Battling Over the Forest Restoration Meme

When does “forest restoration” mean “abandonment to catastrophic destruction”? Answer: in the “Green Budget 2011″ proposal.

A coalition of quangos (quasi-governmental non-governmental organizations) is playing games with words. They want the word “restoration” to mean the opposite of what it actually means, prompting a battle over the meme.

The “Green Budget 2011″ [here] was prepared by 34 “environmental” lobbying groups including perennial litigation-happy bullies such as Defenders Of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund. Note that these same groups are the big pigs at the EAJA trough, raking in $billions from the government to sue the government in order to sabotage restoration programs [here].

The Green Budget 2011 defines “restoration” this way:

Restoration management should be viewed as a way to recover the natural processes, structure, composition and function of a healthy forest ecosystem; it is an intentional effort to restore land, air, and water degraded by human activities to a more natural state, enhancing our forests’ ability to adapt and be resilient to disturbances and change. This is a separate and distinct vision from traditional logging or hazardous fuels reduction; while these activities may have a place on national forests, the goals and objectives are not necessarily consistent with ecosystem restoration, and the terms should not be used interchangeably.

In other words, to the quangos “restoration” means No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot.

In actuality, real forest restoration means active management to bring back historical cultural landscapes, historical forest development pathways, and traditional ecological stewardship to achieve historical resiliency to fire and insects and to preclude and prevent a-historical catastrophic fires that decimate and destroy myriad resource values.

History is an important part of the concept of forest restoration. To restore something means to take it back to its previous condition [here].

re·store[ ri stáwr ]TRANSITIVE VERB
1. give something back: to return something to its proper owner or place
2. return something to previous condition: to bring something back to an earlier and better condition - “techniques used to restore old oil paintings”
3. energize somebody: to give somebody new strength or vigor - “I felt restored after my weekend away.”
4. return somebody to previous position: to return somebody to a previously held rank, office, or position - “restore the ousted governor to his office”
5. put something back: to reestablish or put back something that was once but is no longer there
“restore order in the capital”
[ 13th century. Via French < Latin restaurare "set upright again" ]

In the case of forests, the previous condition was open and park-like, widely spaced trees, arrayed in an anthropogenic mosaic of prairies, savannas, fields, and woodlands and maintained by anthropogenic fire. The previous condition was NOT wilderness but was modified from “natural” by extensive human influences.

The benefits of real forest restoration [here] include the protection, maintenance, and perpetuation of:

* Heritage and history

* Ecological functions including old-growth development

* Fire resiliency and the reduction of catastrophic fires

* Watershed functions

* Wildlife habitat

* Public health and safety

* Biomass energy production

* Carbon sequestration

* Jobs and rural economic development

Advancements in ecology (which is a historical science) over the last 25 years have found strong evidence that human beings have striven to achieve exactly those listed goals over the last 10,000 years or more. Native American indigenous peoples were eminently capable of altering landscapes for their benefit, the same benefits we seek today from those same landscapes (with the exception of carbon sequestration, which meant nothing to the First Residents and frankly ought to mean nothing to us today either, global warming being a hoax and all).

The quangos deny the existence of humanity in North America prior to European invasion and conquest. They deny historical human influences. They even deny the Ice Ages. Instead the quangos envision a forest past with a Disney-like quality, absent any human influences, and in delicate balance for millions of years.

It’s poppycock, a-historical, and a-scientific, but the quangos don’t care. They even deny that there is such a thing as catastrophic fires [here]. The quangos want our priceless heritage forests burned to the ground. Eco-terrorism is eco-terrorism, and arson has always been a part of that. The joy of burning whole regions into moonscape wastelands runs deep in the quango mindset.

Hence the rush to revise and redefine “restoration” as “beneficial” natural disaster. The real meaning of “restoration” grates their arses. The quangos want you to think blackened, burned, dead forests are beautiful. They don’t want green forests, so they have even redefined the color green to mean the color of charcoal.

It’s a meme war. A meme, for those who have not been fully postmodernized, is a concept or idea that spreads through the culture like a virus [here]. The quangos are attempting to infect the culture with a redefinition of the word “restoration”. Their mission is very Orwellian, but also as inept as thumbless carpenter.

People are not that stupid. We don’t suddenly reject the old meanings of words and adopt new meanings just because quango lobbyists want us to. Congress may be susceptible to that kind of thing, but the greater culture is not so easily manipulated.

Armor up, restoration advocates. The quangos are on the march, and our forests and our language are their targets.

7 Feb 2010, 3:49pm
by Larry H.

They also would very much like to make “native forests” an issue, as well. Of course, you Oregonians know all about this concept the hippies love so much. How ironic that the term could be so wrong. Is “anthropogenically-unbalanced forest” a better term for what they want?

7 Feb 2010, 3:59pm
by Bob Zybach

Here is the comment I posted on the Matt Koehler piece at New West:

I have a PhD in the scientific study of catastrophic wildfires. I do not find it odd at all that Hanson failed to cite my work, although I am a recognized expert on that particular topic. Virtually all of his citations are cherry-picked to match his anti-logging thesis and to conform to his personally-worded and self-selected “myths.” My research contradicts his agenda, so it is disregarded. Simple; but not very scientific.

This is not science. This is an agenda dressed up to look like science; very much like the IPCC report referenced by an earlier poster. I didn’t bother to look to see if Hanson cited the WWF in this work, but it would not surprise me if he did.

For the record, Hanson invented his definition of “catastrophic wildfire” in order to more readily discount it. It was the same method he used to select and describe his myths in order to deliver his anti-logging agenda message.

The scientific definition of catastrophic forest wildfire (which is developed in greater detail in my dissertation on the topic) is: “a wildfire encompassing more than 100,000 acres of contiguous forestland in a single event” (Zybach 2004: 7, 193). Most of the historical “evidence” that Hanson provides in support of his thesis is either erroneous or misleading (much like the definition of catastrophic wildfire he invents and then discounts) — although his extensive use of Leiberg was interesting.

In sum, Hanson’s work is just more politicized pseudo-science with an agenda; with great photos and formatting.

8 Feb 2010, 10:26am
by bear bait

Ideology is a tough war to fight. The United States is about bad ideas with a large base of popular support. The assumption that this country is about thoughtful thinking and advancement of the moral high ground is pretty much bunk.

The real question is how to get there from here. How to get aboriginal set fire into the stream of common knowledge. Until that time, until that happens, we are pissing into the wind of monetary largess to a now entitled population of environmental defenders whose goal is to raise money.

Lots of money. The Green movement is no longer constrained to diapers. It is now a segment of society identified with the moral high ground and Edenic goals. If they have identified the need to ignore and demean the historical fire regimes that brought them their “old growth” or “natural” forests, and the attendant other types of vegetative colonies and land form types contained in a forest.

What is really going on is a perceived threat to get into their pocketbook. The wallet in the vest pocket. The treasure of their view of the world. The fight is now about money, and the NGO access to lots of it. When you have a huge, tax forgiven, wildly profitable industry, financed entirely by government, by tax avoidance, by dupes looking to assuage consciences, there will be great hurdles to leap to have any outcome that will provide for “restoration” of the past forest regimes.

The post European forest of single savanna type short and wide trees, having been replaced with the crowded stands of post 1500 AD timber, having lost the fire setters to disease and genocide, is what is revered, desired, and worshiped in today’s world. The NGOs of “conservation,” “wildlife,” and “ecosystem protection,” are no more than worshiper at the altar of a planned and accomplished genocide of the New World aboriginals, and the denial of the pre-genocidal vegetation regimes. Those are now absent the aboriginals who maintained them by set fire.

The forest that was open, with survival food at ground level and game in abundance to meet human food and security needs, is for the most part long gone. In its place are post genocide US forests that are crowded and mostly useless to the human survival. We bemoan the loss of tropical rainforests, all the while buying the goods resulting from their ruin. And evidently, with good conscience and perhaps a check to just make us feel better. Now the issue of the justification of the genocidal ways of our ancestors is to embrace global climate change and incineration of our forests because that is “natural”, as if natural is good for you. Shitting on the floor is natural. That it is good for anyone is questionable.

9 Feb 2010, 2:46pm
by Larry H.

I see that our old friend Wuerthner is back in action, propping up Hanson’s “paper” message — that dying, burning, and rotting forests are “natural and beneficial” and that active management should be minimized. In reading George W’s lengthy piece, I definitely noticed that he’s been doing some homework. What he covered, he covered quite well. What he left out, though, was quite significant. It has been fun, over there at New West, showing the contrast between preservationists and us ecological realists. Knowledgeable commenters have erected a wall of forest facts that is showing no cracks.



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