12 Jul 2008, 6:46pm
The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Assuaging Fears About the Basin Fire

USFS fire managers held a meeting yesterday in Carmel Valley yesterday evening to calm fears about the Basin Fire. It is questionable how well they did that.

From the article about the meeting in the Monterey Herald [here]:

Calming fire fears in Carmel Valley

By LAITH AGHA, Monterey Herald, 07/12/2008

As the Basin Complex Fire burned Friday, prompting a voluntary evacuation near Arroyo Seco, fire management team officials held a public meeting in Carmel Valley Village to douse fires in the rumor mill about the blaze’s proximity to the valley’s more populated areas.

About 250 people filled the Tularcitos Elementary School auditorium to hear what officials had to say and to ask questions that reflected growing concerns in the community.

Though the fire claimed another 21,000 acres along the eastern front Friday, fire officials said they are confident containment efforts will keep it from approaching the village and most Cachagua neighborhoods.

“The threat of it breaking containment is very low,” said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Hutchinson.

Jerry McGowan, incident commander of the Basin Complex Fire’s eastern side, said he is sure the fire management team will meet the July 30 containment date.

“I feel pretty confident we will beat or match that,” McGowan said.

The fire is at least eight miles from the village as the crow flies, but about 15 miles away when factoring in undulation of the terrain, Hutchinson said. Winds are mostly blowing from the north and northwest, which means “the fire wants to go to the southeast,” and away from the village, Hutchinson said.

Before the fire could reach the village, or even Cachagua, it would have to jump two firebreaks. One is nearly done and the other is being held as a proposed backup plan.

Today, the day after the meeting, a Voluntary Evacuation order was issued for Upper Cachagua, Paloma Creek, Lower Carmel Valley Road, and Arroyo Seco as the Basin Fire grew another 3,000 to 5,000 acres, a gain of close to 20,000 acres in two days.

The combined acreage of the Basin/Indians fires is now over 200,000 acres. The two fires merged last week.

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10 Jul 2008, 10:39pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
1 comment

Timber Harvests Slowing Further

by the Rogue Pundit [here]

Today, there have been several news stories on Oregon’s timber harvest last year. Here’s part of one article and some additional data and thoughts.

Oregon’s timber harvests continued their decline since 2004 with 3.80 billion board feet being harvested in 2007, a 12 percent decrease from 2006.

This is the smallest Oregon timber harvest since the recession-based record low recorded in 2001.

The harvest in 2001 was 3.44 billion board feet. Last year’s harvest also topped the ones in 1998 and 1999. But before that, one has to go all the way back to 1938 to find a lower harvest (historical records here).

The reduction in timber harvest volumes came from declining harvests from private forestland owners. An 11 percent, or 344 million board feet, decrease in volume from forest industry land owners was accompanied by a 43 percent decline in harvests on non-industrial private lands, which declined from 422 million board feet in 2006 to 240 million board feet in 2007. Federal harvests remained at historically low levels, accounting for less than 10 percent of the cut.

Timber harvests were down in both western Oregon and eastern Oregon. Harvests in all of western Oregon declined 11 percent from 2006 levels, driven primarily by the 44 percent decrease on non-industrial private lands, from 351 million board feet to 198 million board feet.

Klamath County straddles the Cascades, but its totals are included in-and easily lead-Eastern Oregon. At 107 million board feet, its harvest is more than a quarter of the total from that side of the state. However, its harvest only topped six counties in Western Oregon, which confusingly includes Hood River County from the other side of the Cascades.

Lane County continues to lead Oregon’s counties in harvesting, despite decreasing by 15 percent to 504 million board feet in 2007. Douglas County was second with 479 million board feet, while Clatsop and Coos were third and fourth with 338 and 303 million board feet respectively.

Overall, harvests decreased in all western Oregon counties except for Curry, Hood River, Linn, and Yamhill, resulting in the 11 percent decline in that region.

Curry County and Jackson County totaled 95 million and 74 million board feet, respectively. And once Josephine County was next to last here in western Oregon, topping only Multnomah County (Portland). Last year’s harvest of 22.4 million board feet was the lowest here since 1939. Our peak was in 1952 at 318 million board feet. And note that none of last year’s harvest here was from BLM or USFS land…none.

Let’s not forget with the BLM’s former O&C lands…

Section 1181(a) of the 1937 O&C act reads that O&C lands “Shall be managed… for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the principal of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating streamflow, and contributing to the economic stability of the local Communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities.”

The feds don’t have to backfill the reduction in timber fees due to decreased logging of the national forests, but they do owe us for the checkerboard of O&C lands (example map here). With the success our Congressional delegation isn’t having at extending the timber funds, why hasn’t the State of Oregon sued the feds yet (previous blog here)?

Meanwhile, here we sit… logging isn’t generating much in the way of timber fees, Congress isn’t replacing those timber fees, the majority of our county land isn’t generating property taxes, and the fuels load and thus the fire risk continues to grow. If we don’t raise our property taxes this fall to replace the lost timber funds, our Sheriff’s Office all-but-disappears. And if we’re burned out, it will be our fault for living near the forest.

[Note: for all the embedded links, please see the Rogue Pundit]

Rep. Goodlatte on Exploding Fire Suppression Costs

Statement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Member, House Committee on Agriculture

RE: H.R. 5541, the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act)

July 9, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment with the bill before us today, H.R. 5541 the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act or the FLAME Act. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the authors of this bill are well intentioned and truly want to solve the wildfire funding problem, but, sadly, the FLAME Act does not provide the comprehensive solution needed to adequately resolve this problem.

With the unhealthy conditions in our forests, extreme drought, and the increasing influx of people building in fire-prone areas, the size and severity of wildfires has dramatically increased. In the 90’s, an average of 3.2 million acres burned each year. Since 2000, that annual average has doubled to 7.1 million acres. The cost of fighting these wildfires has skyrocketed, from averages of $400 million annually in the 90’s to roughly $1.4 billion in 2007. This year an area roughly the size of Connecticut has already burned, at cost of over $665 million to date.

This is not just a western issue. In my home state of Virginia, more acres have burned already this year than in any single entire year since 1963 at a cost of millions of dollars.

As firefighting costs have increased, the overall USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets have not. So, the Forest Service and DOI are footing the bill for these large, unpredictable emergency wildfires within the confines of a flat budget. For the Forest Service, this has meant a 77 percent increase in fire expenditures, a 23 percent decrease in funds to manage the national forests, and a 38 percent decrease in funds to help states and private owners manage their forests. Whether you’re a wilderness advocate, a hunter, a mountain biker, or a logger, everyone will be impacted if we don’t solve this problem.

Wildfires are not only consuming more forestland, they are consuming the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior themselves.

The FLAME Act falls short of protecting the Agencies’ budgets from this continued erosion. H.R. 5541 does not change the current budget practice of funding firefighting based on the average expenses over the previous decade. Without this change, we will continue to see more and more of the Agencies’ budgets go toward fire and less towards taking care of our nation’s forests.

In addition to this shortfall, the FLAME Act lacks a comprehensive set of solutions to the problem. Fixes to the wildfire budgeting system must be accompanied by strong cost containment and accountability standards while also ensuring fire fighter safety, incentives to encourage communities to step up to the plate and reduce wildfire risks, and more tools to prevent or minimize damage due to catastrophic wildfires, particularly in our federal forests.

H.R. 5648, the Emergency Wildland Fire Response Act of 2008 which Chairman Peterson and I introduced along with a bipartisan group of our colleagues, provides this comprehensive solution. Unfortunately, negotiations for a more comprehensive solution were cut short.

I’m pleased to see that the authors of the FLAME Act have incorporated aspects of H.R. 5648 that encourage communities to step up to the plate and become “fire-ready” and encourage the Agencies to contain costs in their firefighting efforts.

Unfortunately, even with these improvements, the FLAME Act ignores the underlying problem causing the increases in firefighting costs- the unhealthy condition of our federal forests. We will continue to see skyrocketing firefighting costs and more damage to our forests, watersheds, and communities unless we take steps to reduce fire risk in our federal forests. We must provide the Agencies additional tools to get our federal forests in a healthy, more fire resilient condition.

My alternative bill, H.R. 5648 provides a new contracting tool for the Forest Service to partner with states to address these unhealthy conditions in federal forests. This authority has been tested in Colorado and Utah where it’s proven to be very effective. Unfortunately, HR 5541 contains no such tools.

Mr. Speaker, as California and other states are dealing with massive wildfires even as we speak, we shouldn’t squander our time with legislation that is only half the solution. H.R. 5541 is akin to using the watering can to fight a wildfire: it might have some short-term benefit of slowing down the flames, but ultimately, it won’t stop the fire.

That being said, I will vote for this bill because it does move the ball forward. I’m hopeful that we can improve it as we move forward and ask my colleagues to join me in this effort.

8 Jul 2008, 9:30pm
Saving Forests
by admin
1 comment

The Mystery of the Older Cohort

When I began SOS Forests in Sept. 2005, this is one of the first photos I posted:

It is not a particularly artistic shot, but it is illustrative of the mystery of the older cohort. The picture is of the East Fork of the Hood River about 6 or 7 miles south of the community of Mt. Hood. The forest pictured is typical of the slopes in the upper watershed.

If you look carefully, you will notice there are two distinct cohorts. The older trees are ponderosa pines ranging from 150 to 350+ years old. They are taller and their tops are often broken. Up close they are much bigger in diameter than the younger cohort trees, which are mostly Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch. The younger trees range from 25 to 100 years old.

That presents a mystery: why was this forest dominated by ponderosa pine for 200+ years with very few of the other species present? Is it because the other species wouldn’t grow there due to climate or soils?

No, the soils and climate are just the same as they were. The other species grow just fine there. In fact, they out-compete the ponderosa pine in the younger cohort. After a stand-replacing fire, all the species germinate, but the pines are soon overtopped by the others. They get spindly and die in dense thickets.

But for some mysterious reason, there are few if any Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch in the older cohort. The older trees are almost pure ponderosa pine. Look carefully and you will see that. If you can’t see it, take my word for it; that’s the situation. The ponderosa dominate the older cohort, but not the younger one.

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8 Jul 2008, 2:08pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Old-Growth Trees vs Old-Growth Stands

For many veteran readers of SOS Forests, this post is going to seem repetitious. But we have many new readers and so please bear with me.

Old-growth are old trees. Generally speaking, true old-growth trees are those that germinated prior to Euro-American contact with the aboriginal (Native American) populations in a region. In Oregon true old-growth trees are 175+ years old.

In most regions, including all of Oregon, true old-growth trees arose in an age of frequent, regular, seasonal anthropogenic fire. Indian burning maintained prairies and savannas. Hence true old-growth trees were open-grown in open, park-like stands.

Following elimination and/or removal of Indian populations, the anthropogenic fires stopped. Thickets of young trees, so-called second growth, arose under the open canopies of the park-like stands. What resulted are multi-cohort forests.

Multi-cohort forests have 5 to 10 true old-growth trees per acre and the rest are second growth, sometimes numbering as many as 500+ trees per acre. The increased tree density makes those forests susceptible to catastrophic stand-replacing fires.

Previously, when the Indians were burning, fires would stay low to the ground and not kill many trees. In contrast, our modern fires kill all the trees, old and young alike.

It has been recognized that to save and preserve old-growth we must thin out the second growth, younger cohort trees. That was the gist of the important testimony given by Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin last December [here].

No longer do forest scientists view entire stands as old-growth. That was the old paradigm. Today the general understanding is that only a few trees in most “old-growth” stands are actually old. The concept (forest condition) is called multi-cohortedness.
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7 Jul 2008, 9:31pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Siuslaw NF “Old-Growth”

Guest post by Bob Zybach

To the Editor of the Eugene Register Guard:

I enjoyed the July 5 article on the centennial celebration of the Siuslaw National Forest. For many years I was a friend and neighbor of Rex Wakefield, who was Supervisor of the Siuslaw in the 1950s, when timber harvests were intensified to meet national housing demands. Rex was also a great forester, and pioneered many of the site preparation and Douglas-fir plantation methods that were widely used by federal land managers and industrial foresters in subsequent decades.

About 20 years ago I was commissioned to write a detailed land-ownership history of the Siuslaw, and relied upon Rex for much personal recollection, as well as important historical records he had retained from his years as a Supervisor. One of the most interesting records was a history of the Forest written in 1940 by one of Rex’s predecessors, Dahl Kirkpatrick. This report was later updated during WW II, but I was fortunate to be able to read the original type-written document.

A very common — and important — misconception about the history of the Siuslaw NF is similar to what you report in your paper, that of the “two billion” feet of timber sold from the Forest between 1960 and 1990 “much of it [was] old growth giants that today are a rare find.” That is simply not true. Almost all of the timber sold from the Siuslaw during its entire existence has been second-growth, not old-growth.

In 1940 Dahl Kirkpatrick noted that only 35,000 acres or so of the 600,000 total acreage in the Siuslaw was old-growth. That is about the same figure as exists today. People often think the trees are much older because they are so large and grow so fast, as Phyllis Steeves is quoted as saying in your article.

The reason the Siuslaw has never contained very much old-growth during its 100-year history is because of the “Great” Yaquina, Coos, and Nestucca Fires of 1849-1868 which killed most of the trees over the landscape during those years. Trees logged between 1960 and 1990 were almost entirely large second-growth, between 90 and 140 years of age, not old-growth.

The Great Fires of the 1800s were similar to the Big Sur, San Diego, Biscuit, and B&B wildfires of today in that they killed almost everything in their path and were hundreds of thousands of acres in size. Kay King, also quoted in your article, is entirely correct when she worries about all of the huge fuel build-up of the past 20 years, which she terms “biomass for fires.” If this biomass isn’t reduced by regular burning — such as practiced by local Indians before 1849, by grazing, by logging, or by some other means, the Siuslaw NF is destined to be the site of another “Great Fire” sometime soon, in the foreseeable future. That is its history, and also the nature of untended forestlands.

Hearing On S.2593 Thursday By Deaf Senators

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, S. 2593, will be the subject of a hearing Thursday, July 10, before the US Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands [here].

Just in case you don’t know what S. 2593 is all about, click the Category “Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008″ in the right hand sidebar. You will see that the Western Institute for Study of the Environment analyzed this bill and wrote a lengthy set of suggested amendments.

We sent those in to our US Senators and to the Subcommittee but never heard boo from any of them. Now they will be holding a hearing sans our input. How the US Senate can hold hearings when they are terminally deaf is beyond me.

Now, I don’t expect the US Senate to respond to every piece of mail they get, but a collaboration of the top forest scientists in Oregon put together our suggested amendments and we sent them in four months ago. I did expect our Oregon Senators to respond, since S. 2593 concerns Oregon. That bill is a thousand times better than the piece of crap bill Ron Wyden put forth last month [here].

Wyden’s bill, the Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act,
(no number that we are aware of) is dead in the water from the get-go. It has numerous poison pills. It will never be passed, and if passed will screw up forest management in Oregon even worse than it already is.

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, on the other hand, holds considerable promise, especially if the amendments we suggested are adopted.

Unfortunately, the US Senate has ignored our input, as I said. We did not jam sacks of hundred dollar bills in any Senator’s freezer. We did not provide them with free trips to fabulous resorts with hookers and coke and all the accoutrement they expect. It’s not that we didn’t want to; we simply cannot afford it on our limited incomes.

You would think that Gordon Smith might be interested, since he is running again. You would think Ron Wyden might be interested, since he has put forth a weak and stupid forestry bill of his own. If so, you would think wrong.

So the hearing will happen in our absence, much palavering will be done, and then the bill will be buried in the mud of the Potomac, and that’s it for that.

But we tried. You can’t say we didn’t try. It’s not our fault that our government is of, by, and for the criminal elite. Maybe if we elect a Maoist Shining Path Communist revolutionary (there is one running), then things will change. A new class of criminals will take over. That will be better, right?

One By One

What is a land swindle? A prime example is the O&C land frauds and double dealings that have gone on in Oregon since the 1870’s. Wealthy industrialists have been bribing elected representatives for over 100 years and lining their pockets the whole time while impoverishing the citizenry, exploiting forests, and destroying the landscape.

You can read all about it in this history:

One By One: A documented narrative based upon the history of the Oregon & California Railroad Land Grant in the State of Oregon, by Robert Bradley Jones, Sources Magazine, Inc. 1972-73.

“When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, One by One, an unpitied’ sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke, 1975

Full text [here] (4.3 MB)

Then draw your own comparisons to the latest Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008. The parallels are many. The outcomes will also be similar. If you live in Montana, you just got screwed. You may not realize it now, but your children and grandchildren will suffer because of it. That is, unless they are among the fat cats that just profited by looting the Federal Treasury.

The Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008

On June 30 Senator Max Baucus announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land. It is the biggest Montana land swindle in many years, perhaps since the days of the 19th Century railroad barons.

The so-called Montana Legacy Project will use $500 million in taxpayer monies to enrich Plum Creek, TNC, and TTPL and will provide no significant change in actual land management or environmental stewardship. In fact, stewardship will diminish.

The funds will come from the U.S. Treasury through a slick earmark Baucus inserted into the recent Farm Bill, passed by Congress over President George W. Bush’s veto. In addition to the $500 million to be given to the above named corporations, the Farm Bill also gave a $182 million tax break to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation.

The Montana land swindle was reported by the Flathead Beacon [here]:

Standing just below the summit of Kalispell’s Lone Pine State Park, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Monday announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, calling the deal, “the largest land purchase, for conservation purposes, in American history.”

Dubbed, “The Montana Legacy Project,” The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land are buying the acreage for $510 million, and will finance payments on the land over the next three years through private and public sources, with the federal government paying for about half the cost through a forestry conservation bond mechanism Baucus inserted into the recently passed Farm Bill.

Plum Creek is selling 223,400 acres in Missoula County, and 35,500 acres in the Swan Valley, along with 13,800 acres in Lincoln County. No land close to Kalispell or Whitefish was on the selling block.

Spokesmen for the conservation groups said the deal will preserve the land for wildlife habitat, public recreation and sustainable forestry.

Unfortunately, the land deal will do no such thing. What it will guarantee is catastrophic fire, the destruction of wildlife habitat, the elimination of public recreation, and conversion of forest to brush.
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3 Jul 2008, 1:08pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Ninth Circuit Court Okays Thinning Project

As California suffers under a fire bust of historic proportion, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court has decided that thinning forests to prevent catastrophic fire storms in constitutional after all.

In a landmark turn of the worm, yesterday the 9th Court overturned itself and denied a motion by enviro-litigious plaintiffs the Lands Council and the Wild West Institute that would have enjoined the Mission Brush Project, a selective logging of 3,829 acres of forest in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

The Court en banc (Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Pamela Ann Rymer, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Michael Daly Hawkins, Barry G. Silverman, M. Margaret McKeown, Raymond C. Fisher, Marsha S. Berzon, Richard R. Clifton, Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith) reversed an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court.

The opinion written by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. contained some pithy remarks. The entire Decision is [here]. We extract some of the more important statements:

We took this case en banc to clarify some of our environmental jurisprudence with respect to our review of the actions of the United States Forest Service. …

Boundary County, City of Bonners Ferry, City of Moyie Springs, Everhart Logging, Inc., and Regehr Logging, Inc. (collectively, Intervenors) intervened on behalf of the Forest Service. The district court denied Lands Council’s motion for a preliminary injunction. A three-judge panel of this court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded for entry of a preliminary injunction in Lands Council v. McNair, 494 F.3d 771 (9th Cir. 2007). We vacate that decision and affirm the district court. …

The Mission Brush Area (or Project Area) encompasses approximately 31,350 acres and is located in the northeastern portion of the Bonners Ferry Ranger District. Approximately 16,550 acres of the Project Area are National Forest System lands, which are home to a variety of species (or their habitats), including the northern gray wolf, Canada lynx, grizzly bear, black-backed woodpecker, flammulated owl, fisher, western toad, pileated woodpecker, and the white-tailed deer. The Project Area is also home to old-growth trees.

The current structure and composition of the forest in the Project Area differs significantly from the forest’s historic composition. While the Project Area previously consisted of relatively open ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir stands, today it is crowded with stands of shade-tolerant, younger Douglas-firs and other mid-to late-successional species. The suppression of naturally occurring fires, past logging practices, and disease are primarily responsible for this shift in forest composition.

The increased density of trees has proven deleterious to the old-growth trees and the Project Area’s ecology. First, old-growth trees need relatively open conditions to survive and maintain their growth rates. Second, the increased density is causing a decline in the health and vigor of all trees because they must compete for moisture, sunlight, and nutrients, and the densely clustered trees are less tolerant of insects and disease. Third, dense, dry forests are at risk for large, stand-replacing fires, due to the build-up of fuels. Lastly, wildlife species that prefer a relatively open forest composition with more old-growth trees have suffered a decline in habitat.

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3 Jul 2008, 9:43am
The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Thursday July 3 Fire Update

In California the Basin Fire jumped containment lines yesterday and has spread north of Big Sur. Fire managers are now saying that Carmel is threatened. The Basin Fire is over 60,000 acres. Together with the Indians Fire over 140,000 acres of the Los Padres NF have burned in the last month.

The Gap Fire in the Goleta Hills north of Santa Barbara is 2,400 acres and growing.

The Piute Mountain Fire is 15,000 acres and spreading north and east.

A new fire, the Yankee Fire is burning at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego.

In total nearly 1,800 fires have occurred in California in June, burning over 500,000 acres (790 sq miles) to date. More than 60 of those fires are still uncontained, some not even staffed, despite over 20,000 fire fighters assigned.

Roughly $200,000,000 have been spent on fire suppression in June in California. Thirty-one residences have burned and more than 8,000 remain threatened. Those numbers will grow again today.

One firefighter was killed Tuesday in a helicopter collision along with 5 other people. Firefighter Michael MacDonald, a member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots, an elite Bureau of Indian Affairs-funded Native American firefighting crew based on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, was being transported to a hospital from the Walla Valley Fire in Grand Canyon National Park when two medical helicopters collided. A nurse was critically injured and two emergency workers on the ground were injured when the one of the aircraft exploded after the crash.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for thunderstorms along the east side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington through 10pm tonight.

Piute Mountain: A Sky Forest

Piute Mountain is on fire right now. Last night the Piute Mountain Fire was reported to be 11,500 acres and burning fiercely [here]. It has and surely will grow much bigger, searing most of the Piute Plateau.

The Piute Mountain Fire from the Bakersfield area.

Already the fire has consumed several structures in the French Meadow and the Moreland Mine areas. It also burned through the Nick Williams Boy Scout Camp. The historic town of Claraville may burn, incinerating 100-year-old cabins.

But more than human history and use is being incinerated. Piute Mountain is a special place in the botanical world.

The Piute Plateau is at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada. The summit at 8,325 feet overlooks the Mojave Desert to the south, Scott Mountain and China Lake to the east, the Kern River canyon to the north, and the San Joaquin Valley to the west. As situated, Piute Mountain is a sky forest, a high elevation treed plateau surrounded by lower elevation desert regions.

During the Ice Ages the Piute Plateau was a nunatak, an isolated refugia for vascular plants surrounded by ice and tundra. And today it is isolated again by deserts. As a result, the plant community on the Piute Plateau is like no other in the world.

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