Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration Enacted

The Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009 was passed this week by the U.S. House (it was attached to H.R. 146) [here] which followed passage by the U.S. Senate last week.

Hidden in the package of 170 or so bills is Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration. It is not clear whether our industrious and diligent elected representatives read any of the bill before voting on it (there were no hearings, either) but it makes no difference — as soon as the President signs it, Title IV will become the Law of the Land.

Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration calls for landscape-scale “ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes”. Each project must be:

(i) at least 50,000 acres;

(ii) comprised primarily of forested National Forest System land, but may also include land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or other Federal, State, tribal, or private land;

For the cadastrally-challenged, 50,000 acres is 78.125 square miles or roughly 2.2 townships, and that’s the minimum size; there is no maximum.

Congress, wittingly or otherwise, has determined that forest restoration is desirable to reduce the costs and damages that result from wildfire. They also hope that forest restoration will encourage “ecological, economic, and social sustainability” and utilize “forest restoration byproducts” to benefit local rural economies and improve forest health.

Important point: restoration is not rehabilitation — restoration is the treatment of forests BEFORE they burn whereas rehabilitation is the attempt to repair former forests AFTER they have been incinerated.

The full text of Title IV is [here].

We discussed Title IV previously [here].

All thing considered, Title IV is a surprisingly advanced and even ground-breaking change in Federal forest policy. It promotes a new mission for the US Forest Service: restoration forestry.

Whoda thunk it, considering the source?

There are some difficulties with Title IV that could have been ironed out IF there had been substantive hearings. But there weren’t, and so we will have to deal with these problems in the language:

1. The funding ($40,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2009 through 2019) has been authorized but not allocated. That means the intent of Congress is to fund Title IV, but they haven’t sent the dollars to the USFS yet. I expect that they will, considering they have squandered $trillions on foolishness, but they may need some additional encouragement.

2. The USFS leadership is completely unprepared to deal with the program. The USFS Washington Office will have to develop directives and send them out to each Region and National Forest which explain how the program is to be implemented. That could take awhile, since the WO has been caught unaware and probably will drag their bureaucratic feet.

3. The Act requires that proposed projects be evaluated by an advisory panel which “shall include experts in ecological restoration, fire ecology, fire management, rural economic development, strategies for ecological adaptation to climate change, fish and wildlife ecology, and woody biomass and small-diameter tree utilization.” Said panel will have to be established.

One bright note is that Title IV allows and even encourages the treatment of old-growth stands at risk from catastrophic fire:

[A] collaborative forest landscape restoration proposal shall… be based on a landscape restoration strategy that… fully maintains, or contributes toward the restoration of, the structure and composition of old growth stands according to the pre-fire suppression old growth conditions characteristic of the forest type, taking into account the contribution of the stand to landscape fire adaptation and watershed health and retaining the large trees contributing to old growth structure

Implicit but not directly stated is that restoration requires some previous reference condition as a target. That means that analysis of historical forest conditions and influences (including historical anthropogenic fire) is necessary to elucidate the reference condition. Title IV does not specify historical analyses, but it is impossible to proceed with “landscape restoration strategy that… is complete or substantially complete” without them.

The Western Institute for Study of the Environment has already prepared three landscape-scale forest restoration proposals consistent with the criteria of Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration. We plan on producing a dozen or more.

If you would like to participate in that proposal creation process, please indicate your interest by email to W.I.S.E. [here]. Our intention is to involve all interested parties in our efforts.

27 Mar 2009, 9:20pm
by Forrest Grump

I have a problem with “natural fire” when it should be “historic.”
So, gang, here’s an opportunity. The monkey wrench will, of course, be the collaborative process. How does one address the very real problem of collaborationists who want the process to completely fail?

28 Mar 2009, 11:38am
by Bob Z.

Mr. Grump:

Here is another excellent opportunity to educate the public!

Remember when Preservationists started calling themselves Conservationists, and everyone fell for it? When “logging” became “thinning,” or, worse, “resource extraction?”

Remember the lessons of Animal Farm?

Here’s a chance to make sure that today’s students, scientists, politicians, and voters clearly understand the important differences between “man AND nature,” and “man AS PART OF nature.”

It’s only “natural” that people use fire. That they use it every day and everywhere. That, over time (hours or decades), it affects the entire visible landscape; that native plants and animals are affected by these fires, and that people take advantage of those responses. Only natural.

So where do these yay-hoos get off by inflicting pseudo-science differences between lightning fires and human-ignited fires on the rest of us? Isn’t the error of that approach blatantly obvious wherever one looks? Don’t our politicians have a clue regarding the damage that is being done by this form of academic dishonesty?

Or do they really believe that people really are separate from nature? That clean water, good food, and clear air aren’t truly necessary to lead the Good Life?

I say we go with “natural,” but make damn sure our political leaders KNOW that nature includes people. And the regular and cumulative actions of people; including their uses of fire across the landscape.

(And, to quibble further, it should probably be “historical,” rather than “historic,” and “cultural,” rather than “historical,”if one wants to really get into the semantics.)

29 Mar 2009, 1:13pm
by bear bait


The U.S. form of government, created by agrarians with education, has been lost to the tyranny of the urban majority, a situation not really anticipated to the degree that it has happened to North America.

So now that the smart people in town not only know it all, but their ” nah-nah-nah-look-at-who-is-in-majority-and-who-is-in-the-minority” salting of wounds is becoming a very tiresome mantra. I hardly think that fighting that attitude head-on will produce a useful result. Better we get fully behind insane propositions, and drive them on with the super-majority, knowing full well who will take credit or blame when the inevitable takes place. The harder we push them to their goal, the greater their inability to dodge bullets becomes. The “point men” in the phalanx can’t turn back and get their just rewards, while the survivors, if there are any, are in the rear and able to retreat and be in front of that retreat, taking as long of steps as possible. All kinds of treaties with philosophy, politics, gods, and enemies are made in those runs for saving your personal life.

Academic “knows-it-all” are legion and often wrong. As a former logger, I have been part and party to way too many logging foibles created by academics. And the ones that worked and had lasting results have had no follow up because the institutional history of land management is always lost due to ranger district consolidation, fire, or just house cleaning. That the CCC planted all the burns, fens, meadows, fire prairies and any open space with off-site trees is one reason why so many species are at risk, and trees have not performed as expected. Add to that the overplanting of logged over land to “make sure” enough trees were there for the future has created a huge fuel problem. Half-assed academics drove the process. Public expectation of growing trees had to be satisfied.

“Biological oxygen demand” drove creek cleaning. The “best science” that organic material in a creek would rob species of oxygen prevailed. No never-mind was ever raised that perhaps unlogged riparian zones had many times the wood in the creek as did logged areas that had suffered mandatory stream cleaning. That was about saving downstream bridges in storm events, drift wood in navigation channels, assumed fish blockage of drift jams, and other human inconvenience. Nobody had a paper out on stream structure that could be used to punish loggers for being loggers. Science as the aesthetic driver and the preserver of man-made structures. All that departed, as us old farts remember, in the 1964 Christmas Flood. The multi-plate culverts, the cement and stringer bridges, stream-side cabins and homes, boat ramps, docks. Even the I-84 bridge over the John Day River. No movie stunt saves on that deal in the dark. Just death, lost cars, and wailing people. So the immediate reaction in public and private land forest regulation was to make sure there were no logs in the streams to take out bridges, cabins, roads, docks, you name it. Now we are spending tens of millions to put logs back into creeks. Loggers’ fault, you know. BS!! Politically driven “best science” picked and chosen to gain political favor. Pure and simple.

So the current fire approaches of man, and government man, regulated by elected man, representing urban man, is not going to measurably change in the near future. We will still clean the creeks of all logs, only this time it will be by fire. If the powers that be could create floods, they would. Since common sense is always trumped by “best science” (which always shows up as a “solution” from a poorly written and defended Masters paper, or so it seems), it would follow that best science is now to burn a very un-natural accumulation of fuels all at once, in the height of the hottest, dry windiest, longest daylight time of the year. If you just sit and think about that for a while, you would come to the conclusion that there really ought to be a better way and time to remove fuels by fire. That aboriginal man figured all that out ten or more millennia ago need not enter into the solution. Our re-invention of fire has yet to kill enough people, make enough quantum difference if large scale ecologies, to allow the folly to show up in neon lights, florescent paint, balloons and streamers enough to be noticed and evaluated by Joe Sixpack on the street. When he does, heads will roll. The only way to get there sooner than later is to embrace the deal, and force it to its logical conclusions on a much grander scale than is anticipated. Holocaust like Peshtigo, North Idaho, Tillamook. Preferably across some developed real estate with no loss of life. Get it done now. Or we will die this death of a thousand cuts that the NGOs have lined us out for. They want to slowly boil us frogs. I say turn up the heat now, and fast. We might jump out of the pot before it is too late. Or not.

As long as the Feds have the ability to rationalize their actions, to cover their collectives asses from responsibility for stupid actions, and spend money like a Democrat Treasury Secretary, we will never see our old growth forests again except in photos and slowly rotting stumps and snags. Some of those fires will cross onto private land, kindling private property, and doing untold damage to private holdings and no responsibility will be assigned to the Feds in the courts. That is when you should be able to stand on your land, at the boundary of the Federal land, and with a permit “proactively burn your land to clear excess fuel”, and watch the fire as it goes over the ridge towards who knows where on public lands. That is how the Feds do it, today, right now. Without punishment. And if you burn some of your excess fuel, how much better could it get?

29 Mar 2009, 1:56pm
by Mike

Whateryou saying, bear?

That we should ban firefighting in the cities just like they do in rural areas? That San Francisco and LA should be allowed to roast in catastrophic fires just as is recommended and even mandated for rural areas? That the mass death of millions will spark some common sense in the masses (that survive the holocausts)?

I doubt it. Look at the mass death that erupted out of the fascism and communism of the 20th Century. 100 million people (or more) were murdered by barking insane leaders and their mindless followers. Did that change the Human Race? Have we suddenly decided not to enable barking insane leaders? Are we not still surrounded by millions of mindless followers spouting slogans of fascism and communism?

No, the throw-it-in-the-fan solution does not work. Our only hope, and it’s a slim one, is rationality and common sense, mixed with a little uncommon concern and compassion for each other, no matter how stupid the other guy is.

29 Mar 2009, 5:52pm
by NED

There are three big problems even if this should get funded. And the NEPA work could be completed.

1. The FS lacks the expertise to implement and it would take several years to get the expertise back. They even lack the expertise to contract the work.
2. The industry that would benefit is rapidly going due to the economy.
3. No one in their right mind would spend the capital to develop the industry without some guarantee that the raw material will continue to be available.

However, it is suprising that something like this got in the bill. Landscape restoration has a lot of merit; however there are some basic problems that have to be resolved to implement anything resembling active management.

30 Mar 2009, 12:35am
by Bob Z.

I liked bear bait’s thoughts and phrases regarding the “re-invention of fire.”

That is the very essence of what academia is claiming to have accomplished, and suddenly their arrogance outshines their ignorance.

Let’s stop all these foolish claims of “returning fire to the landscape” (as if it ever left), and call it like it really is: “the re-invention of fire in the landscape.”

And let’s give bear bait full credit for his insight, and the “best science” academics and politicians full credit for their accomplishments. Every one, good and bad.

30 Mar 2009, 5:56am
by KSchreier

Well, nuff said. However, until we get off the environmental bandwagon and educate folks that it is all about economics (read socialism), we will certainly be on this merry-go-round, even if it is made of wood. We need more demonstration projects using the tools of fools (Title IV and fuels for schools) like the Owl Ridge Trails Project… can we be anymore in their face?

30 Mar 2009, 9:28am
by Mike


Agreed on all your points. But if the FS would acquiesce and allow us to orchestrate restoration projects, I think we could accomplish a great deal without them, and at the same time show them how it is done. What’s more, the FS is not totally devoid of skilled people; there are a few quality foresters left, hidden away here and there.



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