31 Jul 2008, 11:41am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Shall the USFS Allow Fires to Incinerate Our National Forests?

Part V

10. Let It Burn Has Significant National Economic Impact

The effects of the changes over the last five years to federal wildfire policies have resulted in our land management agencies allowing unspecified lightning-ignited fires to burn in megafires. The changes include AMR (appropriate management response), WFU (wildland fires used for “resource benefit”), and ACMS (accountable cost management strategy). Those programs were set in place not by Congress but by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, the federal advisory board that oversees the National Fire Plan.

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council has been taken over by radical non-governmental organizations, wealthy (though allegedly non-profit) multi-national corporations with anti-American agendas. Our national fire policies are set by foreigners and a political elite that is more interested in fomenting economic collapse in this country than with our environmental health and economic well-being.

This week Congress adjourns to go on recess without dealing with the collapse of the USFS budget due to wildfire costs. Not only did Congress fail to address rising energy costs, they abandoned the FLAME Act in a desperate hour of need. The 2008 fire funding is used up, the budget spent, and the USFS is forced to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from other programs to the fire budget.

Where did the money go? Some for instances:

The Basin/Indians Fire has cost over $120 million while burning unnecessarily 244,000 acres [here]. It has become MOST EXPENSIVE fire in California history, and the 2nd most expensive in U.S. history (the Biscuit Fire in Oregon in 2002 cost $150,000,000). Most of the dollars and acres burned up were due to backfires set by firefighters. Fire managers announced proudly at the onset that they were applying the “accountable cost management strategy” and proceeded to break the bank. When the Basin Fire reached homes dozens of miles from the ignition point, the firefighters fled and homeowners fought the fire themselves. Yet the homeowners are being blamed for the fire “suppression” costs. At no time during the last 30 years did the USFS initiate any fuels management or fire road construction in the area, because Congress designated the area a wilderness, even though human beings have been living there for 10,000 years.

The Clover Fire [here] began with a lightning strike May 31 that fizzled in a few acres. It could have been extinguished for a few thousand dollars. But because it was in a designated wilderness the Inyo NF declared the Clover Fire a WFU (wildland fire used for alleged resource benefit). The Clover Fire was “monitored” until it blew up into a 15,000 acre wildfire that burned all the way to Hwy 395 and threatened homes in Kennedy Meadows. It eventually cost over $8 million to suppress. Homeowners dozens of miles from the ignition point are being blamed.

The Unokom Fire [here] began June 21 from lightning on the Six Rivers NF. It is still burning, having consumed 40,000 unkempt and untended acres and nearly $20 million to date.

The Siskiyou Fire [here] also began June 21 from lightning on the Klamath NF. It is still burning, having consumed 60,000 unkempt and untended acres and nearly $25 million to date. Fire managers promulgated a plan early on to allow the Siskiyou Fire to burn 40,000 acres. Then they backtracked and reset the goal at 80,000 acres. Recreation along the Klamath River has been shut down all summer.

The Lime Fires [here] began June 21 on the Shasta-Trinity NF. Together with the Yolla Bolly Fires [here] (which have been split off for “statistical” purposes) over 154,000 acres have been burned at a cost of over $52 million. It is the largest fire in the history of Northern California. A Strategic Implementation Plan for the Yolla Bolly Fire was presented yesterday after a month of burning.

One portion of this fire complex was under the purview of CalFire. They contained their area three weeks ago. In contrast three weeks ago the Feds called in the National Guard. The Guardsmen have departed now, with pomp and ceremony. Both the Lime and Yolla Bolly Fires continue to burn uncontained. The town of Hayfork has been threatened all summer. No doubt, the town’s residents will be blamed for everything.

The Iron Fires [here] began June 21 near Weaverville, also on the Shasta-Trinity NF. They have consumed over 80,000 acres, $40 million, one firefighter’s life, and continue to burn uncontained.

The Shasta-Trinity Lightning Fires [here] (partially on the Shasta-Trinity NF) were contained last week at 86,500 acres and a cost of over $56 million. Thankfully those fires were not completely on the Feds or they would still be burning acres and dollars.

The list goes on and on. The Bear Wallow Fire [here] also began over a month ago. It is now over 10,000 acres and still zero percent contained. A Type I Incident Management Team was called in yesterday. New Let It Burn Fires have been declared on the Payette NF [here], Bitterroot NF [here], and the Caribou-Targhee NF [here]. A Let It Burn Fire on the Shoshone NF [here] has blown up in the last two days to over 5,000 acres as predictable Palouse winds fan the flames.

All these fires will end up costing many $millions because Let It Burn Fires are not free. Many eventually threaten towns and then all stops must pulled and thousands of firefighters called in to avert major disasters to private property and human lives.

All these fires are burning on unkempt, uncared for, untended USFS lands that receive no management in order to keep them “wild.” In modern America “wild” is now synonymous with charred wasteland and scorched earth, with denuded slopes and rivers full of eroded mud, with ravaged habitat and incinerated wildlife, with dead and blackened old-growth trees, with massive and lengthy closures of public land to the public, and with terrible threats of disaster and catastrophe to towns, cities, and rural neighborhoods across the West.

Has money been saved by eliminating stewardship on the Federal Estate? No, budgets have been drained and land management agencies are insolvent. And Congress whistles a merry tune and goes on yet another spate of junkets while America’s priceless heritage forests burn.

There has been no “cost containment” of fire suppression costs. But what is worse and apparently completely misunderstood (at least by Congress) is that our public forests are not worthless piles of trash fuels waiting to be incinerated but instead are extremely valuable assets to the Nation.

The costs of forest fires are much more than fire suppression expenses. The losses of valuable natural resources exceed fire suppression costs ten-fold or more. For every million dollars in fire fighting expenses, ten million dollars, or more, in natural resources are destroyed.

Almost since the founding of the US Forest Service in 1905, analysts have evaluated fire costs as suppression expenses plus the capital value of the resources destroyed. The cost of firefighting plus the lost value of whatever burned down is known as cost-plus-loss and is (or used to be) the standard parameter of forest fire cost accounting.

Federal fire suppression expenses were nearly $2 billion in 2006, and again that much in 2007, but an estimated 100 billion board feet of merchantable timber with an economic value of $40 billion were destroyed. Therefore total federal forest fire cost-plus-loss was approximately $44 billion in 2006 and 2007.

That valuation does not account for the loss of habitat, wildlife, watershed, airshed, and aesthetic values. In many locations the U.S. Congress has deemed that those so-called non-commodity values exceed the timber values. Therefore the 2006 and 2007 losses in non-commodities exceeded $44 billion, because those forests that were catastrophically incinerated also suffered huge degradation of habitat, wildlife populations, water quality and quantity, air quality, and attractiveness and opportunities for recreation.

Nor does that valuation include the losses incurred on private property in the form of tree farms, ranches, rural homes, urban homes, and other private property destroyed by federal fires emanating from federal lands.

Nor does that valuation include greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to something like 300 million autos driven all year. Congress wants to cap-and-trade private business but burns 10 million acres a year with no thought whatsoever to the smoke produced.

Nor does that valuation include the lives of over 30 forest firefighters lost in the line of duty.

Thus the $44 billion cost-plus-loss figure for 2006-2007 underestimates the true losses, which were so far in excess of that number as to be deemed priceless and irreplaceable.

And once again in 2008, the losses of valuable resources, public and private, and the loss of firefighters’ lives, continues unabated.

Government accounting agencies such as the Office of Management and Budget recommend the reduction of fire suppression costs per acre. That is illogical and incompetent in the accounting sense. Total costs, not costs per acre, are the problem. A small fire may be expensive to suppress per acre, and megafire suppression costs may be much less per acre, but overall megafires extract magnitudes more money from taxpayers and the Federal Treasury.

Similarly, the cost-plus-loss economic utility of firefighting and of land stewardship must be calculated as total cost-plus-loss, not cost-plus-loss per acre.

Allowing fires to burn unchecked in ever expanding acreages may reduce suppression costs per acre, but all the while total costs and total cost-plus-losses increase exponentially. The fiduciary logic of Let It Burn is thus fatally flawed.

Fire managers are being instructed by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council to let fires grow as large as possible to minimize costs per acre of fire suppression. That policy leads directly to larger fires, increased total fire suppression expenses, increased resource losses, exploding budgets, and government insolvency. At the root of that irrational policy is a fiducially incompetent methodology so short-sighted as to be deemed criminal treason. Even Enron did not squander hundreds of $billions in money and resource values in the manner of the US Government and their failed and failing forest un-stewardship policies.

To Be Continued …

31 Jul 2008, 2:33pm
by John M.


A couple of comments. The land is not Forest Service land or U.S. Government land. It is public land. That is a quibble point, but during my FS days I had that difference pounded into my head by one of better bosses.

I don’t know all of the facts behind the current fire policy, but I do know that the FS has had a lot of help in developing the current very questionable policy. One pressure point I am told comes from the Office of Management and Budget. It, or someone in it, has taken on Czar like role in the fire budget process, even to the blocking of legislation intended to cure major and bizarre problems of fire budgeting. I suspect that one of the reasons for the AMR and Wildfire Use can be traced back to that office or individual.

There is another issue, fuel build up and burning conditions. I am told by friends still in the fire fighting business that in there twenty or thirty years of active firefighting they have not seen the intensity of burning that has been experienced in the last few years. However, in my humble opinion, burning large junks of the public natural resource base is contrary to the reason the national forests were established and there needs to be some very serious thought given to getting control of fires again.

The answer will have to more active management on the ground such as timber sales. There I said it. Faster detection and more aggressive initial attack is also part of the answer, and that to means going back to the future.

Effective initial attack means launching crews, equipment and aviation resources in quantities to knock the heat out of the fire in the first few hours after it is reported. This was the operational rule in the 1950’s and is still the rule for many wildland fire agencies today. For example, more single engine airtankers, more hand crews, more helicopters and smokejumpers located in areas with known high fire occurrences are needed.

At the national policy level I certainly agree with your comments about the need for more rational look at cost accounting, and at damage assessments. I also agree policy should be made in the open by people with a knowledge of what they are talking about, not people with ideology agendas.

I have been away from the fireline for many years, but I haven’t forgotten the 40 plus years I was involved, and I am upset by what is going on today.

I know that there are a lot of good people out there doing there best to control fires, and they should not be painted as less than dedicated professionals. But there are too many others with their fingers in the pie who haven’t a clue as to what fire protection is all about.

31 Jul 2008, 3:17pm
by Mike

Thank you, John. All excellent points.

The word I heard is that on-the-line firefighters had to be restrained to stay away from assisting private landowners at the Basin Fire. It was not the choice of Hot Shots to abandon the Zen monks at Tassajara. They were ordered not to help.

The build up of fuels is a direct result of endless lawsuits filed by eco-litigious extremists whose goal is sabotage, not environmental protection. The leaders of those groups have long personal histories of the most egregious radical politics, including actual bomb throwing.

I too have been there. My college classmate Gil Murray was assassinated by the Unabomber. I know the people who applaud Gil’s murder in the name of Maoist insurrection and overthrow of the US Government.

Those people have not changed their stripes; they have become eco-terrorists. Some are in prison today for throwing jugs of gasoline into school buildings. Others are still roaming free and mount lawsuit after lawsuit whose goal is holocaust.

When radicals of known communist affiliation sue the USFS to halt the use of fire retardant, they are not doing it for environmental reasons. It is purely and simply based on the desire to incinerate America in extreme megafires.

One of the great tragedies today is the ample number of fellow travelers or dupes that populate our colleges and universities. Full professors and deans who advocate holocaust and catastrophic incineration of not only public forests but all rural lands are not intellectuals; they are terrorists.

If we could blame one perverted idiot at OMB for Let It Burn it would be an easy thing to fix. Unfortunately the mental disease of anti-Americanism and radical destruction of this country is epidemic. I have endeavored to keep this discussion at a high level, but it is not easy. I see right through the malevolent America-haters who promulgate and support holocaust. I have to restrain my words every paragraph because my true feelings about those dirty scum who would incinerate my forests to advance their terrorist cause keep trying to leap onto the page.

31 Jul 2008, 3:33pm
by Tallac

The Los Angeles Times is currently running a series of articles on wildfire in our state:

“Big Burn-Exploring The Growth And Cost Of Wildfires”


It’s the usual pap, spreading ink on dead tree pulp while ignoring the real reasons and consequences of the smoking landscape around us.

In all fairness, 2 more sections of their series have yet be published, but I doubt they will ever reveal what got us into this waste of million$ and mess.

I also doubt they would print your excellent series in their paper. Whatever readership they still have left is more than likely forever brainwashed with the burn, baby, burn policy.

But give it a try anyway.

31 Jul 2008, 3:50pm
by Mike

Tallac, I’ve seen and read the LAT story. It’s drivel. I wasn’t even going to mention it. It seems the LAT likes burning down forests, towns, entire states, etc. unless of course it is their own homes on fire, and then they scream bloody murder.

What is ironic about it is that the LAT is in the wood products business. They sell dead, logged, ground-up trees with ugly ink splotches. That’s their capitalist gig. They kill trees, pulp them, and sell them.

It takes numerous oil wells pumping 24/7 to make the fuel necessary to kill the trees, grind them up, paperize them, and ship the LAT’s newsprint all over the world. They do it for obscene profit, although they are going broke. You don’t want to own stock in that flame-out biz.

The ink splotches would lead you to believe they care about trees and hate capitalism. The LAT is the embodiment of galloping hypocrisy. Their content is utter bilge.

So I would consider it an honor to NEVER have my name appear in that rag, no matter how much money they offer me, which so far is zip. But I’m quite satisfied with the arrangement.

31 Jul 2008, 7:45pm
by Tallac

Agreed. The LAT is a POS. Should have added a sarcasm tag and barf alert. My apologies.

31 Jul 2008, 8:15pm
by Mike

No, my apologies. I was perhaps a tad over the top. But the article was so cheesy. Instead of worrying about the laundry bill, the reporters should have been wondering how a simple brush fire turned into 240,000 acres and became the most expensive fire in CA history.

Up until the Basin/Indians Fire one year later, which is now the record holder. It wasn’t the laundry or the food catering. It was extending a small fire into one that covered every square inch of the USFS ownership on purpose.

That’s what Let It Burn really is. It is deliberately incinerating everything right to the property lines, and past that if they can’t hold the fire there. That’s the plan. That’s what the fire managers are shooting for when they arrive at the fire. They ask, “How many thousands of acres should we burn?” and they shoot for that number.

Some people are under the impression that modern Fed fire managers try to limit the fire size. It used to be that way, but not anymore. Now, by direction from the WFLC, the goal is to burn it all, as big an area as possible, and if there are inholders or adjacent neighbors, them too.

There is no rush to put the fire out when it is small. That’s not the program. The program, by design, is to burn, baby, burn.

That’s why they are so afraid of NEPA. They want to fool the people into thinking fire decisions are made on the spur of the moment based on the situation at hand. That is NOT the case. Let It Burn megafires are planned (have been planned) years in advance. The maps are already drawn. The Maximum Management Areas have been laid out. It is all documented.

Please see Fire Management Today, Volume 66, No. 4, Fall 2006 [here]. The megafires are not accidents. They are the policy. That is what the USFS has said they were going to do, and what they are doing, on purpose, as a matter of stated policy laid out by the WFLC.

I have said this over and over. I have provided the documents, the proof. The USFS does not deny it. Hell, they’re proud of it. Gail Kimbell is so enamored of Let It Burn that she wants to extend it to 400 million acres of private land, and has said so, and has made it her policy, and is beaming with joy at the prospect of incinerating an area twice the size of the entire USFS acreage.

But idiots like the LAT reporters still don’t get it. Their brains are frozen. They live in a TV fantasy world. They can’t see smoke in front of their faces. They are in utter denial of reality. The facts are the facts, though, even if Hollywood media whores are lost in the ozone.

4 Aug 2008, 10:49pm
by Tallac

Unfortunately, most of the LAT readers still don’t get it. You should see some of the comments posted regarding this series of articles.

While some were reasoned (I saw a familiar name or two), most blamed us that live here, even as we attempt to promote a safe, healthy and productive forest, while the “environmental” groups block our every effort.

The peoples of Los Angeles and San Francisco, and anyone else living within 50 miles of the San Andreas Fault or along any other major earthquake zone in the West, need to realize the billions of dollars in costs and losses over the last 20 years that have occurred where THEY live. Here are just a couple of recent ones:

Loma Prieta: $ 7 Billion
Northridge: $ 15 Billion

As a rebuttal using their very own twisted logic, they shouldn’t be living there either. It’s only “natural,” just like the millions of burned acres which they so prize.

After the M7.8 hits and flattens everything around them, some will head for the hills and stay in what’s left of an old smoked campground and forest we tried to restore years ago.

I can hear the new whine already.

5 Aug 2008, 8:11am
by Mike

Let’s not forget that the LAT pro-holocaust series was written by flaming commie crack whore Bettina Boxall, the very same Bettina Boxall who in 2006 wrote an unconscionable hit piece aimed at Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen, one the greatest forest scientists in America, author of America’s Ancient Forests, and father of restoration forestry. From SOS Forests (old version) [here]:

Yesterday, eco-twit and unabashed radical Bettina Boxall reported in the LaLa Times that a no-name UCLA professor named Phil Dumbell (or something), issued a press release! slamming Tom Forest, accusing him of being a paid lackey of evil timber barons.

Boxall had her ears boxed shortly thereafter when ten of the most accomplished and respected academic forest scientists in the U.S. issued an Open Letter in support of Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen [here].

Every single word Bettina writes is a lie. She trades in lies. Her goal is communist revolution via personal destruction of people far superior to her in every respect. She is a pathetic example of the worst of journalism and, indeed, the worst of the human race. Bettina is pollution personified, and a perfect fit for the most polluted city in America.



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