Torching the Budget

Today the Sacramento Bee published an interesting article entitled “Forest Service burns through its budgets” [here]. A quote:

WASHINGTON – The Forest Service has struggled for years to pay for fighting fires that last year alone scorched almost 10 million acres, mainly in the West. As fire seasons grow longer and the blazes more intense in forests stressed by global warming, the agency’s funding woes mount.

In fact, the Forest Service has already spent roughly $900 million this year, almost 75 percent of its fire-suppression budget, and the season is just nearing its peak.

Nearly half the Forest Service’s annual budget now is spent on battling wildfires or trying to prevent them. In 1991, 13 percent of its budget was spent on fires.

As the costs have grown, so has the toll on the agency’s other programs. To pay for its fire programs, the Forest Service has raided accounts used for everything from reforestation to fish and wildlife to building campgrounds and trails. In theory, those accounts are expected to be repaid. In practice, it’s not that easy.

“The whole damn thing is imploding,” said Casey Judd, business manager of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, in Inkom, Idaho. The group represents firefighters in five federal agencies.

Every year, Congress provides emergency money to bail out the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies. Over the past 10 years, it has provided $3.9 billion in emergency funding to fight fires. But some on Capitol Hill are getting tired of the Forest Service coming hat-in-hand every year because its budgets fail to adequately reflect firefighting costs.

“The Forest Service would be on its knees except for the money Congress provides,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., who as chairman of the House interior appropriations subcommittee oversees the agency’s budget. “This thing is pretty close to being out of control.”

Not close, Norm, it’s there. Furthermore the USFS fire budget has been out of control for at least 3 years now. So has the acreage burned, which has been rising steadily for at least five years.

Costs have risen right along with acreage. Already this year we have experienced a 245,000 acre fire (the Basin/Indians Complex [here]) that has burned up $115 million in fire supression dollars to date. It will soon be the most expensive fire in California history.

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A Burning Desire

The following essay was written in 1999, but it is just as valid today because things haven’t changed. We repost from the Free Republic [here].

© 1999 by Mark Edward Vande Pol, all rights reserved.

If environmentalists were left to their own devices, do they have a better way to manage wild-lands? Criticisms by environmentalists about private enterprise are so ubiquitous it is high time to critically analyze of one of their proposals. How often are their plans submitted for scrutiny, peer review, or an EIS? The sad part is that it is so easy to do. The cited text is reprinted off the Sierra Club web site.

Sierra Club Policy: Public Lands Fire Management

Sierra Club Board of Directors March 17-19, 1989:

(Yep, this is the current policy, adopted immediately AFTER the Yellowstone Fire.)

1. Fire is a natural, integral, and valuable component of many ecosystems. Fire management must be a part of the management of public lands. Areas managed for their natural values often benefit from recurring wildfires and may be harmed by a policy of fire suppression. Long-term suppression of small wildfires may build up conditions making occasional catastrophic conflagrations inevitable.”

Recurring fire is a natural occurrence in the West, unless people have suppressed fire for sixty years. That process of suppression has been harmful. The fuel load is not at a ‘natural’ level. It will not result therefore in a ‘natural’ fire. ‘Inevitable’ implies, ‘It is too big a problem and too much potentially harmful work to do anything to mitigate’. It is inferred that nobody is responsible for a conflagration if it happens because it’s ‘natural’. If the fuel level was forced by human activity, does ignition absolve those who had a choice of the time of ignition and the composition of the fuel?

2. Every fire should be monitored. Naturally occurring fires should be allowed to burn in areas where periodic burns are considered beneficial and where they can be expected to burn out before becoming catastrophic. Human-caused fires in such areas should be allowed to burn or be controlled on a case-by-case basis.

Note the prejudice toward unplanned fires. They want monitoring but not planning. Are they crazy? They just said that catastrophic fire was ‘inevitable.’ Who is going to be responsible for determining whether it will go out by itself or progress to a catastrophe on a case-by-case basis? Weather in the mountain regions of California is highly changeable, localized, and unpredictable. Are they going to get everybody together for a meeting before they decide while the fire builds? Who controls the fire if the only plan for ignition is that there should be no plan?
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The Payette Lets It Burn Again

After incinerating 470,529 acres of the Payette NF last summer [here], the Payette NF managers are at it again. The Rush Creek Fire is burning freely and blowing up to mega-proportions in the nation’s leading Let It Burn laboratory.

Sparked by unknown causes on July 15, the Rush Creek Fire is now 200 acres and expanding rapidly. There is no staffing on the Rush Creek Fire, no attempt to contain, control, or extinguish it. Burn, baby, burn is business as usual on the radical and lawless Payette.

This may seem like an innocuous fire, but last year the Payette NF decided to let innocuous fires burn until 800,000 acres were incinerated across three national forests [here, here, here, here, here].

This blurb was spit up last week on the Payette NF website [here]:

McCall, ID (July 18, 2008) – The Krassel Ranger District is currently managing the 30 [sic] acre Rush Creek Fire in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness. The fire is located in the Rush Creek area near Shellrock Creek in a remote area characterized by steep slopes and rocky terrain and is not threatening property or people [just forests, wildlife, watershed, and other resource values].

The cause of the fire is unknown [we're clueless and don't really care]. It began on July 15 and is burning in heavy timber [i.e. forests, the kind with trees]. Currently, the fire is staying on the ground and moving slowly through the forest [until it blew up to 200 acres and is now rapidly growing]. The fire was at 20 acres when it was discovered and grew to an estimated 30-40 acres, due in part to an increase in wind [but she's a roaring now. Whoopsie daisy, another bonehead bad fire behavior prediction]. Thunderstorms are expected to bring wind and rain today and tomorrow but temperatures are predicted to bring hotter and drier conditions over the weekend.

The fire is being closely monitored via over flights by fire staff [no firefighter is going near it]. Fire Management Staff and Forest leadership are monitoring the fire’s progression and will implement point protection if values become threatened [that would be never on the Payette. They have no values]. Fire behavior modeling is also being utilized to help predict the progression and spread of the fire across the landscape [even though the models are funky and wrong].

The Rush Creek Fire is being managed and not immediately suppressed because of its location, the potential for resource benefits associated with fire and the lack of any threat to people or property [WHAT GODDAMN RESOURCE BENEFITS????????????????]. Not suppressing the fire also does not put firefighters at risk unnecessarily [just the forests, wildlife, watersheds, etc.] Firefighter and public safety are priorities as fire managers consider the array of fire management tools available to them [such as sit on their fat cans and do nothing].

This pro-holocauster government babble and horrific abrogation of legally mandated responsibilities is likely to lead to another megafire at the cost of tens of $millions and damages in the hundreds of $millions. They got away with it last year (no Payette person was prosecuted or jailed for burning 1,250 square miles of public forest).

There has been no Environmental Impact Statement written, no hearings, no Declarations by Forest Supervisor Susie Raines, not even the slightest nod towards U.S. environmental laws such as NEPA, ESA, NHPA, NFMA, or all the rest. The Payette don’t need no stinking laws to do Let It Burn.

Please call the Payette National Forest at (208) 634-0700, (208) 634-0784, or (208) 634-6945 to express your displeasure.

Surprising Ruling By the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

by Claudia Elliott, Editor and Publisher of the Southern Sierra Messenger

As fires rage throughout California—and many believe their severity could be reduced by active forest management—there is a hope of a cool breeze coming from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals.

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke in July. The Ninth Circuit is known for a range of what many people would call “wacky” decisions, particularly concerning environmental issues, which is why a ruling by an 11-judge panel of the court last week has some folks in shock.

Bottom line: The panel ruled that it’s improper for federal judges to act as scientists when weighing in on disputed U.S. Forest Service timber projects.

In their ruling, the judges overturned a July 2007 decision by a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel that halted the Mission Brush timber sale in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The litigating environmental groups in the case contended that the Forest Service’s logging plan would harm the region’s ecosystem for species including small, migratory owls. The ruling also overturned a 2005 decision concerning a Forest Service project in Western Montana.

U.S. Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, told the Associated Press that the ruling was “the most important decision involving a Forest Service environmental case in the last two decades,” saying it restores the ability of federal agencies, not meddling judges, to exercise discretion over timber sales.

“The judges established a much more limited framework for judicial review of Forest Service decisions – a framework that’s much more consistent with the standard use by other circuits,” Rey said last week. “The court says its role is not to act as a panel of scientists. They wanted to move back to a more appropriate role.”

It’s too early to know exactly what ramifications this ruling will have on Sequoia National Forest, Giant Sequoia National Monument, or other public lands throughout California. Environmental groups commenting so far have tried to minimize the importance of the ruling.

Personally, I value environmental review and I value community input in projects involving public lands. But too often, good projects developed with sound science and lots of effort are overturned by judges who have, as the Ninth Circuit panel determined, overstepped their bounds.

Perhaps this decision will level the playing field and return land use decisions to the public agencies who I will expect to follow the laws, rules, and regulations that apply–but hopefully without having a judge side with environmental organizations who want to apply impossible standards without any consideration of the risk we are taking in managing public lands in such a capricious manner.

The Southern Sierra Messenger is published every other Thursday at Springville, California; Mail subscriptions are available; Rates are $24 per year within Tulare County and $32 per year outside Tulare County; US addresses only. Send subscription order with payment to Community Media, PO Box 765, Springville, CA 93265 or call (559) 539-7514.

See also our previous post on this topic [here].

Rep. Goodlatte on Exploding Fire Suppression Costs

Statement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Member, House Committee on Agriculture

RE: H.R. 5541, the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act)

July 9, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment with the bill before us today, H.R. 5541 the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act or the FLAME Act. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the authors of this bill are well intentioned and truly want to solve the wildfire funding problem, but, sadly, the FLAME Act does not provide the comprehensive solution needed to adequately resolve this problem.

With the unhealthy conditions in our forests, extreme drought, and the increasing influx of people building in fire-prone areas, the size and severity of wildfires has dramatically increased. In the 90’s, an average of 3.2 million acres burned each year. Since 2000, that annual average has doubled to 7.1 million acres. The cost of fighting these wildfires has skyrocketed, from averages of $400 million annually in the 90’s to roughly $1.4 billion in 2007. This year an area roughly the size of Connecticut has already burned, at cost of over $665 million to date.

This is not just a western issue. In my home state of Virginia, more acres have burned already this year than in any single entire year since 1963 at a cost of millions of dollars.

As firefighting costs have increased, the overall USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets have not. So, the Forest Service and DOI are footing the bill for these large, unpredictable emergency wildfires within the confines of a flat budget. For the Forest Service, this has meant a 77 percent increase in fire expenditures, a 23 percent decrease in funds to manage the national forests, and a 38 percent decrease in funds to help states and private owners manage their forests. Whether you’re a wilderness advocate, a hunter, a mountain biker, or a logger, everyone will be impacted if we don’t solve this problem.

Wildfires are not only consuming more forestland, they are consuming the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior themselves.

The FLAME Act falls short of protecting the Agencies’ budgets from this continued erosion. H.R. 5541 does not change the current budget practice of funding firefighting based on the average expenses over the previous decade. Without this change, we will continue to see more and more of the Agencies’ budgets go toward fire and less towards taking care of our nation’s forests.

In addition to this shortfall, the FLAME Act lacks a comprehensive set of solutions to the problem. Fixes to the wildfire budgeting system must be accompanied by strong cost containment and accountability standards while also ensuring fire fighter safety, incentives to encourage communities to step up to the plate and reduce wildfire risks, and more tools to prevent or minimize damage due to catastrophic wildfires, particularly in our federal forests.

H.R. 5648, the Emergency Wildland Fire Response Act of 2008 which Chairman Peterson and I introduced along with a bipartisan group of our colleagues, provides this comprehensive solution. Unfortunately, negotiations for a more comprehensive solution were cut short.

I’m pleased to see that the authors of the FLAME Act have incorporated aspects of H.R. 5648 that encourage communities to step up to the plate and become “fire-ready” and encourage the Agencies to contain costs in their firefighting efforts.

Unfortunately, even with these improvements, the FLAME Act ignores the underlying problem causing the increases in firefighting costs- the unhealthy condition of our federal forests. We will continue to see skyrocketing firefighting costs and more damage to our forests, watersheds, and communities unless we take steps to reduce fire risk in our federal forests. We must provide the Agencies additional tools to get our federal forests in a healthy, more fire resilient condition.

My alternative bill, H.R. 5648 provides a new contracting tool for the Forest Service to partner with states to address these unhealthy conditions in federal forests. This authority has been tested in Colorado and Utah where it’s proven to be very effective. Unfortunately, HR 5541 contains no such tools.

Mr. Speaker, as California and other states are dealing with massive wildfires even as we speak, we shouldn’t squander our time with legislation that is only half the solution. H.R. 5541 is akin to using the watering can to fight a wildfire: it might have some short-term benefit of slowing down the flames, but ultimately, it won’t stop the fire.

That being said, I will vote for this bill because it does move the ball forward. I’m hopeful that we can improve it as we move forward and ask my colleagues to join me in this effort.

Hearing On S.2593 Thursday By Deaf Senators

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, S. 2593, will be the subject of a hearing Thursday, July 10, before the US Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands [here].

Just in case you don’t know what S. 2593 is all about, click the Category “Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008″ in the right hand sidebar. You will see that the Western Institute for Study of the Environment analyzed this bill and wrote a lengthy set of suggested amendments.

We sent those in to our US Senators and to the Subcommittee but never heard boo from any of them. Now they will be holding a hearing sans our input. How the US Senate can hold hearings when they are terminally deaf is beyond me.

Now, I don’t expect the US Senate to respond to every piece of mail they get, but a collaboration of the top forest scientists in Oregon put together our suggested amendments and we sent them in four months ago. I did expect our Oregon Senators to respond, since S. 2593 concerns Oregon. That bill is a thousand times better than the piece of crap bill Ron Wyden put forth last month [here].

Wyden’s bill, the Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act,
(no number that we are aware of) is dead in the water from the get-go. It has numerous poison pills. It will never be passed, and if passed will screw up forest management in Oregon even worse than it already is.

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, on the other hand, holds considerable promise, especially if the amendments we suggested are adopted.

Unfortunately, the US Senate has ignored our input, as I said. We did not jam sacks of hundred dollar bills in any Senator’s freezer. We did not provide them with free trips to fabulous resorts with hookers and coke and all the accoutrement they expect. It’s not that we didn’t want to; we simply cannot afford it on our limited incomes.

You would think that Gordon Smith might be interested, since he is running again. You would think Ron Wyden might be interested, since he has put forth a weak and stupid forestry bill of his own. If so, you would think wrong.

So the hearing will happen in our absence, much palavering will be done, and then the bill will be buried in the mud of the Potomac, and that’s it for that.

But we tried. You can’t say we didn’t try. It’s not our fault that our government is of, by, and for the criminal elite. Maybe if we elect a Maoist Shining Path Communist revolutionary (there is one running), then things will change. A new class of criminals will take over. That will be better, right?

One By One

What is a land swindle? A prime example is the O&C land frauds and double dealings that have gone on in Oregon since the 1870’s. Wealthy industrialists have been bribing elected representatives for over 100 years and lining their pockets the whole time while impoverishing the citizenry, exploiting forests, and destroying the landscape.

You can read all about it in this history:

One By One: A documented narrative based upon the history of the Oregon & California Railroad Land Grant in the State of Oregon, by Robert Bradley Jones, Sources Magazine, Inc. 1972-73.

“When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, One by One, an unpitied’ sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke, 1975

Full text [here] (4.3 MB)

Then draw your own comparisons to the latest Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008. The parallels are many. The outcomes will also be similar. If you live in Montana, you just got screwed. You may not realize it now, but your children and grandchildren will suffer because of it. That is, unless they are among the fat cats that just profited by looting the Federal Treasury.

The Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008

On June 30 Senator Max Baucus announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land. It is the biggest Montana land swindle in many years, perhaps since the days of the 19th Century railroad barons.

The so-called Montana Legacy Project will use $500 million in taxpayer monies to enrich Plum Creek, TNC, and TTPL and will provide no significant change in actual land management or environmental stewardship. In fact, stewardship will diminish.

The funds will come from the U.S. Treasury through a slick earmark Baucus inserted into the recent Farm Bill, passed by Congress over President George W. Bush’s veto. In addition to the $500 million to be given to the above named corporations, the Farm Bill also gave a $182 million tax break to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation.

The Montana land swindle was reported by the Flathead Beacon [here]:

Standing just below the summit of Kalispell’s Lone Pine State Park, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Monday announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, calling the deal, “the largest land purchase, for conservation purposes, in American history.”

Dubbed, “The Montana Legacy Project,” The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land are buying the acreage for $510 million, and will finance payments on the land over the next three years through private and public sources, with the federal government paying for about half the cost through a forestry conservation bond mechanism Baucus inserted into the recently passed Farm Bill.

Plum Creek is selling 223,400 acres in Missoula County, and 35,500 acres in the Swan Valley, along with 13,800 acres in Lincoln County. No land close to Kalispell or Whitefish was on the selling block.

Spokesmen for the conservation groups said the deal will preserve the land for wildlife habitat, public recreation and sustainable forestry.

Unfortunately, the land deal will do no such thing. What it will guarantee is catastrophic fire, the destruction of wildlife habitat, the elimination of public recreation, and conversion of forest to brush.
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Where Oh Where Is Congress?

As the 2008 Fire Season heads into July like a runaway freight train, the question arises, where is Congress? Have our enlightened leaders noticed that their districts are aflame? Is megafire an election issue yet?

Take Howard P. (Buck) McKeon for instance. Buck represents the 25th District in California, which has had two whoofoos this year alone, the Honeybee WFU and the Clover WFU. The latter has been burning since May 31 and has cost the taxpayers $6 million so far. Has Buck noticed? Would you vote for somebody who takes your taxes and sets them on fire?

Or Sam Farr? Sam has represented Monterey County for 15 years. He is the son of Fred Farr, who was a state senator from the same locale for decades. Sam inherited his position, you might say, and was “to the manor born.” Has Sam noticed that his district is aflame in what could become the largest fire in California state history? Between the Indians Fire and the Basin Fire over $45 million has been spent and close to 100,000 acres have burned already. Is that cool with Sam?

It’s a sure bet that neither of those guys had a clue what was coming. They have not concerned themselves in the slightest with the condition of the landscapes in their districts, other than to lock up lands for incineration. One is a Republican, the other a Democrat, but both are members of the Burn, Baby, Burn party, whether they admit it publicly or not.

Do yourself a favor, do your whole community a favor, and vote for somebody else.
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26 Jun 2008, 9:20am
Politics and politicians
by admin
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Mothball the Rolling Stock

guest post by bear bait.

Wander around the Great Basin enough, and you know if you see a bunch of magpies something is dead below them. Tattle tales. See a bunch of birds in the air and on the water off Newport, and you know that salmon or some other predator have driven some bait to the surface.

Tattle tales.

So for the second time this week that I have seen, a whole train of empty longitudinal bulkhead railcars, “A” frames, has gone north by my house. I see very few of them going south with lumber. Just Weyerhaeuser Dallas and Hampton Willamina wood. And the two of them don’t use that many cars a month, let alone a week or day. Those cars are going to some track, somewhere, to be stored. My guess would be the eastern end of the flood destroyed RR to Tillamook. Maybe Hampton has a reload they are hauling to from Tillamook. But the wood is not going south on this road. Maybe to Portland and east, since the UP and the SP are now one and the same, the larger UP…

Jack and I have seen for better than a year, those A frames get stored by Drummond in Montana. If I remember right, using the Excessive’s speedometer and some dead reckoning, I figured that there was close to 6 miles of A frames stored on the empty track around Drummond on the old line that once went to Helena and the one that went south towards P-Burg.

The mothballed cars are a symptom of just how bad the lumber deal has gotten in the West. Every railcar needs its 60 to 80 feet of track, somewhere. Behind a locomotive team headed toward the market or mill those feet of track can be shared over time with other cars. In storage, though, nobody wins. Except that they will make clean scrap, and that’s close to $300 at ton…

On the scrap note, the Stettler linear mechanic said he has replaced, so far this spring, over $150,000 worth of copper wire stolen and stripped from linear and pivot irrigation systems. He dreads getting up in the morning because he knows he is going to get another call. He has figured out an alarm system, and is now installing them. I asked if there was a way to… and he said no… he can’t… there is a way but a coroner’s investigation would surely find the trap.

I cost accounted all my fertilizer into the predicted yield, and it comes out to about 3 cents a pound. That is not a place to pinch pennies at this time. We have a $1.25 floor price. It is 2 1/2 percent of the gross yield in cost. And I am including the new tank and pumps in all that. If I get 3% more fruit injecting instead of slopping it on dry, I will get out of a trip across the fields, and put the $2500 worth of fertilizer against the liquid used for injection… close to a push, in many ways. And a whole lot easier on the watershed and the plants, the wildlife, you name it.

I watched the whole CWS game last night. A good game for west coasters. A great game by the pitcher for Fresno State. Big ole chubby kid with a real easy delivery. And he threw strikes. Gave up one run, a homer, to the kid who set the season record for homers with the one last night. In a losing cause, though. Fresno State beat Georgia 6-1, and the 89th ranked team wins it all. Once again a West Coast team. Gotta take my hat off to those kids. Their hitter has a hanging thumb… no ligament… has to have a surgeon take a ligament out of his arm to rebuild it this summer. He went 4 for 4 at the plate. Drove in all 6 runs. Two home runs, a double and a single. Just a great effort. College baseball is more fun than the pros…

A cloudy, cool morning. And a heat wave coming, allegedly. Hope no fires. All the firefighters are in California. A thousand fires at one time does that to resources. Of course, all the answers are in the Natl Geographic July issue. It is all about too much fuel because fires have been fought. One little word about logging. It is all about WFU. Let It Burn. We are spending more to fight the fire than the land is worth. Of course, while I write this, a WFU in the Sierras called the Clover fire is now threatening homes… hmm. I thought the fire was supposed to stay in the wilderness and do Mother Nature’s good work. Silly me. The national intent, as it now stands, is to burn it all
instead of log any. Vunderbar!!!!

So we don’t drill for oil while Brazil goes out in the Atlantic and finds an estimated 90 billion barrels. Illegal to drill here in the US on either coast, especially where the Cubans and Russians are directional drilling into our seabed. Nothing new in Alaska, although that is where the oil is known to be in known amounts and most likely more to be discovered. No use of oil shale. That’s illegal, too. And Newt says speculation can be dealth with quite easily: dump the US reserves into the market all at once, and the longs positions get hammered, their money lost on the margin calls, and then take out the shorts as the market dumps. That would end the speculation. This oil deal is nothing more or nothing less than the same deal that Enron was doing with California electricity, except this is an offshore deal that only a government can take down by overloading the supply.

Time to go see what has broken since last night. ta ta, bear bait.

A New Wyden Forest Bill

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden announced today that he is preparing a new forest management bill to address federal forest management in Oregon. Wyden is seeking public comment on his proposal, called the Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act.

The proposed bill is [here], a summary of the bill is [here], Wyden’s Senate floor statement is [here], and a press release is [here]. Comments on the proposed bill may be emailed to Wyden [here].

In January Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced legislation he called the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act [here]. In February Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced S. 2593, the Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008 [here] which was co-sponsored by Sen. Wyden. Both bills dealt with federal forests in Oregon; neither has moved beyond preliminary hearings.

The Wyden bill is similar to the DeFazio bill with some elements of the Bingaman bill. We will provide a more in-depth analysis soon.

From Wyden’s press release:

Striking a balance between the need to sustain forests, as well as bolster the economy, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today proposed an expansive overhaul of federal forest practices in the State of Oregon. Wyden’s initiative would permanently end the logging of old growth trees and discourage clear-cutting, while placing a new emphasis on greatly expedited, large-scale forest restoration efforts to improve forest health and create many thousands of new jobs.

“For the sake of our environment, economy, and our way of life, we must come together to pursue a concerted, new focus on sustainable forestry management that will create thousands of new jobs and restore the health of our forests,” Wyden said. “The only way to produce this kind of change is to put new ideas forward, seek common ground, and break away from the old politics that led us to this dysfunctional and dangerous situation.”

Decades of scientifically-unsound forest management and fire suppression policies have put millions of acres of choked and plantation forests at an unacceptably high risk for uncharacteristically-severe fires, disease, and insect infestation. Wyden’s proposal, the “Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act,” would address this emergency by:

- requiring the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Oregon to re-direct their management activities to address fire and insect risk, while protecting environmentally-sensitive and significant lands, and promote ongoing, sustainable production of wood;

- eliminating administrative appeals for forest management conducted under the new forestry directives;

- allowing pilot restoration projects of up to 25,000 acres in each of Oregon’s national forests and BLM districts in at-risk areas without encountering years of NEPA and administrative delay (by issuing those projects a “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA review).

As we have seen in the past with the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (2003), the elimination of administrative appeals and categorical exclusion from NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) have been rejected by federal courts time and time again. There is no reason to believe that the Wyden bill will have any success in that regard. If Congress finds NEPA to be unworkable, then they should revise or rescind it. Otherwise, they should abide by it. This appears to be a fatal flaw in Wyden’s bill at this time.

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Casey At the Bat on Fire

Casey Judd, Business Manager of the Federal Wildland Fire Service Association, gave hard hitting testimony to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources yesterday. He told them that our federal land management agencies and their fire programs are ill-prepared for the upcoming wildfire season.

Judd discussed three causes: the mass migration of federal wildland firefighters to CAL FIRE and other fire agencies offering better pay, benefits, and working conditions; the diversion of fire preparedness resources to pay for a variety of non-fire programs, positions and projects; and a paucity of hazardous fuel reduction projects.

The full text of Casey Judd’s testimony is [here]. Some excerpts:

This and other committees have been consistently told by the Agencies and “experts” that suppression costs are continuing to rise because of 1) climate/drought and 2) the increasing costs of protecting the Wildland Urban Interface. We, the FWFSA, take serious note with these assumptions. While these two elements are indeed factors, proper preparedness mitigates to a great degree the influence these two elements have on the overall costs of suppression. The question has been posed by both Congress and OMB: If it stands to reason that proper preparedness lead to reduced suppression costs, why after increased preparedness funding under the National Fire Plan, have suppression costs continued to rise? A simple answer – Smoke and Mirrors. …

In February 2006, Agency (USDA) representatives appeared before this committee and once again assured the Committee that adequate preparedness resources would be in place. Firefighters knew this wasn’t going to be the case. The continuation of diverting preparedness dollars resulted in less preparedness resources in the field. The diversion of fuels reduction dollars reduced the number of treated acres. The result was what firefighters expected: reduced preparedness resources allowed many small fires to grow in size, intensity and ultimately cost as either Incident Commanders waited for federal resources that had to now come from much greater distances or, in the typical alternative, the Agency reverted to its over-reliance on significantly higher-priced non-federal resources to fill in the gaps of the missing federal resources. Either way suppression costs increased needlessly. The result was a record year for suppression costs.

Rather than admitting the diversion of funds played a role in less resources being in place and thus ultimately increasing the costs of fires needlessly, the Agency simply reverted to its theory of climate and wildland urban interface as the causes of increased suppression costs.

In 2007 we suggested to Congress that a repeat of 2006 was inevitable. We further predicted as we correctly did in 2006 that the Agency would return to Congress in the fall, complain that it had been a terrible season and seek a supplemental appropriation of another half billion dollars. That is exactly what happened. …

As we enter the 2008 season, the Forest Service fire program, primarily focused in the western United States, and especially in California is imploding. …

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Dust Devils

We invite you (strongly urge you) to read Dust Devils: Cynical Politics Is the Hot Wind that Powers Environmental Radicals by Tim Findley, published in RANGE Magazine, Summer 2008 [here] (264KB pdf file — requires Adobe Reader 8.0 available here).

Range Magazine is the premier periodical of the West today. In their own words:

RANGE Magazine is an award-winning publication devoted to the issues that threaten the West, its people, lifestyles, lands and wildlife. Known for its powerful photos and straight talk, RANGE exposes a land and lifestyle in crisis and shows how daily challenges are being met with grit, determination and humor. No stranger to controversy, RANGE is the leading forum for divergent viewpoints in the search for solutions that will halt the depletion of a national resource, the American cowboy.

While RANGE Magazine is a subscription periodical, Editor C.J. Hadley generously posts a few articles from each issue on their website. Dust Devils is one of those articles made available to non-subscribers. Author Tim Findley is the top journalist at RANGE, and one on the most important contemporary voices discussing rural issues in the country. His latest essay is a retrospective about how we got into the environmental mess we are in today.

In Dust Devils Findley relates the interwoven machinations of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Bruce Babbitt, Dave Foreman, the Nature Conservancy, and many others, and how their radical politics have threatened and engendered catastrophe for residents of the American West over the last twenty years.

Findley highlights the 1.7 million acre land grab of the Grand Staircase-Escalante region in Utah, and connects the dots to the usurping of even vaster tracts of the West for putative “wilderness”; land grabs that have led to the catastrophic destruction, not protection or conservation, of millions upon millions of acres.

The destructive land grabbing continues to this day.

A small excerpt from Dust Devils by Tim Findley:

In a politically frozen government, resources of fuel, timber and minerals remain untouched by any new initiative. Future policy was still enclosed by the paradigm of shadows. In Utah, 12 years after the Escalante’s grab, and despite opposition from the state’s entire congressional delegation, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has enlisted the support of New York politicians to produce legislation that would declare another nine million acres of Utah wilderness.

But that much is just an old familiar tune compared to more than 20 pieces of legislation for legacy-building wilderness that are coiled in congressional committees awaiting approval this year or next. They include the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act sponsored by a New York Congresswoman and 187 cosponsors. That act alone would designate more than 20 million acres across the spine of the nation as human-excluding wilderness.

Dreaming on their own, the U.S. Forest Service has on the table a conservation strategy to promote “wilderness values” on 400 million acres, including private land.

Taken together or even apart, the plans have their only equivalent in the Louisiana Purchase. It is not a myth; it is not even regarded in Washington as an outrage. But it is certainly audacious.

The long campaign leading to this November’s presidential election has given almost no attention at all to the West, except it has been seen as the most obvious victim of the swarm of illegal immigration, which, ironically, is the chief source of Foreman’s feared population growth. President Bush himself has made gestures to protect the border, but he has also not been clear about his secret talks with Canadian and Mexican heads of state that investigators say may lead to a sovereignty-surrendering North American Union. …

The devils fade away in the shadows of the night. Do we know what we may be sacrificing?

Cap-and-Trade Kicks the Bucket

The Carbon Tax scheme known as the Cap-and-Trade Global Warming Bill was crushed today in the US Senate as Republicans filibustered it to death. Ironically, hot air strangled the Hot Air Bill. From Yahoo News [here]:

Democratic leaders fell a dozen votes short of getting the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster on the measure and bring the bill up for a vote, prompting Majority Leader Harry Reid to pull the legislation from consideration.

A mighty blow was felt as Al Gore exploded. But Alarmists held on tight to false hopes that the worst Bill since Clinton did not dissipate into the ether:

The 48-36 vote fell short of a majority, but Democrats produced letters from six senators — including both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — saying they would have voted for the measure had they been there.

“It’s just the beginning for us,” proclaimed Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., a chief sponsor of the bill, noting that 54 senators had expressed support of the legislation, although that’s still short of what would be needed to overcome concerted GOP opposition.

“It’s clear a majority of Congress wants to act,” Boxer said at a news conference. She and other Democrats said this now lays the groundwork for action on climate change next year with a new Congress and a new president that will be more hospitable to mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.

Both Obama and McCain have called for capping carbon dioxide and other emissions linked to climate change.

Don’t hold your breath, wackos. Sure, Congress is as adept at flipping and waffling as an IHOP breakfast chef, but putting the kibosh on the American economy in the name of “saving the planet from warmth” is not going to happen, now or ever.
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Eastern Oregon “Rubes” a Million Times Smarter Than Californians

That last post left a bad taste in my mouth. Californians are soooooooooooo stupid. Fortunately, somewhere in the world there are people who are clued into fire and know how to prevent it. That somewhere is Eastern Oregon.

Not that they can do much about it. Most of E. OR is owned by the Federal Gummit, and the boneheads in DC are hellbent to burn, baby burn. But at least Eastern Oregonians see the big picture and are trying to knock some sense into the the DC bosses before the next megafire holocaust hits.

From the Baker City Herald last week [here]:

Farm Bill’s forest fix falls short

By ED MERRIMAN, Baker City Herald, May 29, 2008

The 2008 Farm Bill includes new programs and funding for private forests, but woodland owners and forest managers in Baker County and across the state deem the dollars a “drip in the bucket” considering the scope of the nation’s forest health crisis.

“There is so much fuel buildup that we are going to have more and more catastrophic fires. It’s just such a tragedy to waste that natural resource,” said Lyle Defrees, who owns forested land near Sumpter and is a former president of the Baker County Private Woodlands Association.

The Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, includes $39 million in new funding to be distributed over 10 years under the Healthy Forest Reserve Fund, which helps private forestland owners protect endangered species and provides funding to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forestry Conservation Program. …

Defrees said he has participated in forest thinning projects with 75 percent funding distributed by the Oregon Department of Forestry through the federal National Fire Plan. That federal program helps landowners thin overstocked, fuel-loaded forests in urban interface areas where the risk of catastrophic fire threatens homes and entire communities located in or near forests.

Defrees said the program is making dramatic improvements on private forestland in the urban interface zones. But he contends that what’s really needed — and is not included in the Farm Bill — is a federally funded program to carry out that type of thinning on a broad scale to restore healthy forests on private and public lands across the country.

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