27 Dec 2009, 4:55pm
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

The Principal Defects in Wyden’s Forest Bill

There are so many defects in Ron Wyden’s proposed “Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection, and Jobs Act of 2009″ (OEFROGPJA) that it is difficult to know where to start this analysis.

We have pointed out a few of the problems in previous posts [here, here, here]. They include conflict with other laws, rules, regulations; imposition of prescriptive forestry limits handicapping good management, political chicanery, bait-and-switch, and furthering of mass forest destruction by catastrophic megafires.

As written, OEFROGPJA is a vehicle for environmental disaster, and economic disaster, too.

That realization is slowly sinking in. An interesting Guest Opinion was proffered in the Oregonian yesterday, written by none other than two of the Gang of Four who together with Clinton and Gore forced the colossal failure of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) on western Oregon, Washington, and Northern California 15 years ago.

The NWFP has failed miserably in every one of it’s stated goals [here]. Misery is the right word - The NWFP 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 led to catastrophic fires of historical proportions that have decimated 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.

So it might be instructive to parse the pronouncements of the Gang O’ Two [here] to see what they really think about Wyden’s OEFROGPJA bill. Let us read between the lines of the Guest Opinion:

Stick to the principles on Oregon forests bill

By JERRY FRANKLIN and NORM JOHNSON, the Oregonian, December 26, 2009 [here]

On Dec. 15, Sen. Ron Wyden announced plans to introduce a bill designed to restore forest landscapes, protect old growth forest, and create jobs in Oregon’s eastside forests. He was surrounded in his announcement by long-term combatants over management of these forests who have joined together to support this bill.

The proposed legislation resulted from months of negotiation by Wyden’s staff with environmental groups and the timber industry. …

So far, all that is true. Wyden’s staff slapped together a bill in a matter of weeks by ripping off language from other bills, some of which are law, and that OEFROGPJA is in total conflict with.

We were pleased to see that the bill resulting from that negotiation contains the scientific principles of forest conservation.

Now the truth begins to dissipate. The “negotiations” involved a handful of special interest groups, but they excluded any professional forestry expertise. In fact, a handful of radical, anti-forest, pro-holocaust, sue-happy eco-goofies joined with Wyden’s like-minded staff to extort concessions from one individual, John Shelk of Ochoco Lumber Co. in Prineville. No scientific forestry was involved, and no alleged “scientific principles of forest conservation” were addressed.

OEFROGPJA would regulate every cutting prescription by statutory limits on the size of tree removed — no trees larger than 21 inches in diameter may be cut.

(1) LARGER TREES — Subject to paragraph (2) and except as provided in paragraph (3), the Secretary shall prohibit the cutting or removal of any live tree located in the covered area, the diameter of which exceeds 21 inches measured at breast height.

But that’s not all. OEFROGPJA also puts limits on cutting trees smaller than that, too:

(2) SMALLER TREES — The Secretary shall prohibit the cutting or removal of a live tree located in the covered area, the diameter of which is less than 21 inches measured at breast height, if the Secretary determines that the prohibition is—
(A) consistent with the goals described in 18 subsection (a)(1);
(B) consistent with the advice relating to the conservation and restoration of old growth provided by the advisory panel; and
(C) carried out in consultation with the affected collaborative group.

Further, OEFROGPJA codifies no-touch riparian zones 300 feet wide on either side of streams (or “two site-potential tree heights).

None of that has anything to do with science. The only “principle” behind all that is sabotage; undermining actual scientific forestry for the express purpose of engendering megafires.

It may come as a shock to tender readers, but megafire is and has been the goal of the so-called “environmental” movement for 20 years or more. It is shocking, and destructive beyond measure, but the radical pro-holocaust movement has successfully destroyed over 90 million acres of public forest in the last two decades. Thousands of homes and hundreds of $billions in damages have also been inflicted by deliberate incineration.

The anti-forest pro-holocausters are pleased and proud of the destruction they have wrought, but they are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until every bit of forest, public and private, has been burned to smithereens.

The OEFROGPJA “consensus” does not exist. Despite all the hoorah in the Dead Tree Press, Wyden’s bill is DOA, and they know it. More from the Gang O’ Two:

It is important that they [the alleged 'scientific principles of forest conservation'] be retained in any further negotiation that may be needed to move the bill through Congress.

There may or may not be “further negotiations.” Count on this: if there are, neither you nor I will be involved in those. Nobody in Congress gives a spotted hoot about you, me, or our opinions, no matter how expert our opinions are or how seriously OEFROGPJA might impact us.

Nor will any future alleged “negotiations” include certain well-funded, sue-happy, anti-forest groups who were not invited to the previous “negotiations,” and who are already crowing about how THEY were excluded, and that THEY don’t concur, and that THEY will sue, sue, sue no matter what happens. Which is honest on their part — radical sue-happy organizations make scads of money suing the government. They are in the eco-litigation business, the eco-litigation industry, which is a multi-$billion-a-year concern. They CAN’T stop suing; it is their cash cow, their livelihood, the foundation of their existence.

Nor was the US Forest Service involved in any “negotiations”. Their concerns were not considered. Under Sec of Ag Harris Sherman, an Obama appointee mind you, politely shot holes in Jon Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2009″ [here], a bill with eerie similarities to Wyden’s..

Sherman pointed out that in Tester’s bill (and by implication in Wyden’s, too) the prescriptive language violates NEPA and NFMA, draws action and funding away from other projects, and will NOT result in any increased harvest:

Further, the bill would create unrealistic expectations on the part of communities and forest products stakeholders that the agency would accomplish the quantity of mechanical treatments required. If we were unable to meet the requirements of the bill, there could be profound impacts upon local, rural economies and on the credibility of the agency.

Sherman also pointed out that the proposed bills borrow language directly out of the Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2009 [here], countermanding that language with new definitions, new limitations, and new requirements.

The bill also contains provisions which are duplicative of existing authorities. These provisions could be problematic because they could lead to confusion during implementation.

Franklin and Johnson have more to say in their Op Ed:

We briefly summarize eight key elements here:

1. Undertake comprehensive ecological restoration. Rather than focus on a single goal such as fuel hazard reduction, timber production, or carbon sequestration, the bill addresses comprehensive restoration needs for both forests and watersheds.

Yes, that would be nice, but no, that’s not what Wyden’s bill will do. Wyden’s bill has definitions, but none of them pertain to “comprehensive ecological restoration.” In fact, the only mention of “restoration in the definitions addresses road decommissioning!

That’s another bait-and-switch. The bill’s sponsors use the word “restoration” to mean tearing out roads. That is not what “comprehensive ecological restoration” is.

2. Develop management guidance by plant association — an ecologically relevant way of differentiating forest sites. Plant associations integrate environmental variables; the bill utilizes plant associations as a vehicle for adapting prescriptions to individual sites.

Junk science! Plant associations are a chimera, a product of old paradigm 1920’s ecology, and not valid in the real world.

The forests of today are not mutualistic associations of interdependent plant species co-evolved over millions of years; rather they are chance combinations of competitive species filling temporary niches during a temporary break in the Ice Ages [here]. Furthermore, by deliberate intent of the long-time human residents, continuous anthropogenic burning over thousands of years created open, park-like forests, prairies, and savannas arranged across landscapes in anthropogenic mosaics (human-induced vegetation patterns) [here].

The advent of new paradigm forest science, which includes recognition of historical human influences, has thrown the old myths under the science bus. Franklin and Johnson have summarily rejected historical human influences on many occasions [here, for one], putting themselves at odds with cutting-edge ecology (and right in path of the onrushing bus).

That disturbs them no end, but rather than cop to the new findings, they seek to write junk science into legislation — to inscribe in stone, as it were, their bogus and outmoded theories.

It is sad to watch the death throws of the old paradigm. I attest that I have reached out to both Jerry and Norm for more than 15 years, to try to get them to see the light, only to be rebuffed on every occasion. I don’t mind being rebuffed, it’s old hat to me, but I do pity the fools.

3. Conserve existing old growth trees and restore old tree populations where they have been depleted. A maximum diameter limit on harvest is used to protect old growth but exceptions can be allowed to protect small old growth trees and to harvest larger young trees that compete with old growth.

There is only a rough correlation between tree size and age. Yes, trees get fatter with age, but there is no magic diameter that separates old from young trees.

Last month we cut 4-foot diameter trees on a property near here. A neighbor complained that we were cutting old growth. We said, “Come over and count the rings.” The trees were 50 to 60 years old at stump height. The house around which the trees were growing is 60 years old. The trees were planted when the house was built. They were NOT old-growth.

Old-growth trees are those which arose during the frequent anthropogenic fire era, which in Eastern Oregon began thousands of years ago and lasted until 1850 or so. That means true old-growth trees are at least 150 years old there.

This is where the new paradigm thinking has exological import. Old-growth trees in EO arose BECAUSE of anthropogenic fire. It was frequent, seasonal, deliberate Indian burning that maintained the open, park-like forests of EO. Without human intervention, dense thickets of trees would have dominated, and those would have burned catastrophically (total stand mortality) every few decades. Trees could never have grown to very old ages.

The forest development pathways that led to old-growth were human-mediated. That is the quantum leap in ecology that the new paradigm explains. The old paradigm has no explanation for the rise of open, park-like, old-growth forests.

Absent similar tending, i.e. human stewardship, old-growth will be neither conserved nor restored. We have to restore the historical forest development pathways, or old-growth will be a thing of the paleo-past.

We will not get there with diameter limits, set-asides, or anything short of true restoration forestry.

4. Prepare these forests for coming potential threats from climate change. The bill recognizes that current forest conditions can result in uncharacteristic wildfire, insect outbreaks, and disease and that these threats will worsen with climate change. Conditioning forests to be resilient in the face of increased summer temperatures and longer fire seasons is a central theme.

Climate change is a crock. The climate is not significantly different than it was at the onset of the Holocene 11,500 years ago. If anything, it is cooler now than it has been for most of the Holocene, although the 3 to 5 degree C drop in temperatures since the Climatic Optimum (6,000 to 10,000 years ago) has not really changed the climate. When the coming Ice Age glaciation becomes better established, and temperatures plunge 10 to 15 degrees C, then EO will become tundra and steppe once again. It will become too cold for conifers there, as it has been for most of the last 1.8 million years.

The bill recognizes none of that, which is not surprising since it is founded upon junk science long out-of-date.

But I give Franklin and Johnson this much: the current crisis of catastrophic fire, insect infestations, and disease epidemics is a-historically severe (they got that right), but that crisis is due to the abandonment of human stewardship, not climate change.

The goal of “conditioning forests to be resilient” would be a wise one to adopt. However, Wyden’s bill does not do that. Instead, it puts so many hurdles in front of true stewardship that the forest destruction crisis will worsen.

5. Start with historical information as a guide to restoration goals, which are modified, as needed, to reflect impacts of coming climate change. Historical forest conditions remain a useful reference for ecological restoration, even in a time of environmental change.

Good idea! If only! Unfortunately, OEFROGPJA gives short shrift to history.

The bill does mention “historical levels of within forest stand spatial heterogeneity,” “historic [sic] population levels of older trees,” “historic [sic] stand structure and composition,” and “the historical range of variability,” but all that is meaningless eco-babble without a full understanding of the actual history.

The old paradigmers are stuck on stupid when it comes to history. They are history DENIERS, denying the presence of humanity, and the ecological effects of humanity on EO landscapes, over the entire Holocene.

Human beings have lived in EO continuously for 12,000+ years. Human beings across the world have used fire to modify landscapes — for the entire existence of our species, Homo sapiens, since Adam and Eve (thought to have lived in Africa around 150,000 years ago).

Heterogeneity means nothing. It means the observers cannot detect a pattern. But there has been a design upon the landscape for thousands of years: the anthropogenic mosaic.

I don’t want to get into flinging petty insults by calling folks DENIERS, or FLAT EARTHERS, or superstition-bound DULLARDS — that’s the style of GB Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other total nincompoops. But I will point out that denying the existence and impacts of millions of human beings over ten thousand years is pretty much RACIST in my opinion, as well as discredited junk science.

So it would be a good idea to get jiggy with history. About time. Unfortunately, Wyden’s bill fails to do that.

I did make an attempt to inject the history thought into the process. Two years ago I attended a Ron Wyden Open House [here]. I brought an analysis of Jeff Bingaman’s Forest Landscape Restoration Act and handed it to a Wyden aide. A few minutes later I watched her throw it in the trash can, so Wyden never saw it. I didn’t fish it out and make her eat it — that wouldn’t have pleased anyone but me — the circus atmosphere of Libs Gone Bonkers tempered my enthusiasm about dealing with Wyden’s ilk.

A year later the Forest Landscape Restoration Act was passed by Congress (Wyden voted for it) and signed into law by Obama. My suggested improvements were not included, but the FLRA is not such a bad thing. It is nowhere near as good as it could be, and Congress has given it only token funding, but the FLRA so vastly surpasses OEFROGPJA that it isn’t funny.

What is also unfunny is that Wyden’s bill basically aborts the FLRA, before that bill has been given a chance to work.

We have emphasized forest history at W.I.S.E. We have created an entire subsite dedicated to the best scientific historical analyses: the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here].

But I doubt any of the parties engaged in the “negotiations” over OEFROGPJA have ever visited our subsite, or read the papers therein, or have a clue regarding the actual forest history of Eastern Oregon (or anywhere else for that matter).

6. Create heterogeneity at both the stand and landscape. Increasing the complexity of simplified landscapes and restoring meadows and riparian zones are critical elements of forest restoration as recognized throughout the legislation.

“Create heterogeneity” is pure BS. It has no meaning in the real world. It sounds like science, but it isn’t.

Wyden’s bill, if enacted, would create landscape homogeneity — the whole of EO forests will become a burned out moonscape.

Again, the historical geographic distribution (arrangement on the landscape) of vegetation types, and the structure within each type, have been largely the product of human stewardship over thousands of years. The prairies, savannas, copses, open forests, berry fields, etc. were anthropogenic: crafted by people with fire into the landscape and maintained where people could get the most use out of them.

The historical geographic distribution is important for a variety of reasons: heritage, tradition, utility, resiliency, sustainability, public health and safety, and other human values. “Heterogeneity” is a poor (absurd even) substitute goal for all of that.

7. Restore large areas, such as whole watersheds, in restoration projects. The bill calls for planning and undertaking needed forest and watershed treatments on large areas in an integrated fashion.

Good idea! I concur! However, that ain’t gonna happen with OEFROGPJA. Wyden’s bill fails to “integrate” professional foresters, the US Forest Service, or any voices other than the handful of radicals who pull Wyden’s strings (and their fawning Dead Tree Press).

8. Move rapidly over these forests. Given the threats to eastside forests, resource managers should move rapidly over eastside forests over the next few decades. Increasing the rate of activity is an important objective of the legislation.

No, actually OEFROGPJA (if enacted) would grind all forest treatments in EO to a screeching halt, ala the NWFP. The real “objective” of the legislation is not to increase treatments — it is to overlay a mishmash of contradictory and actionable gibberish onto an already crippled USFS forest treatment program such that megafires are the only predictable result.

As the bill moves through Congress, it is imperative to retain these principles. With such a solid scientific foundation, this legislation has the potential to be the foundation of forest restoration throughout the West.

Funny, that’s what they said about the NWFP 15 years ago, and look at what a disaster that has turned out to be!

OEFROGPJA is more monkey wrenching. It was written by and is supported by monkey wrenchers — folks who [are closely associated with those who] get their jollies from throwing jugs of gasoline into school buildings to “Up the Revolution.”

It was not written by foresters or other people who know and care about forests.

OEFROGPJA is an unmitigated rudeness, a bait-and-switch attempt to incinerate half a state. The pain, suffering, and destruction to be inflicted by Wyden and his cadre of revolutionaries is wholly undesirable. That dog won’t hunt.

3 Jan 2010, 4:31pm
by John M.

In my opinion, this latest legislative effort is intended to tighten the screws on science-based forest management to further the ultimate goal of stopping commercial harvest operations on public forest lands, allowing these vital lands to degenerate into vast areas without forests.

Neither is there reference to the reasons the national forests were created (sustainable supply of renewable forest natural resources), nor how this legislation proposes to interact with other pieces of exiting forest management legislation.

I am surprised that county governments in eastern Oregon are not screaming their heads off at the potential negative impacts on the land this proposal will have if it is passed.

It just boggles a person’s mind to see the same old, same old continue to show up in federal legislative proposals from Oregon.

3 Jan 2010, 6:38pm
by Bob Z.

I am in agreement with John M. on this. Wyden has no business continuing to write this type of legislation on “behalf” of Oregon taxpayers — particularly those who live and work in eastern Oregon. John Shelk’s motives in supporting this work must be suspect.

Where are the eastern Oregon County Commissioners? Why hasn’t Walden spoken up? Andy Kerr? Are these people serious?

Let’s put an end to 2009 once and for all and try and remember why the federal forests and land grant universities were created in the first place. It is past time we began practicing “applied science” in our universities and public lands again.



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