Hundred Thousand Dollar Jobs

The US Forest Service has announced that the first round of Stimulus projects have been selected. The USFS received $1.15 billion from the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of that, $98 million (12 percent) is to be spent in this first round.

Region 5 (the Pacific Southwest Region in California) will be spending $7.75 million. They foresee creating 70 jobs with that money, jobs that will last one year. That’s $110,714 per job. The jobs entail maintenance and construction on facilities, roads, and trails.

The USFS Region 5 News Release [here]:

NEWS RELEASE: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region

Forest Service Contributes To National Economic Recovery

VALLEJO, Calif., Mar. 5, 2009 — U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell announced today the Agency’s plan to participate in the nation’s economic recovery program. The Forest Service has received $1.15 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The first group of Forest Service projects nationwide created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, totaling $98 million, have been selected. These initial projects will create 1,500 jobs, giving the Agency the early opportunity to put people to work. The remaining projects, totaling $1.052 billion, will be announced shortly and will create an additional 23,500 jobs nationwide.

First round projects on lands managed by the Forest Service in California will include maintenance and construction on facilities, roads and trails totaling 70 jobs and $7.75 million. The jobs are estimated to last from four months up to a year. These projects will benefit 11 counties.

“I am proud that the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region will be playing an important role in creating private sector jobs for Californians on their national forests,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “With the construction industry being one of the hardest hit, these projects will be right on point. In addition we have the opportunity to provide jobs to counties with high unemployment up to as much as a year.”

Under the language of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Forest Service will create as many jobs as possible to support communities and to get money flowing through the economy again. All funds will be spent on specific targeted projects that are, or soon will be, ready to go.

“The Forest Service anticipates playing a key role in our nation’s economic recovery,” said Chief Kimbell. “We are grateful for the confidence Congress has shown us and look forward to demonstrating how the Forest Service can create good jobs during difficult times,” Kimbell added.

Many of the most affected communities of the economic downturn are located near national forests. Rural jobs will be created in areas needing restoration work with shovel ready projects related to fire prevention, roads, bridges, buildings and recreation facilities.

More detailed information about new Forest Service projects and jobs in California will be forthcoming.

Information on the overall U.S. Forest Service role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found at: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery. Information on the total federal effort can be found at http://www.recovery.gov.

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Quincy Sawmill To Close

Monday Sierra Pacific Industries announced the closure of its Quincy, CA, small-log sawmill. The company is unable to obtain enough timber to keep the mill running.

From the NY Times [here]

Logger withdraws from Calif. fire reduction effort

By Jessica Leber, ClimateWire, March 5, 2009

Environmental lawsuits have long made it difficult for Sierra Pacific Industries, the second-largest lumber producer in the United States, to obtain local timber for its small-log sawmill in the tiny Northern California town of Quincy.

This week, the flagging economy hit the final nail into the mill’s coffin: The company announced on Monday that it will close the plant in May.

The mill was conceived to use small-diameter logs from programs that thin trees on national forest lands for the purpose of reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

But due to a long series of administrative appeals and lawsuits from environmental groups that object to any commercial logging in national forests, the Forest Service has only achieved 20 percent of its overall sales targets, said Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s timber sale program is being held up by pending litigation, the company said. The result is that SPI has had to haul logs from farther away to run the mill and make up for the difference.

“Today’s lumber prices are not sufficient to cover these increased costs,” said the company in a statement. “To make things worse, environmental litigation has not only reduced the mill’s raw material supply, but also increased the risk of wildfires in the area.”

Small trees — a big problem in the area’s large forest fires — can’t be cut

Linda Blum of the Quincy Library Group, a group formed in an effort to reach a compromise between environmentalists and loggers to restore the health of the region’s forests, said the closure is symbolic of the difficulties in managing forest land to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and benefit the community at the same time (ClimateWire, Sept. 18, 2008).

In 1998, five years after the group was founded, Congress passed the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, which promoted tree thinning on national forest land to reduce the threat of wildfires while providing raw material for local timber companies. Sierra Pacific Industries began building the mill in Quincy even before the act was officially passed. …

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Old-Growth Forests and Global Warming

Old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest was shut down 15 years ago with the imposition of the Northwest Forest Plan. Nary a stick has been cut in a decade and a half.

The idea was to “save” the spotted owls, a creature alleged to be “dependent” on old-growth.

Unfortunately, shutting down almost all logging of any kind on Fed lands (roughly 60 percent of the forested landscape) did not aid the owl. Spotted owl populations plummeted anyway, and owls now number less than 40 percent of what they did 15 years ago.

It seems that spotted owls are not old-growth dependent, due to the fact that they live and fledge young in second-growth forests. And it seems that predator-prey relations dictate owl population change, much as they do for virtually every species of wildlife.

But no matter. This post is not about spotted owls. It’s about that tired old canard that logging is killing all the old-growth.

Actually, that’s not the case. Competition from the dense thickets of young trees and the catastrophic forests fires that incinerate multi-cohort (old and young growth mixed) stands are to blame for the destruction of old-growth trees over the last 15 years.

But the old lie lives on, now with a new twist. Old-growth is claimed to have the magical property of staving off climate change. How do they do it, you ask? Why, by sequestering carbon dioxide, of course.

The trouble is, the sequestration is temporary. When the old-growth catches fire and burns with unnatural severity, a goodly portion of the biomass goes up in smoke. The remainder consists of newly dead wood, cooked at fatal temperatures, and the dead biomass rapidly rots, releasing (you guessed it) more CO2.

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Supremes Limit Standing to Sue USFS

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that enviros who sue the US Forest Service must show that their members will be directly harmed in a concrete way by specific USFS actions.

Vague claims that blanket the nation will no longer be adequate for establishing standing to sue.

Some Background

The case at issue, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, arose when five enviro groups (the Earth Island Institute, Sierra Club, Sequoia ForestKeepers, Heartwood, Inc., and Center for Biological Diversity) sued the USFS to enjoin the Burnt Ridge Project.

The Burnt Ridge Project timber sale was proposed in September of 2003. It was to be a 238 acre rehabilitation treatment within the 150,700 acre McNally Fire (2002) on the Hot Springs Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest. This amounted to 0.16 percent of the burned area. But heaven forfend, the sky would have fallen if so much as one acre of the catastrophe had been treated, and so the “watchdog” groups slammed the USFS with a lawsuit to stop it.

The USFS had promulgated a rule, entirely consistent with NEPA, that microscopic projects like the Burnt Ridge Project could be categorically excluded from Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) analysis.

The five enviro groups claimed they had standing to sue because some joker from Indiana (Heartwood, Inc. is based in Indiana) avowed that he might drive or fly to California some day and might possibly hike out to the project area and view it, and that the very sight of a rehab project would ruin his recreational experience. From the Ninth Circuit Court decision of 2006 [here].

To establish their standing, plaintiffs rely on the declaration of Jim Bensman, an employee and member of Heartwood. According to his affidavit, Bensman has been using the National Forests for over 25 years, and has visited National Forests in California, including Klamath, Shasta, Six Rivers and Trinity. Bensman declared that he planned to return to California in August 2004 and Oregon in October 2004. He asserted that his interest in the biological health of the forest, as well as his recreational interest, is harmed when development occurs in violation of law or policy. Bensman specifically stated that if an appeal option were available to him on projects that are categorically excluded from appeal, he would exercise that right of appeal. He also alleged personal and procedural injuries under each challenged regulation.

Judge James K. Singleton of the US District Court of Eastern California bought that malarkey, and in 2005 enjoined the Burnt Ridge Project and every other micro-project in the nation, even though the Burnt Ridge Project was the only project specifically referenced in the complaint.

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Floods in Big Sur

The Big Sur River reached flood stage after more than 5 inches of rain fell last weekend. Highway 1 was blocked Monday by a mudslide/debris flow near the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance.

Some excellent photos of the flooding are [here].

The photos were posted by Big Sur Kate [here], who blogged about the Basin Fire up close and personal. Some blogs rise above the mundane. Big Sur Kate’s is one of those — it is not only a triumph of art, her blog provides an invaluable public service by promoting public health and safety and a deep understanding about living on this Earth.

The Big Sur River watershed and a few other watersheds on the Los Padres National Forest were burned by the Basin [here], Indians [here], and Chalk [here] Fires.

The Basin/Indians Fire (they merged) cost over $120 million while burning 244,000 acres. It was the third largest fire and the most expensive fire in California history, and the second most expensive in U.S. history (the Biscuit Fire in Oregon in 2002 had $150 million in suppression expenses). The Chalk Fire added 16,269 acres and $24 million to those totals.

Most of the dollars and acres burned up were due to backfires set by firefighters. Fire managers announced at the onset that they were applying the “accountable cost management strategy” and then they proceeded to break the bank. When the Basin Fire reached homes dozens of miles from the ignition point, the firefighters fled and homeowners fought the fire themselves. At no time during the last 30 years did the USFS initiate any fuels management or fire road construction in the area, because Congress designated the area a wilderness, even though human beings have been living there for 10,000+ years.

The Monterey Herald reported a flash-flood warning [here]:

By Daniel Lopez, 03/03/2009

Another inch of rain is expected today and Wednesday in the urban areas of Monterey County, the National Weather Service said.

Beginning Friday though, the storm clouds are expected to clear, leading into what should be a dry weekend.

Early Monday, heavy rain prompted the weather service to issue a flash-flood warning for small streams and rivers in the Big Sur area.

The National Weather Service issues such warnings when there is a rapid rise in stream levels, said forecaster Steve Anderson.

The Big Sur area was scarred by wildland fires last summer and officials fear the damaged land may be more prone to landslides, flooding and debris flows in the surrounding creeks and streams.

“Once the mud and debris starts coming downhill, there’s nothing to stop it,” Anderson said.

The Big Sur River did peak at about 7½ feet Monday but there were no reports of damage or significant problems. …

Scientists who studied the burned area said there is a risk for flooding and landslides for about five years.

We have essayed about post-fire watershed destruction in more than a few posts, most recently in Floods Follow Fires [here]:

Catastrophic forest fires impact more than the vegetation. Fires destroy habitat, pollute streams, foul the air, and inflict public health and safety problems. Sometimes, as was the case in the Biscuit Fire (2002), forest fires burn so intensely that the soil is stripped away [here].

After intense fires the soils, baked and/or blown away, cannot absorb water as they did previously. Rain does does not infiltrate the damaged soils due to collapse of soil structure, increased bulk density, removal of organic matter, reduction in soil porosity, clogged soil pores, and increased reaction to rainfall droplet kinetics. Soils can become “waterproof” through decreased soil wettability (hydrophobia), concretion, and increased water repellence. That can lead to increases in surface flow, increased soil particle transport, rilling, gullying, and increased erosion.

And floods. Fire-damaged soils across a watershed can cause increases in discharge rates, seasonal streamflows, and especially peak flows, including flash flooding.

Before the fire the soil acts like a giant sponge; after the fire the soil becomes water repellent. As a result, floods happen more frequently.

The Salmon River watershed in central Idaho was subjected to an 800,000 acre burn in 2007. Mudslides tore out roads and filled streams the following winter [here]. This winter more of the same is expected.

Flash floods followed the Zaca Fire (2007) [here], which burned 240,000 acres over a two month period, cost more than $120 million in direct fire suppression expenses, and was (at the time) the most expensive fire in California history.

That is, until one year later when the Indians/Basin Complex Fires burned 244,000 acres and cost $124 million.

The effects of catastrophic fire on forests and watersheds are both immediate and long lasting. The final cost-plus-loss totals for the Basin Fire are not yet tallied, and will not be for years to come.

The Costs of Inaction

The just released (Winter 2009) issue of California Forests contains a powerful message: passive forest management leads to catastrophic wildfires that harm forests, watersheds, wildlife, public health, and other values.

California Forests is the official publication of the California Forestry Association. The entire issue can be downloaded from their website [here]. Some excerpts:

Wildfire Blazes Across Political Boundaries

by David A. Bischel, President, California Forestry Association

Wildfires in 2008 left nearly 1.5 million acres of California’s wildland charred … costing taxpayers more than $1 billion to fight. …

Wildfires don’t care about politics, nor do the watercourses that fill with mud and debris during post fire rains, or the wildfire displaced by the flames. …

Californians deserve to be made fully aware of the potential effects of action, or inaction, in our forests. They also deserve to have their elected officials engaged on the issue and participating in open debates.

That, unfortunately, does not always happen. …

Active Forest Conservation Beats Passive Preservation

by Jay O’Laughlin, Ph.D., professor of forest resources and director of the College of Natural Resources Policy Analysis Group at the University of Idaho.

A century of fire exclusion and a 90 percent decrease in national forest timber harvests have allowed unprecedented fuel loads to accumulate on public forest lands and increased the incidence of large-scale, high-intensity wildfires. These big fires put ecological, economic, and social values at serious risk.

Although active management can improve forest conditions, public policies thwart managers from restoring forests and effecting long-term fuel reduction designed to protect wood, water, wildlife, and other values. Rather than allowing managers to practice conservation, our policies tend to keep managers out of the woods. …

Conservation also forces us to make some tough decisions about our forests, starting with, what do we want our forests to look like? Given the fuel accumulations on much of our public lands, the answer is something other than what exists today.

Foresters call this the “desired future condition,” and it drives everything else. If we know what we want our forests to look like, managers can work towards that end by applying the science and technology that underpin the forestry profession.

Conservation targets a specific goal, whereas preservation assumes that whatever results from “natural” forces is preferable to human action-even with the unnatural fuel loads that exist today. …

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23 Feb 2009, 12:08pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
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Wildland Fire Costs Petition

by John F. Marker

Your Assistance is Needed:

As you know the cost of wildland firefighting for the federal land management agencies has been increasing as weather, fuel conditions, shortage of firefighting resources and other factors have increased fire size, resource damage,loss of homes and watershed losses in recent years.

When the cost of firefighting exceeds the agency’s fires fighting budget the agencies have to use their operational budgets to cover the extra costs. This requirement has devastated agency programs such as forest health, recreation, wildlife habitat improvement, watershed protection, fire prevention and environmental research. It also seriously cut assistance to the states for forest and range management an fire protection and forest health programs on state and private lands.

A Fire Suppression Funding Coalition, comprised of major national and regional conservation organizations, has developed a statement of principles for solving this critical issue that will be shared with members of Congress as they work to resolve the funding problem. We would ask that you review the principles and encourage your members of Congress to consider these principles as they work to resolve the problem of funding firefighting for the federal agencies.

The cost of fighting wildland fires is high, but the values at risk in terms of threats to human life, natural resources, homes and businesses and the economy are much greater. For example, in the January 2009 Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition’s Economic Stimulus Program paper, the economic value of water from the National Forests is listed as $29 Billion per year, and the value of recreation from these lands is at least $7.49 billion and adds $98 billion to the Nation’s GDP.

The National Association of Forest Service Retirees would appreciate your support of the principles presented in the attached paper through encouragement to your members of Congress to resolve this serious fire protection problem.

John F. Marker, Northwest Director
National Association of Forest Service Retirees

(attachment follows)

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Audio From a MT Legislative Hearing Dealing with the Fed Fire Hazard

As reported [here], the Montana State Senate passed Senate Bill 34, extending the authority of counties to reduce fire hazards on USFS lands, by a vote of 42 to 7 in January. SB 34 is one of several bills developed by Montana Interim Fire Committee last summer.

A subsequent hearing on SB 34 was held in the House Local Government Committee on February 3rd. An audio recording of that hearing is [here]. The streaming audio comes in a .rm file. That’s an outdated file type that plays in Real Media. If you don’t have that software, or have trouble paying the .rm file, you might try downloading Real Alternative v1.9.0 from Afterdawn.com [here].

The discussion on SB 34 begins about 29 minutes into the audio file and runs through 01.44.00.000. It is very much worth listening to.

In his opening remarks, sponsor Sen. Dave Lewis, Dist 42, explained that the six counties he represents contain tens of thousands of acres of bug-killed timber on Federal lands, presenting an enormous fire hazard. The potential exists for 1910-style catastrophic fires due to the enormous fuel loadings. People who live near to Fed lands are at significant risk.

SB 34 would allow counties to enter on those Federal lands to reduce the fuel hazards (the text of SB 34 is [here]). The question arises: does the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution preclude citizens from defending their properties from catastrophic fire? Does the right to self-defense and public safety extend to controlling and removing dangerously excessive, unnatural, and a-historical fire hazards on Federal grounds?

Richard Van Auken, Teton Co. Fire Chief, testified that in 2007 186,000 acres were incinerated in Teton County along the Rocky Mountain Front. Communities are at risk. County Commissions need a tool to address the hazards.

A number of other individuals testified in support of the bill. One individual testified against it. That person represents an envio-litigious group that frequently sues the USFS to halt healthy forest fuels management. Tom Tidwell, Regional Forester for the Northern Region, spoke as an informational witness (neither for nor against the bill).

An article about the hearing was published in the Great Falls Tribune [here]. That article fails to give a fair and balanced review of the testimonies heard.

Rather than attempt to describe every salient remark, I recommend you listen to the audio recording. It is very revealing.

The USFS is not prepared to deal with the enormous fuels problems in Montana. They claim they are treating fuels, but during the question and answer period it came out that the USFS counts wildfire acres as “treated” acres.

The USFS has been hamstrung by litigation and has resorted to “collaborative” planning with the litigious enviro groups. The process has dragged on and the USFS has consequently failed to layout mechanical forest restoration treatments over broad landscapes. Only a few acres are ready to be treated, and so the new Stimulus funding will be not be used for (very much) fuels management.

Not revealed in the hearing is that the USFS has dedicated 4 million acres in Montana and Idaho to Let It Burn [here, here, here].

Whether the Montana Legislature can spur the desperately needed hazard abatement or not remains to be seen. At least they have recognized the problem and are making an attempt.

After-the-Fact Fire Planning

Imagine that you are a District Ranger or a Forest Supervisor assigned the protection and stewardship of a vast tract of public forest. Then imagine a fire is ignited on that tract in the middle of summer.

Would you let that fire burn? Would you in addition call in a team of people who had never seen your forest and knew nothing about to draw up a Let It Burn plan 10 days after the fire started?

Sounds like total lunacy, right? Or worse yet, deliberate and criminal disregard for the the land, of the law, and of plain common sense.

It is hard to believe that such cavalier and destructive actions could possibly be made by the people charged with stewarding our public forests. And yet, the story is not only true, it has been repeated numerous times across the West in recent years.

We post the following letter by retired USFS Forest Supervisor Glenn Bradley to the current Forest Supervisor of the Sawtooth National Forest. Mr. Bradley points out that ex post facto “planning” of wildfires is thoroughly disingenuous, irresponsible, illegal, and destructive.

***

Hi Jane-

At our meeting of retirees on December 1, 2008, you gave me a copy of the South Barker and Johnson 2 Wildland Fire Use Implementation Plan. I apologize for taking this long to send you my comments after I read the plan.

The plan was written by the WFU team after they came to the fire. It may have provided some valuable guidance to the team, but it had no bearing on the decision to let the South Barker Fire burn, because the fire was about ten days old by the time the plan was written.

The first thing that jumped out at me was on Page 3 under “II Objectives”. It states that, consistent with the Forest Land and Resource Management Plan goals, the objective was to restore and maintain ecosystems consistent with land uses and historic fire regimes. The fire did a lot more to disrupt ecosystems than it did to restore them. It effectively canceled all land uses for the duration of the fire and damaged scenic, timber, and watershed values for many years to come.

It is not clear what is meant by “historic fire regimes”. I suspect that may refer to the natural pattern of burning that might have occurred before there was any attempt to manage fire by the Forest Service. If my suspicion is accurate, you should quickly revise the forest plan to adopt a better goal. One of the primary reasons that the national forests were created was that the American people were not happy with the rate that “natural” fire was damaging the timber and watersheds and threatening their properties. Today’s local public is not exactly thrilled with the rates their national forests are being burned up by WFU’s and AMR’s either.

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We Need a Horse To Push the Cart

by bear bait

Hi Mike: Sunday I did my citizen due diligence and attended the Independence stop on the Wyden town hall meetings around the State tour, done in weekend chunks all year long. This is my report, or really my impressions of that meeting.

There were about 100 people in attendance at the pretty new and wonderful Independence Library. Most were geriatric supplicants from around the county, there to support their guy while he preached to his choir. Independence itself is 35% or more Hispanic, and demographically they are an older generation of post WWII Tejanos (US citizens) from the lower Rio Grande agricultural areas of southeast Texas, who came to replace the Okies in farm labor while the Okies were taking jobs in the mills and logging camps after coming home from the War.

They are a wonderful group of senior citizens, and they and their offspring are a core group in good citizenry for Independence. The rest are of recent arrival and dubious papers. We do have an all Hispanic aliens-only Headstart program which acts as a summer babysitting service for women needing to work in the fields. However, none of those were at the meeting. In fact, there were two people of color that I could see, one an Asian lady and a retired WOU prof of Asian (India) background. I also saw at least two people under 20 and a small sprinkling of people between 20 and 40, most of whom were either press or Wyden staff.

The rest in attendance were old farts like me, and quite concerned about their entitlements as they take their final steps to eternity. What’s in it for me? was the general question raised. That and some FAA decision that might keep airpark folks from accessing the State airport from their private taxiways, thus lowering property values… me, me, me. America at its best. None expressed concern for lost jobs or the collapsing economy. What will my take be? What is in it for me? And also punish Bush. Get that Bush administration and Halliburton… (under my breath I said to one and all: “Get a life, dudes.”)

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Is Restoration Forestry in the Stimulus Bill?

The Senate-House Conference Report on the Stimulus Bill has a small section (out of 1,000+ pages) devoted to US Forest Service capital improvement and maintenance and wildfire management.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOREST SERVICE

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE

The conference agreement provides $650,000,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance as proposed by both the House and the Senate. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Service should consider projects involving reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and remediation of abandoned mine sites, and other related critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects.

WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT

The conference agreement provides $500,000,000 for Wildland Fire Management instead of $485,000,000 proposed by the Senate and $850,000,000 proposed by the House. This includes $250,000,000 for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation activities on Federal lands and $250,000,000 for cooperative activities to benefit State and private lands. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the Service to allocate funds among existing State and private assistance programs to choose programs that provide the maximum public benefit. The Conferees encourage the Service to select individual projects based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and to create lasting value for the American public. The bill allows the Service to use up to $50,000,000 to make competitive grants for the purpose of creating incentives for increased use of biomass from federal and non-federal forested lands. To better address current economic conditions at the state and local level, funds provided for State and private forestry activities shall not be subject to matching or cost share requirements.

What does all that mean?

First, the word “restoration” is nowhere to be found. Restoration is akin to “hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation” but it is so much more than that.

Restoration forestry is science- and history-based active management that protects, maintains, and perpetuates the structures and functions of reference landscape conditions in order to achieve multiple goals, including enhancement of fire resiliency, protection of wildlife habitat and populations, recognition and preservation of heritage tribal sites, protection and enhancement of watershed functions, improvement of recreation opportunities, and enhancement of public health and safety in a sustainable manner.

Restoration forestry focuses treatment actions on thinning, strategic fuel breaks, and the use of prescribed fire in prepared stands to modify fire behavior that maximize the retention of large trees and recreate historical forest development pathways that led to modern old-growth.

Restoration forestry also reduces fuels and carbon losses due to wildfire, enhances carbon sequestering in wood products, productive forests, and in soils to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions, produces wood products and biomass energy, and benefits local economies. However, the concept and practice of restoration forestry is more than fuels management and firewood production. It entails a holistic view of landscapes as living ecosystems and strives to sustain the essential elements that translate to ecosystem values of heritage, habitat, watershed, and community well-being.

The Stimulus Bill lacks any statement regarding the particulars of restoration; it avoids the mention of the word altogether.

In contrast, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22) awaiting passage includes Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration [here]. Title IV does use the word “restoration” throughout, and approaches the holistic concept to some degree.

Appropriate and ecologically-sensitive restoration forestry applied on a landscape scale would meet and satisfy all the criteria in the Stimulus Bill. It would also prevent catastrophic holocausts such as the recent and ongoing Australian fires and the repeated megafire destruction that has visited American forests over the last twenty years.

Granted, it is difficult if not impossible for our Congress to grasp the key ideas behind restoration forestry. But the US Forest Service should be able to understand and implement technical restoration forestry on a landscape scale, particularly now that the start-up funding has been appropriated.

They might need some public encouragement in that regard. It might help if you called or wrote your local District Ranger and Forest Supervisor and told them that restoration forestry is what they need to be doing. They need to hear that. They need to know that the public desires more than fuels management, that the holistic, scientific approach of restoration forestry is preferable.

Environmental Policies Kill - Again!

by Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute, February 11, 2009 [here]

One of the main themes of my book, The Really Inconvenient Truths [here], is that misguided environmental policies often lead to humanitarian and environmental disaster. We’ve just seen another example in Australia, where fires have claimed many lives. Distraught survivors are certain they know at least part of the reason why the fires were able to do so:

During question time at a packed community meeting in Arthurs Creek on Melbourne’s northern fringe, Warwick Spooner — whose mother Marilyn and brother Damien perished along with their home in the Strathewen blaze — criticised the Nillumbik council for the limitations it placed on residents wanting the council’s help or permission to clean up around their properties in preparation for the bushfire season. “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down,” he said.

It’s called bushfire season for a reason: the bush catches fire. If you want to reduce the effects, you cut back the bush. Policies that stop this are criminally dangerous.

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Seneca’s plan a model for federal forests

by Darrel Kenops, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Feb 5, 2009 [here]

The Register-Guard’s Jan. 28 editorial, “More from every log,” rightly praises the plans of Seneca Sustainable Energy to build a $45 million, 18.8-megawatt biomass power plant on its northwest Eugene industrial site. The plant will generate renewable energy from sawmill byproducts and slash from the company’s timberlands. The project will not only benefit the company by cutting its energy costs, but it will serve the greater community by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, complementing intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and putting more people to work.

Seneca’s commendable effort uses biomass from its own private forests. Now just imagine what we can do if we apply Seneca’s example to our federal forests in Oregon.

Public and private forests cover nearly half the state. Of those forest lands, six of every 10 acres are federally managed. However, unlike private and state forests, many of these forests are unhealthy, insect infested and fire prone, presenting what might rightly be termed an opportunity disguised as a problem.

Converting wood from overstocked forests to energy offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously address three challenges: the need to restore the health of Oregon’s federal forests, the need to find renewable energy alternatives and the need to revitalize Oregon’s rural communities.

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Bradley Replies to Forsgren

Hi Harv-

Thank you for responding promptly to my e-mail of February 3.

I must have done a poor job of expressing my concerns, because your letter did not really respond to them at all.

I am very aware that there are areas in the national forests that are in dire need of fuel reduction. My concern is that it should be done in an appropriate way . Simply letting large areas burn in the peak of the fire season because they happened to be hit by lightning is a long ways from responsible action.

You place the blame for the “untenable” condition of the national forests on Smokey Bear and past fire policies. A couple of other factors are probably even more significant. As a nation, we have decided through laws, court actions, and agency policies that the forests are to be untouched by anything resembling a commercial use of the fiber and forage they grow. The last figures I heard on timber production in the national forest system quoted an annual growth rate of 20 billion board feet and an annual harvest rate of about 3 billion board feet. That means that every year we are accumulating 17 billion board feet of wood that will eventually burn either by prescription or by accident. To help visualize the magnitude of the problem, try to picture 11 lines of bumper to bumper loaded logging trucks reaching from New York to Los Angeles. They would be carrying the amount of timber that is grown but not harvested each year in the national forests.

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W.I.S.E. to Forsgren: Time for Public Dialog About USFS Fire Policies

Dear Mr. Forsgren,

Thank you for your email of Feb 5th. I have posted it in its entirety at SOS Forests [here].

Your email was in response to Mr. Glenn Bradley’s email of Feb. 3rd, posted [here]. Mr. Bradley is a retired USFS Forest Supervisor, as you know, and his concerns regarding the South Barker WFU Fire have been posted numerously at SOS Forests. Mr. Carl Pence, another retired USFS Forest Supervisor, has also weighed in on this topic, posted [here].

The Fires

Over the last three years SOS Forests has posted many, many essays and discussions about WFU (Wildland Fire Use). We have explored WFU fires that have blown up and caused extensive damage to heritage forests. These include:

• The Warm WFU Fire in 2006 [here, here, among many other posts]. The Warm WFU blew up to 58,640 acres and caused over $70 million in damages to old-growth spotted owl habitat on the Kaibab NF. Ancient home sites, soils, air, and watershed values were incinerated or severely damaged, along with rare old-growth ponderosa pine. The Warm Fire was designated and managed as a WFU in a prohibited zone in direct defiance of a legally binding Decision Notice issued by a federal judge and acknowledged in the Forest Plan EIS. In the aftermath the District Ranger was reassigned, and at angry public meetings USFS officials, including the Regional Forester, were excoriated, as I am sure you recall.

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