Ripping Up History

The Middle Fork Watershed Restoration and Road Closure Project Environmental Assessment (EA) is now available for public review.

The Legal Notice starting the 30-day public comment period appeared in the Eugene Register-Guard this morning, Nov. 29. See attached letter [here] for details.

Musings From Long Ago

by Bear Bait

I worked with a yarder engineer in the late 1960’s who was raised in the Dexter area. He related a story about he and his older brother and their summer job.

He was maybe 10 or 11, and his older brother was 14 or so. The date was pre-WWI. They would take a team with barrels and salt, and their camping outfit, and drive up the Willamette River on the old military wagon road that skirts the south side of Diamond Peak. Way up the Willamette, which he said had lots of horse graze and great camping spots. Their job was to catch fish and salt them. Fill the wagon. And then drive home with a wagon full of salted fish.

He said salmon trout and salmon, mostly. I was not smart enough to ask how they caught them. He said they picked apples all the way home, from trees along the wagon road.

My Uncle Carl, now 82, attended the Boy Scout camp at Camp Lucky Boy, which is now submerged under the Lookout Point Reservoir. He said his favorite activity was fly-fishing for cutthroat trout, which were mostly about a foot long to maybe 16″.

In those days, before dams, the cutthroat migrated seasonally in river. Down river in the spring to feed in the mainstem, and up river in the fall, and then up small tributaries to spawn from January through April. I can remember walking down to the fish ladder on the Mary’s River at Corvallis, in spring, to see the big cutthroat going up the fish ladder to spawn in the upper reaches of the Mary’s River.

The dam was there at the mouth to make the log pond for the Corvallis Lumber Company, a division of Willamette Ind. They had a rail dump, and then later trucks only. The rail came in from Beaver Creek and out the east face of the Coast Range south of Corvallis.

One day early in my log buying career, I was looking at some Starker logs due south of the Mary’s Peak turnoff, across the highway, and the logger’s landing was set up where the last rigged tree for Willamette still stood, hayrack and squirrel and the works. Loading trucks under a rigged tree. They left the tree rigged when the job was done. Probably about the time the mill closed.

I also was looking for a BLM sale on Prairie Mountain one afternoon, late, in the rainy season, and I came around a corner in the road, and there was a rigged tree with a hayrack and a loading bitch over one side of the landing, and the yarder on the other, and rain drops were still making steam hitting the still warm exhausts of the two donkeys. But nobody there. I had missed the crew, I suppose because they were on the Hull-Oakes private road.

I think I was looking for some Pope and Talbot wood for sale. Or BLM… But that was the last full rigged tree and loading pot I ever saw in the woods. I worked on lots of rigged trees in my life, but always we had a shovel loader with tongs… until grapples… which lasted about 15 years, and then all hydraulic loaders after that. Man, some of the grapple runners could put those grapples anywhere. And pitch a cull over the side, and it looked like the shovel actually was holding its nose like something smelled bad…

Musings from long ago… bear bait

Machu Picchu of the Umpqua

by Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir W.I.S.E.

Last summer intrepid researchers rediscovered an ancient Indian village perched on a recondite ridgetop in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Preliminary findings indicate that the site has been occupied for at least 3,000 years, or five times longer than the Incan sanctuary of Machu Picchu in Peru [here].

Now known as Huckleberry Lake, the ancient village was likely a summer residence for tribes from both the Umpqua and Rogue watersheds, including Molallan, Takelman, and Latgawan people, in recent precontact times (prior to ~1800).

Huckleberry Lake in 2010. Click for larger image. Photo courtesy Bob Zybach, Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc.

Following leads from Chuck Jackson, elder of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, landscape historians Dr. Bob Zybach and Nana Lapham located abundant evidence of ancient human use along the Rogue-Umpqua Divide in the vicinity of Huckleberry Lake. That evidence includes mortar and pestle rocks, obsidian debitage, food and fiber plants, and an ancient trail system, all consistent with oral histories of the Cow Creeks.

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide is a southwest tending spur of the north/south tending High Cascades that extends ~20 miles west of the Cascade Crest at elevations above 5,000 feet. Huckleberry Lake is on the westernmost point of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, less than a day’s walk from known winter village sites near Tiller, OR.

Numerous springs that arise seemingly from the ridgetop are fed by lava tubes originating far to the east. They water small lakes perched above steep canyons that fall away to the north and south. Athough the vegetation today consists of dense true firs, remnant huckleberry fields (Vaccinium membranaceum) are evidence of a larger huckleberry complex that once carpeted the entire Divide [here].

Human tending with frequent anthropogenic fire must have been the principal factor that maintained the huckleberry brushfields, by excluding tree invasions. In the absence of such tending over the last 100 years or so, tree invasion has been extensive.

Dr Zybach stated:

There is very little history or other information available about the people who lived in the study area 200 years ago; however, much can be inferred from what is known of neighboring Tribes of that time, the presence and extent of current and historical vegetation patterns (particularly those of food and fiber plants), archaeological research, and known precontact travel and trade routes. Because people at that time did not have horses and because the South Umpqua headwaters are not navigable by canoe, travel was done by foot, along well-established ridgeline and streamside trail systems. Primary destinations would have been local village sites, seasonal campgrounds, peaks, waterfalls, the mouths of streams, and various crop locations, such as huckleberries, camas, and acorns.

Trail networks indicate where people went at certain times of the year, where they camped, and where they came from (or went to). Trails connect principal seasonal campgrounds, based on food harvesting and processing schedules, fishing and hunting opportunities, and trade. Freshwater springs at higher elevations were a critical element, such as Neil Spring near Huckleberry Lake.

Location and carbon dating of ancient home sites at Huckleberry Lake has yet to be done, but camas ovens in the area (with charcoal that has been carbon dated) indicate “intense and continuous [occupation] between 3,000 and 300 years ago” by Native Americans [here].

The research efforts are part of the South Umpqua Headwaters Precontact Reference Conditions Study, sponsored by Douglas County and supported by the Umpqua National Forest and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe.

Public Comment Period Extended On Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan

In September we posted the announcement that the 2010 Draft Revised Revised Revised Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl is now out for your inspection and comments [here].

The USFWS has extended the comment period to Dec. 15th.

Public Comment Period Extended On Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release [here]

Public comments accepted through December 15, 2010

A 30-day extension to the public comment period for the draft revised recovery plan for the northern spotted owl, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1990, was announced today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public comments on the draft plan will now be accepted through December 15, 2010. … [more]

The Draft Plan is [here]

Emailed comments can be sent to: Written comments should be submitted to: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, 2600 SE 98th Avenue, Ste. 100, Portland, OR 97266.

23 Nov 2010, 10:35am
Climate and Weather
by admin
1 comment

Three More Decades of a Cooling Planet

Note: the latest Arctic Blast is setting low temperature records across the Pacific Northwest. The findings below indicate that we better get used to it.

by Ken Schlichte

Dr. Jorge Sanchez-Sesma’s Technical Note, Multi-Centennial Scale Analysis and Synthesis of an Ensemble Mean Response of ENSO to Solar and Volcanic Forcings [here] includes the following Abstract:


The response of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to solar and volcanic radiative forcings over the past millennium is reanalyzed and extrapolated based on historical data and numerical experiments employing the Zebiak–Cane (ZC) model of the tropical Pacific coupled ocean–atmosphere system. The results suggest a self-similarity of the centennial scale component of the reconstructed ENSO record with a shift in frequencies around 1700 AD when the frequencies almost double. This shift of regime puts forward the non-linearity of ENSO climate with a possible centennial scale forecast, suggesting an ENSO trend toward La Niña conditions for the next three decades.

We are now experiencing the effects of the current La Nina and it is worth noting that Dr. Sanchez-Sesma has presented data suggesting an ENSO trend toward La Nina conditions for the next three decades.

Note: see also Don J. Easterbrook. 2008. Global Cooling Is Here! Evidence for Predicting Global Cooling For the Next Three Decades [here].

Four New Colloquia Posts

After a long hiatus (been working on a paper) we are pleased to announce the posting of four new works in our Colloquia:

Nataraja: India’s Cycle of Fire by Stephen J. Pyne may be found [here]. Dr. Pyne’s essay on the history of fire on the Indian subcontinent is a chapter from World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth (Pyne S.J., 1997, Univ of WA Press). He graciously sent it to W.I.S.E. as a companion piece to Roger Underwood’s Baden-Powell and Australian Bushfire Policy [Part 1 here, Part 2 here]. An extracted gem of a quote:

India’s biota, like Shiva, dances to their peculiar rhythm while fire turns the timeless wheel of the world. Perhaps nowhere else have the natural and the cultural parameters of fire converged so closely and so clearly. Human society and Indian biota resemble one other with uncanny fidelity. They share common origins, display a similar syncretism, organize themselves along related principles. Such has been their interaction over millennia that the geography of one reveals the geography of the other. The mosaic of peoples is interdependent with the mosaic of landscapes, not only as a reflection of those lands but as an active shaper of them (emphasis added). Indian geography is thus an expression of Indian history, but that history has a distinctive character, of which the nataraja is synecdoche, a timeless cycle that begins and ends with fire.

Stand Reconstruction and 200 Years of Forest Development on Selected Sites in the Upper South Umpqua Watershed, W.I.S.E. White Paper 2010-5 by yours truly (and the cause of the recent hiatus), examines the forest development pathways over the last 200 years in an Oregon Cascades watershed:

Several lines of evidence suggest that the prairies, savannas, and open forests have been persistent vegetation types in the Upper South Umpqua Watershed for the last few thousand years, at least. Precontact forest development pathways were mediated by frequent, purposeful, anthropogenic fires deliberately set by skilled practitioners, informed by long cultural experience and traditional ecological knowledge in order to achieve specific land management objectives. At a landscape scale the result was maintenance of an (ancient) anthropogenic mosaic of agro-ecological patches. In the absence, over the last 150 years, of purposeful anthropogenic fires, the anthropogenic mosaic has been invaded and obscured by (principally) Douglas-fir. As a result, the Upper South Umpqua Watershed is now at risk from a-historical, catastrophic stand-replacing fires.

In Pre-Columbian agricultural landscapes, ecosystem engineers, and self-organized patchiness in Amazonia by Doyle McKey, Stephen Rostain, Jose Iriarte, Bruno Glaser, Jago Jonathan Birk, Irene Holst, and Delphine Renard, the authors examine the manner in which arthropods and other critters have maintained nutrient-rich soils long after the pre-Columbian human residents created said soils:

Combining archeology, archeobotany, paleoecology, soil science, ecology, and aerial imagery, we show that pre-Columbian farmers of the Guianas coast constructed large raised-field complexes, growing on them crops including maize, manioc, and squash. Farmers created physical and biogeochemical heterogeneity in flat, marshy environments by constructing raised fields. When these fields were later abandoned, the mosaic of well-drained islands in the flooded matrix set in motion self-organizing processes driven by ecosystem engineers (ants, termites, earthworms, and woody plants) that occur preferentially on abandoned raised fields.

In The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing by Robert A. Dull, Richard J. Nevle, William I. Woods, Dennis K. Bird, Shiri Avnery, and William M. Denevan, the (accomplished and distinguished) authors posit that Old World disease epidemics in the 1500’s eliminated anthropogenic fire along with the human population of Amazonia. The decline in human-driven carbon cycling was at a continental scale, and the reduction in emitted CO2 may have induced the Little Ice Age:

Pre-Columbian farmers of the Neotropical lowlands numbered an estimated 25 million by 1492, with at least 80 percent living within forest biomes. It is now well established that significant areas of Neotropical forests were cleared and burned to facilitate agricultural activities before the arrival of Europeans. Paleoecological and archaeological evidence shows that demographic pressure on forest resources—facilitated by anthropogenic burning—increased steadily throughout the Late Holocene, peaking when Europeans arrived in the late fifteenth century. The introduction of Old World diseases led to recurrent epidemics and resulted in an unprecedented population crash throughout the Neotropics. The rapid demographic collapse was mostly complete by 1650, by which time it is estimated that about 95 percent of all indigenous inhabitants of the region had perished. We review fire history records from throughout the Neotropical lowlands and report new high-resolution charcoal records and demographic estimates that together support the idea that the Neotropical lowlands went from being a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere before Columbus to a net carbon sink for several centuries following the Columbian encounter. We argue that the regrowth of Neotropical forests following the Columbian encounter led to terrestrial biospheric carbon sequestration on the order of 2 to 5 Pg C, thereby contributing to the well-documented decrease in atmospheric CO2 recorded in Antarctic ice cores from about 1500 through 1750, a trend previously attributed exclusively to decreases in solar irradiance and an increase in global volcanic activity. We conclude that the post-Columbian carbon sequestration event was a significant forcing mechanism.

It’s a hypothesis that is very difficult to test, but one that recognizes the historical impact of human beings on the environment. That theme permeates all four new Colloquia postings.

Our protocol with Colloquia postings is that comments there must be scholarly, commensurate with the scientific efforts of the authors. Less than scholarly comments on any of the postings are welcome, but should be placed here (see the leave a comment aplet below).

We endeavor to post the best, cutting-edge research papers, and all of these meet our stringent criteria. They are not too technical for the lay audience, though. I hope you enjoy them.

19 Nov 2010, 12:41pm
Politics and politicians
by admin

Oregon State Budget $5 Billion In the Hole

Note: the following is excerpted from a longer letter.

Oregon’s December Forecast & Charting A New Course

From OR State Rep. Richardson’s Newsletter, November 19, 2010

I am State Representative Dennis Richardson and I write this newsletter for Oregonians interested in what can be done to make Oregon a better place to live and work. This edition focuses on two subjects, the breaking news on Oregon’s revenue, and the message Oregon voters recently sent to the Legislators.

Today, the Oregon’s State Economist released the Quarterly Revenue Forecast that showed a “smoke and mirrors” increase in 2009-11 revenue. In reality, a reduction of $40 Million would normally have been disclosed for the remaining seven months of this biennium.

Unknown to most of us, the Oregon Dept. of Revenue recently announced an increase in the percentage of State payroll withholdings beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Although the increase in payroll deductions apply to the 2011 tax year, the withholdings from January 1 – June 30, 2010, will appear on the State’s balance sheet as current budget revenue, even though much of it will be returned to the wage-earners after their 2011 tax returns are filed. In other words, today’s forecast artificially shows an increase in 2009-11 State revenue of $61.9 million, when the actual revenue expectations, without the artificial bump-up in withholding, would have shown a $40 million decrease in 2009-11 revenue since the Sept. 2010 Forecast. …

The actual $40 million decrease in State revenue is the tenth consecutive reduction in revenue estimates. Since the close the 2009 Legislative Session, Oregon’s anticipated revenue has fallen by 1.3 billion. …

The size, duration and extent of Oregon’s economic recession have placed all Oregonians in a precarious financial situation. To balance the current 2009-11 State Budget required cobbling together $1.6 billion in one-time money—primarily composed of federal stimulus money, state savings accounts and agencies’ ending fund balances. In addition to replacing the $1.6 billion needed to balance the current budget, in 2011-13 an additional $2.2 billion will be needed to maintain Oregon’s current service level “CSL” for the next two-years. Thus, assuming Oregon’s revenue remains constant, $3.8 billion in additional revenue would be needed to balance the next budget.

Unfortunately, Oregon’s revenues have not remained constant. In fact, Oregon’s revenues remain in free-fall. In a previous newsletter I explained the August 2010 Revenue Forecast disclosed that Oregon’s expected revenues had dropped more than $1.3 Billion since the 2009 legislative session ended. Today’s news confirmed that assessment.

The significance of a $1.3 billion decrease in State revenue is stunning. In addition to the $3.8 billion discussed above, that would have been needed if revenues had been stable, an additional $1.3 billion will be needed to compensate for recent losses in anticipated state revenues. Thus, Oregon now faces a $5.1 billion shortfall going into the 2011 legislative session, unless there is a dramatic and immediate economic recovery.

Spending freezes and across-the-board cuts will not fill a $5 billion hole. The state simply cannot resolve a $5 billion shortfall without major structural reforms in both what services are provided and how they are provided. …

18 Nov 2010, 3:58pm
Climate and Weather
by admin
1 comment

Environmental Issues: What’s real and what’s nonsense?

Presentation to the Lake Oswego Lions Club, Nov 17, 2010

by Gordon J. Fulks, PhD Physics

Full text [here]

The story of environmentalism is generally portrayed as one of citizens triumphing over evil corporate polluters, of public awareness, science, and affluence working together to solve pressing problems. There is no problem so huge or so abstract that we cannot solve it if we put our minds to it. And solving these problems yields all sorts of positive side-effects and no drawbacks.

While that may be the perception, it is far from the fact. Public awareness is easily swayed by media campaigns that are little more than propaganda and supported by a press that would rather take sides than present balanced reports. Science is largely bought and paid for by politicians who control the agenda and the outcome. And our affluence, or what is left of it, is viewed as an inexhaustible source of revenue for whatever fantastic ideas the political class can dream up. …

We are perpetually told that we are poisoning the planet with everything from pesticides to carbon dioxide, such that our world is rapidly becoming unlivable. This feeds our enormous egos that tell us we are far more important to this planet than we really are. …
more »

Dry Cow

One irony: because of the GOP gains in the US House and Senate (no thanks to Oregon), Wyden’s monkey-wrencher eastside forest bill [here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here] is now effectively DOA, AFRC support or not. They bought a dry cow.

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