The Decline and Fall of Forest Science

The failures of the environmental sciences in our day and age are not confined to climatology. Universities and forest research institutions have squandered $billions pursuing the wrong answers to the wrong forest science questions.

The decline and fall of Western forest science can be traced back to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s when rigorous application of the Scientific Method was abandoned along with most of the prior advancements of the 20th Century. And after 50 years of substituting mythology and political ideas for scientific ones, the forest science establishment has hit rock bottom.

Nowhere is the incompetence of modern forest science more striking than the current fad of blaming non-existent “global warming” for every forest phenomenon large and small. Case in point:

Researchers cite climate change in forest decline

AP, the Washington Examiner, 02/19/11 [here]

Aspens and white pines in the West will face worsening devastation because climate change will make them more susceptible to diseases and bugs, including an infestation of bark beetles that has already killed some 33,000 square miles of forests, researchers say.

Jim Worrall, a U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist who studies aspen deaths, told a conference Friday that “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” indicates climate change has left aspens stressed and vulnerable. …

White pines, common in Montana and parts of Wyoming, aren’t as resilient and have begun to fall victim to bark beetles because warmer temperatures allowed the bugs to move north, said Diana Six, professor of forest entomology and pathology at the University of Montana.

Previously, they were protected by temperatures too cold for bark beetles, but when temperatures rise, the trees have few defenses, Six said. …

Phillip van Mantgem, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said 87 percent of old growth stands that he and others on a research team are monitoring have shown increasing mortality rates, and that the rate doubled in the past 18 years.

“The ultimate cause behind it is probably warming,” van Mantgem said. …

Former Vice President Al Gore addressed the conference, defending climate researchers from criticism about their motives, the Aspen Daily News reported.

“I hear from some quarters that the scientists who are presenting this information to us are interested in making money and that they are making stuff up and hyping it in order to get research grants,” he said. “It is an insult to these men and women who were on this stage today.” …

The problem with all those theories are that they are demonstrably false. Winter temperatures in Colorado have been falling for 20 years.

From the National Climatic Data Center, Climate Services and Monitoring Division, Climate At A Glance [here]

Winter (Dec-Feb) Temperatures, Colorado, 1992-2010, with trend line (1901 - 2000 Average = 25.36 degF).

Note that average winter temperatures in Colorado have been below freezing in every year on record since record keeping began in 1895. Over the last 20 years winter temperatures have declined -0.76 degF per decade. In January 2011 (last month) the average temperature was 23.4 degF, one-tenth of a degree below the 1901-2011 January average and 2 degF below the 1901-2011 winter average.

Winter temperatures in Colorado have not changed significantly over the last 115 years, and they have fallen slightly over the last 20 years, the very period that the researchers above cite as so warm as to cause aspen to die off, beetle infestations to irrupt, and old growth stands to experience increased mortality.

Al Gore presents a strawman argument. Some “quarters” allegedly claim that Colorado forest scientists are “making stuff up” for mercenary reasons, according to Al (who, by the way, has made over $100 million on carbon trading and other global warming alarmism scams).

But Colorado forest scientists are not making up aspen decline, beetle epidemics, or old growth mortality increases. Those phenomena are occurring. No one disputes that.

What Colorado forest scientists are fabricating are bogus theories as to why those things are happening. They blame global warming, and specifically increasing winter temperatures in Colorado, but there have been NO increases in said temperatures.

Colorado forest scientists posit a causal link between something that has not occurred (winter temperature increase) and forest decline phenomena. If the causal factor does not exist, it cannot cause anything.

That’s basic science, indeed basic logic, upon which the Scientific Method relies. Colorado forest scientists might as well say that little green men from outer space caused Colorado forests to decline.

Wait, you say, there are no little green men from outer space. You are correct. Likewise there has been no winter temperature increase. The latter is as imaginary as the former.

Science seeks to understand cause-and-effect phenomena based upon measurable factors that exist in the real world, not on imaginary myths and illusions that do not exist.

The real world foundations of science are extremely important. Without them science becomes a fairy tale, an exercise in fiction, a joke, a waste of time, money, and effort.

If science is done by staring at the blank walls of a cubicle in some institution and making up imaginary folk tales without basis in the real world, then it is not science at all.

We pay people to do exactly that, however. We place them in cubicles in institutions and pay them to make stuff up whole cloth, and call it “science”, and to make presentations at conferences in Aspen alongside politicians, and to give off airs as if they were doing real science, and walk around and tell journo-listas that they are scientists, and generally hoax the place up.

Meanwhile forests continue to decline, and the “scientists” have no more of a clue why than your average wino living in a dumpster, who unfortunately does not get paid the big bucks to make up fanciful tales whole cloth. I say unfortunately because your average wino is an expert at delusion, self and otherwise, and would be as good or better at it than your average forest scientist in a cubicle in an institution.

Wait a second, you say, if you’re so smart tell us why forests are declining.

What? For free? On a free blog accessible by anybody (well, perhaps not by the wino in the dumpster)?

For your information, that’s exactly what we have been doing at W.I.S.E. for 3+ years. Maybe you haven’t been paying close attention.

One thing is for sure, we haven’t been offered any paid vacations to Aspen to present non-imaginary facts about forest decline. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with imaginary global warming.

Forest science is not dead. It hangs on in remote locales like W.I.S.E. But it is reeling and gasping for breath in the USFS, the University of Montana, the USGS, and other establishment government institutions.

What those outfits produce is nothing like science. It’s demonstrably false gibberish masquerading as science.

21 Feb 2011, 4:00pm
by derek

60% of Colorado’s forests burned off in the late 1800’s. Which explains the vast forests of aspen.Very few Lodgepole stands are over 150 years old. What caused it to burn then? Was it global warming then? Perhaps it was insect epidemics then. There are records of vast insect kills, especially in spruce/fir,though sketchy ones.

Or could it be we were coming out of the Little Ice Age a hundred years ago? Which of course if you asked any of the scientists listed above what caused that, they will answer they don’t know. But yet they will turn around and in the same breath tell us with certainty that this is man caused global warming.

21 Feb 2011, 10:27pm
by Scott A.

Well written, ADMIN. I could not have said it better myself.

Nowhere are the wasteful, disdainful, arrogant policies of the USFS more on show for the world to see, than right here in the Payette National Forest.

A particularly good example of FALSE/FLAWED science, and $9 million wasted, is the South Fork of the Salmon River road project (and subsequent 27 year long study to go with it!). All throughout the 1980s, the USFS unlawfully closed the only winter access road to/from Yellow Pine, Big Creek and the back country. Their supposed reasoning was “to help the endangered salmon” by preventing mud being sloshed into the river by car tires. EVEN WHEN THERE WAS FOUR FEET OF SNOW ON THE ROAD FOR FIVE MONTHS OF THE YEAR!!!!

Only after losing a battle in federal court, and claiming the only “solution” was to spend $9 million to pave a road unworthy of such expenditures, was the road re-opened and the townspeople freed to conduct business with nearby communities.

The subsequent 27 year long study SHOWS that a 22% increase in sedimentation occurred AFTER paving the road, much to the ASTONISHMENT of the USFS biologist Mr. Nelson. *google search will provide this report posted online*

So, to clarify: The USFS WRONGFULLY harassed local communities to preserve fish habitat, WRONGFULLY wasted $9 million of the taxpayers’ money on projects which did not meet their goals, and NOW has unleashed a recent forest fire which dumped MILLIONS of cubic yards of granitic sediments containing hazardous heavy metals into the watershed. And which has raised the river bottom two or more feet, wiping out bridges and roadway sections at the cost of $MILLIONS MORE taxpayer dollars to repair.

Towards then end of Mr. Nelson’s biological report for the South Fork of the Salmon River, he simply states a “new baseline must be drawn” to account for the unholy recent Gehenna unleashed on earth in his ranger district. INCREDIBLE!!!!

22 Feb 2011, 7:33pm
by Bob Zybach

Nice essay, Mike! Too bad it is based so much on fact, rather than opinion. Here is a long video, but worth watching, on the topic:

25 Feb 2011, 11:05am
by Larry H.

Sometimes it seems that it is not enough to punish dead (and all live) foresters for “clearcutting the rainforest, the lungs of the earth”. Instead, it often appears that forestry, itself, is now the target of eco-academia. Since protected “Wilderness” is the “desired future condition” of most public lands, they feel that forestry must be discredited, ran through the mud, and burned at the stake. Their thinking is that we won’t need forestry anymore, as “re-wilding” is infinitely better, and “natural”.

Reply: the only people that junk pseudo-scientists discredit are themselves. Their “thinking” is defective in every respect.



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