28 Sep 2008, 3:10pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Gearing Up For the Deja Vu Fire

The counties of Northeastern Oregon just got hit with another ton of bricks from the US Forest Service. In light of the severe fire hazard created by un-management of federal forests, the USFS has decided to make the situation worse by tearing out the road system.

No roads means no fuels management and constrained fire control. The upshot is that the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is being primed to be burned in a megafire — on purpose, with malice aforethought, by our “benevolent” federal government.

From the Baker City Herald last week:

Counties’ question: How would forest road closures affect people

By MIKE FERGUSON, Baker City Herald, September 25, 2008 [here]

BAKER CITY, Ore. — Five Eastern Oregon counties are considering how road closures in the largest national forest in the Northwest could affect them.

The proposed travel management plan for the 2.4 million acre Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is expected to have both a social and economic impact on Baker, Grant, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties.

The U.S. Forest Service plans to publish a draft environmental impact statement next spring on potential effects of each of six alternatives under the plan.

But the counties have only until Nov. 30 to report on the possible impact to their region.

“The counties are coming into the process a little bit late, and I have been trying to play catch-up,” said Bob Messinger of Summerville, who’s representing the five counties.

Bruce Sorte, an Oregon State University Extension economist now working at Eastern Oregon University, is studying the impacts of each alternative on jobs, wages, hotel and campground occupancy, and other sectors of the economy.

Baker County previously hired Sorte to help study the impacts on the designation of bull trout as a threatened species, and some of that data will be applied to the travel plan.

Ken Anderson, a retired mining geologist, said he worries that a plan to close forest roads will make it even more difficult for miners to test their claims, gain approval and set up their operations.

He said that if 100 miners were allowed to mine in the Wallowa-Whitman and each found an ounce of gold per day, the financial impact figured with a multiplier effect used by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Statistical Division would be $4 million a day, “new wealth that adds to the economy.”

“We need access to and use of the land,” Anderson said.

Messinger said economic models, census and Oregon Employment Department data can be used to compile potential economic impacts for each of the alternatives so he is relying on counties to provide an estimate of the social impact.

“It is a broad category, and it may rely on a qualitative analysis, on interviews and public input, not on numbers,” Messinger said. “It is lifestyle and attitude.”

Jan Kerns, chairwoman of a Baker County advisory committee on the plan, said one example is the possible effect on families that venture into the forest annually to pick huckleberries. Those trips may not be possible without motorized access on roads to get the family to their favorite spots.

The more specific the examples, the better, Messinger said.

“Are those huckleberries food in the larder, or is picking huckleberries a social event that creates family bonds?” he said. “Family bonding is a strong social issue.”

The ranger of the Whitman District, who also happens to be named Ken Anderson, said that even after the draft environmental impact statement is published next spring, more alternatives for the travel plan could emerge.

“If you find data that suggests we look other alternatives, that would be considered,” he said.

Prior to being transferred to the WWNF, Ranger Ken Anderson was District Ranger at Sedona on the Coconino NF. There he presided over the Brins Fire (2006). The Brins Fire burned primarily within the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, one of a few nationally-designated wildernesses that actually butt up against city limits. In Sedona there is an actual Wildland-Urban Interface, marked by a chainlink fence in places. The Munds Mountain Wilderness is another such wilderness smack up against the city limits of Sedona.

The Brins Fire was 4,317 acres and cost $6,400,000 to suppress. It shut down Sedona at the height of the tourist season, striking a severe economic blow to a town that is totally dependent on tourism. And it demonstrated emphatically the danger of roadlessness.

Now Anderson is in Oregon shutting down roads here in an overstocked, fuel-laden forest. No roads means no rapid initial attack and no effective firefighting. The USFS is gearing up to burn the Wallowa-Whitman NF in a catastrophic megafire.

They have already adopted WFU (wildland fire use) into their Fire Plan, albeit with absolutely no public notice or public involvement of any kind.

That’s right. Unlike the road destruction (closure) plan, when adopting whoofoo the WWNF issued no request for input from the County Commissioners or any other member of the public, other than secret meetings with radical anti-forest “enviro” cults.

When it comes to burning down America’s forests, the USFS has no peer.

By the way, if Ranger Ken Anderson is looking for “data” suggesting alternatives other than destruction of the WWNF road system, he might look in the mirror and recall the Brins Fire. No roads meant no way to contain the fire until it hit town. The roadless plan failed in Arizona to protect the forest and residents. It will fail in Eastern Oregon as well, with dire and disastrous consequences.

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