Seneca’s plan a model for federal forests

by Darrel Kenops, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Feb 5, 2009 [here]

The Register-Guard’s Jan. 28 editorial, “More from every log,” rightly praises the plans of Seneca Sustainable Energy to build a $45 million, 18.8-megawatt biomass power plant on its northwest Eugene industrial site. The plant will generate renewable energy from sawmill byproducts and slash from the company’s timberlands. The project will not only benefit the company by cutting its energy costs, but it will serve the greater community by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, complementing intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and putting more people to work.

Seneca’s commendable effort uses biomass from its own private forests. Now just imagine what we can do if we apply Seneca’s example to our federal forests in Oregon.

Public and private forests cover nearly half the state. Of those forest lands, six of every 10 acres are federally managed. However, unlike private and state forests, many of these forests are unhealthy, insect infested and fire prone, presenting what might rightly be termed an opportunity disguised as a problem.

Converting wood from overstocked forests to energy offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously address three challenges: the need to restore the health of Oregon’s federal forests, the need to find renewable energy alternatives and the need to revitalize Oregon’s rural communities.

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Bradley Replies to Forsgren

Hi Harv-

Thank you for responding promptly to my e-mail of February 3.

I must have done a poor job of expressing my concerns, because your letter did not really respond to them at all.

I am very aware that there are areas in the national forests that are in dire need of fuel reduction. My concern is that it should be done in an appropriate way . Simply letting large areas burn in the peak of the fire season because they happened to be hit by lightning is a long ways from responsible action.

You place the blame for the “untenable” condition of the national forests on Smokey Bear and past fire policies. A couple of other factors are probably even more significant. As a nation, we have decided through laws, court actions, and agency policies that the forests are to be untouched by anything resembling a commercial use of the fiber and forage they grow. The last figures I heard on timber production in the national forest system quoted an annual growth rate of 20 billion board feet and an annual harvest rate of about 3 billion board feet. That means that every year we are accumulating 17 billion board feet of wood that will eventually burn either by prescription or by accident. To help visualize the magnitude of the problem, try to picture 11 lines of bumper to bumper loaded logging trucks reaching from New York to Los Angeles. They would be carrying the amount of timber that is grown but not harvested each year in the national forests.

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W.I.S.E. to Forsgren: Time for Public Dialog About USFS Fire Policies

Dear Mr. Forsgren,

Thank you for your email of Feb 5th. I have posted it in its entirety at SOS Forests [here].

Your email was in response to Mr. Glenn Bradley’s email of Feb. 3rd, posted [here]. Mr. Bradley is a retired USFS Forest Supervisor, as you know, and his concerns regarding the South Barker WFU Fire have been posted numerously at SOS Forests. Mr. Carl Pence, another retired USFS Forest Supervisor, has also weighed in on this topic, posted [here].

The Fires

Over the last three years SOS Forests has posted many, many essays and discussions about WFU (Wildland Fire Use). We have explored WFU fires that have blown up and caused extensive damage to heritage forests. These include:

• The Warm WFU Fire in 2006 [here, here, among many other posts]. The Warm WFU blew up to 58,640 acres and caused over $70 million in damages to old-growth spotted owl habitat on the Kaibab NF. Ancient home sites, soils, air, and watershed values were incinerated or severely damaged, along with rare old-growth ponderosa pine. The Warm Fire was designated and managed as a WFU in a prohibited zone in direct defiance of a legally binding Decision Notice issued by a federal judge and acknowledged in the Forest Plan EIS. In the aftermath the District Ranger was reassigned, and at angry public meetings USFS officials, including the Regional Forester, were excoriated, as I am sure you recall.

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8 Feb 2009, 1:00pm
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
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Fuelish in the Land of Oz

For the last 40,000 years (at least, some say 60,000) the residents of Australia have been “burning off the bush.” Anthropogenic fire was perfected in Australia, if not invented there.

In the Aborigine, Australian fire had discovered an extraordinary ally. Not only did ignition sources multiply and spread, but fire itself persisted through wet season and dry, across grassland and forest, in desert and on mountain. Lightning was a highly seasonal, episodic ignition source; the Aboriginal firestick was an eternal flame. — Stephen J. Pyne. Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia. 1991, Henry Holt and Co.

Anthropogenic fire tamed the bush by frequently removing the pyrophytic vegetation of eucalypt and scrub, the unique botany and biota descended from the Mesolithic super-continent of Gondwana. Frequent fire set by residents steeped in traditional ecological knowledge controlled fuel build-ups, promoted landscape mosaics, and prevented continental megafires that could have severely compromised human survival.

That ancient wisdom has been all but lost; the most modern of Aussies are steeped in eco-babble and “natural fire” mythologies. And the piper has come home to roost, so to speak, again and again.

The latest Australian fire bust, born in untreated fuels, has claimed 84 lives and counting as of this morning:

Victoria’s bushfire toll hits 84 as fires continue to spread

from The Australian, Feb. 8, 2009 [here]

THE death toll from Victoria’s bushfires has risen to 84, amid grave fears for towns in the state’s northeast as fires continue to rage out of control.

Five people died at Flowerdale, two people at Hazeldene and three at Taggerty, while two more people were confirmed dead at Kinglake and a further person died at St Andrews. A person from Yea died in hospital.

The toll already surpasses the 28 in South Australia and the 47 Victorians that died in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, while the Black Friday blaze in 1939 claimed 71 lives. …

The Worldwide Dead Tree Press has already fingered global warming as the culprit, steeped in ignorance, as they are, about the ancient history of fire in Oz:

Bushfires and global warming: is there a link?

by David Adam and Ellen Connolly, The Guardian, Feb 8, 2009 [here]

Scientists have a hunch rising temperatures due to human activity are making fire and flood more likely

Scientists are reluctant to link ­individual weather events to global warming, because natural variability will always throw up extreme events. However, they say that climate change loads the dice, and can make severe episodes more likely. …

Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, said the bushfires showed what climate change could mean for Australia.

“Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more,” he told Sky News. “It’s a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change.” …

Tackling climate change, however, will not do diddly to prevent bushfires. The climate has changed, dramatically, over the the last 40,000 to 60,000 years, yet Aussie bush fires have persisted throughout all those hoary millennia.

Foresters have a different view. Rather than tackling the chimera of “climate change,” a far more practical approach would be to manage the vegetation in the traditional manner, with prescribed fire. This prescient warning was published last March:

Phil Cheney. 2008. Can forestry manage bushfires in the future? Australian Forestry 2008 Vol. 71 No. 1 pp. 1–2 [here]

… In a strict statistical sense, the west cannot be a basis on which to assess the performance of fire management in the east, but the extensive fires in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are the result of a change in management, not a change in climate. The term ‘megafire’ has been coined to woo the press and assuage the politicians and support their apparent belief that these events are an act of God and not the result of the evisceration of the land management agencies, as pointed out by Roger Underwood in a previous editorial.

The forestry profession has always had a good appreciation of landscape scale and the management necessary to apply fire, but I believe that even foresters not intimately involved in the practice of prescribed burning have little appreciation of what is involved in applying fire at that scale. Few people recognise the effort required to burn 200,000 ha every year and produce the distribution of fuel of various ages, illustrated in Figure 1, which is necessary to effectively reduce the impact of wildfire. …

Unhappily I conclude that Australian forestry has abandoned fire management. This should of course be the responsibility of the conservation agencies — who now manage a substantial proportion of our public lands — as it is in WA. If the trend in Victoria extends elsewhere and fire management is placed it in the hands of the politicians and their emergency services organisations that focus on suppression by back-burning from strategic firebreaks, we can expect that large areas will be burnt severely in summer, perpetuating the myth of megafires.

Rather than set up the organisation and training for an effective prescribed burning program, it is far easier, I guess, to attribute the bushfires to God and climate change.

We can wring our hands and rail against the gods like savages, or we can take up the firestick and manage our landscapes like clever humans have been doing for tens of thousands of years.

Shall we pontificate in rotundas, or put our boots on the ground and do the job?

Shall we quiver in fear like powerless rodents as the megafires sweep away our forests, watersheds, towns, and cities? Or shall we lift our rears off our couches, resume our role as the Caretakers of our planet, and actively apply age-old wisdom?

Make no mistake about it; your life depends on how you answer that question.

6 Feb 2009, 10:42am
Federal forest policy
by admin

Pence Responds to Forsgren

Harv Forsgren, Regional Forester of the Intermountain Region, responded [here] to ret. Forest Supervisor Glenn Bradley’s letter about Wildland Fire Use [here]. Now F. Carl Pence has responded to Mr. Forsgren.

Carl Pence is retired USFS, former Forest Supervisor of the Malheur NF, and team leader of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Plan (ICBEMP). He is also co-author (with his brother Ned) of Lost in the Forest: A Story About the Forest Service “Four Decades of Change”.


Thanks for taking the time to respond to Glenn’s expressions of concern. Although, in doing so you may have only stirred the hornet’s nest, as the frustration level within many retirees seems very high when considering current vegetative management strategies within the NFS. Certainly, everything you said in your first few paragraphs are true, e.g., “..the simplest thing is to aggressively attack and extinguish every start…” and, “..ecosystems are dynamic and our success in (past) initial attack has interrupted the natural diversity of age classes…..” These are known facts to most of us. During our careers many of us were intimately involved in trying to point out these effects and to make plans to correct them. Most Forest Plans have addressed these needs. In the latter part of my career I was involved in Basin and Range Level Plans, like the Northwest Forest Plan and ICBEMP, both of which expressed this overwhelming need. And, as you know, little if any of the vegetation treatments proposed and planned in those documents ever became realized. Thus, we have a serious problem. That is, the “worst case fuels scenario” many of us predicted now exists, e.g., huge beetle infestation, overcrowded, old, diseased stands, etc., etc…

While, as you say, “…efforts to increase acres treated from planned management activities have accelerated dramatically.” The facts are these treatments are too narrow in range, too small in size, and it appears that the over-dependency upon “natural ignitions”, i.e., “Unplanned Ignitions”, more often than not results in more undesirable results, that is, full watersheds being burned out, high fiscal costs, significant negative environmental effects. Your statement that, “It is my expectation that we will be using unplanned ignitions to meet management objectives more, not less.”, scares most of us.

You are addressing a group with a significant background in ecosystems and fire management. We understand the fuel problem that is faced, many of us raised red flags about it decades ago. We simply think it is not generally professional to depend upon unplanned ignitions and expect planned or “natural” results given the unnatural level and continuity of fuel loading. Sometime in the near future, I predict some politician will question the use of unplanned ignitions as a primary vegetative treatment tool of the FS. Questions that need addressed include:

1) If we are going to use unplanned ignitions as a “planned” management tool, are the fires involved “emergencies” and thus should be managed by “emergency funds”? Some of us are beginning to wonder if funding may in fact be a major factor in the Outfit’s desire to use unplanned ignitions as a primary tool to address the fuel loading issue.

2) Is the use of unplanned ignitions as a primary vegetation management tool adequately addressed in Forest Plans, and are the implications of NEPA, ESA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, etc, etc.. considered?

3) Are the public adequately informed in the effects in all of this, and are they aware of alternatives to it?

Harv, the implications of this all dwarf the ecological consequences folks had about the Outfit’s past timber harvest program. Wildfire in areas with unnatural fuel loading and continuity are NOT NATURAL FIRES! They often don’t create the desired natural fire intensity or age class distribution. They deserve to be aware of that. They also deserve to know there are alternatives to “unplanned ignition” within the use of fire. For example, the South Barker area could have been very professionally treated with a planned ignition, started a week or so before the “season ending weather event”. If this alternative had been chosen, most, if not all of the negative items associated with the fire could have been avoided and the cost would have been significantly less. Of course though, “emergency funding” would not have been available in this case. The public and politicians must be made aware of these implications so this alternative could be feasibly implemented with appropriated funding. That, of course would take a lot of professional, forward thinking and planning.

Well, I got that off my chest! Harv, have a good day, retirement is good! Carl Pence

5 Feb 2009, 11:43pm
Climate and Weather
by admin

Snow Job in Antarctica

Blogger skeptics bust GW modelers for bad data

by Mike Dubrasich, W.I.S.E. News

The January 22nd issue of Nature boasts the cover story: “Antarctic Warming” [here]. The problem is the research paper touted on the cover (and in the editorial) was based on bad data.

Statistician, global warming skeptic, and blogger Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit [here] has discovered that the Antarctic weather station data upon which the paper in Nature was based was tainted. Temperature data from two different stations, “Harry” and “Gill” in West Antarctica were combined to produce an erroneous uptick in historical readings [here].

In addition, meteorologist, weather station guru, and blogger Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That [here] has demonstrated that numerous Antarctic weather stations may have serious data problems. Snow has piled up around temperature sensors, effectively insulating the temperature monitoring stations from the bitterly cold extremes of the southern-most continent [here].

A University of Washington Press Release dated Jan. 21 hailed the new findings of a team led by UW professor Eric Steig [here]:

New data show much of Antarctica is warming more than previously thought

Scientists studying climate change have long believed that while most of the rest of the globe has been getting steadily warmer, a large part of Antarctica — the East Antarctic Ice Sheet — has actually been getting colder.

But new research shows that for the last 50 years, much of Antarctica has been warming at a rate comparable to the rest of the world. In fact, the warming in West Antarctica is greater than the cooling in East Antarctica, meaning that on average the continent has gotten warmer, said Eric Steig, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences and director of the Quaternary Research Center at the UW. …

The study found that warming in West Antarctica exceeded one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade for the last 50 years and more than offset the cooling in East Antarctica.

Co-authors of the paper are David Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., a former student of Steig’s; Scott Rutherford of Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I.; Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University; Josefino Comiso of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; and Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.

The researchers devised a statistical technique that uses data from satellites and from Antarctic weather stations to make a new estimate of temperature trends.

Authors Eric Steig and Drew Shindell took part in a Nature teleconference with reporters about their Antarctica paper. The story was picked up by newspapers around the world.

Now it turns out the data used was faulty and erroneous.

Various climate skeptics pointed out immediately that a temperature rise of one-tenth of a degree Celsius per decade was too small to be detected, especially when temperature stations in Western Antarctica are few in number across such a vast, continental area. The “interpolation” statistics used by the authors were also called into question.

But until last Sunday, no one had examined the actual data. That is when Mr. McIntyre and contributors to his blog, Climate Audit, discovered that the readings of stations “Harry” and “Gill” had been combined in such a way as to show a false upward trend.

“Gill” temperature reading from 1987 to July 1994 were spliced with “Harry” readings from December 1994 to 2000. Since “Gill” is at a relatively snow-free location, its temperatures were slightly colder than at snowier “Harry”. When the two stations were treated as one, an erroneous upward trend resulted.

McIntyre also discovered data flaws at the Chatham Island weather station last June.

When the data flaws were reported Monday, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) initially erased “Harry” and “Gill” from their database. Emails from Mr. McIntyre persuaded BAS to restore the data for scientific review.

The science magazine Nature has yet to respond to the (confirmed) allegations of flawed data that call into question the reliability of the UW team’s findings.

Mr. Watts has posted photographs of various Antarctic weather station buried in snow. Indeed, snow burial of “Harry” may have led to the confusion with “Gill” when “Harry” could not be found (Antarctica is a big place with few distinct topographic features). Other Antarctic weather stations with siting problems (snow burial, too close to heated dormitories) include “Theresa”, “Halley VI”, “Summit”, “Lanyon Junction”, and others.

Watts reports:

This regular burial and digging out of stations brings the whole network of AWS stations to be used as sensitive climate measurement stations into question.

Without a doubt weather stations periodically buried in snow cannot reliably detect a temperature trend as small as 0.1 degrees C per decade!

The reported “warming” of Western Antarctica was widely hailed as evidence of global warming. Climate skeptic bloggers have discovered serious defects in the data used in the UW analysis. Whether Media outlets will now report that the underlying data was flawed, and thus the finding of warming unreliable, remains to be seen.

They haven’t yet.

Forsgren Responds to Bradley Re WFU’s

Harv Forsgren, Regional Forester of the Intermountain Region, responded to Ret. Forest Supervisor Glenn Bradley’s letter, which we posted [here]. We now post Mr. Forsgren’s reply:

Hello Glenn!

I would like to respond to some of your concerns regarding wildland fire use as a management tool in our nation’s forests and grasslands. It is often a difficult decision to manage an unplanned ignition as an opportunity to restore and maintain ecosystems; the simplest thing is to aggressively attack and extinguish every start at the smallest possible size. We have been extremely successful in doing so. Over 98% of all starts are suppressed in the initial attack phase.

What we have learned after many decades is that this success has contributed to an untenable situation across broad landscapes. Our ecosystems are dynamic, and our success in initial attack has interrupted the natural diversity of age classes that are necessary in many ecosystems to provide for that variability in fuel types and flammability that would normally temper extreme fire behavior and spread. There is a marked trend toward more dense stands, less variability, fewer openings and more layered development in the canopies, turning forests that had once been relatively resistant to severe fire behavior under all but the most extreme weather into landscapes that are prone to crown fire behavior and rapid fire movement under much less extreme conditions.

Our efforts to increase acres treated from planned management activities have also accelerated dramatically. In the past 10 years, we have doubled the number of acres treated each year to reduce hazardous fuels. Nationally the Forest Service now treats approximately three million acres per year and yet, despite our best efforts, we continue to fall behind as the natural accumulation of fuels surpasses our managed fuel reductions. We will continue our efforts to plan and execute vegetative management projects designed to protect communities and resources, but those efforts alone will not solve the current broad scale forest health and fire risk issues. Appropriately planning for, recognizing, and seizing opportunities to meet our objectives using unplanned ignitions in some areas under favorable conditions improves our ability to make strides toward the goals of improved forest health, reduced hazardous fuels and safer communities. It is my expectation that we will be using unplanned ignitions to meet management objectives more, not less in the future.

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5 Feb 2009, 3:12pm
Climate and Weather
by admin
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Global Cooling

Tomorrow evening (Feb. 6) yours truly will be delivering a talk entitled “Global Cooling” as part of the Albany Renaissance Lecture Series. The big event is at 7:00 pm at the Oregon Language Center, 237 3rd Ave SW, Albany, OR.

My lecture notes, to be handed out at the meeting, are [here]. They are notes, not the word-for-word lecture, which will be given in a partially extemporaneous fashion. Still, you may find them interesting.

If you plan to attend, please print out the lecture notes and bring them with you. If you can’t make it to the big event, a video tape will be made and will be available subsequently. Please call the Oregon Language Center at (541) 928-8975 for more details.

Most of my talk will focus on paleobotany and paleoclimatology from the Devonian Period of 417 to 354 million years ago through geologic time to the present. The notes provide a rough outline of the major changes in plants, animals, and climate that have occurred over that time.

Glenn Bradley on WFU’s

Allowing forest fires to burn unimpeded and out of control may seem like a good idea in theory, especially to urban types who know absolutely nothing about forests or forest fires. But in practice Murphy’s Law rules: if something can go wrong, it will.

USFS Let It Burn fires have a tendency to blow up and turn into raging holocausts that incinerate vast acreages. Examples are numerous, and in our recapitulation of the 2008 fire season we will discuss quite a few tragic and stupid fires which were Let Burn with terrible consequences to people and nature.

Two of those tragic and stupid Let It Burn fires last year were the East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire (54,549 acres, ~$9 million to suppress) [here] in Nevada and the South Barker WFU Fire (38,583 acres, ~$7 million to suppress) [here] in Idaho.

In both cases small fires were allowed to burn in order to “save money,” and in both cases the fires blew up, did enormous damage, and cost many millions to suppress. The long-lasting damages to forests, wildlife, watersheds, and public health and safety are easily 20 to 40 times the suppression costs. The best laid plans (actually the secret and wholly incompetent plans) of the USFS went awry big time.

We posted about the USFS review of the ESRR-WFU Fire last month [here]. This week Retired Forest Supervisor Glenn Bradley wrote a letter to current Region 4 (Intermountain) Regional Forester Harv Forsgren congratulating him for ordering that review. Mr. Bradley has given permission to post his letter to Mr. Forsgren, which follows.

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3 Feb 2009, 12:43pm
The 2008 Fire Season
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The 2008 Fire Season: A Recap, Part 1

by Mike Dubrasich

With over 5.3 million acres burned in wildfires nationally, the 2008 fire season was a distinct improvement over 2007 (9.75 million acres burned) and 2006 (9.89 million acres burned, the worst fire season in fifty years).

However, US Forest Service fire suppression expenditures topped $1.9 billion, the third most expensive in history (2005 - $2.13 billion and 2004 - $2.35 billion were more expensive). Overall cost-plus-loss (suppression costs plus damages) are estimated to have been ~$40 billion in 2008.

Graph based on data provided by the National Interagency Fire Center Wildland Fire Statistics and the USFS Wildland Fire Management budget FY2000 - FY2008 (as of 11/04/2008).

The following is a recap of some of the high and low lights of the 2008 Fire Season.


The 2008 Fire Season began with ominous signs. In January enviro groups demanded the jailing of Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey because he refused to eliminate the use of fire retardant on Federal forest fires [here]. Had he done so, the fire season might have been even more catastrophic nationwide. As it turned out, the USFS deliberately burned vast tracts anyway, so while the litigious groups failed to get Rey hauled off to the pokey, they did succeed in convincing the USFS to Burn, Baby, Burn.

The previous December USFS Chief Gail Kimbell declared that it was her personal goal to inflict wildfire on 400 million acres of private land, as well as the 200 million acres of USFS land [here]. Kimbell’s mad conceit was couched in her Open Space Conservation Strategy which promotes “wilderness values” on private forest land.

“If people have an incentive to hold on to wildlands (rather than develop them), we as a society benefit from that,” she [Gail Kimbell] said in an interview. “We all benefit from keeping wildlands wild.”

Kimbell’s Open Space Conservation Strategy calls for the elimination of houses, buildings, lawns, and pavement on private property. Fire is to be “reintroduced” on all forested acres in the USA. In the eyes of the USFS, forest fires provide “resource benefits,” and they wish to inflict the “benefits” of catastrophic fire on every acre in America that has a tree on it.

Meanwhile flash floods arising on the 2007 Zaca Burn inundated Santa Barbara [here]. The Zaca Fire on Kimbell’s watch burned 240,200 acres and was the second largest fire in California’s recorded history.

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2 Feb 2009, 4:31pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
by admin

Who is speaking for the plants?

By Dr. Tim Ball, CanadaFreePress.Com, Monday, February 2, 2009 [here]

Our world would be so blah without them

The full proverb says, “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” They’ve given carbon dioxide (CO2) a bad name and it is now being hanged by draconian and completely unnecessary legislation. Consider this comment by Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist, “I think you have to think about this stuff (CO2) as more like nuclear waste than acid rain: The more we add, the worse off we’ll be.” An alarmist, outrageous and completely unsupportable comment, but not surprising from the co-chair of Working Group I of the IPCC 2007 report.

The reality is if CO2 is reduced we are worse off as the plants suffer. Something must be done to protect the plants from fanaticism.

There is no evidence CO2 is causing global warming or climate change, but that is the basis for the slur and the proposed actions. As usual, little thought is given to the direct and collateral damage such as the economic impacts from increased taxes and cost of doing business. No thought is given to the damage to nature. So you have the paradox of environmentalists screaming to reduce CO2 to save the planet, while putting all life in jeopardy by killing the plants. It is blind faith. But this is not surprising because the great problem of environmentalism as a religion is the failure to do full and proper cost/benefit analyses. For example, all you ever hear about are the down sides to warming when there are actually more up sides. One major downside rarely mentioned is the impact on plants of reduced CO2 levels.

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2 Feb 2009, 12:16pm
Saving Forests
by admin

Is Andy Coming Around?

Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, has written a guest column for the local dead tree press. Entitled Burning our bucks in the woods, Andy’s opinion appeared in the Oregonian Saturday [here].

He makes a few good points, eventually. After a sarcastic and stumbling intro, Andy opines:

OK, I’m only kidding. I don’t really want big forest fires this year. Firefighting is a cost, not a benefit.

That is a surprising (if not unbelievable) admission because Andy’s FSEEE has sued to ban the use of fire retardant [here, here, here, here], lawsuits which if not rejected would make firefighting much more difficult and dangerous and expand burned acreage enormously.

Andy notes that some effort has been made to reduce fuels on Federal lands:

The Forest Service is slated to receive from Congress $300 million to pay for hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal land. Hazardous fuels reduction includes removing small trees from forests, mowing brush and prescribed burning.

The National Fire Plan created the hazardous fuels reduction program. The Forest Service says the fuels program is intended “to help save the lives of firefighters and citizens and to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to our communities, forests, and rangelands.” Since its adoption in 2001, the NFP’s hazardous fuels program has treated fuels on 29 million acres at a cost of $2 billion.

That’s not quite accurate. Ninety percent of the claimed acreage was burned in wildfires. The USFS want credit for “fuels reduction” via burning forests down. It’s a fine point I suppose, but burning down forests to prevent them from burning down is a little bit counter-productive (if not a honking lie).

But Andy is no fan of hazardous fuel reduction per se. He points out that the National Fire Plan has been a catastrophic failure, and we have to agree about that:

Under the NFP, fires have burned an average of 7 million acres each year. In the seven-year period before the NFP, fires burned 4 million acres a year. In the last seven years, firefighting costs averaged $1.4 billion a year. In the preceding period before the NFP, costs averaged half that amount. Under the NFP, 1,482 houses have been lost annually to wildfires (most are in Southern California), compared to an average 563 houses lost yearly in the two years (for which I have data) before the NFP.

Unfortunately Andy does not offer any solution, other than to bash Keynesian economics (he sounds just like Ronald Reagan in that regard).

We, on the other hand, have been as vocal and detailed as possible about the real solution to our forest fire crisis: restoration forestry. W.I.S.E. has an entire Colloquium devoted to the subject [here], and numerous essays about restoration forestry have been posted at SOS Forests as well [here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here] to cite a few.

Restoration forestry is a lot more than hazardous fuel reduction. Restoring forests involves describing the historical reference conditions and then implementing active management to achieve fire resiliency, restore old-growth development pathways, preserve wildlife habitat, protect watershed functions, and enhance public health and safety, all based on the lessons learned from history.

Restoration forestry is self funding. It will save forests and the lives of firefighters while providing significant economic productivity (from the bottom up in Reaganesque fashion, not from the top down ala Keynes).

All of which Andy Stahl probably knows. He certainly hints at it. Now if he could only state it directly and steer his organization towards support for restoration forestry, we all might benefit. It is always better to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

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