The Grandeur of the WFU

by bear bait

The legal situation in the US concerning WFU fire and the Feds is this: they don’t have any financial responsibility for the fire when it leaves Federal Land, unless they are in an agreement with the other public and private land firefighting entities to assist in a cooperative agreement.

On the other hand, the US Attorney General has three teams of US Attorneys, one in Sacramento, one in LA, and one in SLC, whose sole job is to litigate and secure damages when fire from other than Federal origins damage the Federal Estate. They can sue you for your fire and its damages to Federal land and assets, but you can’t sue them if their fire crosses onto your property and damages your land and assets. In two cases [here] that have gone to trial, Pacific Gas and Electric paid $14.75 million due to a right-of-way ponderosa pine that fell across power lines, starting a fire during a wind event. The issue was that PGE was negligent in not removing a tree that was damaged or rotten. I do imagine that a phalanx of utility attorneys have given instructions to lay waste to any possible vegetation that might fall across a power line.

The other case involved the Union Pacific RR, and the judgment against them was for $102 million, due to a broken rail repair fix that resulted in sparks into duff in the right-of-way and the confusion of who did what to suppress the fire and how. You have to know that five barely literate railgang crewmen are not the best witnesses, and they were led into various traps by the Ivy League US Attorney swells, who used their language skills and reasoning skills to baffle, confuse, and demean the blue collar workers. Poofs from law school dazzling a judge. Whoopee. It was established that the fire fighting effort was not that of Hot Shots, and therefore the Railroad was liable. So they ended up paying 102 million bucks for damage to trees that would never be logged, ever, due to specific area protections, but the trespass by fire garnered double stumpage. And then there were estimates of wildlife damage, and habitat damage, and watershed damage (in the Feather River, a river that sends zero water to the ocean, all of it claimed for irrigation and potable water use, and dammed to keep salmon out of it almost in the river’s entirety), and the best one of all “loss of the grandeur of the landscape.”

So if “loss of the grandeur of the landscape” is a compensable damage, where in the hell is it in the WFU, “fire for resource use” handbooks? Where is the NEPA document that so states that wildland fire can result in “loss of grandeur of the landscape?”

I would like the ODF to mention to the Feds that they have the right as a State to petition the Feds to control their freaking fires, and keep them off the non-Federal lands, as we are losing the “grandeur of our landscape” along with other compensable damages as are now recognized in Federal case law by precedent of trial results and judicial opinions.

The tyranny of the Federal Court is upon us, and the irresponsible actions of Federal land managers need to be addressed. If the US Military is not permitted to wage war on its own people, how is it that the Federal land managers can loose fire on the private estate without penalty or Congressional oversight???

The flaming liberals that Oregon elects to Congress need to answer these questions on the campaign trail, and since all but two have been there for a decade or longer, it isn’t like this is something new. This is something blue, and the blue state reps and senators need to go to the firelines and have their feet held to the very same fires.

When Tom Brokaw was still a news anchor, and I believe it was the Derby Fire that threatened his Montana ranch and hideaway, there was no end to the resources the Feds put forth to make damned sure his ranch was not consumed as were so many others. The Derby was a WFU that blew up, and was in “dangerous” terrain (are they not all?), and it was not worth the risk or time and effort to contain in the wilderness, so there was little effort until it was a full fledged fire front. But no public complaints were ever aired on the evening news because the effort to contain it was right where it was supposed to be: at the doorstep of the leading US news anchor.

It is not a world of equality. Never was, never will be. But at the least we can implore the ODF Board to flex some muscle and talk tough to the USFS about the WFU deal, and the impacts on Oregon private resources, for after all, fire protection is paid for by a property tax assessment in most cases. If you don’t have a protection agreement with the state, your fire does not get fought. By ODF or the Feds.

The other question should be, of course, is why does a private person have to insure or pay to protect himself from fire from the Federal estate? Aid to Haiti? Sure. Aid to Iraq? Sure. Aid to New Orleans? Sure. But have the conflagration from the Feds run over your land, where is the aid? Ha ha ha ha……

19 Jan 2010, 11:34am
by Mike

Thank you, bear, for your fine essay.

I don’t think people understand that the Feds, in the agency of the US Forest Service, deliberately either sit on their fat cans, or worse, stoke the flames while forest fires are exploding off unkempt Fed land onto private property owned by private citizens, who are kept at bay from defending their own properties by armed constabulary.

Then when the smoke clears, the burned-out private citizen has zilch, zero, nada recourse to recover the damages inflicted upon him or her by the big bully USFS. The one exception is by Congressional act of recompense, which never happens because our Congress is too busy looting the Treasury to care about the victims of Fed fires, even within their own districts, and to whom they routinely give the Federal Finger.

The garish grandeur of the grandees is enough to make you vomit, but those same poohbahs keep getting reelected and keep on shoving their upraised middle fingers at the citizens they deliberately, with malice aforethought, demolish and destroy.

The ODF is having palpitations because they KNOW that the USFS has plans to inflict holocaust on state protected lands, and that the USFS has and will implement those plans, and that the ODF will not be recompensed (either) for fire suppression actions that it is the ODF’s statutory mandate to undertake.

The new game is “you order you pay” which means any fire suppression action taken by ODF (or CalFire, or any state fire agency) is on the state’s dime. The Feds create the hazard, sing la la la while the fire is burning on their lands, and then take a giant hike when the fire jumps onto state-protected private lands.

If the majority of voters, or even a significant minority, understood how the system currently “works” vis Federal fires, then no incumbent to any office, Federal or state, would ever be reelected.

19 Jan 2010, 4:15pm
by John M.

Beautiful! But I am afraid neither of you understand that these fires are for “resource benefits,” whatever that means. Maybe it means our grandchildren will have vast “wildernesses” of brush to stare at from their concrete and steel houses. Maybe it means the lack of healthy watersheds has finally limited population and economic growth. Maybe it means nothing more than the latest fad in land management, but more likely it means the public lands are no longer managed for current or future generations, but for ideological dreamers.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta