A wild surprise from Salazar

Secretary failed to consult with states - Community Perspective

By Stan Leaphart, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, January 30, 2011 [here]

Note: Stan Leaphart is executive director of the 12-member Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA), which monitors federal land management actions and assists Alaskans affected by them. Administratively, the commission lies within the state Department of Natural Resources. Its website is [here]

“My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”

This is the opening paragraph of a memorandum signed January 21, 2009, by President Barack Obama, one day after his inauguration.

The memorandum goes on to state: “Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.” Many Americans applauded this as proof that “hope and change” wasn’t just a beguiling campaign slogan.

Some 23 months later, on December 23, 2010, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar unveiled a secretarial order establishing a new policy for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. This policy directs the BLM to inventory all lands it manages for their wilderness characteristics and creates a new classification of lands known as “Wild Lands.”

Salazar’s announcement was the first anyone outside the Department of the Interior knew about the Wild Lands policy, even though it was nearly two years in the making.

Governor Parnell’s office was informed of the program only hours before it was announced.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, whose state in 2003 reached a settlement with Interior on new wilderness study areas, was afforded a similar courtesy.

In a letter to Salazar, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho declared: “Without any state or public input, the Interior Department has circumvented the sovereignty of the states and the will of the public by shifting from the normal planning process of the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to one that places significant authority in the hands of unelected federal bureaucrats.”

Secretary Salazar’s decision to unilaterally create and implement this policy contradicts both the President’s memorandum and the Department of the Interior’s own “Open Government Plan.” …

Salazar’s failure to allow the American public and the governments of the 43 states in which the BLM manages lands to participate in developing this policy or provide “their collective expertise and information” calls into question the department’s commitment to an open and transparent government.

One doubts Salazar would have ignored such a snub during his tenure as a U.S. senator or, prior to that, as Colorado’s attorney general. … [more]

29 Jan 2011, 1:41pm
Federal forest policy Private land policies
by admin
Comments Off

Immune No Longer

Federal land management agencies routinely burn private lands in the course of “fighting” wildfires on Federal lands. They do so by setting backfires that never reach the wildfire allegedly being suppressed. Instead those backfires incinerate farms homes and ranches miles away from the wildfire.

The cases are legion [here, here, here, here]. The US Forest Service burns out landowners with impunity because they have “sovereign immunity” from lawsuits. Congress gave the USFS (and BLM, NPS, USFWS, BIA) immunity from tort claims via the “discretionary function exception” to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

The Feds can burn you out without a qualm, but if a private landowner causes a fire on Federal lands, through negligence or otherwise, the full force of the U.S. Government is brought to bear on the landowner [here, here, here].

But a small chink in the armor has appeared. As of this week, the USFS immunity to torts may be sometimes in question. On Jan 25 a three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [here] in favor of three private landowners who were burned out by a USFS-lit backfire in 2003.

The ruling hinged not on “discretion” in fighting a wildfire, but the fact that the USFS failed to notify the landowners about the backfire. From the Opinion written by Judge Carlos T. Bea:

This case presents the question whether statutory qualified immunity protects the U.S. Forest Service’s (“Forest Service”) failure to notify nearby private property owners that it intended to light a “backfire”1 to fight a wildfire and its failure to notify property owners that the backfire had exceeded Forest Service boundaries near their private properties. Gregory and Victoria Green, Silver Starr De Varona, and John Elbert Ervin (“Appellants”) appeal the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of their Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), action for damages against the United States. Appellants are neighboring landowners whose property was burned as a consequence of allegedly negligent fire suppression activities conducted by the Forest Service in its efforts against the “Bullock Fire,” a wildfire that was discovered burning in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona on May 21, 2002, and which ultimately burned over 30,000 acres. The district court held the United States was immune from Appellants’ action because of the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. We reverse the district court because, although no statute or agency policy dictates the precise manner in which the Forest Service must act when it lights a backfire, there is no evidence in the record that the Forest Service’s failure to notify the property owners of the backfire it lighted was susceptible to a policy analysis grounded in social, economic, or political concerns. See Terbush v. United States, 516 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2008).

Note that the Court did not allow the claim that the USFS was negligent in fighting the fire, even though they were. The USFS still has immunity from tort suits arising from firefighting negligence. But the Plaintiffs succeeded because the USFS has an obligation to warn people before they burn them out. The issuing of a warning is not a “discretionary” firefighting choice.

The USFS has a stated policy to protect public safety. They were negligent in doing so. If the USFS had issued a warning, the landowners could have taken some action to protect themselves and their property. Issuing a warning in this case was not discretionary. It was required by guidelines found in the Forest Service Manual and the Coronado Forest Fire Management Plan.

… Appellants contend the Forest Service’s failure to notify Appellants before and after the Forest Service lit the backfire is not subject to the discretionary function exception. We agree with Appellants because, unlike Miller, there is no evidence in the record to support the Forest Service’s contention that the nature of its actions in this case-i.e., its decisions when and whether to communicate directly with private citizens whose properties might have been in harm’s way-are susceptible to policy analysis. There is no evidence, for example, that the Forest Service must determine how to allocate personnel during firefighting operations between contacting citizens and direct firefighting activity, or that the Forest Service must determine during firefighting operations how to allocate its communications resources between communitywide distribution (such as newspapers and radio stations) and direct contact with private citizens (such as phone calls or door-to-door contacts). If the Appellants had been notified of the proposed backfire, they might have been able to take measures to protect their properties, or at least ensured the Forest Service took measures to do so. For purposes of this appeal from a motion to dismiss, we find Appellants’ pleadings adequately state such a possibility. Accordingly, and in light of the specific record in this case, we disagree with the district court’s application of the discretionary function exception.

It’s not much. The USFS can still burn you out without incurring any penalties for doing so, as long as they warn you about it.

“Watch out, we are setting your place on fire,” is all they need say in order to negate your tort claim afterwards.

Or they could remove the public safety provisions in their guidelines and plans. My guess is that will be the course the USFS takes.

But until then, the Ninth Court has struck a blow on behalf of private landowners. It was feather-light, but more than nothing at all.

Tampering With Science

In a previous post we noted the Christmas “order” by Ken Salazar to declare 200+ million acres of the BLM Empire “wilderness” [here]. And we noted that immediately thereafter the BLM followed through and declared 11,000 acres of Mendocino County, CA, to be Designated Wilderness [here, here].

And we noted that the BLM had determined “scientifically” that the 11,000 acres had magically transformed from a cultural landscape, occupied by human beings for 10,000+ years, into untrammeled wilderness in five short years. From the BLM press release [here]:

The area was designated as a potential wilderness area by the 2006 Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. This interim designation provided time for the BLM to assess and, if necessary, restore 1,565 acres of private lands acquired for public ownership shortly before the Act’s passage. The Act required that the area be designated as wilderness once conditions were compatible with the Wilderness Act, or no later than five years after the Act’s passage.

The BLM determined no additional restoration of the Elkhorn Ridge area was necessary as the area had naturally rehabilitated itself over the five years. Consequently, a publication in today’s Federal Register announces that the interim designation has been lifted and the area is now designated wilderness.

We have to ask, what kind of science is that? Some possible answers:

1. BLM scientists are dumber than rocks, or

2. BLM scientists are not stupid but were paid under the table to pervert science, or

3. BLM scientists receive no bribes but were threatened with termination if they did not toe the pseudo-science line.

I suspect #3. I have no proof, just suspicions. I mean, how stupid could they really be? And I doubt they got any reward for perverting science. No, my best guess is that threats, direct or indirect, convinced the BLM scientists to throw up their hands and say whatever.

That’s called “tampering”. Recall that during Salazar’s first days in office as Sec DOI, he threw out the Spotted Owl Recovery Plan because, as he claimed, politicians had tampered with the science [here]. From the DOI press release of July 16, 2009:

U.S. Dept. of the Interior Press Release, July 16, 2009

Interior Withdraws Legally Flawed Plan for Oregon Forests, Presses For Sustainable Timber Harvests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Because the previous Administration failed to follow established administrative procedure before leaving office, its plan to intensify logging in western Oregon – known as the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) – is legally indefensible and must be withdrawn, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said today.

Moreover, Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Thomas Strickland said that the federal government will ask the District Court to vacate the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2008 revision of the critical habitat for the spotted owl, on which the WOPR was in part based, because Interior’s Inspector General determined that the decisionmaking process for the owl’s recovery plan was potentially jeopardized by improper political influence. …

The charge was “improper political influence” in matters of science. The science was tainted because politicians had unduly “influenced” scientists. That charge was made not just by Salazar, but by Obama’s Dept. of Justice [here]. In March 2009 Obama himself issued a Presidential Memorandum calling for “restoring scientific integrity” [here].

That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals — to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.

Can you say “snow job”? Obama’s Memorandum was utter crap. He didn’t mean it; he meant just the opposite. No Administration in history has tampered with science more than Obama’s. Case in point: magic wilderness, where under pressure from politicians BLM scientists flushed their scientific integrity down the toilet.

Some might say, well, that’s okay because the important thing is Obama has “protected” these special lands. It’s just white lies, for a higher purpose.

Except that the magic wilderness areas are NOT protected. They will erupt into catastrophic fires that will be Let Burn and will destroy all the environmental values therein. And those fires will leap across legal boundaries and destroy farms, ranches, homes, and businesses far away from the magic wildernesses, and even burn right into cities. It’s happened before. It will happen again.

That’s not “protection”; it’s wholesale destruction.

The tampering, the lies, the phony science all have real world consequences. Bad consequences. Death and destruction consequences.

The Obama Administration has declared war on America [here].

The BLM scientists should be ashamed of themselves. How could you? What did America ever do to you that you would cast your integrity aside for bellicose and belligerent purposes? Why have you perverted science in an act of war upon your own nation? We understand the corruption and extreme animosities that smolder beneath the surface of grasping politicians. What we don’t understand is why you have joined with them in support of their insanity.

Three-Needle Pines and the Collective Unconscious

by Mike Dubrasich

My friend Svend writes:

When pine trees grows to dense, the cones on the ground will not receive enough heat from the sun to dry up and spread the seeds… the best way for many types of pine trees is a forest fire. A baby pine tree cannot survive in the darkness. A few species actually need forest fires to reproduce.

In this case mass suicide can help the problem… when the trees decide to secure the next generation of pine trees, they actually die (collectively) and then the bark beetles attack the trees… as a kind of support for the process, to remove all the conifers so the sunlight can reach the soil under the trees. It’s part of the big symbiosis system.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting for a lightning storm to start the fire.

Svend is wrong, mostly, but he inspires this teaching moment.

The preceding mini-myth about pines may hold partially true for boreal 2-needled pines: lodgepole, jack, Scots, and even pinyon. They are basically all the same species. Some (not all) have serotinous cones. They seed in like mad after a fire and grow in dense, even-aged thickets of 1,500-5,000 stems per acre or more. That’s a tree every three feet on center. Two-needled pines were the first trees to invade boreal regions after the ice sheets melted 15,000 years ago.

But then there are the 3-needled pines: ponderosa, Jeffery, Monterey, long leaf, etc.

The 3-needle pines are basically all the same species, too. Pines are epigenetic [here]. Their complex genetic code, developed over hundreds of millions of years, enables individual trees to radically change morphology in response to environmental stressors. Witness Bonsai trees. My friend Mark writes:

The world is rubbery. The governing algorithm is far more elegant and powerful than we realize, genome mapping notwithstanding.

That’s why I (and others) say the 3-needle pines are basically the same species, though different from the 2-needle pines.

The 3-needle pines invaded much of North America about 9,000 years ago, long after the ice melted, and some 6,000 years after humans arrived here. Think about that.

8,800 years later, when the first Euro-American explorers traipsed across North America, they found millions of acres of 3-needle pines. They weren’t in thickets like 2-needle pines. Instead they were in open, park-like, savanna-like forests with 5 to 20 trees per acre. The trees were all ages (uneven-aged). The 3-needle pines dominated, even though other conifers and hardwoods were often present in small numbers, and even though today firs, aspen, liquidamber, and other species dominate those same stands (proving that those species could have grown there and dominated, although they didn’t).

Open, park-like, pine savannas present an anomaly to Svend’s theory. His pine theory just doesn’t fit the real world, across MILLIONS of acres.

For that matter, neither does “forest succession” theory. That one derives from Frederic Clements, who in the 1910’s invented the idea that forests succeed — that they change species as they proceed from early seral stages to climax conditions. Freudian undertones aside, the vast 3-needle pine savannas are anomalies to Clementsian theory, too.

If forest succession is a Law of Nature, then why didn’t MILLIONS of acres of 3-needle pines succeed naturally to shade-tolerant firs and hardwoods?

It is a statement about the human condition that millions of acres of forests don’t fit the theories and yet the theories still are in place, taught in schools, are believed in by so many, including many esteemed forest scientists. The world does not fit the model, yet the model rules.

That’s not Freudian, it’s Jungian. We are a myth-making animal. We prefer myth over reality. We will blind our eyes to reality when it doesn’t comport with our treasured myths. The Collective Unconscious is asleep at the wheel.

In the case of global warming, the myth we treasure is that human beings are capable of destroying the planet, of committing original sin and sullying the Garden, and that the gods must and will punish us for our sins, and bring an End to the World in their wrath at our transgressions.

Those who question the myths of the Collective Unconscious are declared apostates and outcasts, and are stoned to death at the gates of the city.

Back to the pines. So what really happened? How did those 3-needle pine savannas arise? Or as a forest scientist might put it, if he happened to notice the anomalies to the treasured theories, what was the disturbance regime that drove the 3-needle pine forest development pathways? Here’s a corollary conundrum: why are those pine savannas NOT arising today, but instead they are disappearing? Whatever was driving ecosystem dynamics for the last 9,000 years isn’t any longer. Isn’t that curious?

Here’s the answer: anthropogenic fire. Three-needle pines in North America have not grown without human influences on the environment during the entire Holocene. The main influence, i.e. disturbance regime, was Indian burning. Not Indians on fire, but Indians setting fire frequently to the landscape on a continental scale.

Human beings entered North America ~13,500 years ago or even earlier. Their principal tool for survival and obtaining sustenance was fire. Indeed, human beings have utilized landscape fire for at least 40,000 years in Australia. Cooking fires have been utilized for at least 1.6 million years [here], originally by pre-sapiens hominids. The earliest human immigrants to the Americas had a cultural history of fire use dating back a million and a half years!

The effects of anthropogenic (human-set) fire on the environment has been profound worldwide. People have deliberately and expertly burned virtually the entire continent on every continent every year for thousands of years at a minimum. Those human practices induced 3-needle pine savannas from Florida to BC, from California to New England.

I cordially invite you to read about the effects of historical anthropogenic fire on an Oregon watershed [here]:

Dubrasich, Mike. 2010. 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. Western Institute for Study of the Environment.

The burning was not just in temperate zones. People burned the tropics, too. And boreal forests. And Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. People have been burning everywhere for millennia. There are no wilderness areas where the imprint of Man has been absent, because Man has been everywhere and doing stuff, major stuff, like setting the world afire whenever he could. See [here]:

William Denevan. 1992. The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492. Annals of the American Association of Geographers v. 82 n. 3 (Sept. 1992), pp. 369-385.

All that burning altered the carbon cycle. Plants grew, fixing carbon, but then people burned that biomass, sooner rather than later, and the carbon was emitted and returned to the atmosphere. There was no (or very little) terrestrial carbon build-up. No new coal beds have formed during the Holocene.

It didn’t take many people to do all that burning. On the right day with the vegetation dry and the wind blowing, one person could easily burn a million acres. That’s an area 40 miles by 40 miles. Set the fire in Salem and let it burn up to and over the Cascade Crest. “Let it burn” is an euphemism. A thousand years ago, without fire crews and equipment, how could you stop it?

So not that many people are required to do one heck of a lot of burning. On the other hand, the best estimates were that 50 million people lived in the Americas on the day Columbus landed. That’s a lot, and they did a lot of burning. Continental-scale is not an exaggeration.

Within 100 years, however, the human population of the Americas crashed 90 to 95%, mainly from smallpox, measles, and other Old World diseases. The burning didn’t cease, but it became much less frequent. The plants still grew, fixing carbon, but they didn’t get torched off so quickly. That sudden change in the status quo reverberated through the carbon cycle. It also increased the Earth’s albedo, from charcoal black to shiny green. Wind-borne soot decreased. The entire planet became shinier. Not only did atmospheric CO2 decrease, but more incoming solar radiation (insolation) was reflected instead of absorbed.

Some folks (more friends of mine) speculate that those changes brought on the Little Ice Age. See [here]:

Robert A. Dull, Richard J. Nevle, William I. Woods, Dennis K. Bird, Shiri Avnery, and William M. Denevan. 2010. The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(4) 2010, pp. 1–17.

Now, you may not agree with their hypothesis. My friend Anthony Watts doesn’t. He made fun of it, at his Watts Up With That website [here] and the commenters at WUWT were very derisive.

But they are largely ignorant of the reality of human pre-history, and of anthropogenic fire, and have never even noticed the vast 3-needle pine savannas, or thought about them, or considered how anomalous they are.

Like most folks, they are locked into the Euro-American Creation Myth, that God made this Wilderness for the enjoyment of Euro immigrants, until we sullied it and forced the gods to inflict some terrible Apocalypse upon us.

The WUWT commenters are “climate skeptics”, and they think that “skeptics” are very “realistic” because they reject the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Myth. Okay, fine, I applaud them for that. But really they still suffer from all that other Medieval Jungian mythology. They are not as skeptical as they think themselves to be.

But you and I have been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. — Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

The 3-needle pines are a key that will unlock the doors of your mind. Don’t accept theories that discomport with and blind you to reality. Bear witness to the anomalies. Question authority. Be all that you can be.

GP VP Defends Forest Boycott

The Alabama Forest Owners’ Association, Inc. [here] produces podcasts as part of their excellent Capital Ideas – Live! program. Many SOSF kudos are extended to AFOA for the tremendous job of forestry education that they are doing.

On January 19, 2011, Capital Ideas – Live! moderator Hayes D. Brown, attorney and forest owner, interviewed Deborah Baker, Vice President - Sustainable Forestry, Environmental and Community Outreach at Georgia-Pacific. The podcast may be downloaded [here].

The discussion related to GP’s declaration, made in February 2008 [here, here, here] that it will no longer purchase trees from endangered forests and special areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests. [here]

* Georgia-Pacific will work actively on the definition and mapping of endangered forests and special areas. As endangered forests are identified, Georgia-Pacific will not source fiber from these areas. Georgia-Pacific will prioritize its efforts to identify endangered forests and special areas in its key supply regions, including the Southern US.

* Georgia-Pacific will not procure pine fiber from plantations established after July 1, 2008, on sites that were natural hardwood forestlands immediately prior to their conversion. Additionally, Georgia-Pacific will continue to offer information and education on natural regeneration options to forest landowners.

* Georgia-Pacific will closely monitor its supply chain so that customers can be assured that wood and paper products are not sourced from endangered forests or plantations established on sites that were natural hardwood forests immediately prior to their conversion as set forth above.

The following questions regarding GP’s boycott of hardwood growers were NOT addressed by Ms. Baker:

1. How much money has GP donated to the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Dogwood Alliance over the last 6 years?

2. GP has announced their intention to boycott 600,000 acres of private tree farms. How would they feel about a boycott of their wood products company, Dixie cups, Brawny paper towels, Quilted Northern bath tissues, etc.

3. GP’s partners in this boycott make the claim that deforestation in the U.S. is a “significant problem” exceeding (by percentage) forest loss in Brazil and Indonesia. Does GP agree with that contention?

4. GP’s partners in this boycott claim 90 million acres of Southern hardwood forests need “protection” from forest management. Does GP agree with that contention?

5. GP has failed to define “natural hardwood forests”, or describe their development. They do not define why they are better left without active management, so much so that GP has decided to boycott working hardwood forests. Later on in the podcast Jeffrey W. Stringer, Extension Professor – Hardwood Silviculture and Forest Operations at the Univ. of Kentucky, points out that hardwood forests regenerate naturally and that pre-harvest treatments can enhance the success of preferred hardwood species. If hardwoods forest regenerate naturally, what is gained “environmentally” by GP’s boycott?

6. GP claims to have reached “agreement” with “academia and environmental groups” in justification of their boycott. To what extent and in what ways did they attempt to reach agreement with the landowners they are boycotting?

7. GP’s “environmental” partners in this boycott claim the boycott will not harm GP’s profitability. How profitable is GP? How will the boycott affect the profitability of the 600,000 acres of private tree farms?

8. After two years GP has ground-truthed only one area in the Mid-Atlantic. Is that adequate “science” to support their boycott of 600,000 acres, most of which they have never visited?

9. What other initiatives are anticipated from GP’s partnership with the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Dogwood Alliance?

10. To what extent will GP be actively joining with as well as funding the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Dogwood Alliance in their numerous litigations against active forest management?

AFOA asks the rhetorical question: “Wouldn’t nearly all of Alabama be home to natural hardwood forests if pre- and post-Columbian settlers hadn’t burned the land extensively, thereby creating the conditions favorable for the growth of pines?

Indeed it would be.

Georgia Pacific has a lot of explaining to do.

The Piñon Canyon War

At Fort Carson [here] south of Colorado Springs, the U.S. Army occupies 236,800 acres of El Paso County’s scenic high-prairie Piñon Canyon, which it uses for large-scale, force-on-force mechanized brigade combat exercises involving tanks and armored units. Since 2006 the Army, along with their “partner” The Nature Conservancy (the real estate branch of Goldman Sachs) has been grasping to acquire at least 418,000 acres more.

The land the Army covets is private property, mainly ranches, between the towns of La Junta, Trinidad, and Walsenburg. The proposed annexation would create a contiguous Army-owned area of 650,000 acres, more than 1,000 square miles. In fact, the Army has stated in the past that they wish to seize 7 million acres (more than 10,000 square miles) through eminent domain.

The family ranchers who own that land are adamantly opposed. The land seizure would devastate the local economy as well as destroy the land with mortars, bombs, and other munitions. The residents formed a group called Not One More Acre! to fight the Piñon Canyon expansion.

Their combined efforts were enough to gain a congressionally ordered reprieve in 2007, when Reps. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) and John Salazar (D-Colo.) pushed through a one-year congressional ban on funding for eminent domain acquisitions or expansion activities in Piñon Canyon. In 2008 Congress extended the ban through the end of fiscal 2009.

Not One More Acre! also sued the U.S. Army over its 2007 “transitional” environmental assessment. The plaintiffs were victorious when in September 2009 U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch’s ruled that the Army’s EA was “severely inadequate”:

Ranchers: Ruling topples Army dominoes on Pinon Canyon

by Peter Roper, the Pueblo Chieftan, September 10, 2009 [here]

… Not One More Acre! filed its lawsuit over that study, saying it failed to meet the federal requirements in many areas, including looking at training alternatives.

Matsch agreed in his ruling Tuesday. He sharply rejected the Army’s analysis and process, pointing out that Army reports produced during the lawsuit - but not made available to the general public previously - demonstrated the Army was aware of extensive environmental damage at Pinon Canyon from previous and more-limited training maneuvers.

The judge said the Army’s own land management analysis in 2006 said the Army could only use Pinon Canyon about five months of the year if the grasslands were to recover afterward. Even so, the 2007 impact study said that adequate mitigation plans were in place to support even a year-round training schedule.

“That conclusion is inconsistent and irreconcilable with the Army’s analysis in 2006,” Matsch wrote. …

The Army thumbed its military nose at the Judge. Last Thursday, the Army released a 43-page report defending and reasserting the original “proposed action” to ramp up training at Pinon Canyon, ignoring the substance of the ruling and contending that a full environmental impact study is not needed.

more »

Salazar, Abbey Get Feedback on New BLM Wilderness Order

SOS Forests is not alone in our shock and dismay at Sec DOI Ken Salazar’s Christmas surprise order declaring an indeterminate amount of the 245 million-acre BLM empire as de facto “wilderness” [here].

Wyoming Gov Matt Mead fired off the following letter last week [here]:

Governor Mead asks Department of Interior to rescind Wild Lands Order


State Capitol
Cheyenne, WY 82002

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Governor Matt Mead expressed deep concerns with the administration’s signing of Secretarial Order 3310. That order directs the Bureau of Land Management to identify public lands as “Wild Lands” and protect them for their wilderness values.

“This letter is to advise you that I firmly oppose Secretarial Order 3310,” Mead wrote. He added his concern that the order was released just before the Christmas holiday and at a time when his office and other governors’ offices were in transition. “Though you will seek feedback from State BLM offices prior to issuing final agency guidance, the opportunity for public input on the policy itself was never afforded.”

Mead also expressed concern about the impact that this order could have on the economy of Wyoming and its communities. He wrote, “The policy ignores the contribution of Wyoming’s natural resources to the nation’s economic sustainability. It ignores the revenues our State and local governments depend on from mineral and other development. It fails to address the impact to ranchers, recreationalists, and all the others who rely on the lands for so many different reasons.”

Specifically, Governor Mead says the order could drag out or halt the permitting process for BLM lands.

The Governor’s letter ends, “Only the elected Congress is given the power, by law, to designate official Wilderness areas. But, the policy seeks such designations by administrative fiat. With all due respect, the BLM cannot achieve these ends through this means. Please rescind the order for the reasons set forth in this letter and in the name of balance, transparency and the BLM’s multiple-use mandate.”

And in a contentious public meeting, BLM Director Bob Abbey’s pants were set on fire, figuratively:

Abbey’s visit marked by fireworks

Mary Bernard, Vernal Express, 1/18/11 [here]

Angry words, rowdy applause and a walk-out marked Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey’s visit Friday to the state Capitol to discuss a national policy shift on public lands management.

The new policy, announced Dec. 23 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, directs the BLM to inventory — or in some cases re-inventory — the land it manages to determine if it should be protected under a new “wild lands” designation until Congress can decide whether it wants to permanently protect it as wilderness.

“It is consistent with our obligation to manage public lands for multiple uses,” Abbey said of the policy shift, adding that the public has a “right to protest or litigate decisions with which they disagree.”

Speaking before the usually reserved body of stakeholders on the Governor’s Council on Balanced Resources, Abbey was repeatedly blasted as he defended Salazar’s order.

“When is enough enough?” Gov. Gary Herbert asked, clearly frustrated with the shift that scraps a 2003 agreement crafted between then-Gov. Mike Leavitt and the Bush administration’s BLM that said the agency would stop trying to have public lands in Utah considered for congressional designation as wilderness.

“How many times are we going to inventory the same thing?” Herbert asked, drawing loud applause from attendees sporting “Stop the Land Grab” stickers as others wearing yellow “Wild Utah” buttons sat silent.

So many people turned out for Abbey’s meeting with Herbert and his council that two additional overflow rooms had to be opened to accommodate the session.

Herbert went on to criticize “ad nauseum litigation over public lands management that has had a negative impact on rural economies.” Specifically, he said, rural economies who rely on public lands access and face “the lack of finality” and no way to plan for the future.

Similar sentiments were voiced by council member Kathleen Clarke, who held Abbey’s job for five years during the Bush administration. She noted in the absence of certainty, “We will cause industry to flee this state.”

Council member Mike Noel went on to angrily denounce Salazar’s order as “erroneous.” The Republican state representative from Kanab said the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 guarantees Westerners responsible access to resources on public lands.

Instead, Salazar’s order is a step backward, possibly foreclosing on the state’s effort to engage different points of view to resolve challenges without legal action, council members told Abbey. …

“We’ve tried to bring people together in a reasonable and rational approach,” said Herbert, who was clearly irked by the federal government’s lack of openness in formulating its new policy.

“Process counts and when a major policy change is announced two days before Christmas after Congress is out of session, something is wrong,” the governor said. “If we have to somehow do it in the shadows, then it probably isn’t the right thing to do.”

Still smarting from the last minute phone call on the morning Salazar announced his order, the governor said the state was “caught blind” by the policy change. …

A request to hear from former Rep. Jim Hansen, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, was met with a protest by council member Pat Shea.

Shea — director of the BLM for a brief time under President Bill Clinton and current defense attorney for Tim DeChristopher, the man charged with monkey-wrenching a 2008 BLM oil and gas lease auction in Salt Lake City — stormed out of the proceeding when Hansen, a non-member of the council, was given the floor to speak.

“The BLM is protecting fake wilderness,” Hansen said. “Only Congress can create a wilderness.”

Abbey countered Hansen’s assertion that Salazar’s order bypasses congressional authority saying, “We are not creating de facto wilderness.”

The response — interrupted by boos from the audience — focused on the BLM’s responsibility to operate as a multiple-use agency. …

When unctuous government functionaries violate the Constitution and the will of Congress with surprise “orders” that promise economic disaster, catastrophic holocaust, and wholesale destruction in the name of phony, illusory “mandates” and extreme junk science, can we call their actions “civil”? Is it “balance”, “clarity”, and “common-sense”, as described by Salazar, to inflict illegal and unwanted policies in a midnight putsch?

No, it just pisses people off. Salazar and Abbey need to resign today. They are bad for America.

22 Jan 2011, 1:43pm
Climate and Weather Useless and Stupid
by admin
1 comment

Did Global Warming Impact the Sunrise?

Silly Science Dept.

A goofy alarmist dire report at Huffington Post is making headlines today: Did The Sun Rise 2 Days Early In Greenland? Global Warming May Be Cause [here].

The unnamed HuffPo author(s) claim, “As icecaps melt, the horizon sinks down as well, which makes the sun appear earlier over the horizon.”

As if the Greenland ice cap melted so much last year that the first sunrise of the year above the Arctic Circle is peeking over a lowered horizon.

Sorry, sports fans, but that’s complete bunkum. The HuffPo article cites Live Science’s Strange Claim: The Sun Rose 2 Days Early in Greenland [here]

That article clearly states:

…”In a nutshell, there can’t be a change in the true sunrise, because that would require the Earth-Sun orbital parameters to change,” said John Walsh, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Fairbanks is located about 1 degree of latitude south of the Arctic Circle, far enough south that it does not completely lose its sun in winter, and this year the sun has followed its typical pattern in Alaska, he said.

“No changes here,” he said. “We would have heard about it.”

Walsh and other scientists agreed there is absolutely no evidence of a shift in the tilt of the Earth’s axis or any other change that might alter the arrival of the seasons around the globe.

An atmospheric illusion?

Other causes can be ruled out, including the effect of the approaching leap year in 2012, since in and around leap years, the sun is slightly lower in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere around Jan. 11, according to Thomas Posch, of Austria’s Institute of Astronomy.

The most likely possibility was the refraction of sunlight at the horizon, he told LiveScience in an e-mail. Most of the other scientists interviewed agreed this was the most likely culprit. …

It is unlikely that the melting of the edge of the ice sheet would change the timing of the first sunrise, because the ice is east of the town, while the sunrise would take place almost due south. …

Get that? The ice cap is in the wrong place. The sun does not rise over the ice cap in the town of Ilulissat. Nor has alleged global warming altered the orbit of the earth around the Sun. The HuffPo dire report is bogosity in the extreme.

What really happened? Dr. S.E.Hendriksen, Greenland resident and scientist explains:

Nothing can surprise a Viking - living North of the polar circle - it’s a well known phenomenon called refraction [here] (the physical optical explanation). When you have a inversion layer of cold air at surface and the air is warmer higher up you can sometimes see a mirage.

Vitus Bering [here] wrote about it in his log-book when he was navigating the North West passage. The sun rise (after the dark winter period) came several days before the almanac predicted.

The best example is from a small settlement north of Umanaq which saw a sunrise 6 days before the almanac prediction.

It happens every day north of the Polar Circle. As a weather observer in Kangerlussuaq, I see it every winter, because of the cold air falling down from the Ice Cap pressing the hot air upwards. When you have cold air in the bottom of the fjord in Kangerlussuaq and the hot air some 1500 feet above, the mountains in the horizon change.

If hot air sits above the cold air it changes the refraction index, and the sun becomes visible, even if it’s below the horizon. If hot air is in the bottom layer (opposite inversion), then the sun will appear to sink below the horizon even if it is above it.

It is NOT a mystery, it’s a physical optical law. Several so-called “experts” don’t have the slightest clue about what is going on.

Well, nothing new about that!

Magic Wilderness Implications

The redoubtable bear bait makes an important observation [here] that everyone should study intently.

The BLM has invented a new legal and quasi-ecological concept, that of “natural rehabilitation”. In the case of the new Elkhorn Ridge Designated Wilderness, a mere five years of no (or reduced) human activity on 11,000 acres of ranches, homes, timber harvest tracts, etc. was enough “natural rehabilitation” to turn an area of Mendocino County CA into “primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which… generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

In just five years a working landscape transformed naturally into primeval wilderness. That is, according to the experts at the BLM.

So when the supremely tamperistic Ken Salazar declared [here] that he would “restore balance and clarity to the management of public lands by establishing common-sense policy” by designating “appropriate areas with wilderness characteristics under its [the Dept. of Interior's] jurisdiction as ‘Wild Land’ and to manage them to protect their wilderness values”, he meant every single acre of the 245 million acre BLM empire.

After all, if five years of “natural rehabilitation” is all it takes to restore primeval character, erasing the imprint of man, then every acre is a mere five years away from being wild as a goose in the wind.

The inconvenient fact that human beings have been living on and imprinting North America for 10,000+ years is moot. It’s as moot as a dead duck. All the BLM has to do is put up a gate, lock it, and five years later presto! it’s wilderness.

Congress is also moot. What difference do they make?

And the science of Ecology is also moot. Wilderness is a state of mind, not an actual condition, or else Mother Nature is magic and with a wave of Her wand, bingo! it’s wilderness in five short years or less.

La, la, la. Merrily we skip down the garden path. Only it’s not a garden anymore, it’s wild wilderness, untrammeled and unimprinted.

Detroit, you’re next.

18 Jan 2011, 1:33pm
Private land policies
by admin
leave a comment

Koch Bros Are Not Free Marketeers

by Travis Cork

A recent post on the great blog, masterresource.org, congratulates the Koch Companies (includes Georgia Pacific and Flint Hill Resources) for its “adherence to free-market capitalism…”.

No doubt the Koch Brothers are better than most(they support Cato, but for some reason dismiss Mises), but like many, perhaps all businessmen, they do not understand the true nature of a free-market.

An example of their failure to understand the true nature is exemplified by the recent purchase by Flint Hills Resources of two ethanol plants in Iowa. Ethanol has not and so far cannot pay its own way. The propping up of this mis-allocation of scarce resources has had a number of detrimental consequences including adding to the government deficit, fouling price signals in the food market, and damaging engines (my lawn mower for one).

While I do not consider tax credits as a subsidy, it is a form of government intervention that would not exist in a true free-market. Would Flint Hills have bought these plants without considering the after-tax benefits of that government intervention? I doubt it. How does taking advantage of an obvious government intervention signal one’s “adherence to free-market capitalism?” Clearly it does not.

The recent pandering of Georgia Pacific to the Dogwood Alliance and NRDC is another example. In a free-market setting, if GP refuses to buy trees growing on sites it considers rare or endangered, that is certainly GP’s right. Do not doubt other timber buyers will be happy to step in and fill the market void created by GP’s policy.

GP has taken this step with considerable public fanfare, and in the process given support to entities, the aforesaid Dogwood Alliance, et al., that are very hostile to any type of free-market setting for the management and allocation of resources from the forest. With this backing, Dogwood Alliance, et al., will be bolstered in its efforts to champion further government intervention to prevent other timber buyers from buying timber from these sites. That this may damage the owners of timber on any sites that make the Dogwood Alliance’s “endangered” list is apparently not a concern.

GP is being advised by an academic at a land-grant University, UGA (Georgia). In a free-market, there would be no land-grant universities sucking off the taxpayer teat. If GP is such a supporter of free-market capitalism, why did it not hire a private sector expert on land classification?

Because UGA is a supporter of the longleaf pine ecosystem myth, it is a certainty that the academic will look to expand the acres of land that can be classed as endangered. When the Europeans started settling the North American continent in the early 1600s, they found a landscape in the southeast that entirely was created by man, the pre-Columbian settlers. But for the 100s, perhaps 1000s, of years of repeated firing of the Southeastern United States by these Pre-Columbian settlers, there would have been no parklike landscape with scattered longleaf pine. It was not a natural forest. That will not prevent many sites that would be better utilized by loblolly pine from being classed as “endangered”.

If businessmen are going to tout their support of free-markets, they first must understand the true nature of a free-market, and how its business practices aid or impede the process. Give the Kochs whatever praise they are due for being better than most, but do not praise them for their “adherence to free-market capitalism.” They are not there yet.

Perpetrating a Fraud: CO2 Offsets

by Bill Turlay

WA residents, you might take note (and mention to your legislature delegation) that RCW 19.29A.090 [here] requires each electric utility to provide to its retail electricity customers a voluntary option to purchase qualified alternative energy sources. Each electric utility must include with its retail customer’s billing statement, at least quarterly, a voluntary option to purchase qualified energy resources. OR residents, the basic premise of this message pertains to you also.

Ladies and gentlemen, the State of Washington is involved with perpetrating a fraud on its citizens. See Climate Swindle: The Mirage of Carbon Offsets by Mr. Todd Wynn of the Cascade Policy Institute [here]. Some selected excerpts:

Carbon offsetting has spread quickly in the past few years, fueled by worries of human induced climate change. Some assert that the combustion of fossil fuels is causing a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and consequently increasing global temperatures. Accordingly, many environmental organizations and governments around the globe advocate restricting fossil fuel use and increasing the use of mechanisms that claim to decrease human emitted greenhouse gases. One of these mechanisms is carbon offsets.

The Climate Trust, a non-profit carbon offset provider in Oregon, defines carbon offsets as “reduction, removal, or avoidance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a specific project that is used to compensate for GHG emissions occurring elsewhere. One carbon offset represents one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent.” By purchasing a carbon offset, businesses, electric utilities, or individuals pay someone to reduce greenhouse emissions elsewhere, rather than change their own behavior. …

The newfound popularity of carbon offsets warrants a closer examination of their legitimacy. Studies of some carbon offset schemes have revealed examples of fraud and abuse. These examples caution against the use of offsets for regulatory compliance.

This report offers an in-depth look into one of the most prominent carbon offset marketers in the United States, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF). Because BEF is perceived as one of the nation’s leaders in providing quality offsets, any problems found there would indicate that there are systemic problems within the industry. …

more »

Jerry Moonbeam Proposes to Burn Down California

Only days into office, retread CA Goober Jerry Moonbeam has proposed cutting the Cal Fire budget.

Governor proposes firefighting shift from Cal Fire to local agencies

By Paul Rogers, The San Jose Mercury News, January 16, 2011 [here]

The proposed budget Governor Jerry Brown rolled out this week contains significant changes to California’s environment — from closing some state parks to dropping a program that pays big landowners to keep their property undeveloped.

But perhaps none may prove to be more significant than Brown’s recommendation for major changes to the way California battles wildfires.

His plan calls for reducing firefighters on Cal Fire engine crews from four to three — back to staffing levels that existed before massive wildfires charred the state in 2003. It also would shift to cities and counties a significant amount of Cal Fire’s fire fighting and other emergency-response responsibilities. … [more]

Well, I guess the voters get what they vote for. Who better to destroy the Land of Fruits and Nuts than a fruity nut?

Magic Wilderness

Here we go. On Dec. 23rd Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a “secretarial order” to designate 245 million acres of BLM land as “wilderness” [here]. Three weeks later the BLM proudly announced a new 11,000 acre “wilderness in Mendocino County, CA.

BLM Finalizes Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness Designation

BLM News Release No. CA-N-11-19, January 13, 2011 [here]

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that the Elkhorn Ridge Potential Wilderness Area in Mendocino County, California, has officially been added to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

“We are excited that this unique and beautiful area will now receive permanent protection as wilderness,” said Lynda Roush, manager of the BLM Arcata Field Office. “This designation is the result of hard work by many local partners and the strong support of Congressman Mike Thompson.”

Congressman Thompson added, “The official designation for Elkhorn Ridge makes certain this very special place will be enjoyed by future generations. The area is rich in wildlife and aquatic species, diverse forestland, chaparral habitat and many areas of undisturbed ancient forest. I am please the area is permanently protected.”

Congressman Thompson is very wrong. The designation is an invitation to catastrophic holocaust. The Elkhorn Ridge area is now dedicated to immolation and incineration. Whatever resource values are there now will be destroyed within a few years by unfought wildfire.

Ken “Mr. Tamper” Salazar promised to “restore balance and clarity to the management of public lands by establishing common-sense policy.” What he accomplished is the exact opposite.

More from the news release:

The area was designated as a potential wilderness area by the 2006 Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act. This interim designation provided time for the BLM to assess and, if necessary, restore 1,565 acres of private lands acquired for public ownership shortly before the Act’s passage. The Act required that the area be designated as wilderness once conditions were compatible with the Wilderness Act, or no later than five years after the Act’s passage.

The BLM determined no additional restoration of the Elkhorn Ridge area was necessary as the area had naturally rehabilitated itself over the five years. Consequently, a publication in today’s Federal Register announces that the interim designation has been lifted and the area is now designated wilderness.

According to the Wilderness Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-577), wilderness is “an area where the earth and [its] community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which… generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable.”

The Elkhorn Ridge area has been occupied and resided in by human beings for 10,000+ years. The imprint of that heritage is profound. The area is laced with human trails of great antiquity. Human beings established an anthropogenic mosaic there of human-induced prairies, acorn orchards, hazel copses, and other subsistence crop complexes. There are sacred sites of vintage stretching back many thousands of years.

All that is alleged by the BLM to have disappeared after five years of “natural rehabilitation”. What a crock! What a travesty!

Destroying heritage as well as vegetation, wildlife habitat, clean air, clean water, and other resource values by catastrophic fire is NOT the mission of the BLM. To do so behind a pack of transparent lies is even more egregious.

12 Jan 2011, 6:29pm
Climate and Weather
by admin

Pacific Northwest Temperatures Have Been Trending Downward For the Last 25 Years, Despite Predictions of Continued Warming

by Ken Schlichte

Reports from Oregon and Washington in recent years have suggested that climate change is resulting in continued temperature increases and pronounced environmental impacts across the Pacific Northwest. These reports also suggest that increases in atmospheric CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels are primarily responsible for these Pacific Northwest temperature increases. The discussion below presents figures and information from the National Climatic Data Center indicating that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures have actually been trending downward at a rate of 0.15°F per decade for the last 25 years and trending downward at a rate of 2.75°F per decade for the last 8 years, even as anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and the concentration of atmospheric CO2 were both increasing.

The “Oregon Climate Assessment Report (OCAR) Legislative Summary” [here] released in December 2010 by the Oregon Climate Research Institute, begins with the following statements:

Earth’s climate has changed in the past, though the recent magnitude and pace of changes are unprecedented in human existence. Recent decades have been warmer than at any time in roughly 120,000 years. Most of this warming can be attributed to human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) for energy. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases, also known as greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere. This warming cannot be ascribed to natural causes (volcanic and solar) alone. It can be said that human activities are primarily responsible for the observed 1.5°F increase in 20th century temperatures in the Pacific Northwest. A warmer climate will affect this state substantially.

Future regional climate changes in Oregon include:

Increases in temperature around 0.2-1°F per decade

Average annual air temperatures will increase through the 21st century. The amount of warming depends partly on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

Similar and earlier predictions of Pacific Northwest climate change include “The economic impacts of climate change in Oregon: a preliminary assessment” (Oct. 2005) [here] by the UO Institute for a Sustainable Environment and “Impacts of Climate Change on Washington’s Economy” (Nov. 2006) [here] also by the UO ISE. The first report predicted a regional warming of approximately 1°F per decade over the next several decades, while the second stated that:

Scientists expect the Pacific Northwest climate to warm approximately 0.5ºF every ten years over the next several decades, a rate more than three times faster than the warming experienced during the twentieth century. In Washington, scientists project that average annual temperatures will be 1.9ºF higher by the 2020s when compared with the 1970-1999 average, and 2.9ºF higher by the 2040s.

The Oregon Climate Assessment Report suggested that the “observed” temperatures in the Pacific Northwest increased 1.5°F during the 20th century, but the National Climatic Data Center figure below indicates that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures trended upward at a rate of 0.06°F per decade during the 20th century for a total temperature increase of only 0.60°F.

Annual Temperature
Northwest Region
1900 - 2000

Annual 1900 - 2000 Average = 46.69 degF
Annual 1900 - 2000 Trend = 0.06 degF / Decade

Fig. 1: Pacific Northwest average annual temperatures from 1900 through 2000 with trend line. Data courtesy NCDC.

Despite the statement in “Impacts of Climate Change on Washington’s Economy” that the Pacific Northwest will “continue to warm approximately 0.5°F every ten years over the next several decades”, the NCDC figure below indicates that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures have actually been trending downward at a rate of 0.15°F per decade during the 25 years since 1986.

Annual Temperature
Northwest Region
1986 - 2010

Annual 1986 - 2010 Average = 47.70 degF
Annual 1986 - 2010 Trend = -0.15 degF / Decade

Fig. 2: Pacific Northwest average annual temperatures from 1986 through 2010 with trend line. Data courtesy NCDC.

The NCDC figure below indicates that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures have been trending downward at a rate of 0.76°F per decade during the 13 years since 1998. The NCDC also reports that annual temperatures for the contiguous United States have been trending downward at a rate of 0.94°F per decade during the 13 years since 1998.

Annual Temperature
Northwest Region
1998 - 2010

Annual 1998 - 2010 Average = 47.71 degF
Annual 1998 - 2010 Trend = -0.76 degF / Decade

Fig. 3: Pacific Northwest average annual temperatures from 1998 through 2010 with trend line. Data courtesy NCDC.

The NCDC figure below indicates that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures have been trending downward at a rate of 2.75°F per decade during the 8 years since 2003. The NCDC also reports that annual temperatures for the contiguous United States have been trending downward at a rate of 1.21°F per decade during the 8 years since 2003.

Annual Temperature
Northwest Region
2003 - 2010

Annual 2003 - 2010 Average = 47.72 degF
Annual 2003 - 2010 Trend = -2.75 degF / Decade

Fig. 4: Pacific Northwest average annual temperatures from 2003 through 2010 with trend line. Data courtesy NCDC.

The National Climatic Data Center figures above indicate that Pacific Northwest annual temperatures trended downward slightly at a rate of 0.15°F per decade during the last 25 years, trended downward more rapidly at a rate of 0.76°F per decade during the last 13 years, and trended downward much more rapidly at a rate of 2.75°F per decade during the last 8 years. It is worth noting that these downward annual temperature trends were occurring even as anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and the concentration of atmospheric CO2 were both increasing.

The downward Pacific Northwest annual temperature trends over the last 25 years shown in the National Climatic Data Center figures above contrast with the climate change predictions in the “Oregon Climate Assessment Report”, “Impacts of Climate Change on Washington’s Economy”, and “The Economic Impacts of Climate Change” in Oregon that predict continued Pacific Northwest temperature increases of 0.2-1.0°F per decade over the next few decades. These climate change predictions have significantly influenced climate change legislation and the development of environmental policy and energy policy in Oregon and Washington in recent years.

Development of appropriate climate change legislation, environmental policy and energy policy for Oregon and Washington requires the use of accurate climate data such as that presented in the National Climatic Data Center figures above, not questionable climate change predictions.

Author Ken Schlichte is a retired Washington State Department of Natural Resources forest soil scientist and has taught forest management courses at Shoreline Community College and Centralia Community College

McClintock On the Royal USFS

Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA, 4th District) delivered the following remarks Friday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives [text and video here]:

House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 7, 2011.

M. Speaker:

Much of my district comprises forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Over the last two years, I have received a growing volume of complaints protesting the increasingly exclusionary and elitist policies of this agency.

These complaints charge the Forest Service, among other things, with:

* Imposing inflated fees that are forcing the abandonment of family cabins held for generations;

* Charging exorbitant new fees that are closing down long-established community events upon which many small and struggling mountain towns depend for tourism;

* Expelling long-standing grazing operations on specious grounds – causing damage both to the local economy and the federal government’s revenues; and

* Obstructing the sound management of our forests through a policy that can only be described as benign neglect, creating both severe fire dangers and massive unemployment.

Practiced in the marketplace, we would renounce these tactics as predatory and abusive. In the public service sector, they are intolerable.

Combined, these actions evince an ideologically driven hostility to the public’s enjoyment of the public’s land – and a clear intention to deny the public the responsible and sustainable use of that land.

Most recently, the Forest Service has placed severe restrictions on vehicle access to the Plumas National Forest, despite volumes of public protests. Supervisor Bill Connelly, Chairman of the Butte County Board of Supervisors writes that “The restriction applies to such activities as: collecting firewood, retrieving game, loading or unloading horses or other livestock, and camping.” He writes, “The National Forests are part of the local fabric. The roads within the National Forests are used by thousands of residents and visitors for transportation and recreation. These activities generate revenue for our rural communities, which are critical for their survival.”

This is not a small matter. The Forest Service now controls 193 million acres within our nation – a land area equivalent to the size of Texas.

During the despotic eras of Norman and Plantagenet England, the Crown declared one third of the land area of Southern England to be the royal forest, the exclusive preserve of the monarch, his forestry officials and his favored aristocrats. The people of Britain were forbidden access to and enjoyment of these forests under harsh penalties. This exclusionary system became so despised by the people that in 1215, five clauses of the Magna Carta were devoted to redress of grievances that are hauntingly similar to those that are now flooding my office.

Mr. Speaker, the attitude that now permeates the U.S. Forest Service from top to bottom is becoming far more reminiscent of the management of the royal forests during the autocracy of King John than of an agency that is supposed to encourage, welcome, facilitate and maximize the public’s use of the public’s land in a nation of free men and women.

After all, that was the vision for the Forest Service set forth by its legendary founder, Gifford Pinchot in 1905: “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”

In May of 2009 and April of 2010, some of my California colleagues and I sent letters to the Forest Service expressing these concerns. I have also personally met with senior officials of that agency on several occasions in which I have referenced more than 500 specific complaints of Forest Service abuses received by my office.

All that I have received to date from these officials are smarmy assurances that they will address these concerns – assurances that their own actions have belied at every turn.

It is time for Congress to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the abuses by this increasingly unaccountable and elitist agency, to demand accountability for the damage it has done – and is doing – to our forests’ health, to the public’s trust, to the government’s revenues and to the nation’s economy – and to take whatever actions are necessary to restore an attitude of consumer-friendly public service which was Gifford Pinchot’s original vision and for which the U.S. Forest Service was once renowned and respected.

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta