years to come.

The fragile granite soils in central Idaho need ground cover to keep them from “blowing out” and eroding into our streams. The sandy soils eroded into the water covers spawning beds and destroys our fisheries.

Keep up the good work.

17 Aug 2008, 10:23am
by Dan A.

Those of us who live in Trinity County have now had 10 straight weeks of smoke so thick that visibility has frequently been less than a quarter mile. The grape crop has failed because the plants weren’t able to complete photosynthesis in the dense smoke. The oaks and madrones are dropping their leaves because they interpret the low light levels as being autumn. I, personally, have row upon row of tomato plants that have never matured. In a very real sense, the U.S. Forest Service has caused it’s own little ecological disaster by letting these fires burn on and on.

Beyond that, try to imagine the effect this has had on the quality of life here. We have had less than a full week of clear air all summer. We have to wear respirator masks to work outside. Our livestock are suffering terribly. We’ve had temperatures well over a hundred for a week now, but we can’t turn on the swamp coolers because they suck the smoke into the houses. Half the people you see on the streets have flu like symptoms from sinus infections and irritated lungs.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about it is that the outside press has paid NO attention to what they’ve done to us. The Forest Service carefully planted their, “Wild fire is your friend,” stories in the Sacramento Bee and several other papers south of us. End of story, as far as the reporters are concerned.

Thanks for getting this out to people. We desperately need your help.

17 Aug 2008, 12:01pm
by Mike

Thank you, Dan, for pointing out (once again) that the disasters resulting from catastrophic forest fires are not confined or limited to the forests.

Irresponsible government agencies and simpleton media types are big hurdles to overcome, but we shall overcome them. If we network together and press for solutions, we will eventually achieve some better stewardship.

17 Aug 2008, 2:37pm
by Dan A.

Any hints you can give us on who to network with would be greatly appreciated. We’re a very small community with very little political pull. Maybe if enough small communities got together they’d start listening.

17 Aug 2008, 4:04pm
by Mike

Organize locally and post here at SOSF. Keep us informed, and express yourself here.

It is perhaps surprising, but the top movers and shakers in forestry today read and contribute essays to this site and to other W.I.S.E. subsites.

From Montana to New Mexico, California to British Columbia, foresters, forest scientists, wildlife ecologists, and ecological restoration experts are hovering right here. I am not bragging, just stating the facts. This site has become an important conduit for the New Paradigm in environmental management.

Submit essays, opinions, and photos for posting here, demonstrate your commitment and understanding, and you will find yourself on certain email lists where multiple intense daily discussions are occurring. I don’t post all the chatter in the background; much of it is proprietary and not for public consumption. But it is happening. We (and it is a broad “we” that includes top-level people) are having significant impact right now. You are not alone. We can help you, and you can help us.

The tide is turning. It may not seem so from an outside perspective, but from where I sit, I see multiple changes coming.

18 Aug 2008, 8:44am
by Dan A.

Will do - I sent your article out to everyone I know in Trinity County and asked them to forward it to everyone they know. E mail chains can have some powerful results.

You know, I do think that the Internet IS making a tremendous difference. Until we had sites like this one to go to we were pretty much at the mercy of the press releases and the information we could cull from our scanners. It’s gotten worse this year because they’ve gone to some frequency that doesn’t show up on the scanners.

By way of an example, they announced mandatory evacuations of the community of Big Bar yesterday morning. They went in and burned the hell out of all of the vegetation and by this morning they had a story in the local paper announcing that they had, “saved the community with vigorous back burns.”

I’m not sure how much more, “saving,” we can take.

18 Aug 2008, 10:32am
by Mike

It’s difficult to keep up-to-date on all the fires (especially because the official fed reporting sites are 24 to 48 hours late and the reports are incomplete), but the Big Bar evacuation was mentioned in our tracking of the Iron Complex Fires [here].

We also posted a heartfelt plea to stop the deliberate (and destructive and useless) burning on the Siskiyou, Ukonom, Blue and Panther Complexes from Sandy Bar resident Mark DuPont [here].

We also took the Ochoco and Deschutes NF Supervisors to task this morning for their deliberate (though secret) Let It Burn fires that have blown up out of control and are threatening Oregon towns [here].

The Media is beginning to pay attention, and mark my words, Congressmen and Senators are going to find their careers in jeopardy, too, if they do not address this fire madness soon. The undercurrent of public anger is starting to catch fire like our national forests.



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