The Tumblebug Fire

On September 12, 2010, two lightning-ignited fires were reported to be burning in Tumblebug Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. Three weeks later 14,570 acres had burned, including ~5,000 acres of old-growth spotted owl forests, and $100 million in timber had been destroyed. The real tragedy, however, is that the Tumblebug Fire is a harbinger of larger, more severe, and more damaging fires to come.

How this fire happened, and why it is a prelude to even greater disaster, is the subject of this essay.

The 1.7 million acre Willamette National Forest [here] extends from the Calapooia Divide in Douglas County, Oregon, to the Santiam Divide in Marion County. It encompasses the headwaters of following major watersheds: the Middle and North Forks of the Willamette River, the McKenzie River, and the North and South Forks of the Santiam River. East to west the Willamette NF begins at the crest of the Oregon Cascades and slopes westward to the foothills of the Willamette Valley.

Situated as it is on the west side of the Cascades, the Willamette NF is one of the most productive forests in the world. Temperate climate, abundant rainfall, and rich volcanic soils engender forests that are capable of growing nearly a billion (with a “b”) board feet per year.

In 2009 28 million board feet (MMBF) were harvested, less than 3% of the annual growth. In prior years the harvest was:

2008 _ 30.6 MMBF
2007 _ 29.6
2006 _ 49.8
2005 _ 71.1
2004 _ 59.9
2003 _ 20.5
2002 _ 20.2
2001 _ 18.8

Source: Region 6 Cut and Sold Reports and Volume Under Contract [here]

In no year in the past decade has more than 7.1% of annual growth been harvested. Yet the forests have continued to grow, not only the trees but also the brush, and the biomass has built up.

Biomass is fuel — the accumulated growth is accumulated fuel that will burn. The more fuel, the hotter and more intense the fires.

The Willamette NF is primed to burn in a forest fire larger and more intense than any in state history.

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16 Mar 2010, 10:03pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin
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D-bug Hazard Reduction and Timber Sale Project DEIS Comments Requested

Notice of Informational Public Meeting, Umpqua NF, posted March 4, 2010 [here]

It has been nearly a year since the Forest sent out the D-Bug Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public comment and review. Since then changes in regional and national policy have kept the project in a state of flux, and the Forest has been evaluating and responding to these policy changes along with the public comments received on the Draft EIS.

The Forest would like to re-engage with the public to share information on the current status of the D-Bug project and allow an opportunity for comment and dialogue on an implementable path forward for this important fuels reduction project.

To facilitate this information sharing and discussion, a facilitated public meeting is planned for:

Friday, March 19, 2010
1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Douglas County Library
Ford Community Meeting Room
1409 NE Diamond Lake Blvd

Note: Extending Comment Period to Monday June 8, 2009

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The Great Montana Land Swindle, Phase II

To put the following USFS Press Release in context, also see:

The Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008 [here]

The Montana Legacy Project: Worth the Price? [here]

The Great Montana Land Swindle Sleazes On [here]

Montana Legacy Project Phase II Conserves [formerly] Working Forests

NEWS RELEASE: USDA Forest Service — Northern Region. March 15, 2010 [here]

Missoula, MT. – The Lolo and Flathead National Forests are assuming management of approximately 112,000 acres of former Plum Creek Timber Company lands purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) as Phase II of the Montana Legacy Project comes to a close today with the official transfer of ownership to the Forest Service.

“It’s such an honor to witness the addition of over a hundred thousand acres of occupied lynx, grizzly bear, and bull trout habitat brought under the umbrella of public land management,” said Northern Regional Forester Leslie Weldon. “There is significant wetland habitat and a great diversity of plant species on these lands. Acquiring these parcels allows us to restore whole landscapes, assist wildlife in adapting to climate change by reducing habitat fragmentation and conserving water flows as these [formerly] working forests are placed in permanent public ownership.” … [more]

Prescribed Burning and Assuming Responsibility

Note: the author is a registered professional consulting forester (#475) in South Carolina and principal of Carolina Forest Stewards, Inc. headquartered in Georgetown, SC.

by Travis C. Cork, III

Last Tuesday I finished burning one of my client’s quail havens. The area is divided into 6 blocks, and weather permitting, I burn 3 blocks (2,4,6) one year and three the next (1,3,5). In last 25 years, I have burned this property 10-12 times. Pictures are attached. In confirmation of findings of research at Santee Experimental Forest in Francis Marion National Forest, you can see the damned sweet gum is still there. Unfortunately, so is Smilax sp. and Rubus.

Before and after prescribed burning in a South Carolina loblolly pine plantation. Photos by Travis C. Cork, III.

It would be hard to find a safer place to burn. Fuel loads are low. The only hazard is smoke, and the property is isolated enough for that concern to be minimal. Besides, I started fire about 11:30 and was finished by 3:00. By dark there was no smoke to puddle if we had a temperature inversion.

Yet, I still get nervous before I set the fire. For those who burn under the umbrella of having the taxpayer cover your liability, imagine setting a fire with the knowledge that if you screw up, that it can cost you everything you own. I have liability insurance, but in today’s litigious society, it may not be enough.

South Carolina legislature is considering a law to protect foresters from liability if they screw up on a fire “unless they were grossly negligent.” I am opposed to this. I think that it is good to be nervous before setting a fire. Part of being good at prescribed burning is understanding that things sometimes change quickly, or understanding that the wind forecast may be flawed.

Not surprisingly, one of experts testifying for this law was from The Nature Conservancy. He was quoted as saying “[O]ur primary tool for managing our lands is prescribed fires. If we don’t burn when we choose, then it’s going to burn when it wants to burn.”

This statement is crap. To start with, no forest burns “when it wants to burn.” Forests are not capable of purposeful action. Excepting the rare lightning strike (here in the Southeast), they burn when someone sets them. For example, the recent catastrophic fire at Myrtle Beach started because someone set it. It spread because government firefighters failed to put it out. Had they done their job thoroughly, the fire would have been nothing but a small trash fire.

Prescribed burning may be a primary tool for TNC as they do not like intensive forestry, but it certainly is not a primary tool for NIPF’s [non-industrial private forestlands]. That TNC wants to be shielded from liability is understandable as it has preserve type properties (Sandy Island and Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach) that it wants burned. If their fires smoke up the homes on Pawleys Island, so what. The “ecosystem” is more important than the people.

The reality is that prescribed burning is going to have less and less application as a forest management tool, primarily because of smoke issues. Public and quasi-public (TNC) foresters may ignore that, but private sector foresters are not. Responsibility for screw-ups is a good thing. Being able to socialize individual liability creates a moral hazard and makes it more likely there will be a catastrophic screw-up, not less.

Another dumb idea by a forestry profession hopelessly wedded to the State.

A Short History of the WFLC

Questions have arisen regarding my Open Letter to Open Letter to Ken Salazar Re WFLC [here]. By way of clarification, I have prepared the following.

Note: this essay refers to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, not the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition, which shares the same initials but is an entirely different organization.

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) was established in April 2002 by the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to provide an intergovernmental committee to support the implementation and coordination of Federal Fire Management Policy. [here]

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) was established in April 2002 to implement and coordinate the National Fire Plan, the Ten-Year Strategy (a component of the National Fire Plan) and the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. WFLC consists of senior level department officials, federal, state, tribal and county representatives, including all five federal wildland firefighting agency heads. WFLC was established to address interagency, interdepartmental differences to ensure seamless delivery of a coordinated fire protection program. The Council brings together wildland firefighting organizations to implement the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan. WFLC meets regularly to monitor progress of the Ten-Year Strategy, to discuss current issues, and to resolve differences among wildland firefighting agencies.

Authority. The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are authorized to enter into cooperative agreements by the Protection Act of 1922 (42 Stat 857; 16 U.S.C. 594) and the Public Land Administration Act of 1960 (74 Stat 506; 43 U.S.C. 1361-1364).

In addition, the Secretaries entered into a Memorandum of Understanding dated January 28, 1943, and February 21, 1963, to provide adequate wildfire management and protection to the lands under their respective jurisdictions. State representation is authorized by the Clarke-McNary Act of June 7, 1924, Sec. 1 (43 Stat 653, 16 U.S.C. 564). [here]

In Fall of 2006 it came to my attention that lobbying groups, specifically the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Wilderness Society (TWS), were participating in WFLC meetings. I made an inquiry to the Committee Management Secretariat (CMS) of the GSA which oversees the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). They informed me that the incorporation of registered lobbyists on Federal Advisory Committees was a “gray area” of the law, and that I could file a lawsuit if I so desired.

I consulted with my attorney and he asked me how much money I had. That killed that idea.

In the meantime the WFLC received some sort of communication from the CMS regarding my inquiry, and in early 2007 they asked Federal attorneys to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding that would declare them NOT to be a Federal Advisory Group and to allow registered lobbyists to continue to participate. From the WFLC minutes of February 22, 2007 [here]:


* Request Secretaries to extend MOU
* Revise MOU language for NGO participation consistent with WFLC goals. WFLC should not become a Federal Advisory Committee. Consider addition of a fire chief’s representative as WFLC member, in a manner consistent with FACA. Confer with legal counsel. Draft business rules for review.
* Circulate draft, convene conference call to discuss. (WFLC Staff)
* New MOU at June meeting

TNC and other NGOs will assist with communication plan for wildland fire use as part of TYIP Goal 3, Task 2.

On April 3, 2007 I reported all this at SOS Forests [here]. As a direct result, on April 5, 2007 the WFLC removed the Feb. 22 minutes and their entire directory at, a URL that no longer exists.

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11 Mar 2010, 3:34pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Wilderness Recognized As Fire Hazard

Well, what do you know? It turns out that some other folks (beside us) have recognized that wilderness designation does not “protect” resources; instead it endangers them.

Forest Service assesses effects of Wilderness on firefighting

Opinions differ among feds, firefighters and Wilderness advocates

Scott Condon, The Aspen Times, Thursday, March 11, 2010 [here]

BASALT — Turning Basalt Mountain into Wilderness wouldn’t prohibit firefighting there but it would eliminate opportunities to reduce dead trees and fuels that have built up for decades, the top official in the White River National Forest said Wednesday. …

Basalt firefighters and Wilderness activists disagreed with parts of the assessment made by Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, showing how difficult it is to sort through some implications of the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign.

Fitzwilliams said the Forest Service assesses and makes an appropriate response to every fire in the national forest, regardless of whether or not it is in Wilderness.

In a location like Basalt Mountain, the decision to fight a fire will be made most of the time, Fitzwilliams said. “Whether that’s Wilderness or not, the response is probably going to be the same,” he said.

Whenever a fire poses a threat to the town of Basalt or homes in Missouri Heights, the decision would be made to fight the fire, he said. Fires in Wilderness areas are allowed to burn when they don’t pose a threat to lives, houses or infrastructure.

Fitzwilliams conceded that federal land managers are responsible for leaving Wilderness “pretty much as it is.” Using heavy equipment to gouge a fire break in the earth, for example, might require an extra call for clearance, he said.

That’s why the Basalt Fire Department is concerned. Fire Chief Scott Thompson said that, with all due respect to the Forest Service, the written rules and the application of rules aren’t always the same. Written rules that appear to provide flexibility can actually provide an extra hurdle.

The fire department typically handles the first response to wildfires on Basalt Mountain. Requiring an extra step of approval to fight a fire in a Wilderness area might take “hours or days,” Thompson said.

He said his assessment comes from practical, in the field experience in dealing with the Forest Service on Wilderness issues for 15 years as a former Pitkin County deputy sheriff and for 10 years as the fire chief. That experience indicates it won’t always be a speedy process to get approval to fight a fire in Wilderness. And that, he said, could result in a catastrophic fire for the homeowners of Basalt.

Here we have an experienced Forest Service person, White River NF Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, admitting that wilderness fires do not (cannot) receive the same aggressive rapid response that non-wilderness fires do. Mr. Fitzwilliams also notes that fuel build-up in wilderness areas cannot be dealt with under current laws. And he warns that fires in wilderness area can (and do) propagate beyond wilderness boundaries and subsequently endanger communities.

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Climate Change, Bioenergy and Sustaining Forests of Idaho and Montana

Thoughts and comments by Ned Pence
March 3 and 4, 2010
Boise, Idaho

The following are my thoughts and comments on a recent conference sponsored by the Society of American Foresters and the University of Idaho’s College of Natural Resource. Others involved were the Forest Service, the BLM, the Intermountain Forest Association, Idaho Conservation League, the Wilderness Society, Idaho Department of Lands, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy. The Snake River Chapter of SAF deserves credit for the hard work that went into the conference. A similar convention was held in Missoula last fall.

I attended the conference seeking information on the possibility of a bioenergy industry utilizing forest fuels with the possibility of sustaining forests in the inland empire. Attendance at the conference were a mix of foresters, environmentalists, and persons involved in attempts at collaboration between the federal agencies, public, forest industry and environmentalists in an attempt to find a solution to the current gridlock of forest management on federal lands.

The stated purpose was, “This conference will help people connect with global-scale issues regarding climate change, renewable energy, and carbon emissions on forests in Idaho and Montana. Discussions centered on strategies for sustaining our forests and the services people expect from them.”

Sponsors recognized the “sustainability premise” identified as “the current and future conditions of our forests determines their ability to contribute to our society’s energy security, climate change mitigation, and resilience goals.” It was recognized that the current forested conditions put the forests at risk of stand-replacing wildfire and insect and disease outbreaks. A key statement of the conference was that forest management actions must be ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially desirable to be sustainable. It is felt by conference organizers that forest managers can take action to meet “sustainability” only by obtaining a “social license” through collaboration. A few collaborative efforts are currently underway in Washington, Idaho, and Montana and the conference had sessions to discuss what has worked well and not so well.

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Open Letter to Ken Salazar Re WFLC

Letter in pdf format may be downloaded [here]

To: The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Re: Reconvening the Wildland Fire Leadership Council

Dear Secretary Salazar,

In a letter to western governors dated February 19, 2010, you indicated your desire to reconvene the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC). You also stated in that letter that you are committed working closely with “key stakeholders at all levels” to address wildfire issues.

Please be advised that the prior manifestation of the WFLC did not work with stakeholders but instead was a closed door, exclusionary, non-transparent Federal advisory group that violated various laws with impunity. The laws repeatedly violated by the WFLC include the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The WFLC excluded the public and the press from their meetings. They did however seat deep-pocket lobby groups including the Nature Conservancy and the Wilderness Society. Federal funds were passed to these lobby groups through the WFLC. The lobby groups also provide a “revolving door” of high-paying positions to former government employees formerly seated on the WFLC.

During closed door meetings in 2008 the WFLC directed the five Federal land management agencies under their purview to adopt Appropriate Management Response (AMR) and Wildland Fire Use (WFU). The agencies did so without implementing any NEPA process, without public comment or review, and in violation of the laws listed above.

As a result, numerous wildfires were allowed to burn without aggressive suppression actions. Tremendous destruction and degradation of natural resource values occurred. Some examples:

* South Barker WFU Fire (2008, Sawtooth NF, 38,583 acres) – The South Barker WFU Fire escaped and burned 38,583 acres. The fire eventually cost over $7 million to suppress. It incinerated miles of riparian zones, stripped erodable hillsides of vegetation, and destroyed forest plantations that had been carefully tended for 50 years.

* Gunbarrel WFU Fire (2008, Shoshone NF, 67,141 acres ) – The Gunbarrel WFU Fire was allowed to burn until it blew up. The fire eventually cost over $11 million to suppress. An estimated 420 residences, 11 commercial buildings, and 149 outbuildings were threatened and 7 buildings destroyed. The highway leading to Yellowstone Park was closed, and numerous residents were evacuated. During the fire USFS officials proudly declared that the MMA (Maximum Manageable Area, or desired incineration zone) was 417,000 acres (652 sq miles) and included public and private properties north and south of Highway 14.

* East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire (2008, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, 54,549 acres) – The ESRR WFU Fire was allowed to burn unchecked until it blew up and threatened the community of Murphy Hot Springs, ID, as well as numerous rural ranches and farms. The fire eventually cost over $9 million to suppress. Riparian zones adjacent to stream habitat for endangered bull trout were incinerated.

* Mill Flat WFU Fire (2009, Dixie NF, 12,607 acres) – The Mill Flat WFU Fire was monitored until it blew up. The fire roared into New Harmony, Utah, forced the evacuation of 170 New Harmony residents, destroyed three homes and damaged eight buildings. The fire eventually cost over $6.5 million to suppress.

* Iron Complex AMR Fire (2008) – Including this fire, 650,000 acres were incinerated in Northern California on the Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers, and Klamath National Forests. The fires were allowed to burn vast tracts for three months in implementation of “Appropriate Management Response.” Building firelines miles away from the fires and backburning hundreds of thousands of acres of private and public land alike, including habitat for two endangered species, Salmon and Spotted Owl, were deemed “appropriate.” Despite the indirect firefighting techniques, ostensibly intended to save money and protect firefighters, over $400 million was spent on suppression and 12 firefighters were killed.

* Basin/Indians AMR Fire (2008) – 244,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest and private lands were incinerated in 3rd largest fire in California history. Despite indirect AMR methods, more than $120,000,000 was spent on fire suppression, making the Basin/Indians AMR Fire the most expensive fire in California history, and the 2nd most expensive in U.S. history (the Biscuit Fire in Oregon in 2002 cost $150,000,000). In addition, 26 private residences were destroyed.

Numerous other disastrous AMR and WFU fires could be cited. The suppression costs noted above do not begin to account for the cost-plus-loss damages inflicted, which were 10 to 30 times the nominal suppression expenses. Nor do they express the tragic loss of human life.

Both Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and US Forest Service Chief Tidwell have recognized (in public speeches) that an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires are plaguing the Nation, and that a collaborative management approach to restoration and conservation are needed.

The secretive and non-collaborative WFLC has been the cause, not a source of solutions, of our ongoing forest fire crisis.

The Obama Administration has promised transparency, accountability, and tougher restrictions on lobbyists. In his 2009 State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Let me say it as simply as I can – transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

The WFLC in its prior manifestation violated transparency and the rule of law with disastrous consequences.

Please be advised that if you reconvene the WFLC under the previous format and model, you will be doing a great disservice to America.


Mike Dubrasich
Executive Director, the Western Institute for Study of the Environment

cc: Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack
Chief of the US Forest Service Tom Tidwell
Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis
Governor Brian Schweitzer, Chairman, Western Governors Assoc.
Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter, Vice Chairman, Western Governors Assoc.
Ann M. Walker, Forest & Rangeland Health Program Director - WGA
NM State Forester Arthur Blazer, Chair, Western Forestry Leadership Coalition
AK State Forester Chris Maisch, Chair-Elect, Western Forestry Leadership Coalition
Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04)
Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)
Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (WY)
Congressman Wally Herger (CA-02)
Congressman Denny Rehberg (MT)
Congressman Norm Dicks (WA-06)
Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, (AZ-07)
Congressman Peter A. DeFazio, (OR-04)
Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, (SD)
Senator Ron Wyden (OR)
Senator Maria Cantwell (WA)
Senator John Barrasso (WY)
Senator James E. Risch (ID)
Senator Robert Bennett (UT)

3 Mar 2010, 12:01pm
by admin

Searching This Site

A commenter requested that he would like to see some posts about anthropogenic fire regimes in the Pacific Northwest.

By my count there have been 40 posts about anthropogenic fire in Oregon, and over 100 on anthropogenic fire in general.

Also, at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes, we have posted at least 25 scientific papers on the topic.

There is a method to help you search this site and all the sub-sites at W.I.S.E. for topics of interest to you. That method is to use the Search Applet in the upper right hand corner of every page. To use the Search Applet, follow these simple rules:

1. First, go to the root home of the sub-site you wish to search. You can do that by clicking on the large type, bold header at the top of the page.

On this sub-site, the large type, bold header is “SOS Forests“. Click on that. To insure that you are at the root home, check the URL. It should say:

2. Type your search words into the little box that says “search”.

The word “search” will disappear. Your search terms will replace it.

3. Push *Enter*. That is, tap the *Enter* key on your keyboard.

You should see a new URL that will look something like this:

Notice that your search terms will appear in the URL. That is the way to check and see if you completed all the above instructions correctly.

4. All the posts that contain your search terms will appear. It happens very quickly, so you might not notice it at first. But scroll down the page and you will see all the posts that contain your search terms.

5. If your search returned more than 15 posts, at the bottom of the page you will see a hot link that says “Next Page ->“. Click on that. Another page will appear with a URL that looks something like:

Notice that “page/2″ in there? That tells you that you have found the second set of 15 posts containing your search terms.

Scroll to the bottom again. If you see the hot link that says “Next Page ->” again, that tells you that more than 30 posts meet your criteria. You can click on the hotlink again and see the third set of 15 posts. And so on. If there is no “Next Page ->” hot link at the bottom of the page, you have reached the end and found all the posts with your search terms.

6. To perform a new search (you may wish to try some other search words, for instance), be sure to click on the large type, bold header first. That will take you back to the root home. If you don’t do that, you may inadvertently search within your old search results.

7. All the sub-sites at W.I.S.E. are their own, stand alone databases. You cannot search multiple sub-sites from one location.

8. However, you may perform an author search at the W.I.S.E. Library by going to that subsite and typing the author’s name into the search applet. All the authors of papers posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquia are listed at the Library.

Important: the Library lists the Colloquia posts, not the Commentary posts. To find authors at the Commentary sub-sites, you must visit the appropriate Commentary sub-site and do your search there.

The Library may be accessed by clicking on the hotlink that says “Library” in the upper lefthand corner of every page.

Any questions?

1 Mar 2010, 5:33pm
Forestry education
by admin
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The Royal Statistical Society on Data Disclosure

The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) [here] is one of the oldest continuously operating scientific societies in the world. Originally founded in 1834 as the Statistical Society of London, the RSS is now an international society of impeccable distinction.

The RSS has submitted a memorandum to Parliament regarding the inquiry into the controversy known as Climategate. The statement has much wider application than that, however. It deals with scientific integrity and the disclosure of data and analyses in all scientific disciplines.

The position of the RSS regarding public dissemination of scientific data is that where the results of scientific analyses have been published or are otherwise in the public domain, the raw data, and associated meta-data, used for these analyses should, within reason, also be made available.

Preservation of confidentiality is necessary in only a limited set of cases: where privacy, security, and commercial propriety may be compromised. Otherwise, in government-funded science all data and models used to derive findings should be made publicly available.

[T]he basic case for publication of data includes that science progresses as an ongoing debate and not by a series of authoritative and oracular pronouncements and that the quality of that debate is best served by ensuring that all parties have access to the facts. … The best guarantor of scientific quality is that others are able to examine in detail the arguments that have been used and not just their published conclusions. It is important that experiments and calculations can be repeated to verify their conclusions. If data, or the methods used, are withheld, it is impossible to do this.

That lesson is central to the advancement of science and to the relationship of science to society. It certainly applies to forest science, where the hiding of data and analyses by publicly-employed forest scientists is illegal as well as unethical.

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Obama Admin Considering Lock Up of 13 Million Acres

Republicans Request Missing Pages and Documents on Administration’s Targeting of New Monument Designations

House Natural Resources Committee Republicans Press Release, February 26, 2010 [here]

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb 26 - House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04); National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (UT-01); and 14 Members of Congress sent a letter today to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar requesting further information related to an internal DOI document that revealed the Administration is considering designating numerous new National Monuments that would lock up at least 13 million acres of land.

Secretary Salazar has publicly said that there is “no secret agenda” and wants to have a “public dialogue.” Therefore, the Department should be willing to answer questions regarding the exact undertakings and status of the potential Monument designations, as well as what outside group and individuals have been involved in the secret planning.

“If this internal document had not been exposed, Americans would still be in the dark about the Obama Administration’s potential plans to lock up millions of acres of land across the West,” said Hastings. “While Secretary Salazar says that the discussions are just ‘preliminary,’ no assurances have been given that the President will not designate these monuments. When you catch someone in the kitchen in the dark of night with their hand in the cookie jar, it’s very hard to believe they’re just checking to see what’s inside and that no cookies were just about to get eaten. The communities and those workers whose jobs could be directly affected by the locking up of these lands deserve to see a full picture of what was happening inside their government. We’ve asked for copies of documents relating to the planning, which includes coordination with outside groups, and all of the missing pages from the document we uncovered last week.”

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1 Mar 2010, 12:39pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Where Have All the Fires Gone?

Stephen J. Pyne. 2000. Where Have All the Fires Gone? Fire Management Today, Vol 60, No. 3, Summer 2000

Full text:

IN the United States, few places know as much fire today as they did a century ago. Fires have fled from regions like the Northeast that formerly relied on them for farming and grazing. They have receded from the Great Plains, once near-annual seas of flame, ebbing and flowing with seasonal tides. They burn in the South at only a fraction of their former grandeur. They have faded from the mountains and mesas, valleys and basins of the West. They are even disappearing from yards and hearths. One can view the dimming panorama of fire in the same way that observers at the close of the 19th century viewed the specter of the vanishing American Indian.

Missing Fires, Missing Peoples

And with some cause: Those missing fires and the missing peoples are linked. The fires that once flushed the myriad landscapes of North America and have faded away are not fires that were kindled by nature and suppressed, but rather fires that people once set and no longer do. In some places, lightning has filled the void. But mostly it has not, and even where lightning has reasserted itself, it has introduced a fire regime that can be quite distinct from those shaped by the torch.

Anthropogenic (human-caused) fire comes with a different seasonal signature and frequency than natural fire. Moreover, it is profoundly interactive. It burns in a context of general landscape meddling by humans—hunting, foraging, planting—in ways that shape both the flame and its effects. So reliant are people on their fire monopoly that what makes fire possible generally makes human societies possible. What prevents one retards the other. Places that escaped anthropogenic fire likely escaped fire altogether.

Pre-Columbian Fire Practices

Did American Indians really burn the land? Of course they did. All peoples do, even those committed to industrial combustion, who disguise their fires in machines. The issue is whether and how those fires affected the landscape. Much of the burning was systematic. Pre-Columbian peoples fired along routes of travel, and they burned patches where flame could help them extract some resource — camas, deer, huckleberries, maize. The outcome was a kind of fire foraging, even fire cultivating, such that strips and patches burned as fuel became available. But much burning resulted from malice, play, war, accident, escapes, and sheer fire littering. The land was peppered with human-inspired embers.

The aboriginal lines and fields of fire inscribed a landscape mosaic (see Lewis and Ferguson (1988) for a different terminology). Some tiles were immense, some tiny. Some experienced fire annually, some on the scale of decades. In most years, fires burned to the edge of the corridor or patch and then stopped, melting away before damp understories, snow, or wet-flushed greenery. But in other years, when the land was groaning with excess fuels and parched by droughts, fires kindled by intent or accident roared deep into the landscape. People move and fire propagates; humanity’s fiery reach far exceeds its grasp of the firestick. Remove those flames and the structure of even seldom-visited forests eventually looks very different.

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