24 Sep 2008, 10:38am
2007 Fire Season Politics and politicians
by admin

The Idaho Conflagration League

The 2007 fire season in Idaho was the worst in nearly 100 years. Almost 2 million acres burned, including 800,000 acres in one block stretching across the Salmon Mountains in Central Idaho. More than a quarter of a billion dollars were spent on fire suppression, and 10 times that amount in resource damages were suffered.

Just this month the Idaho Conservation League issued a report calling those fires “natural” and a boon to the state. From Fire in Idaho: Lessons for Human Safety and Forest Health, A Review of Idaho’s 2007 Fire Season, Idaho Conservation League, Written and Prepared by Jonathan Oppenheimer, Senior Conservation Associate, September 2008:

Idaho’s 2007 fire season represented a clear shift in how we manage wildfires. This shift is paying benefits that include better safeguarding of homes, property and human life, as well as wiser use of tax dollars and real benefits on the land. …

These Wildland Fire Use fires carried several benefits. Money that would have been spent fighting them could be directed to more destructive fires. Firefighters were kept out of harm’s way. And dead trees and brush that had built up for years were cleared, making the forest healthier and reducing the odds for a major blow-up in the future.

The Idaho Conservation website is [here]. Their stated goals include ending “commercial logging, roadbuilding, and phosphate mining” in Idaho. Ostensibly they also seek to preserve “Idaho’s clean water, wilderness, and quality of life.” The ICL works to “safeguard communities against agricultural activities that threaten public health and the places we live” and to “defend communities against polluting power generation facilities.”

The ICL is opposed to smoke:

Microscopic bits of material, called particulate matter (PM), are carried up in the smoke and carried by the wind. The by-products may cause health effects such as:

irritated eyes, nose, mouth
increased coughing and wheezing
increased respiratory illness
decreased lung function
possible development of lung disease

These inversions cause serious health consequences, especially to those people who suffer from chronic lung diseases including asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and other types of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The ICL wants clean streams:

We must also protect the quality of our lakes and rivers as more and more people move here. Streamside areas serve as important habitat for wildlife as well as buffer zones that protect our water and help keep it clean. We must maintain these important areas as a way to preserve clean water and beautiful places that contribute to the excellent quality of life we enjoy as Idahoans.

The destruction by fire of over a million acres of Idaho forests did not yield clean water, clean air, or quality of life. The 2007 megafires that ravaged Idaho’s forests fouled air, polluted streams, destroyed habitat, caused massive erosion, uglified scenery, and degraded the “quality of life” for thousands of residents.

Yet the Idaho Conservation League is blind to that destruction and celebrates the incineration of Idaho’s forests. They call forest holocaust “natural” as if “natural” justifies disaster.

In fact the fires were not natural. They were far outside the historic norms. For thousands of years Idaho has been home to human beings who modified the fire regimes so that mega disasters could not occur. The ICL is in utter denial about that, instead claiming that Idaho was untrammeled wilderness before the white man arrived. The fires of 2007 were larger, hotter, and did far more environmental damage than historical fires.

ICL’s historical/scientific revisionism is quite racist. The paeans to “naturalness” also smack of Luddite sensibilities. The ICL board and staff do not run around naked. They live in wood-framed houses. They eat food grown by agriculturalists. If they get sick they go to medical doctors, not “natural” healers. There is even a MD on their Board.

Proper forest management includes thinning forests so that fires drop to the ground and do not become canopy fire storms. The ICL opposes such treatments. They oppose commercial logging. They favor fire storms because they believe such fires are “natural.”

In their recent report they display a photograph of a 100 percent mortality snag patch, formerly green trees killed by the 2007 fires. The caption reads “Pine needles on the forest floor can significantly reduce erosion after fires.” However, no pine needles can be seen in the photo because they were incinerated.

The erosion caused by the 2007 Idaho fires has been horrendous and is ongoing.

The ICL reported contributions, gifts, and grants in the amount of $1,208,035 in 2006. The recent report was funded by the Wilberforce Foundation [here] and the Wyss Foundation [here]. It is interesting to note that both those foundations are bankrolled by high tech fortunes. Perhaps the wealthy techies feel that incinerating forests in megafires is appropriate penance for their sins of “unnaturalness.”

After all, the type of irrational and flaming hypocrisy demonstrated by the ICL can be described as religious fanaticism. What their religion is, exactly, is less clear.

For future reference, the Board of Directors of the Idaho Conservation League consists of:

Pat Haas (Chair), Boise
Mike Richardson (Vice Chair), Naples
Sharon Steiner (Secretary), Ketchum
Perry Brown (Treasurer), Boise
Matt Bullard, Boise
Claire Casey, Challis
Brad Chilton, Pocatello
Maureen Finnerty, Idaho Falls
Elaine French, Ketchum
Walt Minnick, Boise
Rick Price, Sandpoint
Gayle B. Poorman, Meridian
Janice Simpkin, Twin Falls
Jerry Sturgill, Boise
John Warren, Boise
Michael Wise, Ketchum

24 Sep 2008, 11:00am
by Bob Z.

It would be very interesting to find out how many of these nitwits were actually born in Idaho, or even attended Idaho schools.

I’m guessing dumb city kids from other (mostly eastern) States, just like we have here in Oregon.

Mike, you spell out the combined ignorance, arrogance, hypocrisy, and stupidity of this group when it comes to natural resource issues, yet they rake in millions of dollars to fund this contradictory nonsense. Apparently their resource management inadequacies must not extend to their grant writing abilities.

Thanks for the column. It should be reprinted in every major Idaho newspaper as a public service announcement. Can you get funding to do that?

24 Sep 2008, 11:19am
by Mike

“Can you get funding to do that?”

I don’t know. I’ll pass the hat at the Sweet Home farmers market next Saturday. Buy a tomato, fund a media blitz.

24 Sep 2008, 11:29am
by bear bait

If fire is natural and to be celebrated, then why the uproar about hurricanes? earthquakes? drought? blizzards? floods? homicide? genocide? All are natural events that occurred many times over history, and none is celebrated.

In fact, global warming is natural, and the earth history of that is pretty solid. If it were not for global warming, you and I would not be having this conversation as our place of abode would most like ly be under a permanent snow field or ice.

Our country is in a financial crisis because common sense did not enter into the arena of finance. Portends, hints, prior experience, history, warnings, all were ignored, and at great cost. The same deal is ongoing in the wildland fire situation. All the warnings, experiences, history, thoughtful advice, are ignored. The first order of undertaking is education of the idiot/idiots who maintain that not fighting fires when they are small and putting them out costs more money than watching them incinerate our forest heritage. How in the hell can anyone spend $14 million dollars watching a fire for two months, and not making the slightest attempt to arrest it?

Yes, there is a fuels problem. No logging brings that about. So the answer is to never log? Think that out carefully. Mankind will use lumber, panels, paper, packaging for a long time, and it will come from cutting a tree somewhere. So logging in one area, on a short rotation, which can go on for how many generations we do not know, while not logging elsewhere and allowing it all to burn means we lost twice the habitat and resource. It is a “two-fer”. We alter two habitats instead of one. Or, allowed fire makes man’s contribution to the landscape twice what it would be if logging were allowed every century or more. Think that through. Two times the impact.

So cost is a bogus finding. Not fighting fire evidently is much more expensive than fighting fire, because this was a pretty benign fire season on the public domain with the exception of the let it burn fires in California that used up a lot of resources, but not in saving structures. The structure loss this year has been minimal to this point. There is still time for a blast in SoCal around the metropolis of LA. But all in all, not fighting fire and watching would appear on the surface to cost more than fighting fire. Add to that the fact that by not fighting fire, many, many more acres get burned, the old cost per acre savings is also bogus. If you spent $1000 to put out a snag fire on one acre, and watched a fire grow to 10,000 acres at a cost of $100 per acre, you still spent a million bucks on the one fire, and one thousand on the other, which unfought certainly could have grown to a 10,000 fire. Bad accounting and bad economic principles don’t cut it.

If it falls out of the back of the horse in round balls, it is what it is. and this fire deal is also falling out of the back of a horse. And the people who tell you what a good deal letting the fires burn is, are the back of the horse.

24 Sep 2008, 11:46am
by Forrest Grump

Oppenheimer is a UM envirostudies grad who also had a stint with Taxpayers for Common Sense (Nader’s Proxmire clone). Did you get turned on to this while surfing or was there a “news” story about this trash?

24 Sep 2008, 12:09pm
by Mike

No time for surfing. 99% of the news links at W.I.S.E. come from email correspondents. This one came from Sue.

A big Thank You to all those who send in items that help keep the rest of us informed.

24 Sep 2008, 7:36pm
by YPmule

In a way, I almost envy the ICL, they have a base of people to contribute to their cause and staff to lobby for what they want. This network of people can be called upon to send thousands of public comments (often the same copy/paste messages) every time the FS puts a plan out for a comment period. What would it take to organize a base of people with a common opinion? How does a group command the attention of news media? Is it because they feed the public what they want? “Send your dollars here to be green” - and folks can mail a check, send an email and get that warm fuzzy feeling they did something “right.”

I confess that when I was young and dumb, (and forced to live in a city to have a decent job,) I too sent my donations to Green Peace, the Sierra Club, etc. and had that warm fuzzy feeling. However, as I grew and experienced life in both the cities where I worked and in the forest where I escaped to on vacation, my education was just beginning. While I applaud the groups that help stop destructive practices - I started seeing that these groups were going too far. When they started locking up the land and (to borrow a phrase) “dehumanizing the landscape” that was the turning point. I sought more hands on knowledge, turned away from the propaganda and looked for the truth. The truth is scary.

Acting as the group that is going to save Idaho from Idahoans, the ICL has gained a lot of clout in our state by opposing land management as old fashioned and supporting land “un-management.” They are pushing an agenda to lock people and domestic animals out of public land any way possible, and destroying rural economic bases as a bonus. Pushing for fake wilderness (roadless) and more and more wilderness. Saving the land for - what? - whom? A few backpackers with pepper spray and pilots? A few tourists dollars do not replace the jobs they helped to eliminate. Letting our forests burn will not attract tourists, nor is it protecting the forest, or the water or air.

The ICL is pretty good with propaganda, the media laps it up and reports their words faithfully. Our local county paper recently wrote up a piece all about how last summer’s fires were natural, leaning heavily on ICL for information. This is what is scary - our local news source believes this propaganda and reports it as fact to we the people who were in the middle of that fire. We the people that choked for weeks and months on air so bad you could not see the sun for days. We the people that watched beautiful forests burn so hot nothing will ever come back. We the people who watched this summer as the fire blackened hills unloaded their soils into prime salmon spawning streams. We the people who were locked out, harassed, slandered in the news as holdouts. We the people of our volunteer fire department watching and waiting for weeks for the fire to arrive. Yes, we are the people that live in the forest, who breath the air and drink the water, yet who will hear our voice? We the people who do not have lobbyists and “connections” or even the ear of the media.

Thank you Mike for this place where we can voice the truth.

25 Sep 2008, 10:07am
by Joe B.

hey I sent you this at the beginning of the month

25 Sep 2008, 10:07am
by Joe B.

not that I want credit, just giving you a hard time

25 Sep 2008, 10:36am
by Mike

Sorry. Been busy tracking government-induced holocausts.

Too all: Joe Bourbon has been skookum to the Idaho Conflagration Monkey Wrench Arsonist Gang for years.

He keeps me informed, and I try to keep you informed, but sometimes it’s all too much. I have a backlog of items about the Extreme Anti-Forest Terrorist Left that sit in a stinking pile on my desktop. More comes in every day. This country has gone stark raving insane. It’s not my fault.

26 Sep 2008, 8:13am
by Cathy G.

The fires in the Payette Forest 2007, were not “natural.” At least three of them were purposely set by the Forest Service as “back burns’ that got away, uncontrolled, and allowed and watched burn.

One burned into and around Yellow Pine and up Profile Creek nearly into the community of Big Creek (which is never mentioned anywhere) and the other burned the historic town of Knox. Those fires ruined the tourist attractions and took (and continue to take) dollars away from those two communities.

ICL never mentions that the Forest Service-generated fires caused erosion that buried the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River with mud and debris for 3 straight months, destroying salmon spawning beds. The runoff destroyed roads and bridges as well, which the Valley County taxpayers are having to pay for in order to keep our roads open. In the last several years USFS fires have destroyed over 20 historic log cabins, ranches, and landmarks in and near the Frank Church Wilderness with no acknowledgment or remorse from ICL or the USFS.

26 Sep 2008, 9:56am
by Bob Z.

This got ridiculous years ago. What will it take to alert the American public to all the destruction that is taking place in western US forests?

Maybe if the USFS feels they can disregard NEPA with impunity, we can get them to become a little more familiar with the consequences of the 1906 Antiquities Act:


What will it take to get local law enforcement officials to begin enforcing the law? The County Historical Society?

26 Sep 2008, 10:41am
by backcut

All it takes is a lawyer who loves human-tended forests and will take the case on “spec.” Of course, we would win in court, along with the court costs. Their pie-in-the-sky plans for fighting fires with fire can only work when intensive NEPA analysis is done in specific sensitive areas. Public input is also essential, as the locals are the ones who have to put up with the impacts.

WFU and AMR need to be “fixed” (like a mangy ole tomcat).

29 Sep 2008, 1:28pm
by Joe B.

There isn’t a natural fire burning in America, hasn’t been for eons. Lightning striking the forest today sets off a fire that is introduced into unnatural conditions, overloaded fuel, too many trees either dead on the ground or alive sucking up all available moisture on land that can only support a third of the trees currently present in our national forests.

The idea that we have natural fires or wilderness is a joke.

29 Sep 2008, 2:39pm
by Bob Z.

It’s just not a funny joke.

That’s the problem.



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