4 Jun 2009, 12:50am
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin

Junk Science Rules

Nothing comes close to the eruptions of absolute junk science when it comes to forestry in Oregon. Every kook in the world is suddenly an expert on matters they know nothing about. (Unless it is global warming alarmism, another arena in which junk science abounds).

Case in point: the “discussion” today at the Oregon Board of Forestry hearing regarding management of the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

Clowns in fish costumes paraded the grounds before the meeting, a fitting precursor to the lunacy they brought inside.

The circus was covered by the Oregonian:

OREGON ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS: Going green, green living, eco friendly tips and articles

Liveblogging: Tillamook and Clatsop state forests debate

by Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian, June 03, 2009 [here]

Salem — The Oregon Board of Forestry is hearing input this morning in Salem on a proposal to increase logging at the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. …

Before the meeting began, salmon advocates rallied with signs and fishing boats to show their support for keeping more of the 500,000 acres of state-managed timber land as wildlife habitat. …

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity kicked off the public response by critiquing the method behind the department’s analysis.

“Increasing the cut, it’s not supported by the science,” he said. …

What “science” is Noah talking about? Let’s look at some facts.

The Tillamook Forest consists of trees planted after the Tillamook Fires, a series of megafires that devastated the vegetation between 1933 and 1951. Some 355,000 acres were roasted in four major fires.

At the time, most of the land was owned by Tillamook, Yamhill, and Washington Counties (eventually those counties deeded the land over to the State). They had acquired it via tax foreclosures. It seems that during the Great Depression a lot of people and companies could not pay their property taxes.

Some opine that the land was logged off and abandoned by rapacious timber beasts, but that is not true — what burned was not clearcuts but standing trees, many of them over 300 years old.

Interestingly, not many trees were older than that, even though the species present (Douglas-fir, western red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock) can grow to 1,000 years and older.

Something happened 300 years before that gave rise to the forests that burned. Junk science maintains that some mythical stand-replacing fire denuded the entire Coast Range around 1650 to 1700. There is no evidence of such a fire, no remnant trees that might have survived across the millions of acres that junk scientists conjecture burned in the greatest pre-Colonial fire in history. There is no charcoal from that supposed conflagration, no burned trees fallen into bogs and preserved in situ, no empirical evidence of any kind.

Instead, the empirical evidence suggests that there were few trees in the Oregon Coast Range 300 years ago. Except for the coastal zone and deep canyons, the Oregon Coast Range was prairie, not forest.

What? Prairie? How could that be? Trees grow like gangbusters in the Oregon Coast Range. It contains some of the highest site class ground for conifers in the world.

The junk science notions of a perpetual forest in balance with nature across this vast wilderness are shot in the head by the empirical evidence. A giant anomaly festers. Trees grow well there, but they didn’t. What was Mother Nature up to 300 (now 350) years ago?

There is another branch of science, archaeology, that holds a clue to the conundrum that stumps the junk forest scientists. It seems that the consensus among archaeologists is that human beings have been living in the Oregon Coast Range for at least 11,500 years, and quite probably for at least 1,000 years prior to that, and maybe even for 20,000+ years.

Those residents were actual human beings, Homo sapiens. They were hunters and gatherers, and some contend proto-agriculturalists. One thing is certain: they were masters of fire.

Human beings (or our precursors and ancestors in the hominid line) have been masters of fire for perhaps a million years or more.

Prior to the invention of sawmills, human beings had no compelling uses for Douglas-fir. They did have use for prairie plants, however, such as camas and other root crops that do not grow in dense forests. Camas ovens dating back 6,000 years or more have been discovered by archaeologists in the Oregon Coast Range, which is curious because camas does not grow in perpetual forests.

It is possible, indeed very likely, that the First Residents put the torch to the landscape of the Oregon Coast Range when they first arrived, and fairly continuously for the many millennia thereafter. It served their survival to grow something other than Douglas-fir. Fire was (and is) the handiest tool to accomplish wholesale ecological manipulation across broad landscapes. The preferred (intended) change that was actualized by anthropogenic fire was to convert forests to prairies.

What then happened 300 to 350 years ago that changed all that? The likeliest answer is smallpox and other European diseases. Killer epidemics wiped out the human population, anthropogenic fire ceased, and trees invaded the prairies.

For a more in-depth discussion see The Alseya Valley Prairie Complex, ca. 1850: Native Landscapes in Western GLO Surveys by Dr. Bob Zybach [here].

There are some implications from the empirical evidence that expand beyond archaeology. Salmon, that “sacred” fish, evidently also survived and even thrived for many millennia in Coast Range rivers and streams that were not heavily forested or even forested at all. Salmon survived the Tillamook Fires, of that we can be sure. They spawned very successfully in watersheds that were completely denuded of trees.

Salmon even survived the alleged rapacious clearcutting so often cited by junk scientists as deadly to salmon. Note that one of the principal arguments against forest management in the Oregon Coast Range is that it will somehow impact salmon. From the article cited above:

“We’re extremely disappointed in the decision [to log in the Tillamook Forest]. [F]rom our perspectives it represents a significant reduction in protection for endangered species” like the northern spotted owl and coho salmon, said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Greenwald said his group would likely sue the state under federal Endangered Species Act rules.

No doubt when Noah winds up his rapacious lawyers and sues, junk scientists will claim that logging puts salmon at risk, despite the abundant empirical evidence to the contrary.

Junk science is not based on empirical evidence. It is based on dreamy conjecture unsupported by facts.

For instance, spotted owls are not old-growth dependent. They live, thrive, and fledge young in second-growth forests. That’s an empirical fact. Like most animals, spotted owls are not habitat-limited — owl populations are subject to predator-prey relationships just like deer, elk, squirrels, armadillos, sage grouse, desert tortoises, and innumerable other animal species.

Another implication of empirical evidence is that theories of forest succession from early seral conditions to climax forests do not comport with what actually happened. Those junk theories date from the the 1920’s and are generally attributed to Frederic Edward Clements [here]. Clementsian ecology was debunked by Arthur Tansley and others long ago, but the bogus theories refused to die and have been resurrected by modern junk scientists [here, for starters].

Forests do not (did not) develop according to the theories of Clementsian forest succession. Not in Oregon, at any rate, nor in most other places in the world. It is misleading and counter-factual to assume that Clements’ rules of ecology apply in the real world, since all evidence indicates they do not. Technically, it is more correct to speak of “historical forest development pathways” and not of “forest succession” because the former involves the reality of history and the latter involves fanciful notions from Dreamland.

It is a sad fact that forest policies based on junk science fail, often miserably. A case in point is the Northwest Forest Plan, a policy based on Clementsian theories. The NWFP has been a catastrophic failure in every respect; it has failed to save spotted owls and failed to protect our watersheds (and old-growth) from devastating fires.

Another case in point (or cases in point) is the abject failure of “wilderness” policy to protect watersheds from megafires. Indeed, wilderness policy has promoted megafires very directly and in no uncertain terms. Wilderness policy is based on the denial of human occupation and influences, a denial that flies in the face of abundant archaeological findings.

Another case is point is the failure of the US Forest Service to contain megafires at all [here].

Junk science leads to failed policies and to a great deal of unnecessary suffering of both the environment and humanity.

We can only hope and pray that the Oregon Board of Forestry does not succumb to junk science. Let Noah sue (there is no way to stop him anyhow). Respond with some real science, the kind based on empirical evidence.

That would be my advice. Do your homework, OBoF. Don’t knuckle under to junk science based on denial of reality. We need policies that do not fail catastrophically. We have suffered enough.

4 Jun 2009, 10:11am
by bear bait

An examination of the Tillamook Burn salvage logging, which went on from 1934 to 1960 or so, would show that the most savage of methods in terms of impacts on the land and streams, were the norm.

Dead trees are hard to fall in a safe manner, and have them land and stay in position to buck into log lengths. There is no bark, nor are there limber limbs to provide friction forces to hold wood on the slope. Instead, limbs snap and bark slips, and the trees go wildly on their way, toboggans on the way to the creek below. In the end, most of the wood ends up in the creek bottom.

There is little hard rock in the Coast Range, under or through the Astoria Sandstone formation. But the creek bottoms are rock, albeit too rough for roads. But that did not stop the new Caterpillar tractors from dragging arches up and down the creeks with tree lengths behind them, to a wide spot in the creek bottom to a landing, where the logs could be swung by cable to to ridgetop road, or to a river grade road below. The salvage of The Burn was about cats in creeks, and tough, tough road building. The one spur road I was on that still makes me shake is the one along a knife ridgetop so steep off either side, I don’t know if I could leave the landing on the knob at the end. The road in one place was three pairs of tree length logs, tied with cable and slung over the ridge like saddle bags, one pair above the pair below. And then they filled the void with coarse pit run that would drain. Drain, hell!! A man could slip through cracks in that deal, and do the death rocket ship ride to eternity!!!

11 billion board feet of salvage logs were taken off The Burn. Three times the annual cut in all of Oregon in the past 15 years. Much of it went to the War Effort in WWII.

The reason the land was owned by the county was that the land could not earn enough to pay the property taxes. Logged over land has no cash flow, and will not make any for 30 years or more. And fully timbered land went into tax foreclosure during the Great Depression. There had been years of speculation in timber land, and like our present economy, when the land values fell, people suddenly were seriously upside down on their timber holdings and bank loans. The banks failed, borrowing money was not possible, and logs were worth not much more than the cost to extract them from the woods. But the people who logged and worked on the logging railroads and the mills were supplying the WPA projects, the CCC camps, the military base construction. Wood was the plastic of those times. So even in the depths of depression, there was more demand than there is today. But there also was more than enough supply to fill the markets, and prices were seriously depressed. So, even though the Feds were actively buying farmsteads under the Rural Relocation Act (Rex Wakefield, long gone former Siuslaw NF Supervisor, told me over 60,000 acres were acquired that way on the Siuslaw NF), the volume of financially distressed timberland was immense.

The counties were not being successful at selling timberland on the courthouse steps. They had duties to perform, and with great areas already in Federal hands not paying taxes, the burden of county owned lands was threatening to bankrupt counties. The Oregon Legislature’s solution was to take the land in Trust for the County and manage it for timber production. When there was timber to harvest and a market, the State promised to sell timber and the split would be 65% to the county, and 35% to the State for their management. Many counties did NOT opt to take that route. Notably Coos, Douglas, Hood River, and Clackamas counties. Those counties have had a managed timber program selling logs since the Depression years.

So the idea that OSF lands are public recreation lands first is bogus. OSF manages the county trust lands and the Common School Lands for the Common School Fund. In an act of fundamental stupidity, former Gov. Kitzhaber administratively, as titular head of the Land Board, set the Elliott State Forest cut at 24.5 million board feet per year, on a high site 90,000+ acres of school sections whose revenue goes to the Common School Fund, a permanent fund for the benefit of public schools, the principal of which cannot be touched. I believe Kulongoski has or is trying to pry that door open and drain that fund, too. The Elliott should be producing twice that amount of timber, more than sustainably, in perpetuity. I would guess the growth on the Elliott to be in the area of 75 million board feet per year, unmanaged. Directed institutional waste in pursuit of urban political goals at the expense of rural livelihoods and lifestyles. The New Oregon Story. The Tyrannical Urban Majority “Keeping it Weird.” Makes a man proud to be an Oregonian. This the State that shut the Blind School and is selling the property to a developer and putting the money in the general fund!!! 3.3 million people can’t rustle up the dough to help kids blind or going blind have a special program to help them do something other than sell pencils on a street corner. No wonder we don’t have any idea of how to exist with timberland and working forests. We are a state of imbeciles.

The planting of the Tillamook Burns was done by public, fueled by grass roots demand. A statewide bond issue of $13 million dollars approved by a vote of the people financed it, with most of the trees planted by OSP inmates. Every school kid in Oregon in the 1950s got a field trip to the Burn to plant a few symbolic trees, which gave people like me an investment in our forests. When I planted my 5 trees, most of the protester’s parents were not born. This after-the-fact denial of a plan that has come to fruition is a false act of stupidity on the part of the protesters.

Now that said, a whole lot of the Tillamook Burn was planted with off site seed source stock. The wrong site, elevation, soil type tree in an alien environment. Hence, a lot of Swiss Needle Cast in the fog belt. Not enough spruce, hemlock and cedar planted in lower elevations, and maybe not enough true firs at higher elevations. A monoculture of doug fir is not what a forest, including that forest, should be about. So there is nothing wrong with taking the trees, logging them, and replanting with site sourced, more native type trees. The odd balls that show up, the Port Orford cedar, the incense cedar, the white pines and some of the true firs, were all experimental plantings at the time and really don’t have a place in that forest.

Mistakes were made in pioneering the reforestation of a great burn like the Tillamook, but it was the leading edge of forestry worldwide when it was going. It has been an example, though mistakes have been made. The way you correct those is you log more responsibly, with a softer hand on the land, and you replant with native materials, and in the not so far future (it was a wasteland when I was a kid, and a forest today… it all changed in a lifetime, from old growth to bare ground to a forest supporting logging… FORESTRY WORKS!!!). There will be a working, abundant, vigorous forest in place, along with the fish runs, the bandtails, the elk, the mountain bikers, the ATV riders, the hikers and loggers.

When I was a kid, just after the War, hunting began again. There essentially had been none for the duration of the war. And the Burn was a popular place to go. I remember the deer that came out of the Burn were HUGE blacktail, many dressing out in the 150-200 lb range. Bid bodied deer and big elk. There was sunlight on the ground, and the sun and nutrients from the fires had charged the vegetation, and it was abundant and nutritious, and the animals were huge. And today the deer are far fewer and smaller, as it is no longer a giant fire prairie.

The Tillamook is an example of what humans can do today. We know by historical examination what we were capable of as humans for the last 10,000 years. So why is it today we have to go stupid on ourselves?

4 Jun 2009, 6:43pm
by Larry H.

Here’s a small slice of some good news regarding real science. The international scientific community seems to be waking up and seeing how humans can successfully intervene and correct ecosystem problems, especially when applied to forests. These ideas and revelations are being called “Ecosystem Based Adaptation” and are a part of an ambitious study with a definitely more realistic slant than American preservationists, who have bet the farm on doing nothing regarding forests. I’ve only read a little of this large document but, this portion stands out:

“Ecosystem-based adaptation may be further described as the use of sustainable ecosystem
management activities to support societal adaptation. Ecosystem-based adaptation:

o Identifies and implements a range of strategies for the management, conservation and
restoration of ecosystems to provide services that enable people to adapt to the
impacts of climate change.

o Can be applied at regional, national and local levels, at both project and
programmatic levels, and benefits can be realized over short and long time scales.

o May be more cost effective and more accessible to rural or poor communities than
measures based on hard infrastructure and engineering.”

Also, this portion states what us foresters have known all along, as well.

“Ecosystem-based adaptation may require managing ecosystems to provide particular services over
others. It is therefore important that decisions to implement ecosystem-based adaptation are
subject to risk assessment, scenario planning and adaptive management approaches that recognise
and incorporate these potential trade-offs.”

This promising set of ideas must be waved in front of opponents to active forest management, showing them that us foresters are absolutely right and know what we are talking about. That forest restoration is essential to the life that lives within them.

This publication is being distributed to the international community meeting in Bonn right now as a precursor to the Copenhagen “Climate Change” meetings at the end of the year. I hold little hope that preservationists will heed the warnings and embrace the solutions. I fully expect that some eco-groups will attempt to bury or discredit these ideas. However, seeing this mentioned on the Grist eco-website is promising. While they couple this with combating “Climate Change”, the scientific logic of active forest management seems to be taking hold around the world.

Note: Please browse the file for some more gold at http://www.cbd.int/climate/meetings/ahteg-bdcc-02-02/ahteg-bdcc-02-02-findings-review-en.pdf

Feel free to delete the link, Mike, if you don’t think it is appropriate to your site.

4 Jun 2009, 9:23pm
by Wayne K.

Gentlemen: I want to thank Mike, bear bait and Larry H. for preserving the historical record herein. I’ve been here since 1951 and I remember. I am not a forester or even much of a scientist, but my memory is intact. I remember my fifth grade teacher, the formidable Mrs. Dedman, former mayor of Canby, Oregon teaching us about Oregon history. I remember the intensity of her voice and her vivid description of the Tillamook Burn, the smoky skies way over in the Willamette Valley and the efforts of all good citizens, including the pennies donated by school kids, to replant and replace. We’ve somehow lost our institutional memory. Our Mrs. Dedman’s are long gone. You guys need to keep recording this history. Otherwise we are lost in the woods.

5 Jun 2009, 2:50pm
by John M.

Mike’s comments about the Board of Forestry meeting are important and combine with Bearbait’s make a strong statement of fact that should be kept at the ready for the battle over the state forests. And the battle will surely come as sure as the sun comes up in the morning. I haven’t figured out how to launch a counter attack yet, but I am thinkig. It important in my view that every forester, forest industry member, timber community and timber county plus people who truly care about the forests commit to drawing a line in the sand, and saying enough to this continuing theater of the absurb.

The key to winning this battle,even in the courts,is public outrage at this attempt to high jack another piece of our children and grandchildren’s future.

Mike, I hope you will keep these comments at the ready for our future use.

5 Jun 2009, 3:25pm
by Mike

John, be assured, nothing gets removed.

One factor stands out for me in this battle: bad science leads to policy failure.

Every forester, forest industry member, timber community and timber county official ought to be fully aware that bogus forest science theories from the 1920’s are killing our forests. We must demand better than what our public institutions are turning out. It is time to revise, restore, and modernize forest science so that we can remove this albatross of junk theories from around our necks.

7 Jun 2009, 9:55pm
by Larry H.

I KNEW it was too good to be true! Grist has removed the article about the international scientists in favor of restoration and mitigation. Apparently, the article is counter to the eco’s sacred agenda and is dangerous to their idealistic dogma-drama. Saving forests from incineration is just too progressive for their closed minds. There is just no place in their world for an alternative to doing nothing.



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