Return Fire

A 5-part essay by Mike Dubrasich

No Forest Worries, Mate, Says the JSFP

The Joint Fire Science Program (JSFP) is a government bureaucracy dedicated to wildfire [here]. Fire is the be-all and end-all of their existence.

Now, I’m not saying that the JSFP is made up of bug-eyed arsonists, but fire is their bread and butter, the source and inspiration of their funding, their primary focus, and their conceit.

Forests are not their focus, although wildfires often burn forests. Fire is the consuming concern of the JSFP; forests are merely the backdrop — in their eyes piles of fuels ready to burn –- and in some ways justification for the existence of the JSFP and buttering their bread.

Because forests sometimes erupt into forest fires, which enflame the passion and conceit of the JSFP, and because the JSFP styles itself as a scientific institution, they occasionally foray into forest science. Sadly, those forays betray a profound ignorance of the subject. The JSFP knows next to nothing about forests, and indeed, next to nothing about why and how forests burn.

That ignorance is on display their web publication, Fire Science Brief, Issue 49, May 2009 [here]. In that issue the JSFP resurrects a two-year-old paper and badly fumbles the context and the findings.

The resurrected paper discussed in Fire Science Brief is from an actual forest science study, (Shatford J., D.E. Hibbs and K Puettmann. 2007. Conifer Regeneration Following Forest Fire in the Klamath-Siskiyous: How much, how soon? Journal of Forestry 105:139-146), but the JSFP discussion does not reprint the report. Instead, they misinterpret it out of context.

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An Open Letter to the Editorial Board of Ecological Applications


J. David Baldwin, Managing Editor of ESA (Ecological Society of America) journals
David Schimel, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Editor-in-Chief
Jayne Belnap, USGS, Assigning Editor
Timothy E. Essington, University of Washington, Assigning Editor
Mark Friedl, Boston University, Assigning Editor
Nancy B. Grimm, Arizona State University, Assigning Editor


Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director, Western Institute for Study of the Environment (W.I.S.E.)

July 6, 2009

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Recently I posted at one of the W.I.S.E. websites a critical analysis [here] of a research paper published in Ecological Applications.

I also included a link to the paper itself, which had been provided to me by the lead author.

My analysis was critical, so I felt it was only fair, as well as educational, to supply W.I.S.E. website readers with the document being critiqued.

However, your Managing Editor, J. David Baldwin, took umbrage and demanded that I remove said document from the Web, citing copyright violation and protection of your “subscription revenue.”

I have complied by removing the link (not the critique) under veiled threat of lawsuit, but wish to explain to you some cogent facts that pertain to Ecological Applications and other ESA publications.

1. EA is an expensive item. Annual subscription is $115 per year. Purchase of a single article is $20 for 30 days. Redistribution of the purchased journal and/or article is forbidden.

The price hurdles serve to inhibit “technology transfer” to the interested public. Only a select few have access to your journals, which impedes your stated mission to:

… raise the public’s level of awareness of the importance of ecological science… through educational and outreach activities… [and] by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy-makers at all levels of government and the private sector.

2. The article in question was researched and written by scientists in the public employ. Taxpayer dollars paid for their salaries, the research, the research overhead, the write-up, and the printing in your journal, which is also taxpayer funded. Yet most taxpayers do not have access because of your price hurdles and limited distribution.

All of the above calls into question the legal merits of your copyright infringement complaint against me. If I chose to do so, we could explore that issue in a court of law. In this particular case I choose not to do so, but that should not be interpreted as any form of legal forfeiture of my rights as a taxpayer and citizen.

I exercised my legal rights by posting a link to the article. That was for your benefit (fulfilling your mission) as well as for the benefit of the taxpaying public.

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Is There a Forest Fire-Climate Connection?

by Mike Dubrasich

The Web is all atwitter with the latest news about an alleged global warming - forest fire relationship. The buzz was instigated by a new research paper published in the June issue of Ecological Applications.

The paper is Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces, 1916–2003 by Jeremy S. Littell, Donald Mckenzie, David L. Peterson, and Anthony L. Westerling. The full text is [here]*, generously provided to us by the lead author**.

*The original link to the full text was withdrawn following threats made by Ecological Applications. For more discussion regarding that worm can, see [here].

** A new “legal” link to the full paper [here] has been supplied by the lead author, Jeremy S. Littell of the Univ. of Washington. Thank you, Dr. Littell.

The USFS PNW Research Station (where co-author David L. Peterson works) posted a News Release about the paper [here].

In the warming West, climate most significant factor in fanning wildfire flames

Study finds that climate influence on production, drying of fuels-not higher temperatures or longer fire seasons alone-critical determinant of Western wildfire burned area

PORTLAND, Ore. June 26, 2009. The recent increase in area burned by wildfires in the Western United States is a product not of higher temperatures or longer fire seasons alone, but a complex relationship between climate and fuels that varies among different ecosystems, according to a study conducted by U.S. Forest Service and university scientists. The study is the most detailed examination of wildfire in the United States to date and appears in the current issue of the journal Ecological Applications. …

“We found that what matters most in accounting for large wildfires in the Western United States is how climate influences the build up-or production-and drying of fuels,” said Jeremy Littell, a research scientist with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and lead investigator of the study. “Climate affects fuels in different ecosystems differently, meaning that future wildfire size and, likely, severity depends on interactions between climate and fuel availability and production.” …

Note the careful use of the word “climate.” And note the disclaimer: global warming is NOT implicated. The News Release and the paper itself do not blame global warming (aka “higher temperatures”) for forest fires.

Instead, the researchers found that a combination of weather factors, including precipitation in the years immediately prior to the fires, may be partially correlated with fire acreage.

Note my use of the term “weather”. Average precipitation has not changed. Some years are dry, some are wet. Note also my use of the term “correlation.” Correlation is NOT causation. Note also my use of the term “partial.” The correlations found by the researchers were weak.

However, that did not stop the USFS PNW Research Station from leaping to conclusions that are at odds with what was carefully parsed in the paper:

Findings from the study suggest that, as the climate continues to warm, more area can be expected to burn, at least in northern portions of the West, corroborating what researchers have projected in previous studies. In addition, cooler, wetter areas that are relatively fire-free today, such as the west side of the Cascade Range, may be more prone to fire by mid-century if climate projections hold and weather becomes more extreme.

Note that the USFS PNW Research Station uses the word “warming” in their headline and in the paragraph quoted above, despite the fact that “warming” was not even studied or correlated, much less causational.

Note that the conclusions of the USFS PNW Research Station rely on “climate projections” that have nothing to do with the paper and are themselves unskillful and largely failures at predicting anything.

So what did the researchers actually find, and how skillful were they at their historical analysis (note again that they attempted no “projections” or “predictions” as those words are generally interpreted)?

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22 Jun 2009, 9:49pm
Forestry education
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Environmental Apocalypticism

Professor Aynsley Kellow is Head, School of Government, University of Tasmania in Hobart. He is the author of Science and Public Policy: The virtuous corruption of virtual environmental science, 2007, Edward Elgar Publishing [here].

I have not read his book yet, and so cannot review it at this time. But he posted an excerpt at Watts Up With That [here] that rings true like a silver concert bell.

The discussion at WUWT revolved around the suicidal tendencies of certain social movements, notably the Xhosa people of Southeast Africa [here, here]. The chat then drifted into millenarianism [here], a type of a religious, social, or political movement whose followers are sometimes prone to committing mass suicide.

Dr. Kellow chimed in with a passage from his book that describes the postmodern cognitive dissonance of the Environmental Movement, a cult of sorts that exhibits millenarianism tendencies. I had just posted The Trap of Uncontrolled Equivocation [here], a post that discussed the clash of ontologies: colliding world views, and so I was particularly attuned to PoMo deconstructions of runaway apocalyptic environmentalism and, perversely, environmental “science”.

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22 Jun 2009, 1:29pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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A Pyne Trifecta

Stephen Pyne, World’s Foremost Expert on fire and author of over 20 books on the subject, has written three “fire journalism” essays on modern anthropogenic fire in the Midwest. They are now posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences.

Missouri Compromise was posted last December [here]. Patch Burning is [here]. People of the Prairie, People of the Fire is [here].

“Fire journalism” is Pyne’s label. I see them more as non-fiction literary essays. Pyne further demurs:

Anyone familiar with the pyric geography of these sites will appreciate that I add nothing to data or concepts. Instead, I have sought only to establish a different perspective and narrative for their understanding.

which is too humble, in my opinion. In truth, Pyne once again plows new ground with insight and wit.

This collection of three essays is group-titled Middle Ground and surveys fire in Oklahoma, the Missouri Ozarks, and prairie remnants in Illinois. The set has also been posted at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center [here]. A photo montage entitled Middle Ground: Image Slideshow accompanies the essays at the WFLLC site [here].

As usual with his writing, there are numerous quotable quotes, or Pynisms. From Patch Burning:

Especially as the proneness of landscapes to propagate fires splintered to the eastward, as land roughened, watercourses multiplied, and humidity thickened, only people could have set enough fires. Remove any part of this prairie fire triangle and the fire would go out.

The upshot is that those prairie patches were not only pyric landscapes: they were cultural landscapes. They remain so today. …

And from People of the Prairie, People of the Fire:

The indigenes at the time of European contact, the Potawatomi, were known variously as the people of the place of the fire, or the keepers of the fire, because they maintained the great council fire around which the regional confederation of tribes gathered. But that fire did not stay within the council circle: it spread throughout the landscape, a constant among the diversity of grasses, trees, shrubs, ungulates, small mammals, birds, and insects that congregated around the informing prairie. In time the Potawatomi became known equally as the people of the prairie since the one meant the other. Remove fire, and the prairie disappeared. Remove prairie, and free-ranging fire lost its habitat. Remove the keepers of the fire and both prairie and fire vanish into overgrown scrub, weedy lots, or feral flame. …

Yet there is a second narrative of fire restoration at work as well, in which fire is returned not only to the land but to the hand. The reconstruction of Nachusa reinstates fire to ordinary people. The volunteers, who do much of the hard work of gathering and disseminating seeds, clearing invasive shrubs and weeding new acres, also do the burning. As much as reinstating big bluestem and lady fern, Nachusa has returned the torch to folk practitioners, the kind of fire wielders who sustained the prairie peninsula through millennia. The people of the new prairie have become people of the new fire. …

Please study and enjoy these works. This post is the proper place to make comments about Pyne’s Midwest trifecta — generally speaking, comments are not allowed in the Colloquia subsites to avoid littering them with extraneous dialog.

20 Jun 2009, 10:14am
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The Trap of Uncontrolled Equivocation

Two new science articles have been posted at W.I.S.E. which you might enjoy and learn from.

The first is Re-Inventing the United States Forest Service: Evolution from Custodial Management, to Production Forestry, to Ecosystem Management by Doug MacCleery, found in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here].

The second is The Threat of the Yrmo: The Political Ontology of a Sustainable Hunting Program by Mario Blaser posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Wildlife Sciences [here].

Both deal (in part) with the clash of ontologies: colliding world views. When worlds collide it often results in equivocation — doing nothing while speaking in vague falsehoods — a phenomenon Mario Blaser calls “the trap of uncontrolled equivocation”.

The trap of uncontrolled equivocation can lead to megafires and forest destruction (see the first article) and/or oppression and starvation of native indigenous peoples (see the second article).

Instead of dealing with problems in a direct manner, the bureaucratic style (worldwide) often is to yammer endlessly in strange tongues. Sometimes that works; the problems go away on their own. But sometimes it doesn’t and the problems intensify.

Both articles are excellent and worth your study. Please enjoy them, too.

4 Jun 2009, 11:06pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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A Cultural Renaissance

Report on the 2009 Native American Ecological Education Symposium

by Bob Zybach, Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc.

The Native American Ecological Education Symposium is held every two years at Southern Oregon University (SOU) in Ashland, Oregon. This year’s symposium took place on May 22 and 23. The symposia were first held annually, beginning shortly after the turn of the century, and this was the sixth such event to take place.

The Symposia feature mostly Native American elders and scientists, Native traditional technology and lifeway experts, educators, a few non-Indians who specialize in studies related to American Indians, singing, drumming, communal meals, revitalization of ancient arts and technologies, and lots of independent discussions. The featured speaker of this year’s event was M. Kat Anderson, noted author of Tending the Wild [review here] and co-editor of Omer Stewart’s Forgotten Fires [review here]. Event organizers included SOU student Marsha Small, Northern Cheyenne and Publicity Director for the Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (ECOS), Maymi Preston, Karuk, and Co-Chair of Native American Student Union (NASU), Dan Frye, Co-Chair of ECOS, and rest of the ECOS and NASU teams.

A core group of the same thirty to fifty speakers and participants seem to attend these affairs most years, creating a situation that Tribal elder Bob Tom likens to “preaching to the choir.” He then notes that even the very best choirs get that way through practice, and that these events are good practice for spreading information between symposia to a wider audience among our respective agencies, campuses, Tribes, families, and communities.

There was a different feeling at this year’s Symposium, though. Earlier events seemed to focus on recapturing Tribal culture via the sciences and social networking, with emphasis on anthropology, archaeology, singing, dancing, basketweaving, lithics, and history. This year’s event touched upon all of those aspects as well, but also focused on the landscape, native foods, and resource management technologies as ways to learn and teach Traditional Ecological Knowledge and –- perhaps more importantly –- as methods of communicating “horizontally” between generations, cultures, races, sexes, scientists, resource managers, teachers, and students.

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4 Jun 2009, 12:50am
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Junk Science Rules

Nothing comes close to the eruptions of absolute junk science when it comes to forestry in Oregon. Every kook in the world is suddenly an expert on matters they know nothing about. (Unless it is global warming alarmism, another arena in which junk science abounds).

Case in point: the “discussion” today at the Oregon Board of Forestry hearing regarding management of the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

Clowns in fish costumes paraded the grounds before the meeting, a fitting precursor to the lunacy they brought inside.

The circus was covered by the Oregonian:

OREGON ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS: Going green, green living, eco friendly tips and articles

Liveblogging: Tillamook and Clatsop state forests debate

by Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian, June 03, 2009 [here]

Salem — The Oregon Board of Forestry is hearing input this morning in Salem on a proposal to increase logging at the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. …

Before the meeting began, salmon advocates rallied with signs and fishing boats to show their support for keeping more of the 500,000 acres of state-managed timber land as wildlife habitat. …

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity kicked off the public response by critiquing the method behind the department’s analysis.

“Increasing the cut, it’s not supported by the science,” he said. …

What “science” is Noah talking about? Let’s look at some facts.

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30 May 2009, 10:04am
Forestry education Saving Forests
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The Alleged Benefits of Wildfire

There seems to be some confusion in the ranks regarding the alleged “benefits” of wildfire.

There has been an effort to credit wildfire with positives. Generally the “positive” is reduction in fuel. However, reducing fuel with a wildfire is a non-sequitur — the burden of fuel is that it can cause a wildfire.

Burning down a forest to reduce the fuels is actualization of the hazard. It is equivalent to saying that the Challenger space shuttle disaster produced a positive bonus because it saved the cost of landing the thing. It is the equivalent of saying we don’t have to pay the baker to bake a cake, because thank goodness the bakery burned down.

Furthermore, whatever fuel reduction occurs in a wildfire is soon erased by new growth and/or the increase in dead woody fuels. Wildfires do not prevent fires, they ARE the fires, and very often they engender subsequent fires, such as the repeat Tillamook burns or the Biscuit Fire (2002) following the Silver Fire (1987). Last year the Rattle Fire (2008, here) succeeded the Spring Fire (1996), in the same place except the Rattle Fire was bigger.

Wildfires are accidents. They occur in accidental places on accidental dates (generally during fire season when the damages that ensue are most extreme). They are different from prescribed burns or other treatments that include planned and prepared burning. Cost/benefit analysis can be logically applied to prescribed fire, but not to (accidental) wildfire. Any benefit that accrues to a wildfire is also an accident.

One could propose that the wages paid to firefighters are a “benefit” of wildfire. Many firefighters certainly look at it that way. But proper accounting must place wages in the cost category.

Beware the slippery slope of redefining costs as benefits.

When the Middlefork Fire [2008, here] blew up last year, a firefighter reported (on a firefighter website) that it was “doing a lot of good.” That could be interpreted as 1) it was filling the pockets of firefighters with double overtime wages from the public trough, or 2) it was doing the job of forest restoration for free.

The former is untenable. Police do not welcome crime because they get paid to arrest people. Hospitals do not welcome disease or injuries because they make money treating the sick.

The latter is also untenable. Wildfires do not restore forests; they destroy them.

This is not what forest restoration looks like:

Two years after the Angora Fire (June, 2007), taken Memorial Day, May 25, 2009. Click for larger image. (Photo by Tallac)

Some people welcome that kind of devastation [here]. They see “forest recycling” or “early successional plant associations” as desirable. But the truth is that wildfires devalue forests — they do not provide benefits.

Wildfires destroy vegetation including old-growth trees. In doing so they destroy habitat for wildlife, in particular threatened and endangered species. Wildfires degrade soils leading to loss of nutrients, reduced percolation of rain or snow melt, increased runoff, and increased erosion. Steams become choked with sediment and ash, which damages aquatic habitat and fish spawning gravels. Water yields are reduced, especially late season flows, because aquifers are not recharged. Water users suffer because domestic, irrigation, and hydropower flows are reduced and infrastructure damaged by the erosion. Public health and safety are compromised when wildfires exit Federal land and burn down homes and businesses. Even if wildfires are contained, the excessive smoke can cause health problems such as respiratory distress incidents. Local economies are battered both during the wildfire and for years afterward. Etc., etc.

The opportunity to restore forests to provide “ecosystem services” is lost in wildfires. Restoration is something that must be done before the fire. After the fire the cleanup is called “rehabilitation” not restoration. It may take decades or even centuries for a charred forest to regain the qualities it had before the fire — in many cases that will never happen because the forest has been effectively erased from the landscape in perpetuity.

The foregoing concepts can be difficult to fully grasp, especially if people are removed and disconnected from forests. The issues are remote to urban residents who have little familiarity with or understanding of forests. Wildfires are something they see on TV while channel surfing. But to foresters who have labored for decades to care for forests — to protect, maintain, and perpetuate forests — wildfires are extreme tragedies and disasters.

There are no benefits to wildfires; there are only costs and losses. That realization may be uncomfortable to some, but it is the truth.

26 May 2009, 1:31pm
Forestry education
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Towards a True Science of Fire

An interesting article appeared last week in Science Mag entitled Fire in the Earth System.

It was written by a flock of folks: David M. J. S. Bowman, Jennifer K. Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Jean M. Carlson, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D’Antonio, Ruth S. DeFries, John C. Doyle, Sandy P. Harrison, Fay H. Johnston, Jon E. Keeley, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, J. Brad Marston, Max A. Moritz, I. Colin Prentice, Christopher I. Roos, Andrew C. Scott, Thomas W. Swetnam, Guido R. van der Werf, and Stephen J. Pyne.

The paper arose from a conference held at UC Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Everybody in attendance got their name on the paper. Of some interest is that one author, Dr. Stephen J. Pyne, Regents Professor at Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, did not even attend (he had to cancel due to pressing family matters).

Despite his absence, the paper calls for the development of “a coordinated and holistic fire science,” a theme that Pyne has promoted for many years.

The paper is [here]. Much of it is global warming gibberish. But the essential idea — that the study of exogenous (outdoor) fire needs a more formal discipline — is quite valid.

That discipline MUST recognize that fire is more than a physical process: it is both biological and cultural.

Fire is biological because fuels are biological, and fire doesn’t happen without fuel. (There are some exceptions such as volcanic eruptions and solar combustion by nuclear fusion, but when a forest burns, the stuff that burns is biomass). Hence fire study should be an outgrowth of biology.

And fire is cultural. Humans are the only animal that makes fire. Anthropogenic fire is ancient and has had significant influence on Earthly ecosystems for tens of thousands of years.

The spread of highly flammable savannas, where hominids originated, likely contributed to their eventual mastery of fire. The hominid fossil record suggests that cooked food may have appeared as early as 1.9 Ma, although reliable evidence for controlled fire use does not appear in the archaeological record until after 400,000 years ago, with evidence of regular use much later. The routine domestic use of fire began around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, … and hunter-gatherers used fire to reduce fuels and manage wildlife and plants beginning tens of thousands of years ago.

Steve Pyne wrote compellingly about the need for a new scientific discipline of fire in his 2006 essay, The Wrath of Kuhn: Meditations on Fire Philosophy [here].

What I do urge is a lusty attempt to center fire within biology. … What is needed is to assert that in its essence it is biologically constructed and to elaborate that proposition into a unifying theory that can range from genes to the biosphere. Today fire remains a sidebar in the life sciences. It should be on the commanding heights.

Pyne has written over 20 books, most of them pertaining to fire, including the best (perhaps only) textbook on fire, Introduction to Wildland Fire, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1996).

The spin of the Science article emphasizes “catastrophe, carbon, and climate” (Pyne’s words). The motivation behind that was to entice the editors at Science with “popular” themes. But the real meat may be hidden as a result. Dr. Pyne wrote to me:

The real issues, I think, are getting fire into some formal scholarship and getting people at the core of fire scholarship. I’ll repeat myself: the only fire department at a university is the one that sends emergency vehicles when an alarm sounds.

The Science article is a group paper and possibly suffers from the too-many-cooks syndrome. Hopefully discerning SOSF readers can navigate through the brush of distracting pontification about global warming etc. and discover the heart of the argument: that fire is a multi-faceted phenomenon that affects lives and landscapes, and so deserves a more focused albeit holistic scientific approach.

The Last Gasps of a Dying Paradigm

As mentioned previously, I attended the “Ecosystems Dynamics Seminar” at OSU last Thursday. It was the fourth of four seminars (put on by the Institute for Natural Resources [here], an unabashedly political “policy research” entity at OSU) on the subject of “ecosystems dynamics.” A set of “white papers” laying out the politicized “science” of the seminars is [here].

It is not my intention in this post to deconstruct the Institute for Natural Resources. Maybe some other time. Suffice it to say that it is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars; and even worse than a waste — it is an abomination. But on to the seminar itself.

There was a good presentation by Adam Novick, Risk to Maintenance-Dependent Species on Private Land from Species-Based Land-Use Regulation, which I will describe in a future post.

The rest of the day was filled with total tripe from a pathetic crew of Old Paradigmers.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Bill Ripple, a a professor of forest resources in OSU’s College of Forestry, gave the most clownish presentation regarding wolves I think I have ever seen, (entitled Using Large Carnivores to Sustain Forest Ecosystems). Ripple is not a wildlife biologist (his specialty is GIS), so that might explain (but not excuse) his stunning lack of insights on the subject.

Ripple maintains that wolves generate “an ecology of fear” in elk, deer, moose, and other herbivores. Wolves scare the critters and they run away, and that results in a reduction in browsing, according to Bill. Of course, wherever the frightened ungulates run to, they browse in that new place and probably eat more to offset the energy expended running from the wolves. But that’s a minor hiccup in his bankrupt theory.

Wolves also slaughter ungulates and livestock for blood sport as well as spread rabies and other deadly diseases. One thing they don’t do is restore forests.

Ripple showed slides of old-growth black oak in Yosemite and interpreted those as “unhealthy.” If there were more wolves in Yosemite, the old-growth would die off, which is his stated goal. Bill decried open, park-like forests in Yellowstone, Jasper, and other places. Nothing is more “unhealthy” than old-growth, according to Bill.

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18 May 2009, 3:19pm
Forestry education
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Paint the Picture

Hey, this sounds like fun. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is creating a photomosaic with pictures you send them. From a USFWS news blurb:

Let’s Go Outside Campaign to Connect People with Nature and Create Photomosaic

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service News Release, May 18, 2009 [here]

This Memorial Day and all summer long, get out into nature and see some wildlife – in your backyard, at your local park or on a nearby national wildlife refuge. You’ll create family memories to last a lifetime, and if you take your digital camera, you’ll not only capture those memories, but will have the opportunity to submit them as part of a major online Photomosaic.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the launch of a “Let’s Go Outside” initiative to create a massive compilation of nearly 10,000 publicly provided photographs capturing families creating memories in nature this summer. The assembled photographs will create a Photomosaic of an outdoor image to be revealed at the conclusion of the summer, and then made into a commemorative poster.

All digital photos submitted will be included in the Photomosaic – a picture that has been divided into equally sized sections, each of which is replaced with a photograph. When viewed at a distance, the Photomosiac seems to be one complete image, while close examination reveals it as a composition of thousands of smaller images. Visitors to the “Let’s Go Outside” web site will be able to watch the Photomosaic being built and locate their own images by using a unique code number. …

The blurb has a link to the interactive photomosaic site [here]. My thought is to send them real photos of the destruction the government has inflicted on our public (and private) lands. So I will be shooting them some of the pics from the SOS Forests Photo Pages [here, here].

I urge you to do the same. Find good visual examples of the carnage and paste them into the grand mosaic. If you prefer, send your photos to SOS Forests. We will post them here, and then heave them at the USFWS for you.

Maybe if we paint the picture for the Federales, they will catch a clue. Not likely, I admit, but worth a shot.

Note: thanks and tip of the hard hat to Julie Kay Smithson of Property Rights Research [here] for the headsup.

28 Apr 2009, 12:44pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Forest Fires and Global Warming

We have essayed regarding this topic numerous times [here], but new obfuscations have cropped up and we must mow them down quickly in the spirit of good landscaping and defensible space.

ScienceDaily has posted a chatty article [here] referencing a new report (in the April 24 issue of the journal Science) forest fires and global warming. I haven’t read the report, but the chatty article is chock full of misconceptions ripe for scything. They sprout and grow thusly:

Fire Influences Global Warming More Than Previously Thought [here]

ScienceDaily (Apr. 29, 2009) — Fire’s potent and pervasive effects on ecosystems and on many Earth processes, including climate change, have been underestimated, according to a new report.

“We’ve estimated that deforestation due to burning by humans is contributing about one-fifth of the human-caused greenhouse effect — and that percentage could become larger,” said co-author Thomas W. Swetnam of The University of Arizona in Tucson.

“It’s very clear that fire is a primary catalyst of global climate change,” said Swetnam, director of UA’s Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

“The paper is a call to arms to earth scientists to investigate and better evaluate the role of fire in the Earth system,” he said.

Tom, Tom, Tom. That’s a pretty good scare story but it has two flaws (at least).

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25 Apr 2009, 7:38pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Us Crazy Lumberjacks

Valerie is a Graduate, with a degree in Environmental Science and Resource Management. She wrote a comment to a previous post, Old-Growth Forests and Global Warming, [here].

We like comments and generally let them stand on their own, without response, but Valerie called us “crazy lumberjacks… just out to get the wise old trees who never laid a branch on you.” So we feel compelled to respond in some manner or other.

In fact, nobody is trying harder to save forests than we are. Valerie has leaped to the exact backasswards conclusion. In the interest of education (and even a Graduate can always learn a little more) we extend to her this explanatory note:

Dear Graduate Valerie,

Are we serious about forest stewardship? You bet. About protecting, maintaining, and perpetuating old-growth? Absolutely.

No where do we recommend “chop it down”. That’s not what restoration forestry is, Valerie. Restoration forestry is about saving old-growth from catastrophic fire and recreating the forest development pathways that led to old-growth in the first place.

Those development pathways included anthropogenic fire, as well as human distribution, tending, and use of predominant plants such as huckleberry, beargrass, ponderosa and sugar pine, and many others.

Thousands of years of human residency and landscape-scale treatments, such as frequent, seasonal, deliberate light burning, engendered prairies, meadows, berry fields, and open and park-like forests. Fires were largely man-made, with the foresight and experience of countless generations, in order to prepare or harvest fields, drive game, provide or reduce browse, and for dozens of other reasons, the chief among them to prevent the build up of fuels that would fuel catastrophic fires.

The First Residents avoided catastrophic fires (which would have severely impacted human survival) by deliberately burning off the fine fuels every year. That burning also killed conifer seedlings. Only rarely did a conifer survive repeated ground fires to grow tall enough and thick enough to be resilient to future fires.

We know this because all (or almost all) old-growth trees were open grown. They have wide growth rings near the pith, indicating fast juvenile growth (stand-grown trees have narrow rings). Old-growth trees have low height-diameter ratios (they’re squatty compared to tall, skinny, stand-grown trees). Old-growth usually have large limbs or knots near the base, again indicating open-grown characteristics and a competition-free micro-environment.

Those trees were sparsely distributed and grew to old ages because of the frequent ground fires.

In the absence of Indian burning, fuels have built up to the point that modern fires are severe and kill all the trees, including the old growth that had survived numerous light fires in the distant past.

In order to save the old growth, and to create more old-growth, we must reduce the fuels and re-institute frequent, seasonal, light burning fires.

Otherwise we get severe fires that kill old-growth, such as the Biscuit Fire (2002), the B and B Fire (2003), the Rattle Fire (2008), and hundreds of other fires that have decimated millions of acres of old-growth in just the last twenty years.

Setting aside forests in wilderness areas, roadless areas, special reserves, and other no-treatment zones is a virtual guarantee that catastrophic stand-replacing fire will strike. All the trees will be killed, old and young alike. New trees, if they sprout and if they grow through the brush, will be in thickets and will be killed in the next stand-replacement fire, which is sure to come within a hundred years if not much sooner.

The new trees will not grow to old ages. They will burn up first. Thickets of reproduction subject to stand-replacement fires do not produce old trees. Old trees only come about (survive to 200, 300, 600 years old or older) under special conditions — in open, park-like, woodland/savannas where fires are frequent and seasonal, and by necessity, anthropogenic (lightning fires are neither frequent enough nor in the right seasons).

No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot does not protect old-growth nor does it engender new old-growth. In addition, stand-replacing fires in old-growth spotted owl habitat are extremely harmful to the owls. They die in the flames or else wander the charred snags until they starve. Or Great Horned owls, golden eagles, or other predatory raptors eat the owls, which are easier to catch when their protective forest canopy is no more.

And it doesn’t come back. Spotted owl old-growth is the kind that arose as a result of anthropogenic fire. People setting frequent, seasonal, landscape-scale fires over thousands of years are what allowed the trees to grow old and become spotted owl habitat. If we do not emulate those people, spotted owl habitat will disappear and never return.

So you see, Valerie, us crazy lumberjacks are actually highly educated, vastly experienced, professional forest experts who seek to save old-growth and priceless heritage forests from permanent destruction.

As to your accusation that we are the cause of global warming, I sincerely doubt it, since there has been no global warming for 10 years. No effect, no cause.

19 Apr 2009, 10:06am
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
1 comment

Owl Ridge Trails Project Garners Oregon Heritage Excellence Award

The Owl Ridge Trails Project, a historical analysis of the pre-Contact South Santiam watershed, has earned a 2009 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award.

At a banquet last Friday the Oregon Heritage Commission presented the award to David Lewis of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde and Bob Zybach of Oregon Websites and Watersheds in recognition of their study of the trail network and landscape patterns prevalent in the Oregon Cascades prior to Euro-American occupation.

The Owl Ridge Trails Project website is [here]. The project is a necessary precursor to restoration forestry efforts in the South Santiam watershed. Among the purposes of that restoration are:

1. To restore and maintain Santiam Molallan cultural landscape patterns.

2. To re-create traditional Molallan hunting, gathering, and resource management practices.

3. To reduce wildfire threat to local communities and native wildlife populations.

4. To protect historic old-growth tree populations.

5. To develop local and Tribal employment opportunities.

6. To enhance forest aesthetics, traditional spiritual sites and values, and local recreational opportunities.

Forest restoration of the South Santiam watershed has been proposed in the Gordon Meadows Restoration Plan [here]. Gordon Meadows are located one ridge north of Owl Ridge and were a high-use area of the Santiam Molalla.

The Owl Ridge Trails Project investigated the historical uses of the Gordon Meadows and the greater Owl Ridge area in order to describe in detail the reference conditions requisite for restoration.

About 150-200 people attended the Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards ceremony where Governor Kulongoski’s wife, Mary Obrist made the presentations. Dr. Zybach accepted the award and credited Grande Ronde Tribal Elders Pat Allen and Bob Tom, CTGR Director of Operations John Mercier, Tribal GIS specialist Volker Mell, the Tribal Council, and Wayne Giesy, Jeanne Gay, and Stuart Hemphill from ORWW.

Others involved in the Owl Ridge Tails Project include Tribal Elder and Cultural Resources Site Protection Specialist Don Day; Tribal member and Cultural Resources Cultural Protection Coordinator Eirik Thorsgard; Kim Rogers, Tribal Planning and Grants manager; Tribal member and Tribal Executive Officer Chris Leno; Tribal member and former Cultural Resources staff member Khani Schultz; and former Tribal Executive Officer Greg Archuleta. Tony Farque, archeologist, and Douglas Shank, geologist, of the Willamette National Forest, provided consultation and review.

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