Forest Supervisor Explains Jarbidge Firefighting Decision

Today the Elko Free Press published a defense of USFS fire management decisions regarding the East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire written by Edward Monnig, Forest Supervisor of Humboldt-Toiyabe NF [here].

The East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire [here] was ignited by lightning in the Jarbidge Wilderness Area on Aug 8th about 15 miles southeast of Jarbidge, Nevada. The fire was declared a WFU (Wildland Use Fire) by Mr. Monnig and allowed to burn unchecked.

By Aug 20th the fire had grown to 5,000 acres and was threatening 30 historic cabins and the Pole Creek Guard Station. By Aug 21st the fire was nearly 10,000 acres and had spread out of the Maximum Manageable Area (previously established at 113,000 acres). Even so, the WFU designation was retained.

On Aug 21 the ESRR WFU Fire grew to 11,250 acres and the wind was blowing. The WFU designation was scrapped. A Type 1 IMT was requested to suppress the fire [here].

As of yesterday evening the ESRR Fire was reported to be 54,545 acres and 50% contained. Approximately $7,700,000 had been spent suppressing it.

The following is Mr. Monnig’s statement regarding the ESRR WFU Fire. We post it in full, with comments after:

by Edward Monnig, Forest Supervisor, Humboldt-Toiyabe NF

To the Editor: I am sitting in the Incident Command Post of the team of fire fighters that I have charged with controlling the East Slide Rock Ridge Fire. I have just finished a discussion with county law enforcement officials on our joint plans for protecting the public from the fire. These cooperative efforts are an important part of the first priority of our fire fighting efforts - protecting fire fighter and public health and safety.

On Friday I met with Governor Gibbons, Congressman Heller, Commissioner John Ellison, and Assemblyman John Carpenter during their aerial tour of the fire. Their over-flight gave them a greater appreciation of the challenges of managing wildland fire in the rugged terrain of the Jarbidge Wilderness with its large number of dead and dying trees.

During our meeting I also informed the Governor that the Forest Service would be conducting an “After-Action Review” of all decisions and actions taken with the East Slide Rock Fire. I invited him to provide a representative from the Nevada Division of Forestry for this review team.

I recognize the impacts this fire has had on local communities and the questions from the local public on my decisions in managing this fire. I would like to clarify some of the confusion that surrounds this incident and explain my decision process. I have read and heard statements asserting that the fire was allowed to burn unchecked and out of control or that it could have easily been extinguished on the first day. These statements do not accurately capture the reality of this fire or our actions on this fire.

The East Slide Rock Fire was very likely started by a lightning storm on August 8. The fire was actually first discovered by an aerial reconnaissance plane on August 10. We immediately dispatched a helitack crew to the fire. Unfortunately, soon after deployment the helitack crew was diverted to a higher priority fire elsewhere in Elko County.

On August 11 an elite crew of smokejumpers was assigned and jumped the fire. They assessed the feasibility of suppressing the fire safely and efficiently. At that point the fire was 50 to 100 acres in size and burning in steep terrain with spotty but heavy timber. Because of the remote location, the steep terrain, the fuel loads of dead and dying subalpine fir, they validated at ground level that attempting to suppress the fire in this location would be a difficult, dangerous, and costly multi-day exercise with an uncertain outcome.

At that point I had to weigh two things: What were the costs and risks of deploying fire fighters? And, what were the values at risk?

The risk to fire fighters is not insignificant. This year alone we have tragically lost the lives of 19 wildland fire fighters killed in the line of duty. I seriously consider when and where to deploy these men and women and what we are gaining from their effort and risk. In this case, the potential risk to firefighters was very high.

I then discussed with my District Rangers the values at risk from this fire. We have been in the Jarbidge country, and our visits have confirmed what many local people have already observed. Over the past 10 to 15 years many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of subalpine fir trees have been killed by insects and diseases, both inside and outside the Wilderness. The cycle of birth, growth, and eventual death in the forest has been unfolding before us. For thousands of years fire has played a role in recycling and preparing the ground for a new forest.

Are there alternatives to fire? In some instances, yes. In other parts of our National Forests we have been able to alter this cycle somewhat through the judicious harvest of timber. However, even outside the Jarbidge Wilderness I have had no luck in finding a significant market for subalpine fir, a tree generally dismissed in the logging world.

The effects of fire on the ecological system of the wilderness are, of course, only one consideration. I also considered the possibility that the fire would escape the Wilderness. I consulted our fire behavior experts. Computer prediction models based on current fuel moisture, fuel type, past and predicted weather and other factors indicated a less than 2 percent chance that a fire in this remote location would escape the Wilderness.

So as I have done five other times this summer, I decided that the risk to resources inside and outside the wilderness, the effects of the fire on these resources, and the risk to fire fighters did not warrant a full scale assault on this fire. The fire was doing what the fire would eventually do at some point despite our most valiant efforts - consume a lot of dead and dying trees. If we were going to fight this fire, we would have to do it at a less dangerous place of our own choosing.

That does not mean we simply walked away from the fire. We put additional people on the ground on August 13 in order to provide protection to cabins and other resources in the vicinity of the fire. We assigned an additional experienced fire manager to the fire on August 14 to specifically direct this effort. We activated a fire management team on August 18 and gave them specific instructions to confine the fire to the wilderness. As the fire began to threaten the wilderness boundary, they activated hand crews, dozers, a strike team of engines, and air resources to prevent the spread. Unfortunately strong wind events on August 19 and 20 and August 24 and 25 stymied this effort.

On August 22, as fire complexity increased, we activated the best we have, a Type 1 team, one of a select few national teams that handles our most difficult incidents. They have made excellent progress confining spread outside the wilderness.

I fully understand the sense of loss that many people will feel in seeing the forest in parts of the Jarbidge Wilderness disappear in the smoke. Watching the dead and dying trees over the past years has been a bit like watching an old friend succumb to illness. The Jarbidge has been changed for our lifetime. But there is hope and rebirth in a new spring. The grasses, the brush, the trees will again flourish. The elk and the deer will relish their new habitat. The mountains have seen this many times before and will see it again.

Come September, the burning window in these high elevations shuts down, and snows blanket the area. The narrow intense burning period of August will come to an end.

One of the commitments that came from my meeting with the Governor was an agreement to get into the Jarbidge next summer with him to view conditions on the ground and to discuss our management options. Even after the East Slide Rock is extinguished, there will remain many more thousands of acres of dead and dying trees inside and outside the wilderness.

One of our grazing permittees and outfitters who has spent many years in the Jarbidge country has observed “It is no longer question of: ‘if the fire will come’ it is only a question of ‘when it will come.’” I would like to believe that our fire fighting expertise and technology can stop every fire at our choosing; however, we have limits, and we must exercise this power wisely in these remote fire-adapted ecosystems.

I am committed to continuing this dialogue on our management of the National Forests. These lands belong to all of us, and we must all be a part of their management and conservation.

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The South Barker WFU Fire

On August 7th a thunderstorm passed over the Sawtooth National Forest. Lightning struck and a tree burst into flames about a mile north of Featherville in Elmore County, Idaho. For four days the fire smoldered.

The Sawtooth NF officials could have sent a fire crew in to douse the flames. It would have cost a few thousand dollars to extinguish the tiny blaze. But they chose not to, and instead declared the South Barker Fire to be a “wildland fire use” (WFU) fire.

By that date the USFS had spent its entire 2008 fire budget and was transferring funds from other programs. The Sawtooth NF was well aware of this. Sawtooth NF officials were quoted in the Idaho Mountain Express in a story dated Aug 15th [here]:

“We were notified about two weeks ago, around Aug. 4, that fire transfer was imminent,” said the Sawtooth National Forest’s Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson. … “We’re doing fire borrowing,” said Sawtooth National Forest spokeswoman Alicia Bennett. “It’s the first time we’ve done this since 1995.” … “Each region is given the amount of money they have to come up with,” Bennett said. “Then the region tells each of the forests what their share of the regional amount is. Right now we really don’t know what the forest share is.” … “It’s coming out of everybody’s budget,” Bennett said. … “At this point the option the agency has in terms of protective fire costs, we have to look at how we’re going to cover that shortfall and that’s to use the transfer authority and shift money from other programs to cover the estimated fire suppression cost,” Nelson said.

Despite the budget crisis, Sawtooth NF Supervisor Jane Kollmeyer approved the WFU designation on the South Barker Fire.

This morning the South Barker WFU was a reported 32,244 acres (50 square miles) in size and has cost $3,065,807 for “monitoring” to date.

All this is according to plan. The Sawtooth NF has been planning for the South Barker WFU for quite sometime. They have altered their Fire Plan to include WFU. They have mapped a 109,752 acre area they wish to burn, known as the Maximum Manageable Area. They have staffed and trained fire “monitoring” teams known as Fire Use Modules.

Unfortunately most of the public is unaware of these plans and alterations because they were made in secret. There was no NEPA process. The Sawtooth NF never issued an Environmental Impact Statement, never offered alternatives, never engaged the public in scoping or evaluation of their WFU program.

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Put the Gifford Pinchot in the Hands of Professionals

Note: Another commentary regarding our forests worthy of posting at SOS Forests: Frank Backus of Bingen, WA, is a 38-year professional forester who has spent most of his career working in and around the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. He works as chief forester for SDS Lumber Co.

by Frank Backus, opinion in the Clark County Columbian, August 31, 2008 [here]

The Cold Springs Fire in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest has cost taxpayers $11 million to date, destroyed 8,000 acres of varying habitats, including irreplaceable legacy ponderosa pines, wildlife and riparian habitat. State- and private-managed timber damage is yet to be determined but is substantial. There’s got to be a better way.

The original forest-planning effort that culminated in the 1990 Gifford Pinchot Forest Plan involved local people and professional resource managers from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The plan was constructed by people who knew the forest and its needs. It balanced timber production and the local economy with wildlife habitat, stream protection and recognized differing ecosystems.

The ink was barely dry on the plan when environmental appeals and lawsuits hammered local Forest Service land managers. The northern spotted owl became a major litigation and political weapon forcing common sense and professional land managers to the sidelines.

President Clinton’s well-intended 1993 forestry summit brought together renowned specialists who were cloistered in downtown Portland and told to write a plan for Pacific Northwest forests over a few short weeks. The results were unfortunately predictable, and, for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, enormously harmful.

The Gifford Pinchot Forest spans the Cascade Range, north of the Columbia River Gorge and contains a host of ecosystems. The forest borders on the west are in sight of Vancouver and Portland with typical Western Washington forests. The eastern border of the forest is a completely different environment, typified by dry forests, ponderosa pine, grasslands and the like. No other Pacific Northwest national forest has such a widely varying environment, a situation recognized by local land managers but not “experts” locked in a room.

The unavoidable consequence is that the experts who developed and assigned land use designations created habitat designations and requirements that could not be maintained on large portions of the Gifford Pinchot forest. In today’s language, they were — and are — unsustainable.

‘Too aggressive,’ ‘too vast’

Large swaths of the eastern Gifford Pinchot National Forest are designated as spotted owl habitat. Thousands of acres of this habitat is old growth ponderosa pine forest that is now overstocked with white fir that are growing in areas where they cannot survive long-term. Insects predictably invaded the white fir, killing large areas of trees, creating equally large areas of extreme fire hazard. Adjacent landowners hosted the same dynamics but aggressively dealt with the problems as they arose.

Gifford Pinchot forest managers also recognized what was happening and proposed projects over the years, only to have them criticized as, “too aggressive,” “too vast,” “without foundation.” In fact, the proposals were too little, too late but would have helped avoid what we have today: 8,000 acres of scorched habitat adjacent to vast areas of dead trees just waiting to burn. Federal land managers retreated from doing anything other than mostly cosmetic treatments.

This is what happens when local land management professionals are replaced by theoreticians locked in a room with other governmental agencies, which have no responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. It will continue to happen until experienced local land managers are returned to manage the forest.

So, while we argue over commas and periods in multipound environmental impact statements, and while we spend millions of dollars in arcane court battles, we will continue to spend billions of dollars to watch our forests burn. We will continue to watch gracious old ponderosa pines needlessly torched and watersheds immolated by fire.

The solution is simple: Remove politicians, courts and environmentalists from federal land management and return it to professional federal land managers. Charge our land managers with properly managing our forests and hold them responsible for doing so.

They won’t solve the problems overnight, but there is no time like the present to begin the journey. It’s time we started.

31 Aug 2008, 11:53am
2007 Fire Season Federal forest policy
by admin

Photos of Payette NF and Boise NF Destruction

We posted a letter [here] from Ned Pence, retired District Ranger on the Payette National Forest, reporting on his recent visit to the Krassel District. Over 470,000 acres of the Payette NF burned last year, part of an 800,000 acre holocaust that stretched across central Idaho and three national forests.

Mr. Pence was kind enough to send some photos of the destruction, along with this note:

These are examples of some 200 pictures we took of the results from WFU in 2006 and 2007. Two show the non-maintenance of the former Krassel Ranger Station now a “work center”.

The sedimentation of the South Fork of the Salmon River far exceeds anything that resulted in the logging that Regional Forester Vern Hamre stopped in 1967. If sedimentation from logging damaged spawning habitat for summer run Chinook salmon, the damage from WFU will eliminate the salmon from the SFSR. It will take decades for the sediment to flush out without another catastrophic fire. Please think about the fuel loading that will exist in 20 years when the fire killed timber is on the ground with dog hair regeneration. The second fire will be more intense than the first. Recovery of the SFSR will not occur in my lifetime, probably not in my son’s lifetime.

To allow a lightning fire started in July or August with the current fuel loading is not “natural” or “wise use”. It is abuse. There are better ways of returning to “natural” if that is the objective.

Unfortunately, we must recognize that the Forest Service we loved no longer exists and probably never will. And I feel very bad about that.


To view the photos click the “Read more” link below.
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31 Aug 2008, 10:47am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Forest Service Retirees Question Mt. Hood Wilderness Expansion Plan

Note: We post most news stories we find interesting at W.I.S.E. Forest, Fire, and Wildlife News [here]. This article, however, is more than a news clipping. The voices and positions expressed are extremely important. These commentaries regarding our forests deserve our attention here at SOS Forests.

by Raelyn Ricarte, Hood River News,August 27, 2008 [here]

Two former high-ranking officials from the U.S. Forest Service contend that expanding Wilderness areas on Mount Hood will create numerous management challenges.

Linda Goodman and George Leonard believe that retirement has afforded them the opportunity to speak freely and so they can represent the views of many employees with the federal agency.

Goodman was the Region 6 Regional Forester until this spring and supervised activities in 17 national forests — more than 25 million acres — in Oregon and Washington. Leonard served as associate chief for the federal agency until 1993 and is the current president of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees.

Both administrators have many concerns about the latest Wilderness bill, known as Oregon Treasures. That proposal by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., seeks to add 132,000 acres of Wilderness to the existing 186,200 acres. The legislation is awaiting review by the House when Congress reconvenes in September. A similar plan — calling for 127,000 more acres of Wilderness — has been stalled in the Senate since 2007.

Goodman said 4.5 million people visit Mount Hood each year because of its proximity to the Portland metro area. She said a visitor study undertaken by the forest service within the last several years revealed that 67,000 people each year came to the mountain solely for the Wilderness experience.

The remainder of respondents pursued other recreational interests, such as skiing, mountain biking and camping in developed sites, some of which would be eliminated under Oregon Treasures.

“I think this proposal could be doing an economic disservice to the public and communities around the mountain,” said Goodman.

She said it would be more appropriate for Congress to impose a National Recreation Area designation rather than Wilderness.

She said NRAs provide protection for natural resources but leave camp sites open, accommodate mountain biking, which is prohibited in Wilderness, and allow greater efficiency in maintaining hiking trails. She said chain saws could still be used to clear away trees that fall across pathways. Mechanized equipment is prohibited in Wilderness so cross-cut saws are used to clean up trails.

Goodman said the task of sawing up a downed tree then becomes so laborious that Forest Service employees can’t keep up with the workload. She said there are not enough volunteers to make up for the lack of manpower.

“They don’t have enough funding to maintain the Wilderness they have right now, and this plan will be a real problem for employees,” said Goodman.

She believes the purpose of the 1964 Wilderness Act would not be met by scattering more “small narrow corridors” across the slopes of the mountain. She said the existing Mount Hood Wilderness, at 47,160 acres, and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, 44,600 acres, are large enough to serve as a pristine getaway for hikers. If Congress decides to mandate more Wilderness, Goodman said, it should be attached to the larger locations that are already in existence.

“We all believe in Wilderness but the little spurs in Oregon Treasures don’t meet the intent of the Act to provide solitude,” said Goodman, whose career with the Forest Service spanned 34 years.

Leonard expects Hood River County to face challenges if the bill is approved. He said having the newly expanded Wilderness abut a section of the county’s managed forest near Post Canyon creates the potential for more wildfires.

He said insect-riddled and diseased trees are more at risk during lightening strikes. He said while infested trees can be treated within the national forest, they must be left alone in the Wilderness.

“If I had land that was immediately adjacent to an area classified as Wilderness I’d be pretty concerned,” said Leonard.

“I would expect to have my ability to suppress problems significantly reduced.”

Goodman said even if an exception is made and mechanized equipment is allowed into the Wilderness to combat a fire, there might not be a way to reach the blaze. She said the primitive roadways once used for timber harvest cannot be maintained and some are obliterated altogether.

“Putting equipment in there means that you have to be able to get there; and without a road nearby, you can’t do that,” said Goodman.

She said fires are considered a “natural phenomenon” in a Wilderness area and managed with a lighter touch unless they threaten public safety. She said these fires can burn “explosively” because of the dead and dying trees so they are harder to contain once ignited — and more dangerous for firefighters to battle.

John Marker, a retired forest service employee and upper valley orchardist, believes expanding Wilderness will threaten the most valuable resource on the mountain — its water supply.

“Water is critical to our way of life and the engine for a substantial part of our local economy,” he said.

He said a fire that burns hot enough in the Wilderness to sterilize topsoil creates the potential for erosion since nothing can grow there. He said even rains cannot penetrate the damaged earth and that is not acceptable when Mount Hood’s watersheds provide drinking water for more than one million people — and irrigation water for hundreds of local farms.

“Once a fire gets started in a Wilderness area and starts moving, it will go where it wants to go,” said Marker.

He supported development of a customized management plan for the “urban” mountain that was called for in a 2006 bill co-sponsored by Blumenauer and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. That plan would have established stringent rules for protecting resources, recreation and other uses.

Marker, Goodman and Leonard agree that adding more Wilderness to Mount Hood could end up threatening not only resources but recreational opportunities.

Nevada Whoofoo Blows Up

Another illegal whoofoo (Wildland Fire Use fire) instigated by the USFS has blown up. The East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire was ignited Aug 10th on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest about 15 miles southeast of Jarbidge, Nevada. Today it is a reported 18,250 acres and 3.5 miles from town.

The Humboldt-Toiyabe NF declared the ESRR Fire to be a whoofoo based on a secret amendment they slipped into their Fire Plan last June without any Environmental Impact Statement. Environmental Assessment, or notice to the public of any kind. Edward Monnig, Forest Supervisor, apparently thinks NEPA does not apply to him!

The ESRR WFU Fire [here] was only 300 acres on Aug 17th, a week after ignition. But by Aug 20th it had grown to 5,000 acres and was threatening 30 historic cabins and the Pole Creek Guard Station. By Aug 21st the fire was nearly 10,000 acres and had spread out of the Maximum Manageable Area (previously established at 113,000 acres). Even so, the whoofoo designation was retained.

On Aug 21 the ESRR WFU Fire grew to 11,250 acres and the wind was blowing. Wiser heads prevailed and the whoofoo designation was scrapped. A Type 1 IMT (the big boys) was requested to suppress the fire.

Yesterday the fire had grown to 14,500 acres and was out of control. Forty mph winds forced the Type 1 IMT Incident Commander (Summerfelt) to pull the 300+ fire personnel from the line in all divisions in late afternoon. All aerial resources, including heavy helicopters and airtankers, were grounded.

This morning the Elko Daily Free Press [here] reported the ESRR Formerly a Whoofoo Fire to be 18,250 acres and roaring towards town. The Elko County Commissioners held an emergency meeting:

Jarbidge fire causes concerns

By Jared DuBach, Elko Daily Free Press, Monday, August 25, 2008

ELKO - County Commissioners ordered an emergency meeting today to discuss the East Slide Rock Ridge fire, which started Aug. 8 in the Jarbidge Wilderness.

According to a statement from County Manager Rob Stokes, the meeting was ordered because the fire is at a point where there is a potential threat to the safety of those living in Jarbidge and the surrounding area.

Stokes told the Elko Daily Free Press the fire is in the area of Sawmill Canyon Ridge, which is 3.5 miles east of the town. All of northern Nevada is under red flag weather conditions today and wind gusts are projected up to 40 miles per hour.

The wind direction is from the southwest, which would push the fire away from Jarbidge.

“Our concern is with the possibility for a wind shift,” Stokes said. “We’re just trying to be prepared. The Type 1 team is doing a good job and we really appreciate their work and effort.”

The fire was last estimated at about 18,250 acres.

The fire grew from its initial stage as a wild land use fire by the U.S. Forest Service as a means to naturally reduce fuel loads of dead or diseased trees. Now, the fire has 10 crews and four helicopters working on controlling the blaze.

“They should’ve put the damn thing out,” Assemblyman John Carpenter said Friday after reviewing the fire’s status. “When you get a fire going in northeastern Nevada in August, you put it out or it’s going to get away from you.”

The USFS was hot to burn. They thought they were going to instill forest benefits by incinerating the public domain. It was “natural” but not “legal” because the laws of the USA require federal agencies to follow NEPA before inflicting treatments with significant impacts, beneficial or not.

Edward Monnig, Forest Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, is very aware of NEPA but thumbed his nose at it. Now he has engendered a disaster. Over $1 million has been spent suppressing his illegal fire so far, but the final total will be many millions of dollars. The USFS may have burned down their own Guard Station, too. Private homes and ranches are threatened, as well as the town of Jarbidge.

That kind of eco-terrorism perpetrated by government functionaries operating in defiance of the law in unconscionable and intolerable. The Elko County Commissioners should order the County Sheriff to arrest Ed Monnig and lock him up until his trial on charges of criminal arson can be held.

God forbid anyone gets hurt or killed by Ed’s whoofoo, in which case the charges should be ramped up to negligent (or deliberate) homicide.

It seems to me that if we prosecute, convict, and incarcerate in federal penitentiaries a few of these criminal USFS Forest Supervisors, the other ones will catch on to the notion that obeying the law is preferable to breaking it.

Until then there appears to be no stopping the USFS from their insane Let It Burn (actually Burn It On Purpose) forest incineration program.

Court Throws Out Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment

In a bitter and overtly cynical decision issued Aug 19, US District Judge Morrison C. England threw out the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment.

The suit was brought by Marxist-Fascist panderer Bill Lockyer, former Atty General of the State of California, on behalf of the Pipple and Worldwide Communist Domination. Despite the absurdity and malicious destructiveness expressed by raving pyscho nutwad Lockyer, Judge England was forced to rule against all logic and rationality because Judge Pol Pot Noonan of the Ninth Communist Circuit Court had a Commie arsonist brain failure last May [here].

The entire Aug 19 England decision is [here]. In it Judge England carefully lays out all the arguments barfed up by Lockyer and rips them to shreds.

By way of background, Judge England describes the process and reasoning that led to the creation of the 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment.

The Sierra Nevada contains some 11.5 million acres of National Forest Service land with eleven National Forests and encompasses “dozens of complex ecosystems each with numerous, inter-connected social, economic and ecological components.” SNFPA 1920. In the late 1980s, the Forest Service began developing a comprehensive strategy for managing the myriad resources found within the region. In 1995, the Regional Forester for the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) outlining its management proposal. SNFPA 229.

After extensive public participation and the preparation of a Final EIS (“FEIS”) responding to public concerns, the Regional Forester issued, in 2001, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) which adopted management objectives in five major areas: old forest ecosystems; aquatic, riparian, and meadow ecosystems; fire and fuels; noxious weeds; and hardwood ecosystems on the lower westside of the Sierras. Id. at 231-35.

Among the thorniest issues confronted by the ROD was striking the appropriate balance between balancing the excessive fuel buildups occasioned by decades of fire repression and conserving key habitat for wildlife species dependent on old forest environments. …

In order to protect old forest conditions within its specific areas of emphasis, the 2001 Framework generally prohibited logging that would remove trees over 12 inches in diameter or logging that would reduce canopy cover by more than 10 percent. SNFPA 328.

Even within the “general forest” areas, the 2001 Framework prohibited logging of trees over 20 inches in diameter. SNFPA 336. It was only within the intermix zones that no canopy restrictions were imposed and logging of trees up to 30 inches was permitted. SNFPA 333, 315.

Although the Forest Service ultimately affirmed adoption of the 2001 ROD despite receipt of approximately 200 administrative appeals, it nonetheless directed the Regional Forester to conduct an additional review with respect to specific concerns like wildfire risk and the Forest Service’s responsibilities under the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act (“HFQLG Act”), a congressional mandate which established a Pilot Program for fire suppression through a combination of fire breaks, group selection logging and individual logging. SNFPA 1918. A management review team was assembled by the Regional Forester for this purpose.

In March 2003, the team concluded that the 2001 ROD’s “cautious approach” to active fuels management had limited its effectiveness in many treatment areas. The management review team further found that revisions to vegetation management rules would decrease flammable fuels while protecting critical wildlife habitat by guarding against the risk of stand-replacing wildfire. See SNFPA 1918, 1926. …

Following receipt of the team’s findings, the Regional Forester ordered that management strategy alternatives in addition to those considered in the 2001 FEIS be considered. A draft supplemental environmental impact statement (“DSEIS”) was thereafter released to the public in January 2004. While the same five areas of concern were targeted in the DSEIS as in its 2001 predecessor, in 2004 a new action alternative was identified (Alternative S2), in addition to the alternative selected by the 2001 Framework (Alternative S1) and the seven alternatives that had previously been considered before adoption of the 2001 Framework (Alternatives F2-F8).

Following the public comment period after dissemination of the DSEIS, the SEIS in final form also included response to various issues raised, including comments by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, by California resources protection agencies, and by the Science Consistency Review (“SCR”) team.

By adopting the SEIS on January 21, 2004, the Regional Forester replaced the 2001 ROD with its 2004 successor and amended the forest plans for all eleven national forests situated in the Sierra Nevada. SNFPA 2987-3061. The 2004 ROD reasoned that the 2001 Framework “prescribed technical solutions that do not produce needed results, or offered methods we often dare not attempt in the current Sierra Nevada.” SNFPA 2995. The 2004 Framework reasoned that the methods as adopted in 2001 fail to reverse the damage, and growing threat, of catastrophic fires quickly enough.

To review, the USFS, as directed by Congress, created a plan to save Sierra Nevada forests from catastrophic incineration. That plan was originally issued in 2001 and amended in 2004 after extensive scientific research and public involvement. Despite the fact that eco-Nazi holocausters sued over 200 times, the Plan was found to pass every legal test imaginable. All proper procedures were followed and all standards met.
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‘Let It Burn’ Isn’t Right

But before we get to solutions, we are pleased to post this guest essay by Dan Adair that appeared in the Trinity Journal today, Aug. 20, 2008 [here].

I was very interested in the article in last week’s Journal regarding the effect of the forest fire smoke on the grape crop. Many of us in the county have been scratching our heads for weeks, wondering why tomatoes which were supposed to ripen in July are still showing only tiny, green fruits. It’s kind of amazing when you think about it. The Forest Service , with their “burn, baby, burn” policy has actually managed to create their very own ecological disaster.

The story gets even more bizarre as you continue to look into it. The leading proponent of the let-it-burn policy is an organization called The Wilderness Society. They’ve got a national membership of about 365,000 and their stated goal is to have as much land as possible declared wilderness areas. To that end, they’ve spent $2.5 million lobbying politicians over the last few years and have worked extensively with our own Barbara Boxer.

Now, the snag in turning all of this land into wilderness areas is that we don’t have the money to maintain them. The solution that they came up with is the let-it-burn policy. Rather than aggressively jumping on fires, we should simply let them burn themselves out, thus saving a large amount of money in fire-suppression activities.

To that end, they have some interesting proposals. One is to offer financial incentives to fire managers who let it burn. In other words, the more acreage you burn up, the more you get paid. Another is to allow the Forest Service to claim burned acreage as credits toward their fuel-reduction budget. In other words, rather than having to actually go out and clear that pesky brush, the Forest Service can simply burn it up and say they’ve fulfilled their budgetary obligations for clearing.

No one really seems to know the extent to which the Forest Service is implementing these ideas. We do find in their 2008 budget that they want to “promote the increase of wildland fire use, consistent with land and resource management plans and public and firefighter safety and report these acres annually in future Budget Justifications.” And in discussing the previous year, they state that they “emphasized increased wildland fire use in land management planning with the long-term objective to increase the utilization of wildland fire use to accomplish resource objectives.”

Of course, our local Forest Service press officers deny that they’re just letting it burn. Which is technically true, I guess. They’re not just letting it burn; they’re actively setting it on fire. Your tax dollars at work, folks.

Forest Apocalypse Now

The US Forest Service has gone out of it’s freaking mind. Oregon is now the new Let It Burn Laboratory, and our watersheds are targeted for incineration.

The horrendous new “plan” to incinerate Oregon forests was accidentally exposed by Oregonian reporter Matthew Preusch yesterday, the very day that the Mitchell watershed was deliberately incinerated by insane nutwads from the Ochoco National Forest. Some revealing excerpts [here]:

Some Oregon wildland fires, rather than being suppressed, are allowed to burn

MATTHEW PREUSCH, the Oregonian, August 18, 2008

Concerns about budgets, forest health and overstocked woods lie behind the interest in the management technique

BEND — When a lightning storm rolled across central Oregon this month, firefighters quickly mobilized to quash the scores of new wildfires.

But on a handful of fires they chose to hold back, using instead a new tool that allows them to designate certain low-risk blazes as beneficial to the forest.

“We really like it,” said Chris Hoff, fire management officer for the multiagency Central Oregon Fire Management Service. “It gives us the opportunity to treat areas with natural fire that before we couldn’t.”

Last month, the Ochoco National Forest completed a plan for managing wildland fires, the fifth national forest in Oregon and Washington to do so. Others are the Okanogan-Wenatchee, Wallowa-Whitman, Deschutes and Willamette national forests, said Glen Sachet, regional spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.


No “plan” was vetted through any NEPA process by the Ochoco NF. Nothing appears on their website regarding any “plan.” That kind of clandestine activity is patently illegal. But the “Little Hitlers” apparently have some secret document that they think justifies their deliberate incineration of Oregon watersheds.

The Bridge Creek Fire is now 4,900 acres (7.7 sq miles). Most of the ground burned is PRIVATE PROPERTY, not Federal land.

Where is the doc that says the US Government can now burn public and private land with impunity? You know, the one that the Little Hitlers in the USFS really, really like?

Why not come clean and produce the alleged secret document that gives you such a BIG ASS THRILL?

Did the Little Hitlers have a party to celebrate their FOREST APOCALYPSE PLAN? Did they wear little party hats and eat some cake?
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Walter’s Whoofoo

As of 6am this morning the Bridge Creek Fire has reached 3,000 acres. The fire is five miles south of Mitchell, Oregon and threatening that city, its watershed, the Indian Prairie area, Mt. Pisgah, and hundreds of homes and ranches in the area.

The Northwest Interagency [Fire] Coordination Center reported this morning:

The fire has reached White Butte to the north and Thompson Creek to the west. Significant growth occurred on all perimeters. A Type 2 Incident Management Team has taken over the suppression efforts.

The IMT called in is the Central Oregon Type II (the CO2’s) under Incident Commander Mark Rapp. The CO2’s are a firefighting fixture in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, frequently called in to the toughest fires. Earlier this summer they contained and controlled the Cold Springs Fire on the south side of Mt. Adams.

The Bridge Creek Fire has already overrun Thompson Spring, Dunn Spring, Lone Reservoir, Bridge Spring, Indian Prairie, Masterson Spring, Maxwell Spring and much of the City of Mitchell Watershed. Numerous cultural and historical sites in the area are threatened or have already been burned over.

The Bridge Creek Fire was ignited by lightning on Aug. 7, more than ten days ago, on the north side of Mt. Pisgah on the Ochoco National Forest. Ochoco NF Forest Supervisor Jeff Walter made the executive decision to Let It Burn. He declared the fire to be a whoofoo, (WFU or Wildland Fire Use fire). Walter and Deschutes National Forest Supervisor John Allen have “signed off” on numerous whoofoos in the last few days, choosing to Let It Burn rather than initial attack with intent to suppress.

That lack of initial attack has allowed the Bridge Creek Fire to blow up into a major fire incident requiring the engagement of the CO2’s Incident Management Team. Currently 185 firefighters are on site, including five Type-2 line crews and 10 fire engines. Firefighters are risking their lives to save the City of Mitchell and what’s left of its watershed because of Ochoco NF Forest Supervisor Jeff Walter’s blunder.

Millions of dollars will be spent, and millions more in damages done, because of a fire that Jeff Walter determined would yield “resource benefits.”
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Federal Forest Management Designed By a Pyromaniac

The Portland Oregonian has had a change of heart. Instead of lambasting private contract firefighters (on the eve of the memorial service) and blaming them for the cost of USFS Let It Burn policies, the Oregonian Editorial Board has zeroed in on the real culprit: irresponsible forest un-management by that shoddy federal agency.

This (signed) editorial showed up Friday and again today:

Fighting fire in Oregon forests

by The Oregonian Editorial Board, August 15, 2008 [here]

The Forest Service invests heavily… in flammable material!

America’s forests are a mess. Overgrown. Under-managed. And tinder-dry.

Here we are, barely half way through the fire season, and — once again — the U. S. Forest Service has run out of money for fighting fires.

That means the Forest Service is being forced — once again — to plunder the other line items of its budget. Sure, that means more shoddy trails, more shuttered campgrounds. But that’s just the bad news.

The far worse news is this means Uncle Sam will again be spending less on the critical work of properly maintaining the forest. On thinning it. On trimming it. On sweeping clean its floor.

Just last week, the Forest Service diverted another $30 million from its commitment to clear duff, that’s the organic debris that carpets so much of the forest floor.

The Forest Service, in other words, just made a massive investment in next year’s supply of flammable material, all but guaranteeing far worse fires in the offing.

This is federal forest management designed by a pyromaniac. Its consequence will be more firefighters killed, more billions of dollars wasted, more millions of acres of national treasure going up in smoke. (emphasis added)

The modern forest is a complex socio-economic, biological, geochemical organism. Managed for multiple uses, it must serve as a:

Source of timber.
Recreational resource.
Haven for flora and fauna.
Warehouse of sequestered carbon.

Each of those roles, each of enormous consequence, is imperiled when forest managers spent most of their time, and much of their budget, fighting fires. Or appearing in court to argue about where, when and just how ferociously to fight fires.

For decades, under the influence of Smokey Bear, America clung to the belief fire was the enemy. It isn’t. There’s a growing recognition of its key role in a balanced ecosystem. Our challenge now is to make our forests healthy enough so that at the right times, in the right places, and in the right way — lightly — we can let them burn.

As a first step in that direction, Congress must immediately move to provide separate dedicated funding for fighting fires. Which means we’d have separate dedicated funds for managing our forests.

Only then can we start fighting fires much more sensibly. And being much more sensible about which we should let burn. — Bob Caldwell

Separate funding is an okay idea. It is really just juggling budgets and does not address the core problem.

Let It Burn is a policy the Media needs to disavow. Give it a rest, please.

But the idea that fires should be at the right times, in the right places, and done the right way is on the mark. Forest also need to be prepared to receive those properly timed, located, and administered fires.

Need a useful phrase to describe all that? Try “restoration forestry.” That’s the phrase the pros use.

The whole and complete idea of restoration forestry also includes:

1. Heritage landscape renovation
2. Managing for fire resiliency and old-growth development pathways
3. Watershed protection
4. Protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat
5. Active stewardship with positive economic returns
6. Compliance with environmental laws

Restoration forestry is the ticket out of the mess we are in. Restoration forestry does NOT include Let It Burn megafires that ravage regions. Restoration forestry is about responsible stewardship, not incineration.

Kudos to the Oregonian for climbing part way out of the Media Mire of Ignorance. Over the next week or two (watch for it, excellent and hopeful restoration forestry news is in the SOSF queue) we will reach down and try to lift and drag the Media a little bit farther up the learning curve.

More Burning in Siskiyou Wilderness?

By Mark DuPont

At the weekly IC meeting yesterday I was informed that Tyrone Kelley, the Six Rivers Supervisor in Eureka, is directing the Orleans IC to conduct burnout operations along the Sawtooth Ridge – Lake Harrington area of the Siskiyou Wilderness in order to connect the Blue Complex with the Sikiyou Complex to the north. As I understand it, this operation could add several square miles to the fire in steep wilderness terrain.

Personally I am strongly opposed to this proposed action, and my sense is that the current IC would just as soon let the existing fires run their course, but they are being prompted by Tyrone to start a whole new burning operation.

We are now entering the worst of our fire season, when temperatures are highest, fuel moistures and relative humidity the lowest and winds may become strong and unpredictable. Fire prediction models show that it the fire is not likely to spread into this area on its own, (i.e. less than 50% probability) thus I cannot see the logic in spending more money and resources and creating an even greater impact, especially in a remote wilderness area with no roads or structures, that holds cultural importance to the Karuk Tribe.

We have been told since June that the strategy for these fires has been to be aggressive with burning early, before we enter the worst of the fire season. With temperatures now in the triple digits I feel we have reached that point and it is time to back off of burning. With virtually all controlled burn operations in the area winding down and the worst of the fires season yet to come, I feel this is not the time to be introducing more fire on the landscape, especially on this kind of scale. Several fires in the state have recently been contained and resource availability is presently good, therefore a better option would be to closely monitor the fires and use helicopters to bucket on water if intensity spikes.

If you are concerned about this then I think it is critical to contact Tyrone Kelley today at the SO and make your voice heard. Today is Friday and I don’t know that he will be reachable during the weekend. Thus far, the fire teams have been in quite a hurry to burn before conditions get any worse and burning could possibly be well underway by Monday.

Tryone Kelley’s e-mail -
Tyrone Kelley’svoice mail - (707)-441-3534
Tyrone’Kelly’s personal assistant - (707)-441-3517

Below is the text of a personal letter I’ve e-mailed to Tyrone. I’d be interested in any comments or feedback on this matter.

Mark DuPont


August 15, 2008

Dear Tyrone Kelly:

At the weekly IC meeting yesterday I was informed that you are directing the Orleans IC to conduct burnout operations along the Sawtooth Ridge – Lake Harrington area of the Siskiyou Wilderness in order to connect the Blue complex with the Sikiyou complex to the north . As a local business owner, Vice President of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council and concerned Orleans citizen I am strongly opposed to this proposed action. With virtually all controlled burn operations in the area winding down and the worst of the fires season yet to come I feel this is not the time to be introducing more fire on the landscape. Several fires in the state have recently been contained and resource availability is presently good, therefore a better option would be to closely monitor the fires and use helicopters to bucket on water if intensity spikes.

I am specifically opposed to further controlled burns at this time for the following reasons:

Unnecessary Risk – We are now entering the worst of our fire season, when temperatures are highest, fuel moistures and relative humidity the lowest and winds may become strong and unpredictable. Fire prediction models show that it the fire is not likely to spread into this area on its own. We have been told since June that the strategy for these fires has been to be aggressive with burning early before we enter the worst of the fire season. With temperatures now in the triple digits I feel we have reached that point and it is time to back off of burning.

Community Health – Our communities have been suffering from critically poor air quality for almost two months. Everyone is ready for a break in the smoke and hoping for any improvement in air quality

Excessive Footprint – the Siskiyou, Ukonom, Blue & Panther Complexes have already covered almost 150,000 acres. With fire production models showing that the fire is not likely to spread to this area I cannot see the logic in spending more money and resources and creating an even greater impact, especially in a remote wilderness area with no roads or structures that holds cultural importance to the Karuk Tribe.

Adverse Economic Effects – I own and operate a cabin rental business and the fires have largely eliminated our business as well as that of other recreation business such rafting companies and vacation rentals. This is normally our peak season and we presently have virtually no bookings for the second half of August. Our only hope of reclaiming some of the season is by ceasing burning operations and allowing the opportunity for the air to clear in September and the fall.

Cultural Concerns – I have spoken with several Karuk tribal members who have cultural, spiritual and family connections to this area and are opposed to conducting controlled burns at this time.

I deeply appreciate the efforts of the fire crews and forest service that have worked tirelessly in managing these fires. Several community members, including myself are monitoring and documenting the fires closely. We will ask for and expect full accountability for any burning operations that are conducted for here until the end of the fire season. I would appreciate a response to my concerns, if telephone is better than I can be reached at 530-627-3379.


Mark DuPont
Sandy Bar Ranch & Nursery

Sandy Bar Ranch & Nursery
PO Box 347, 797 Ishi Pishi Rd.
Orleans, CA, 95556
Tel: (530) 627-3379
Fruit Tree Nursery:

Destroying Forests Has Destroyed the US Forest Service

The US Forest Service is bankrupt. They have spent their entire 2008 fire budget of $1.2 billion, and an additional $400 million besides, and it is still mid-August, and fires are burning right now in every western state.

The extra $400 million spent to date is coming out of non-fire USFS programs [here]. There is a hiring freeze, forest rehabilitation projects on burns of prior years have been canceled, as have been every other kind of USFS project, and layoffs are forthcoming.

The attitude expressed by USFS Chief Gail Kimbell is, “pray for rain.” Maybe we should pray for a new Chief.

Useless and unnecessary fires have consumed the budget.

The Basin/Indians Fire burned 244,000 acres and is the 3rd largest fire in California history. With more than $120,000,000 spent on fire “suppression,” it is now the most expensive fire in California history, and the 2nd most expensive in U.S. history (the Biscuit Fire in Oregon in 2002 cost $150,000,000). Most of those acres were incinerated in backburns. The Long Range Fire Implementation Plan was not suppression but burn it all.

The Iron Complex on the Shasta-Trinity NF will burn over 100,000 acres at a cost of over $70 million. Those fires could have been contained and controlled a month ago, but the Plan from ignition was to burn, baby, burn.

The combined acreage burned in Northern California forests this summer exceeds 500,000 acres and the cost of “suppression” is in excess of $300 million. Many of those megafires are still burning, consuming thousands of acres and tens of millions of dollars every day.

Hundreds of spotted owl nesting stands have been destroyed. More than $5 billion in timber values have been incinerated. Endangered salmon spawning streams have been boiled and the erosion yet to come will bury the spawning gravels. Whole watersheds and habitats have been destroyed.

A dozen firefighters have lost their lives.

The total costs will be paid over decades to come.

Yet the burns go on and on. That is the plan, after all: to incinerate as much of our National Forests as possible. The Ten-Year National Fire Plan as designed by the Nature Conservancy (there’s an oxymoronic name) and the Wilderness Society, and embraced by USFS leadership, calls for more than Let It Burn; it demands forest holocaust at any price.

Congress doesn’t care. They throw away money like tissue paper. They gave the multinational giant Weyerhaeuser a $182 million tax break for nothing. They gave Plum Creek $510 million for cut-over land that will go to the Nature Conservancy for their “private” burn, baby, burn program [here]. (Yes, I know, the article say only half the money will come from the feds. But ask yourself, where do the funds that bankroll TNC come from? If you guessed the US Treasury, give yourself a gold star.)

Pray for rain? That won’t help. Gail Kimbell has made it her personal mission to incinerate the 191 million acres of USFS forests and an additional 400 million acres of private forestland, too. She calls it her “Open Space” program. Burning America’s Forests to the Ground would be a better name.

The mantra from the USFS is that catastrophic forest fires are “good” for forests. They can’t say why, and indeed they violate every national environmental law in the process. The illegal fires do not save money, either; the fact is they broke the budget.

The Dead Tree Press revels in Let It Burn. The Portland Oregonian goes so far as to blame private firefighting contractors for the high cost of incinerating entire watersheds, landscapes, and regions. The Oregonian joyfully killed Oregon’s forest industry, and now they seek to kill the remnants that have hung on as firefighters.

That is the common Dead Tree Press anti-forest position, which is a trifle hypocritical in that they are themselves in the wood products business. Newsprint come from logging, after all. But no matter. If it hurts America, they are all for it.

No candidate for President or any other political office is running on a Save The Forests platform. It is a non-issue. The only mention of forests in political campaigns this year is the frequent hoorah to declare them all “wilderness” and then burn them to the ground.

Destroying forests by catastrophic fire is the accepted notion holding sway over all our political parties, including the Losertarians. The Democommies take the cake though, or should we say, the prize ashes. They wish to incinerate America’s forests in the name of anti-Capitalism and Global Warming, which makes no sense no matter whether you are a GW alarmist or a skeptic.

The USFS is dying behind it all. They have lost their forest experts, the people who care about forests, and replaced them with fire-happy nincompoops. The simple job of reporting on active fires has been aborted again and again this summer by every federal fire reporting center. I should know. I took it upon myself to track forest fires this summer. The reports are late or missing, often wrong, and done in such a sloppy manner as to give the impression that fire reporting is deeply resented by the handful of incompetent functionaries assigned the task.

And now that’s all there is left of the USFS. Bankrupt incompetence and sloppiness that are deadly to forests, firefighters, residents, and communities throughout the rural (and sometimes urban) West. That once proud and vibrant land management agency has sunk into the depths. They have positioned themselves to be enemies of forests and indeed of the American people. They have become a criminal conspiracy of eco-terrorists.

It is tragic and it is sad, but mostly it is catastrophic disaster after disaster. Our forests are being destroyed by the very people we hired to protect them. The public has been conned. The propaganda-induced fear of forestry has become the desire to incinerate the Public Forested Estate and much of the Private Forested Estate as well.

Former homeowners standing in the charred ruins of their former homes are told that they are guilty, that home ownership is not American anymore, that the American Dream is dead and rightfully so because it was a bad thing for the planet, that smoking wastelands are the ideal now, that the wholesale incineration of forests is the New Way, that America is the Home of the Wolves and the Land of Disaster, that blackened charred forests are preferred over green ones, that the role of our government is to Burn, Baby, Burn.

As we mourn the fallen, the vanquished, and the burned out, we might also mourn the passing of the US Forest Service. It really was a great outfit once. Those days are gone, however. It is a snag-filled smoking ruin now, much as our former priceless, heritage American forests.

14 Aug 2008, 11:07am
Federal forest policy
by admin

Permanent Injunction Against Clinton’s Roadless Plan Issued, Again

Clinton’s Roadless Plan is killed, again. On Tuesday US District Court Judge Clarence A. Brimmer issued a permanent injunction against Bill Clinton’s 58.5 million acre Roadless Rule, for the second time. Reiterating his July, 2003 injunction, Judge Brimmer ordered the set aside of the Plan upon the motion of the State of Wyoming, strongly rejecting the 2006 reinstatement by Magistrate Judge Elizabeth D. LaPorte of San Francisco.

Judge Brimmer again took to task Clinton Administration USFS Chief Mike Dombeck for repeated violations of various federal statutes including the NEPA, NFMA, the Wilderness Act, MUSYA, and APA. He also noted that his 2003 injunction had been appealed and the appeal declared moot because the post-Dombeck USFS adopted the State Petitions Rule which superseded the 2001 Roadless Rule.

The State Petitions Rule was held in 2006 to be promulgated in violation of NEPA and the ESA by Magistrate LaPorte, whose remedy was reinstating the 2001 Roadless Rule. Nope, said Judge Brimmer, that’s not going to happen.

Judge Brimmer’s entire decision is [here]. Some excerpts from his exceedingly well-written opinion:

There is not one good reason in the administrative record before the Court explaining why cooperating agency status was denied to the ten most affected states, including Wyoming, especially in light of the CEQ’s [Council on Environmental Quality] direction that federal agencies should actively seek participation of the states in order to comply with NEPA’s statutory mandate. Absent any such explanation, the Court must again conclude that Wyoming was right in characterizing the Forest Service’s process as a “mad dash to complete the Roadless Initiative before President Clinton left office.” The Forest Service dared not let any of the ten most affected states have cooperating agency status lest its “mad dash” would be slowed to a walk. …

[T]he Forest Service eliminated from consideration exceptions to permit road construction activities for “hazardous fuel reduction treatments, insect and disease treatments, and forest health management”… The Forest Service’s cavalier dismissal of such forest management activities, which have been the environmental status quo for decades, compels the Court to find that the Forest Service did not give each reasonable alternative substantial treatment in the EIS or take a hard look at the environmental consequences of its actions.

The Forest Service’s inadequate alternative analysis was the result of the agency narrowly defining the scope of its project to satisfy a predetermined directive by Chief Dombeck, which eliminated competing alternatives out of consideration and existence. …

It was irrational for the Forest Service to develop a comprehensive strategy for implementing interrelated rules and policies, carry out that strategy, and never consider the cumulative effects of its actions or explain them to the public. …

The Court, as it did in Roadless I, FINDS that: (1) the Forest Service’s decision not to extend the scoping comment period was arbitrary and capricious; (2) the Forest Service’s denial of cooperating agency status without explanation was arbitrary and capricious; (3) the Forest Service’s failure to rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives was contrary to law; (4) the Forest Service’s conclusion that its cumulative impacts analysis in the Roadless Rule Final EIS satisfied its NEPA duties was a clear error in judgment; and (5) the Forest Service’s decision not to issue a supplemental EIS was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.

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Mt. Hood Wilderness Expansion Proposal Is Risky

[As the Gnarl Ridge Fire [here] expands in the Mt. Hood Wilderness, causing closure of a large area during peak summer use, threatening Cloud Cap, Tilly Jane, Cold Springs Creek and the Hood River Valley watershed/water supply, Congress is considering the expansion of that Wilderness by 125,000 acres. You might think that some lesson was learned from the Bluegrass Ridge Fire (2006) [here], but apparently not.

Wilderness designation is a kiss of death to forests and forest protection, but you need not take my word for it. Hood River Valley orchardist John Marker has over 50 years of professional forest management experience, is a Director of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, and is one of the most respected foresters in this country. Here are his recent comments regarding the Mt. Hood Wilderness expansion, submitted to the Hood River County Commission last month.]

by John F. Marker, USFS Forester (ret.)

The goal of protecting Mt. Hood, a magnificent natural resource, is commendable, but proposed wilderness expansion will, I believe, place the mountain at greater risk of damage and increase risk of harm to neighboring lands and communities.

The proposal ignores the 1897 Organic Act’s mandate of sustained production of renewable natural resources from the national forests with water and wood priority. Wood may no longer be critical, since the U.S. now imports most of its lumber and wood products, but water is critical to our ability to live in the West. Recreation, wildlife, solitude and scenery are also important to our quality of life and the engines for a substantial part of our local economy.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 provides little protection for the land from impacts of fire, insects, disease, catastrophic storms, air pollution, or climate change. The Act severely limits the ability to control or prevent damage from such forces by strictly restricting management and treatment options. Wilderness constraints also jeopardize protection of adjacent non-wilderness areas such as Hood River County forests, Bull Run, Government Camp and other lands and communities adjacent to the national forest. And bad things can and do come into and out of Wilderness areas.

Currently many areas of forest inside the proposed Wilderness expansions are threatened by lethal insect and disease activity. Fire danger increases with declining forest health. If, as many scientists predict, the Northwest long term climate pattern continues to grow warmer and drier, the risk of destruction will worsen as ecosystems are weakened by climate changes. Burgeoning human use of the mountain raises the threat of damage to the land from overuse and abuse. To ignore these realities contradicts the stated goal of “protecting” and “saving” Mt. Hood.

An alternative for protecting Mt. Hood is available. It is development of the plan called for in the Walden-Blumenauer legislative proposal, starting with an acknowledgement of the biological and climatic forces constantly at work on the mountain, and an understanding that lines on a map will not save land or resources from damage. Mt. Hood’s critical role of providing clean and abundant water for more than a million people living in its shadow is a paramount consideration for this plan.

Rather than Wilderness, a hard-nosed plan for the mountain’s future can be built by establishing rules for protecting watershed values, recreation and other uses. This process can be expedited by using the existing congressionally-mandated national forest plan to start. If planning determines a specific need for protection beyond existing environmental protection laws, specific legislation can be written.

To my way of thinking, priority for Mt. Hood management is water; other uses come second. Locking up the land is not the way to save or protect against challenges from people and nature’s forces. To care for the mountain and the people depending upon on it requires management that can adapt to changing climate patterns and increasing public needs. Stretching and bending the intent of the Wilderness Act to “protect” and “save” this land does a disservice to Act and the memory of those who created it.

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