Wildfire ‘Benefit’ Double Talk Jive Is Over

The U.S. Forest Service, proud purveyor of foofurbs (fires used for resource benefit), is guilty of double talk jive hypocrisy. It turns out, that when there’s a deep pocket to sue, the USFS flip flops and claims that wildfires damage resources!

Yesterday the U.S. Dept. of Justice announced that the USFS had been awarded a $14.75 million windfall settlement from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for “damages” resulting from the 1999 Pendola Fire.

Second Largest Settlement In A Forest Fire Case

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Yahoo News, Jul 28, 2009 [here]


PG&E Pays $14.75 Million to Settle Claims Arising from the 1999 Pendola Fire

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has agreed to pay $14.75 million to settle the government’s claims of damages resulting from the 1999 Pendola fire in the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests in Northern California. The settlement is the second largest recovery in United States Forest Service history in a forest fire case.

“This substantial settlement reflects the value we all place on such treasures as the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests,” stated Acting United States Attorney Lawrence G. Brown.

The Pendola fire started in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 1999, on privately owned land near Pendola Ranch in Camptonville. A large ponderosa pine tree fell onto a 12kV power distribution line owned by PG&E, and electricity shorted through it, causing the tree to ignite and drop burning embers to the ground. The fire quickly spread to the Tahoe and Plumas National Forests, burning a total of 11,725 acres - 3,866 acres were National Forest Systems land.

The Forest Service mobilized more than 2,500 firefighters and their equipment to fight the Pendola fire. The fire burned for 11 days before it was fully extinguished. Fire crews successfully suppressed the fire without the loss of any life at a cost of approximately $4.2 million. The United States alleged that the tree that fell into the power line was rotten and hazardous, and PG&E or its contractors should have inspected and removed the tree, preventing the fire.

The fire caused substantial damage to National Forest Systems lands, including harm to ecological habitat and loss of timber values, and required forest restoration efforts that continue to date. More than $10 million of the settlement is to compensate the United States for damages to its natural resources. The majority of the settlement monies will go directly to the Plumas and Tahoe National Forests to help remedy the resource devastation from the fire. The settlement was reached through mediation without the necessity of the United States filing a lawsuit.

“Recovering the funds needed to restore the damaged National Forests, and to compensate for the tremendous expense of fighting wildfires, without time consuming and costly litigation, is always in the public interest,” said John Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“We place a very high priority on fire investigations due to the threat to our precious natural resources and public treasures and want to ensure that we have the ability to restore our lands when catastrophe strikes,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendall J. Newman.

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Let’s parse that. The suppression costs were $4.2 million, but an additional $10.55 million were tacked on in penalties for “resource devastation.”

Apparently wildfires don’t benefit resources, they devastate them.

Who’d a thunk it?????

Considering that the USFS has perpetrated dozens of foofurbs this year alone, with no explication of the alleged “benefits,” with no NEPA process, with no legal authority whatsoever, but based solely the sorry and pathetic claim that wildfires are “beneficial,” it is the height of galloping hypocrisy to claim the exact opposite in Federal Court.

And the Federal Court, mind you, has repeatedly enjoined nearly every healthy forest treatment that would potentially SAVE resources and protect them from the DEVASTATION of wildfires. Isn’t it inexplicably odd that our esteemed Federal Judiciary would suddenly discover that wildfires inflict multi-million dollar damages to those selfsame resources that they spit upon in other cases?

When the pro-holocaust lobby litigates, Fed judges bend over backwards to accommodate them. Burn Baby Burn. But when there’s a rich pigeon to roast, suddenly the TRUE effects of fire on forests get acknowledged.

When the USFS decides resources suddenly somehow “benefit” from forest fires, there’s no stopping their homemade in-house holocaust machine. Over a million acres have been devastated by foofurbs this year alone, from Alaska to New Mexico and everywhere in between. Not a single one has had any sort of public input, involvement, or review.

But back to the settlement. It seems that 3,866 acres burned on the USFS in the Pendola Fire. The USFS claimed $10.55 million in damages were done over and above suppression costs. That works out to $2,729 per acre in losses to “our precious natural resources and public treasures.” Evidently no tally was made of the “benefits.”

The Pendola Fire settlement is the second largest in history. The first largest was the Storrie Fire settlement last year, where the deep pocket defendant was the Union Pacific Railroad.

Union Pacific Railroad Company Pays $102 Million to Settle the United States’ Claims

U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, Reuters, Jul 22, 2008 [here]

Largest Settlement Ever in a Forest Fire Case


SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Union Pacific Railroad Company (UP) will pay the United States $102 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the government to recover damages connected with the 2000 Storrie forest fire in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in Northern California, U.S. Associate Attorney General Kevin O’Connor, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey and U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced today. The settlement is the largest recovery in U.S. Forest Service history in a forest fire case.

On Aug. 17, 2000, the Storrie forest fire ignited in the Feather River Canyon north of Storrie, Calif., on the railroad right-of-way within the Plumas National Forest. The United States’ complaint alleged that the fire started as a result of a midday railroad track repair operation by UP employees who failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent the fire. The government contended that UP track maintenance workers failed to clear the area of flammable material, and failed to use appropriate spark shields in connection with high-speed rail saws and grinders, allowing the escape of small, hot pieces of metal that ultimately started the fire.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendall J. Newman, the lead government attorney in the case against UP, the Forest Service mobilized more than 2,600 federal, state and local firefighters, air tankers, helicopter crews and other personnel to fight the Storrie forest fire. The fire burned for more than three weeks, encompassing an area of more than 52,000 acres within the Plumas and Lassen National Forests before it was fully extinguished. Fire crews successfully suppressed the fire, without the loss of any life or buildings, at a cost of approximately $22 million.

The fire caused substantial damage to National Forest System lands, destroying wildlife habitat and killing trees on more than 21,000 acres. The areas ravaged by the fire included pristine, old growth forests that Congress expressly set aside for preservation by protecting them from logging through the Quincy Library Group Act and federal Wilderness Area designation. The Court ruled that the people of the United States are entitled to compensation for the unique aspects of the damaged forests, above and beyond the fair market value of the timber destroyed. The remaining $80 million of the settlement compensates the United States for damages to its natural resources. …

“Protection of our natural resources is of vital concern to the well-being and safety of the people in California,” said U.S. Attorney Scott. “Every year we see the devastation to lives and property caused by uncontrolled forest fires. …

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Another report on the largest forest fire settlement in history:

US government to announce $102m forest fire settlement with railroad

Guardian.co.uk, 22 July 2008 [here]

In a landmark case, the federal government will announce a $102m settlement today with the Union Pacific Railroad Co over a forest fire that devastated a massive national forest area near the Feather River Canyon in California eight years ago.

It is the largest settlement ever in a lawsuit over the origin of a forest fire case, thanks in no small part to a groundbreaking order by a federal judge. The judge ruled UP must pay for the loss of public scenery and recreation and habitat and wildlife, rather than merely the costs of the lost timber and fire-fighting resources used to douse the blaze. …

US district judge Frank C Damrell Jr ruled that “this court must consider, as many courts have, the unique character of the land at issue”.

Over the railroad’s objections, the judge found the government could seek damages for injuries other than to timber, including harm to the soil; destruction of trees too young for harvest; and destruction of wildlife, habitat, and the area’s grandeur, as well as denial of its use for recreation.

He also ruled the government could seek its reforestation costs, noting “much of the devastated areas involved old growth forests, designated wilderness and trees that were hundreds of years old.”

Government experts estimate the Storrie Fire burned more than 1,600 acres of spotted owl habitat, 12,000 acres of carnivore habitat, 9,000 acres of old growth forests - affecting bald eagles, goshawks and pine martens - and impacted amphibians and fish with silt run-offs into streams.

Let’s parse that. The actionable damages from wildfires were found by the Court to include “loss of public scenery and recreation and habitat and wildlife,” devastated old-growth, designated wilderness, and wildlife habitat, and silt runoff into streams.

But wait a second. I thought that wildfires benefited all those resources. That’s what the USFS says whenever they Let It Burn. They have claimed at various times that the goal of the USFS is to “reintroduce fire,” to “recycle forests,” and to “rejuvenate” forests with fire. The USFS has spent hundreds of $millions on pro-holocaust programs designed to justify the incineration of wilderness and non-wilderness alike in deliberate Let It Burn fires.

And the USFS has gone ahead and incinerated tens of millions of acres of our forests deliberately, on purpose, albeit with no actual environmental impact statements or NEPA process. Their Let It Burn program is without legal foundation, without scientific foundation, and now it turns out, by their own admission in Federal Court, has devastating consequences to natural resources.

It turns out that their “Blackened Dead Forest Are Beautiful” campaign is hogwash of the first order, since they sue, and win, for destruction of scenery by forest fires. It turns out that forest fires actually do devastate wildlife habitat, terrestrial and aquatic, and destroy soil, air, and waterways.

It turns out that old-growth forests are KILLED by wildfire, and even though the Supreme Congress of the United States has set aside the old-growth never to be logged, those forests still have VALUE, over and above their timber value, which the Esteemed Federal Judiciary recognizes, with all due respect, may it please the Court.

What???? It turns out that after 4 SOLID YEARS of non-stop haranguing from SOS Forests, everything we have said is TRUE, FACTUAL, and RIGHT ON THE MONEY, as witnessed by the claims made by the USFS in their lawsuits and in decisions made by the U.S. District Court!!!!!!!

Just last week the USFS posted the following missive at Inciweb [here]:

Eightmile Wildfire to be Managed for Resource Benefit Objective

Boise, ID – A lightning caused wildfire, called Eightmile Fire, will be managed by the Boise National Forest as a “wildfire managed with a resource benefit objective”. The fire, which started Sunday from a wet thunderstorm cell, is within the 1989 Lowman Burn, and is located about 10 miles east of Lowman.

The wildfire is in the designated 23 percent of the Boise National Forest considered suitable for this management objective as specified in the Forest Plan and subsequent Fire Management Plan. …

“Our objective in this area is to ensure fire plays its natural ecological role in the fire adapted Boise National Forest,” said Cecilia Seesholtz, Boise Forest Supervisor.

… said Bob Shindelar, Acting Boise Fire Staff Officer. “This demonstrates how we look at each fire, assess the risks, and make a decision.”

Evidently Cecilia and Bob didn’t get the US Dept. of Justice memos. By the way, the Eightmile Foofurb Fire was reported today to be 371 acres and growing in leaps and bounds. At $2,729 per acre, the damages accrued are over 1 $million already and are also growing in leaps and bounds.

Before foofurbs the lingo was whoofoos (Wildland Fire Used For Resource Benefit). Much the same thing, but whoofoo was dropped and foofurb adopted in its place just this year, in an attempt by the USFS to polish their propaganda.

Famous whoofoos include the 2006 Warm WFU Fire (58,640 acres and over $70 million in damages), the 2008 Gunbarrel WFU Fire (67,141 acres and over $100 million in damages), the 2008 South Barker WFU Fire (38,583 acres and over $40 million in damages), and the 2008 East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire (54,549 acres and over $50 million in damages).

There were no deep pockets to sue for those fires, however, because they were perped by the USFS itself.

Speaking of lawsuits, when the USFS deliberately burns private land and inflicts damages on private landowners, those landowners have absolutely no recourse. The USFS backburns private land all the time, but they have never had to pay out a penny for the devastation they have wrought because the Federal Courts hold the USFS harmless in all cases.

Can you say “double standard”? The gummit can burn you out and walk away whistling, but if you happen to burn gummit land, by accident, you get sued six shades of blue. And the gummit burns its own land (OUR land actually) on purpose without a second thought.

That’s America today for you. Your tax dollars at work; your land up in smoke.

But the real Wildfire Lesson to be Learned here is that wildfires devastate resources. They do not “benefit” them. There is no justification for that lie. That propaganda bucket has a hole in and doesn’t hold water anymore.

The US Forest Service, the US Dept. of Justice, and the Federal Judiciary are in complete agreement on that point. Wildfires damage the holy heck out of resources. They DEVASTATE vegetation, soils, habitat, watersheds, airsheds, scenery, recreation, heritage, public health and safety, and the economy. They devastate public and private lands.

There is no argument about that anymore. Foofurbs, like whoofoos, are a Big Lie.

Hello all you pro holocaust cheerleaders out there, in and out of the government. The Big Lie has been exposed. The USFS admits, claims, pleads that wildfires do not “benefit” resources; instead they devastate them, and the Courts agree.

The double talk jive is over.

30 Jul 2009, 1:47am
by Mike

And yet today the Olympic National Park declared a foofurb, the Constance Foofurb Fire, burning north of Dosewallips Falls [here]. Old-growth Douglas-fir is being incinerated in a stand replacement fire and hiking trails are closed. Obviously, this fire is causing serious resource devastation, but the NPS claims unspecified and indeterminate resource “benefit.”

The Big Lie lives on! Those gummit functionaries! Can’t speak the truth for fear of choking on their own forked tongues.

30 Jul 2009, 10:02am
by bear bait

Fire for “resource benefit”, is an oxymoron. As proved by the US Justice Dept., and agreed upon by a US District Judge. It would appear to me that an aggrieved party, like a county with a large federal lands presence, needs to get a conservative NGO law firm to sue the bejesus out of the Feds, or at the least, get an injunction that prevents them from “foofurbing”, until the NEPA justification and monetary amounts are paid to the county of origin. You see, I believe the county of origin is entitled to, at the least, 25% of the award. It is revenue to the USFS for resources destroyed. No matter that the timber could not be logged due to set asides, the award is still based on the potential revenue generated by that timber, and as such the county of origin would receive 25% of the GROSS REVENUE (no lawyers fees or USFS time and effort are allowed to be deducted).

30 Jul 2009, 10:56am
by Mike

Excellent point. I concur. The affected counties should petition for those monies immediately.

So should local hospitals, water companies, school districts, and all other damaged entities.

Two-thirds of the land burned in the Pendola Fire was private property. I don’t know what kind of a settlement the private property owners got from PG&E, if any, or if those cases are still pending, but my guess is that they got a lot less and probably nothing.

My guess is that the USFS pocketed the whole settlement, when the actual victims were the local residents, to a large degree. They are legally owed a percentage, as you point out.

I also advise counties to sue the USFS for damages whenever a fire occurs, regardless of the designation as foofurb or not, especially if crappy hands-off land and fire management by the USFS are responsible for exacerbating the damages from the fire. Use the same Federal Court and the language from the US Dept of Justice briefs. Use their damage appraisals, or better yet, create new ones that are more comprehensive. A precedent has been set. Affected counties should use it and build on it.

30 Jul 2009, 12:38pm
by Doug

Do we have to accept the unstated premise that all fire is either all good or all bad?

Is it just possible that some fires are good and some not so good?

The FS declares very few fires to be for resource benefit, so what are the odds that a negligently caused fire will fall in that small subset?

I am sure there is a technical name for the mind game at work here, but let’s just call it tortured logic for short.

30 Jul 2009, 1:05pm
by Mike

Doug, we need not accept any unstated premise, nor any unquantified one.

When the USFS declares a foofurb, they state so, but they DO NOT quantify any alleged benefits.

In the court cases above the DEVASTATION was quantified and appraised. Measurements were taken and the data analyzed in terms of dollars: cost-plus-loss monetary impacts.

The Courts made their decisions on measured, quantified, appraised data, not on vague claims of good or bad.

Further, the “cause” of the fire is immaterial to the quantified damages. Typically the “cause” refers to the ignition factor, but the manner, timing, and intensity of the suppression effort directly affects the damages. That is, if the suppression effort is rapid and direct, damages will be minimized. Conversely, if suppression efforts are withheld, for whatever reason including policy, then the damages will be much more extensive.

The policy of withholding suppression is more than negligence; it is intentional infliction of damages to resources, including destruction of heritage; vegetation conversion; destruction of wildlife and habitat; conversion of forest structure and development pathways; conversion of wildlife guilds; increased fire hazard; damage to airsheds and public health; damage to soil; short and long term damage to waterways and aquatic life; harm to downstream water users; damage to roads, bridges, and other infrastructure; short and long term damage to recreation, scenery, and recreation businesses; compromise of public safety; damage to private land including ranches, farms, homes, and businesses; and short and long term damages to local and regional economies.

All those are measurable, quantifiable, can be valued, and by dint of the legal precedent above, actionable.

So-called “benefits” of fire meet none of these tests.

30 Jul 2009, 4:10pm
by bear bait

A fire might very well have some “benefit.” I personally don’t know what that might be, but for argument’s sake, a fire might provide a “benefit.” But that benefit has to be described and quantified. What will it add to the present value? What will the net value be after the deductions caused by fire are accounted for? There has to be a balance sheet of costs vs. benefit, resource loss for resource gained. All of which is an exercise that is not done. The only time this exercise is done is when the US Attorney chooses to sue for loss, “damages”, in Federal Court. I did not see any mention of resource gain by fire. I would have to read the entire record of testimony. I would even suppose that the USFS is prevented by US Attorneys from even mentioning, thinking, that there might be a resource gain from fire. This is, we know, about winning a case and a judgment for damages.

However, it would seem that a defense lawyer would ask the USFS what resource good happened from the fire. What were the benefits to the environment from the fire. Gains must be balanced against losses to find a fair and equitable justice. My joke.

I would have a transcript of this whole case in my computer if I were a logger, a road builder, or someone who might have occasion to work near enough to public lands that an accidental fire might reach public lands. I want to know if, in the fighting of the fire, the USFS didn’t try NOT to suppress fire in some places because they wanted fire through there. This deal has too many flaws in my mind to be of lasting legal value. At least on the surface.

30 Jul 2009, 9:00pm
by Mike

Good gravy!!! Here’s the latest puerile propaganda from the Olympic NP regarding the Constance Foofurb Fire (180 acres today, if you can believe anything that comes out of the NPS):

This fire can be expected to reduce competition from hemlocks in old growth Douglas fir forest, and create canopy openings where a diverse and productive array of plants will temporarily dominate, attracting elk, songbirds, and woodpeckers.

Do you grok all that? They are grasping for some “resource benefit” that accompanies old-growth devastation!!!! To justify their foofurb.

Thin the hemlocks? Crown fires don’t know which trees are hemlocks and which are Douglas-firs. Further, the hemlocks are old-growth trees, too!!!!! The notion that the fire is selectively thinning the hemlocks is preposterous and craptastic!!!

After the old-growth is dead, “diverse” new plants will move in “temporarily”! You betcha, just like in a clearcut! Of course, they won’t be the old-growth associates; they’ll be weeds, just like in a clearcut! Brushy weeds. Temporarily? Like how temporary? 400 years???? Or until the return fire 10 years from now?After which more weeds will move in?

Ain’t killing the old-growth fun? Why, the songbirds and the elk like it afterward, just like in a clearcut!!!! And woodpeckers love the bugs in the dead snags, the formerly alive but now deceased old-growth trees.

And these are the resource benefits?

Excuse me, but these are resource damages, actionable damages, the kind that PG&E and UPRR just shelled out $117 million for!

Are crazy people in charge of Olympic National Park? Or are they just freaking incompetent boobs? Did we hire the mentally handicapped to shepherd our Parks? Or what? I want names and resumes. Let’s see who these puerile nut jobs really are. I hesitate to speculate. I want names and resumes.

31 Jul 2009, 1:26am
by Foo Furb

The obvious resource benefit that is being over-looked is rural jobs. Think of wildfires as “stimulus package events.”

When people stand around looking at fires burn instead of putting them out, they earn more pay. Same with the bureaucrats administering that action. Some may even get overtime pay.

When a million dollars is spent on a fire that could be put out for a thousand dollars, then that is nearly a million dollars put into a needy local community, minus whatever may be sent to Mexico or used for R&R expenses in a more urbanized environment.

This is not chickenfeed. This is billions of dollars annually sent to hard-working firewatchers who must eat every day and put gasoline into their vehicles and chain saws.

Is that not a benefit? A very big benefit? Or am I missing something?

4 Aug 2009, 1:03pm
by Forrest Grump

Ya know, I think the angle of suing over lost benefits by counties is a pretty good idea. 25 share and all that, amortized over time, PLUS the jobs multiplier flow and lost taxes from THAT, might be kind of fun to argue in court.

Shoulda been a lawyah.



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