‘Let It Burn’ Isn’t Right

But before we get to solutions, we are pleased to post this guest essay by Dan Adair that appeared in the Trinity Journal today, Aug. 20, 2008 [here].

I was very interested in the article in last week’s Journal regarding the effect of the forest fire smoke on the grape crop. Many of us in the county have been scratching our heads for weeks, wondering why tomatoes which were supposed to ripen in July are still showing only tiny, green fruits. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it. The Forest Service , with their “burn, baby, burn” policy has actually managed to create their very own ecological disaster.

The story gets even more bizarre as you continue to look into it. The leading proponent of the let-it-burn policy is an organization called The Wilderness Society. They’ve got a national membership of about 365,000 and their stated goal is to have as much land as possible declared wilderness areas. To that end, they’ve spent $2.5 million lobbying politicians over the last few years and have worked extensively with our own Barbara Boxer.

Now, the snag in turning all of this land into wilderness areas is that we don’t have the money to maintain them. The solution that they came up with is the let-it-burn policy. Rather than aggressively jumping on fires, we should simply let them burn themselves out, thus saving a large amount of money in fire-suppression activities.

To that end, they have some interesting proposals. One is to offer financial incentives to fire managers who let it burn. In other words, the more acreage you burn up, the more you get paid. Another is to allow the Forest Service to claim burned acreage as credits toward their fuel-reduction budget. In other words, rather than having to actually go out and clear that pesky brush, the Forest Service can simply burn it up and say they’ve fulfilled their budgetary obligations for clearing.

No one really seems to know the extent to which the Forest Service is implementing these ideas. We do find in their 2008 budget that they want to “promote the increase of wildland fire use, consistent with land and resource management plans and public and firefighter safety and report these acres annually in future Budget Justifications.” And in discussing the previous year, they state that they “emphasized increased wildland fire use in land management planning with the long-term objective to increase the utilization of wildland fire use to accomplish resource objectives.”

Of course, our local Forest Service press officers deny that they’re just letting it burn. Which is technically true, I guess. They’re not just letting it burn; they’re actively setting it on fire. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

21 Aug 2008, 2:05pm
by Kevin S. (M.A.I.S.)

The USFS and their virtual corporation of environment worshipers have literally turned the forest resource base into a mono-economic enterprise of selective fire management.

When it serves their interests, you see on ICARS (the Integrated Command Accounting and Reporting System) a management ratio of 1:3 instead of the basic 1:20 supervisors to attack crew members. They selectively address wildfire suppression to their advantage based on local constituent pressures. To hell with the resource, to hell with forest health, to hell with Ecosystem Management that calls for socioeconomic impact assessment.

The USFS exhibits purely self serving emotional responses to a socialist minority who would rather see local resource dependent communities dry up and blow away, and the population move to the cities for jobs, services, and educational opportunities. It is called a control tool, folks, part of the Delphi Technique to mislead, misguide, and dissuade. Smokey Bear doesn’t like prescribed fire because he can’t tell the children, “Only you can prevent Forest Fires, as long as it isn’t us you are stopping.”

Do you ever wonder what any agency is all about? NEPA is the guiding force behind everything isn’t it? And isn’t NEPA just another tool to control Human Uses and so called Impacts called undertakings? It is what humans do or don’t do, so if you can control their ability to do, what have you got? Burn the timber and the industry be damned, right?

21 Aug 2008, 2:49pm
by Mike

NEPA is supposed to guide federal actions that have significant impact on the environment. The USFS avoids NEPA like the plague because they wish to have impacts without the responsibility or accountability.

The fire was started by lightning, right? So it’s not our fault if it burns for two or three months and incinerates 100,000, or 200,000, or 500,000 acres. Just because 95% of the burned area was actually ignited by so-called fire “fighters” carrying drip torches, or by helicopters dropping napalm, it doesn’t make the fire any less natural, does it? Mother Nature did it, not us. We do not have to do NEPA because we are not to blame.

Earlier this summer the Grand Canyon NP attempted to set fires to “mimic” lightning fires. How’s that for unnatural? But they can do it without blame or accountability because they were pretending to be natural. One firefighter died in that fiasco, by the way.

The NPS set the fire that burned into Los Alamos in 2000 and left a billion dollars in damages. Was it their fault? Heck no, they were mimicking Big Mother, the Goddess Mother Nature, and so it was Her fault.

When the National Guard was called out to help fight the NorCal fires this summer, did the Guardsmen actually fight fire? Heck no, they did “rehab.” No Guardsman got anywhere near the flames. The USFS desired to burn vast acreages from the get go. There has been no direct attack, just fire-lighting in vast backburns that encompass whole watersheds.

USFS propaganda encourages townsfolk to thank the firefighters for “saving” their towns when in fact the agency has been deliberately incinerating forested watersheds and rendering damages to towns that will last for decades. Thank you for that?

Ask yourself, why are some fires put out in two days and others last for two months? Could it possibly have anything to do with money? Follow the money. Who gets rich behind fires that are spread across hundreds of square miles and weeks and weeks?

And ask yourself, as Kevin does above, what is the relationship between money and power in America today? Is there any? Are megafires a kind of ugly political power trip? Who benefits from disaster?

One thing is for sure, it ain’t the people who suffer them.

23 Aug 2008, 9:54am
by Dan A.

Interesting comment about how the Nat. Guard units were kept away from the fires. In Junction City during the worst of the fire the smoke suddenly cleared. The people who live there were horrified to see fire fighters setting back burns right next to their houses. They’d actually been using the smoke for concealment of what they were doing.

The second evacuation of Junction City was actually because of the back burns, rather than the fire itself. There does seem to be a pattern of mandatory evacuations followed by massive burning.

BTW - a friend on a chat group who lives in Virginia mentioned that the Great Dismal Swamp has been burning for weeks and there’s been a huge amount of smoke. I note that there is a crack federal fire team in charge. Any info on whether or not that’s another let-it-burn?

Ahem . . . excuse me . . . I meant to say, any information about whether or not, “fire is being re-introduced to the ecology,” there?

23 Aug 2008, 2:14pm
by Mike

The Evans Road Fire in N. Carolina has been burning since June 1st. WISE tracked it until mid-June [here]. The last mention on InciWeb is [here] on Aug 5. As far as I know, it’s still burning. It’s a peat fire, and won’t be extinguished until winter, and maybe not even then.

The Evans Road Fire carbon footprint must be huge, possibly some kind of record. It probably exceeds the CO2 emissions for two or three eastern seaboard states, all other sources combined for the entire year.

People need to watch out for government firelighters sneaking around with drip torches. Federally-sanctioned arson is a new extreme sport.

24 Aug 2008, 8:21am
by Dan A.

They used flares at Big Bar. Possibly more efficient than drip torches.

24 Aug 2008, 10:34am
by Mike

Also In NorCal this summer the USFS used napalm balls dropped from helicopters to ignite fires. Not quite Nam treatment, but damn close to it.

24 Aug 2008, 9:47pm
by Bonefide Forester

Mike D.

You are spouting crazy fire ‘n brimstone talk.

The Klamath is Fire Country. God started these lightning fires like he has since day one.

We have never been good at fire suppression in the Klamath, therefore the fuels are pretty damn natural, especially in the places where we haven’t messed things up by logging.

I have been working on these fires all summer, and have been paying special attention to the burn mosaic. When the smoke clears, we’ll get a good look at what happened this summer - a whole lot of low-moderate intensity, mainly ground-fire.

Sure, we’ll get some high intensity patches, but by no means are the Klamath and Trinity fires a disaster.

Most of these fires are doing a much better job of thinning the woods than any machine or crew ever could - think about it - what are our real options for treating stands on 60% slopes?

I feel like your bias against fire on the ground is programmatic, and not rooted in the reality of what we are seeing on the ground. The bulk of the fire that I have seen since June 21st (Butte Complex, Shasta Complex, Hell’s Half Fire, Iron Complex, Siskiyou, Blue 2, Canyon Complex, and Rich Fire) have had good effects on the stands.

How much of the burned area in NW California have you seen this summer? I challenge you to get yourself a charter flight this fall over the Klamath and Trinity Country. Rent a Cessna and pilot out of Eugene or Medford - I recommend Friendly Air Service in Eugene. Also, check out the Butte Complex fire where it burned up and out of the North Fork of the Feather River. It underburned just about everything except Sierra Pacific’s new clearcut blocs above Concow, where it nuked everything (including adjacent mixed-age stands).

Take a look-see, and post some photos on this site. Until then, I feel like you are just blowing that much more smoke - the last thing that any of us need right now.


24 Aug 2008, 10:04pm
by Mike

The difference between you and me BF, is that I stand up for forests and tell the truth, while you hide behind a fake name, phony email, and falsehoods.

If you were a real forester, you would understand that incineration is not stewardship. You would know more than nothing about forest history. You would realize and support the idea that NEPA, ESA, NHPA, and all our environmental laws must be obeyed. You would be fighting for responsible professional forestry, not holocaust.

And if you were a real American forester, you would encourage my free speech, not condemn it.

But you are not bona fide. You are a fraud.

Here’s a thought, BF. Stop incinerating my forests.

25 Aug 2008, 12:47pm
by Bonepfide Pforester


Sorry if this is a duplicate post, not sure if the last one went out right, but I hope that you post this one, as I don’t want to be written off as some sort of nut job. I have spent my entire adult life working in the woods, and have been on the ground that I sharing my opinion about here.

25 Aug 2008, 2:17pm
by Mike

BP, you are not going to be taken seriously if you lie. Try some truth for a change. Be honest, be real, stand up like a man and take responsibility for your opinions. Otherwise we have to assume that you are a fraud and a nutjob.



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