The Last Gasps of a Dying Paradigm

As mentioned previously, I attended the “Ecosystems Dynamics Seminar” at OSU last Thursday. It was the fourth of four seminars (put on by the Institute for Natural Resources [here], an unabashedly political “policy research” entity at OSU) on the subject of “ecosystems dynamics.” A set of “white papers” laying out the politicized “science” of the seminars is [here].

It is not my intention in this post to deconstruct the Institute for Natural Resources. Maybe some other time. Suffice it to say that it is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars; and even worse than a waste — it is an abomination. But on to the seminar itself.

There was a good presentation by Adam Novick, Risk to Maintenance-Dependent Species on Private Land from Species-Based Land-Use Regulation, which I will describe in a future post.

The rest of the day was filled with total tripe from a pathetic crew of Old Paradigmers.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Bill Ripple, a a professor of forest resources in OSU’s College of Forestry, gave the most clownish presentation regarding wolves I think I have ever seen, (entitled Using Large Carnivores to Sustain Forest Ecosystems). Ripple is not a wildlife biologist (his specialty is GIS), so that might explain (but not excuse) his stunning lack of insights on the subject.

Ripple maintains that wolves generate “an ecology of fear” in elk, deer, moose, and other herbivores. Wolves scare the critters and they run away, and that results in a reduction in browsing, according to Bill. Of course, wherever the frightened ungulates run to, they browse in that new place and probably eat more to offset the energy expended running from the wolves. But that’s a minor hiccup in his bankrupt theory.

Wolves also slaughter ungulates and livestock for blood sport as well as spread rabies and other deadly diseases. One thing they don’t do is restore forests.

Ripple showed slides of old-growth black oak in Yosemite and interpreted those as “unhealthy.” If there were more wolves in Yosemite, the old-growth would die off, which is his stated goal. Bill decried open, park-like forests in Yellowstone, Jasper, and other places. Nothing is more “unhealthy” than old-growth, according to Bill.

I sat quietly, not even laughing. But many in the crowd were vocally displeased. One astute observer took poor Bill to task for his utter failure to acknowledge that the black oak in Yosemite were the principal larder and food source for the humans that resided there for the last few thousand years, up until European diseases and genocidal white people wiped them out. It was human tending that gave rise to those oaks, and to open, park-like forests across the continent, not wolves. Bill admitted (oafishly) that he has never considered historical facts like human predation and anthropogenic fire.

Bill, old chum, there is no such thing as “balance of nature.” That bogus theory has been quite dead for quite some time. Moreover, wolves do not balance anything, especially not forests.

Bill would like to see 1,000 wolves in Oregon for “balance.” He actually said that tree farmers would not need to tube seedlings if wolves were rife, and that an abundance of wolves is a good “climate change strategy.”

I in turn would like to see some intelligence emanating from our land grant university. Unfortunately, Bill is more likely to have his desires fulfilled than I am mine.

Lost in Space

But the oaf cake cannot be awarded to Bill Ripple because he was outdone in that regard by two old frauds, Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson. Jerry and Norm are half the Gang ‘O Four whose junk science and political engineering brought us the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), a catastrophic failure if there ever was one.

The NWFP has failed in every way imaginable. It has caused the demise of the spotted owl, the population of which has crashed 60 percent or more since imposition. The No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot provisions have decimated our old-growth. And the regional economy has also been decimated — Oregon has led the Nation in unemployment, business bankruptcy, home foreclosure, and hunger for 15 years, all thanks to the NWFP.

Now the geriatric Gang ‘O Two wish to codify the NWFP as law. That’s the point of the new Wyden bill. Their repeated emphasis on that point drew angry responses from the attendees, but the Gang ‘O Fools was impervious to the growls.

Franklin in particular advocated no active management and the burbled about the wonderfulness of “early succession,” a buzz word for the aftermath of devastating fires that convert forests (old-growth in particular) to tick brush. For more on this subject see The Worst Forest Science Paper of the 21st Century [here, here, here, here] authored by guess who.

Their joint presentation was entitled The Future of Forest Management in Western Oregon, and if the future is as they advocate, it will be a terrible one indeed.

I kept my mouth shut, but audible whispers of profane imprecations wafted through the audience. At one point somebody mumbled “Bastards” perhaps a little louder than intended, and smiles and winks sparkled all around me.

I did ask one question near the end, however. The Gangsters had thrown up a number of slides with the word “restoration” boldly displayed. I queried, “What do you mean by ‘restoration’ and how do you account for historical human influences?”

Jerry assured me that he meant nothing whatsoever by it, and that he was just using the word because it was popular these days. He certainly did not mean to restore forests to anything like their historical conditions, and that human influences in the past were very minor or non-existent.

That was consistent with one of the “white papers” issued by the abominable the Institute for Natural Resources [here] that says in part:

An appropriate mission statement for managing fire and fuels in an ecosystem dynamics framework is not “return forests to pre-settlement conditions” … We may not know very much about historical processes, there may be no record of important processes, and we may have incomplete information about processes.

Still and all, it was less than refreshing to hear the old frauds admit their ignorance.

Missing the Point

Ecology is a historical science. The concept and purpose of “forest succession” studies is to describe the historical progression of forest vegetation. If the “experts” are clueless about the past, then they are ergo clueless about forest ecology.

The denial of historical human influences is more than racist jabber; it is a fundamental flaw in the science of ecology, in so far as elucidated by the Gangsters.

Towards a Rational and Workable Future for Our Forests

After the Franklin/Johnson presentation there was a break, during which I pointed out to a top-ranking Oregon Dept. of Forestry official that bogus junk science leads to failed policies, and that the Old Paradigm had had exactly that effect.

He agreed but said that nobody knew what the New Paradigm was.

I said that I did!

The New Paradigm (and it really is not all that new) takes into account history, real history, that which actually happened. If you don’t grasp history, you cannot predict the future, nor plan for it with any degree of common sense.

The goal of restoration forestry is not to mimic the past but to learn from it, n’est-ce pas?

The stated goal of the seminars put on by the abominable the Institute for Natural Resources was (is) to jimmy the laws and regulations that pertain to forestry. Their principal target is the Oregon Board of Forestry.

If I read the OBoF members in attendance correctly, they were not enthused by the presentations. In fact, many of them were outright hostile to the bullcrap flung their way.

The next OBoF meeting is June 3rd in Salem. From 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM public comments will be entertained. Speakers who wish to convey a message to the OBoF are allotted three minutes each. I am half-heartedly planning to attend and fling some rational counter information at them. If you would like to join me (you get 3 minutes, too), please let me know. Maybe we can convince and inspire the OBoF to host another seminar where some decent science can be presented.

I don’t know if they desire such a thing, but it would be good for “the regulatory community” to hear some facts about forests and forest ecology for a change. It might not affect their decisions, but it could serve to educate them. Lord knows the “education” they have received from OSU and the Old Paradigm frauds is anything but.

25 May 2009, 6:00pm
by bear bait

Where, oh where, do these people conjure this insanity?

California was awash in meat for a couple hundred years. Dead meat. From the arrival of the Spaniards and the Yankee whalers and hide traders, to the Gold Rush and the ‘49ers. Struck and lost whales end up on the beach. Orcas eat the tongues out of young grey whales, the rest of them washes up on the beach. Struck and lost sea lions and elephant seals. And the millions of cattle killed for their hides only. The carcass striped of the back straps and tender loins, livers, and the rest meat for carrion eaters. The demise of condors from lead probably happened in the 18th and 19th century, and not later as presumed. So it was condors and grizzly bears, black bears, and wolves, coyotes, foxes, all eating on this plethora of meat from the tenders of the wild, the whalers, the ranchers. The predators were not there in numbers tending old growth timber. They were making the best of an opportunity to eat well, and breed and raise more of their kind.

And fires a plently to keep the landscape green and free of dead vegetation. Fires of many types, set at different times, all in the pursuit of renewal of vegetation and security of food supply, safety and shelter. Predators had nary a thing to do with old growth forests. Those were the result of pre European man, and then Spaniards firing the landscape to keep it in grass and lush for livestock and game. The leaves burned off exposed the mast under the myriad oaks of California and the prairies north to Puget Sound. The whole of the landscape was about gathering native plants and seeds, and hunting game that was there because the natives kept their food plentiful. It worked that way for thousands of years, and even after the Spaniards arrived. The trees that survived anthropogenic fire we call old growth were created by serendipity in the pursuit of food, shelter and safety. No 1000 wolves had a frigging thing to do with it. Man came here when it was still snow and ice, and evolved socially on this landscape along with the vegetation and critters, some of which were hunted to extinction early on. Man was always a force in the landscape. Always. Even today. Doing nothing is a very specific and direct action, and often harmful to the environment. Primitive man could not afford the luxury of doing nothing. That could mean a sure death and end of his species.

So just what are the academics out to prove? Why is science an answer looking for a question? I am amazed society collectively still pays for things like the Gang of Two, a thousand times over. I guess it really is a case of institutional flinging of dung at the walls to see what sticks and why. Sad, though.

25 May 2009, 10:37pm
by Bob Z.

These people are still frantically trying to justify their “non-declining, even-flow, naturally functioning ecosystem” view of the universe. The fact that it is an essentially racist, sociopathic, bankrupt vision of the landscape has apparently failed to strike home yet.

It has been stated that the reason academics fight so furiously to protect their turf is because there is so little at stake. This is not one of those cases.

Yes, there is ego, tenure, paid vacations, steady pay, limited fame, a certain amount of political power, and occasional sex with attractive coeds in the mix; but there is also the de facto control over millions of acres of State and Federal forests and grasslands, dozens of “endangered” species, hundreds of rural communities, and hundreds of thousands of lives that have been negatively affected by their [junk] theories. Theoretical failure results in moral responsibility for that failure, and who wants to be thought a failure, or responsible for the misery and even deaths of others?

The proof these theories don’t work is provided by the millions of acres of forests destroyed by predicted catastrophic wildfires during the past 20 years, bankrupt County governments, decreased numbers of spotted owls and old-growth conifers, polluted air and waters, diminished economic opportunities for rural families (and the divorce, suicides, crime, and drug problems associated with this problem), ruined businesses, and current threats of future wildfires that have been spawned by the resource management policies based on this “science.”

I have just returned from a conference of Native American Ecological Educators and scientists in southern Oregon, where the vision is much more positive, wholesome, and based on fact. A long-time Indian educational leader from the Oregon Coast spoke of a “Cultural Renaissance” now starting to take place in our schools and agencies, and among our scientists and political leaders. I hope he is right, and think he may be.

The Cultural Renaissance this man described is very similar to the “New Paradigm” discussed in these columns. People are a necessary part of the environment, and critical to the survival of the native plants and animals that have been tended and cared for over the past thousands of years by the people who lived here during those times. Traditional methods are scientifically considered, and then used, when appropriate, to achieve modern goals and objectives.

Federal scientists such as Kat Anderson and Frank Lake and a number of Indian graduate students also spoke at the symposium, echoing the thoughts and vision of this Tribal leader.

An informal call was put out to encourage this Renaissance, through forming a common vision based on dialogue between races and sexes and generations, between scientists, researchers, students, and educators. A dialogue that is “horizontal” and respectful of the stations and accomplishments of others — and not based on lectures and “top-down” “informative” speeches and pronouncements.

The symposium was a pleasure to attend, and provided much food for thought and reason for action. I hope the speaker was right, and intend to put in personal time and effort to help shape the vision he describes.

The old paradigm has proven costly and destructive and based on bad ideas and disproved theories, as have been repeatedly shown and described at SOS Forests. A Cultural Renaissance may be just what is needed to repair the resultant damage that has been done to this time. Our children and their grandchildren deserve at least an effort from us to make things better. They certainly don’t deserve the mess we’ve made of our resources to this point.

Maybe the Cultural Renaissance has already started and is already taking place. Maybe this blog is partial proof of that vision.



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