8 Nov 2008, 4:18pm
Saving Forests
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Why Historical Human Influences Are Important

We have written numerous times on Antropogenic Fire Theory. That theory expresses the conclusion that human beings played a vital role in shaping our landscapes (vegetation and wildlife populations) during the entire Holocene.

Why is that important? For two principal reasons.

First, recognition and study of the historical impact of human beings provides a better scientific description of the pathways that led to forests (including old-growth forests), prairies, meadows, berry fields, wetlands, and virtually every ecosystem type extant upon our continent (and other continents as well).

Old theories that exclude human influence are filled with anomalies. They do not adequately explain ecosystem development nor current conditions. The presumption that “Mother Nature” alone was responsible is too simplistic to account for what we see on the landscape.

Second, a better understanding of the actual ecosystem development pathways should inform current management. We cannot depend on out-moded theories of “natural balance” and a hands-off approach to provide desirable ecosystem conditions. Management based on incorrect theories leads to disaster.

Our forests, prairies, meadows, etc. arose under conditions of frequent, regular, seasonal anthropogenic fire. Those traditional practices have been abandoned. As a result, fuels have built up and catastrophic fires have altered ecosystems across vast tracts and entire landscapes. Those fires have not only destroyed heritage ecosystems, they have inflicted “externalities” such as air pollution, water pollution, public endangerment, public health degradation, agricultural losses, home destruction, tax and budget strains, etc.

We need better land management based on more accurate environmental science, science that recognizes the actual historical influences of humanity.

We have discussed these concepts previously. The W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here] is devoted to that field of study. In addition, the following is a (partial) selection of those discussions:

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The Concern Over Forest Policy Is Not New

An important news story, with a twist:

As Fires Scorch West, Forest Policy Is Concern

By John H. Cushman Jr., The New York Times

Between the radiant sky and the parched earth, the only sign of fire in the rugged Boise National Forest was a glowing ember of fear in the eyes of the forest supervisor, Stephen P. Mealey.

“I am sitting here terrified,” he said on Sunday. “The only thing between us and disaster is a lightning strike.” …

A fire weather forecast — red flag warnings, lightning level one — crackled over the helicopter radio as he flew over a 250,000-acre expanse scorched bare by a wildfire…

His helicopter settled in a remote clearing in a place called Tiger Creek, and Mr. Mealey clambered up a slope where, shortly before the 1992 fire, the woods had been thinned of underbrush and then lightly burned by the Forest Service. At the height of its intensity, the 1992 fire had raced through the treetops until it reached the spot where he stood.

“When the fire hit this site, it lay down,” Mr. Mealey said, and the thinned woods survived intact. Now, in a plan that would radically change the management of his 2.5 million-acre forest, Mr. Mealey wants to greatly expand the thinning of the dense woods and the use of controlled burning.

This new approach is important, Mr. Mealey said, because conditions are so ripe for catastrophic fire that the odds approach inevitability here and in many areas of the drought-stricken West. But he said it was going to be a “tough sell” and could take a long time to put into effect.

In a report issued in April, the National Commission on Wildfire Disasters, set up after the devastating fires in Yellowstone National Park in 1988, endorsed this philosophy of intensive thinning followed by the use of small, controlled fires to burn out parts of forests throughout the West.

“The prevention of catastrophic wildfires must begin with the restoration of more healthy forests through the reduction of dangerous fuel levels and the eventual increase of less intense and more ecologically friendly fires,” said Neil Sampson, the commission’s chairman and the executive vice president of American Forests, a conservation group. …

He and some local forestry experts say this is an unnatural condition caused by decades of logging large trees, mainly Ponderosa pines, that resist fire and drought especially well, and allowing smaller, more flammable and densely packed species to remain. …

Mr. Mealey and others want the forest to look more as it did at the start of the century, dominated by thinly spaced, towering Ponderosa pine, never allowing the shorter, denser and more flammable Douglas fir to encroach on it.

Dr. Leon F. Neuenschwander, a forestry professor at the University of Idaho at Moscow, has recommended applying a combination of commercial logging, selective thinning and controlled fires on 50,000 acres a year over the next 10 to 30 years. …

What’s the twist?

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6 Nov 2008, 10:33am
Politics and politicians Saving Forests
by admin
3 comments

Nothing Better To Do

What does the election of B. Hussein Obama mean to our national forests?

Absolutely nothing. B. Hussein has no forest policy, has zero experience in natural resources, knows nothing about forests, and has never even seen a forest. The topic did not come up in the campaign.

The people who voted for B. Hussein did so because of his skin color, not because of his forest policy. For the first time in American history, a president was selected on the basis of his race and race alone. B. Hussein is our “token” president.

Natural resource issues were not a factor because John McCain had no discernible natural resource policy either. The word “forests” was not mentioned one time in his campaign. The only glimmer of a resource issue was global warming, and both candidates shared the far out viewpoint that the US should unilaterally shut down two-thirds of our economy in the name of a total hoax.

Hold on to something steady, sports fans. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GLOBAL WARMING. The globe is cooling and has been cooling for about 9,000 years. Yes, there are minor peaks and valleys. Most recently (for the last 10 years) global temps have fallen to their lowest point in 35 years, effectively wiping out any (minor) temperature increase seen over the 20th Century. The outlook is cold and getting colder.

B. Hussein wants to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant, when in fact it is the KEY NUTRIENT OF LIFE. Last time anyone looked we were carbon-based lifeforms here on Planet Earth. Your bodily carbon, which is to say all of your cells and your basic corporeal existence, derives from carbon dioxide, without which you would not be.

B. Hussein wants to declare war on life, in other words. His opponent, Republican-In-Name-Only John McCain shared the exact same view, so voters had no choice whatsoever, which is why they selected on the basis of skin color, since there were no other substantive differences between the candidates.

Even in Oregon the massive forest crisis we face was not an issue in any campaign, local or statewide. The populace is inured to seeing their watersheds destroyed in catastrophic holocausts. We have come to expect that. No one questions whether forests policies should be any different from No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot. Our one RINO senator wouldn’t touch forest issues with a ten-foot peavy and neither did the radical Leftist who replaced him.

Oregon’s RINO party has abandoned the state just as they have abandoned our forests. The closest thing to a Republican in Oregon is in Alaska. And Oregon’s Far Left Democommie party is pro-forest holocaust. They “rendezvous” in the ashes whenever the big burns happen. When old-growth forests were incinerated last summer in Oregon in various megafires, the Dems celebrated. Their dream is to declare every square inch of Oregon a free fire zone and burn the whole state to smithereens.

But there is nothing new in all of that. It is the same old, same old. Our state and national forest policy has been Burn Baby Burn for 20 years, and nothing has changed in that regard. In an election touted as the Big Change, when it comes to forest policy, it wasn’t. There has been no change at all and none is expected.

Which is why we must buckle down and teach the new bozos what we tried (and failed) to teach the old bozos, that forest stewardship is preferable to forest holocaust and destruction. It seems like a simple, logical, pragmatic thing, and it is, but we are dealing with some serious bozos once again.

So get out the tow ropes and prepare to drag a new bunch of clueless imbeciles up the learning curve, kicking and screaming all the way (on the part of the imbeciles).

Can it be done? Can you teach the clueless? Can we save our forests from destruction?

Maybe, maybe not. But we’re going to try. Got nothing better to do.

4 Nov 2008, 6:36pm
The 2008 Fire Season
by admin
9 comments

2008 Cal Winegrape Crop Tainted With Wildfire Smoke

A number of sources are reporting that the smoke from this summer’s wildfires in California may have tainted the 2008 winegrape crop. Megafires from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border poured smoke into the prime Cal winegrape growing regions for three solid months, with probable deleterious effect to this year’s wine vintage.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported in September [here] that

Three months after smoke from wildfires carpeted California’s vineyards, some winemakers in the thick of harvest are reporting grapes giving off unusual odors that may be signs of smoke taint.

While it’s too early to generalize about the scope of the potential problem, some troubling reports are filtering in from Mendocino County, which earlier this summer endured some of the fiercest wildfires and worst air quality in memory.

“Winemakers are saying that they think stuff is smelling funny to them, and they want to know what’s going on,” said Glenn McGourty, viticulture adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Mendocino.

Mendocino County and adjacent Napa and Sonoma Counties were inundated by smoke from the Walker, Mendocino Lightning Complex, and Soda Complex fires, to name a few. Monterey and Santa Barbara Counties endured smoke for months from the Indians, Basin, Gap, and Chalk fires. Northern California counties were choked by smoke from over a thousand square miles of fires that burned for over three months. The San Joaquin Valley suffered smoke-related air pollution from dozens of fires including the Clover, Hidden, Tehepite, and Telegraph Fires.

Over 2,000 fires burned well over a million acres in California this summer. Most of those were ignited by a dry lightning storm that swept the state June 21st. Although most of the fires were extinguished with a week or two, many were allowed to burn all summer long. USFS fire management policies of whoofoo (Wildland Fire Use) and hammer (Appropriate Management Response) led to extended burns that were still smoking in October.

Whoofoos are supposed to “benefit” resources, although the specific resources and the specific benefits are never mentioned in whoofoo reports. In any case, California’s wine industry did not benefit from summer-long smoke.

The Cal wine industry is a $100 billion per year affair. From the Business Network [here]:

California wine industry has $51.8 billion impact on state economy, Wines and Vines, Jan, 2007

The California wine industry has an annual impact of $51.8 billion on the state’s economy and an economic impact of $103 billion on the U.S. economy, according to a report released on Dec. 7 by Wine Institute (WI) and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). The two organizations commissioned MKF Research, LLC to prepare the study, which was based on 2005 figures.

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3 Nov 2008, 1:47pm
Private land policies
by admin
1 comment

Higher timber taxes not the answer

By Bob Zybach, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Nov. 3, 2008 [here]

I am in full agreement with Bill Barton of the Native Forest Council’s characterization of the recent award of $740 million over the next four years to Oregon’s timber counties as “federal welfare” (guest viewpoint, Oct. 21). Very little of that money will be used to create much-needed tax-producing jobs, and none of it would be necessary at all, if only our federal lands were better managed.

I disagree with virtually everything else Barton states, however, and the manner with which he states it.

Barton’s basic argument is that, because the federal dollars equal about $10 per year for each of the 18 million acres of federal forestlands in Oregon, and because private forestlands pay about $1.25 per year tax on each of their 11 million acres, private lands should start paying more taxes and stop exporting timber. That, he says, will help finance schools and roads and allow federal lands to “recover.”

First, the “federal welfare” Barton decries will last only four years, and private property taxes are forever. Second, federal lands pay no taxes at all. But third, and most importantly, federal lands have been all but closed to active management for nearly 20 years, are being incinerated in “let-it-burn” wildfires and left to rot without salvage — and all without producing any meaningful income for our schools and roads. Another way to look at these figures, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest Forest Experiment Station, is that Oregon’s forest industries support 190,000 direct and indirect jobs with a total of $22 billion in annual economic output — about 11 percent of the total output for all of Oregon. Nearly 85 percent of that amount comes from the 11 million acres of private lands, and only about 15 percent comes from the 18 million acres of federal forestlands.

That is, the majority of Oregon’s forestland — those lands managed by the federal government — produces about 27,000 jobs and $3.3 billion in economic output, while only one-third of the land — privately owned and annually taxed — accounts for more than 160,000 tax-producing jobs and more than $18 billion in output. That’s a lot of unfunded schools and roads in timbered counties, and it renders Barton’s $10 vs. $1.25 per acre tax argument nearly meaningless.

Also debatable is Barton’s claim that “there is no sound environmental reason to log.” There are, of course, many sound environmental reasons to log, including homes for shelter, furniture, heat, paper and packaging in our cities; and beauty, sunlight, recreation, robust wildlife populations and reduced wildfire risks in our forests.

Barton touts the values of “standing” forests as producing clean air and water, topsoil and “biodiversity.” These are exactly the same values realized by a managed forest. And what happens when the standing trees are blown over in a windstorm, as often happens, or killed by bugs or fire?

Barton claims that our “precious” lands could be allowed to “recover” and that these lands “would provide carbon sequestration, flood control, clean air, clean water, and a plethora of wildland experiences to a community that treasures them.” Again, these are exactly the same values already realized from our “pre-recovered” forests. What is Barton missing?

Why the seemingly urgent need to stop managing forest lands, and why is that called “recovery”? Do lawns recover after they are mowed, or orchards after they are picked? Or do they just keep growing and producing, so long as they are properly tended?

Finally, there is the inflammatory rhetoric with which Barton expresses his delusional charges. One example is, “the logging industry … has trashed our drinking water, wiped out our fish runs and pushed several species to the brink of extinction.”

Of course, logging has done no such thing, as must be obvious to any Oregonian who enjoys fishing or drinking water — or knows anything factual about the state’s wildlife history.

Another example of Barton’s rhetoric: “the publicly funded death of our forests” sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Peter DeFazio, who are “firmly in the pocket of dishonest corporate interests.”

Why would “dishonest corporations” want to finance the “death” of Oregon’s forests (whatever that means), if that were even possible? Who would vote for such untrustworthy political representatives in the first place? What is Barton really trying to say here about Oregon politicians, voters and businesses? And where is he getting his information?

Barton’s use of such bluster and invective serves only to discredit him and his organization. His uses of hyperbole, dubious statistics and baseless charges likewise undermine his credibility as a critic.

In summary, Barton’s words do not make good sense and should not be taken seriously. Oregon needs more jobs, not more taxes; better forest management, not less.

Bob Zybach of Eugene is a forest scientist with a doctorate from Oregon State University in the study of catastrophic wildfires. The former owner of a reforestation business, Zybach has been program manager for Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project Inc. (www.ORWW.org) since 1996.

New Regional Forester On Meet-and-Greet Tour

Recently named Region 6 U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Mary Wagner [here] was joined by U.S. Congressman Greg Walden at a community meeting in Enterprise, Oregon, last month. The two heard serious complaints about USFS management. From the Wallowa County Chieftain [here]:

FS looks to new tools for new times

Tour conducted by Congressman Walden introduces brand-new regional forester to ‘passionate’ testimony in Elgin, exemplary problem-solvers in Enterprise

By Kathleen Ellyn and Samantha Bates, Wallowa County Chieftain & East Oregonian, 10/30/2008

Brand-new Region 6 U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Mary Wagner wanted to assure rural counties that she was as eager to see management policy changes in the Forest Service as they were.

“We need new tools for new times,” she admitted to a group of more than 30 citizens, timber industry leaders, representatives from environmental, tribal and community organizations and county officials Oct. 22 in Enterprise.

“Today there is a call to experiment with different things because doing what we’re doing is not getting us to the goal we want,” she said. “We have an obligation to look at things a different way.”

She was preaching to the choir.

By the time she rolled into Enterprise in the company of county payments champion U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), who was continuing his 16-county, 63-meeting tour, she had heard loud and clear from every community in her region that what the Forest Service needed was a complete overhaul of its business model.

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