Mt. Hoodgate Revisted — Govt Foot Dragging Threatens Sweetheart Land Swap

Update on an old story:

Hood land deal delay; Complex trade may last past Congress date

By RaeLynn Ricarte, Hood River News, October 30, 2009 [here]

U.S. Forest Service officials are unsure if the 64-step process to trade public land with Mt. Hood Meadows Oregon can be completed within the 16 months allotted by Congress.

“We’re going to make a good faith effort, but we’re probably not going to get through all of these steps within that time period,” said Christine Arredondo, recreation and lands staff officer for the Mount Hood National Forest.

The agency was given a little more than one year to complete the exchange authorized by the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009.

Oregon’s entire Congressional delegation voted in favor of the package that included about 160 bills and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30.

The legislation expanded Wilderness by two million acres in nine states, including the addition of 127,000 more acres of Wilderness on Mount Hood.

The Act also gave the nod to a land exchange that would protect the north face of Mount Hood from development.

The Congressionally intended deadline for completion of the trade is October 1, 2010.

The Forest Service was given neither extra money in its budget nor any legislative relief from regulatory and policy requirements to conduct the exchanges.

The federal plan is to have Meadows exchange 769 acres of its Cooper Spur holdings for 120 acres of national forest near Government Camp.

The company wants to build a condominium complex in the already heavily populated area.

In return, Meadows has agreed to forgo any further development in the southern sector of Hood River County.

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Why Spend Money On Fire Suppression?

Today yet another Government Accounting Office report on fire suppression costs was issued. It is Wildland Fire Management: Federal Agencies Have Taken Important Steps Forward, but Additional, Strategic Action Is Needed to Capitalize on Those Steps GAO-09-877 (49 pages; 1.33 MB) [here].

It the fiftieth or so such report from the GAO on that topic since 1999. Like the others, it is useless.

GAO-09-877 decries all the funds spent on firefighting. They are just too much, according to author Robin Navarro, Director, Natural Resources and Environment, GAO.

Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, federal agency officials,and others have expressed concern about mounting federal wildland fire expenditures. Federal appropriations to the Forest Service and the Interior agencies to prepare for and respond to wildland fires, including appropriations for reducing fuels, have more than doubled, from an average of $1.2 billion from fiscal years 1996 through 2000 to an average of $2.9 billion from fiscal years 2001 through 2007. Adjusting for inflation, the average annual appropriations to the agencies for these periods increased from $1.5 billion to $3.1 billion (in 2007 dollars).

The report then blathers on about this funding problem and offers less than the usual non-solutions. USFS Chief Tom Tidwell acknowledges the report in an appended letter, stating:

The Forest Service generally agrees with GAO’s findings and confirms the validity of this draft report, which contained no recommendations for further actions.

Now, that’s a non-responsive response if there ever was one, but who can blame him? Trading blather is what bureaucrats do.

Nowhere in this GAO report, or in any of the preceding 50, is a fundamental question asked: Why spend any money on fire suppression at all?

That question is a very worthy one, and pertains, and ought to be considered when contemplating this issue. After all, the feds are not the only governmental body to fund firefighting. Every state has a fire suppression budget, as do all the counties and cities in the USA. You can’t go anywhere in this country, or to most other countries on Earth, and not find a fire department.

There must be some reason for that. Every government, large and small, in democracies and dictatorships, funds fire suppression. It’s a universal function of government. Every government, benevolent or tyrannical, envisages some need for firefighting. Every government allocates funds for that purpose, and must make some sort of analysis as to how much spending is appropriate.

That’s the unaddressed question behind all the blather in the GAO report. How much funding for fire suppression is appropriate?

And that begs the fundamental question: Why spend anything at all to put out fires?

In economic terms, the question is better stated in technical language: What is the economic utility of fire suppression?

It’s a heck of a question, and one that ought to be asked to the GAO, and to every Congressperson, and to Chief Tom Tidwell and the USFS, and to every government official, large or small, who oversees and/or makes allocation decisions about money spent on firefighting.

There is an answer, a valid, rational, and logical one, and it is obvious if you think about it.

The economic utility of fire suppression funding is the reduction in potential damages caused by fires.

Fires damage stuff. Homes are valuable commodities, as are the possessions within homes, and fires can burn homes to cinders, destroying all that valuable stuff. It is cheaper and better to spent a few dollars on putting the fire out than on letting it burn and doing many times more dollars worth of destruction.

Fires can kill people, and people are also valuable, at least to themselves and sometimes to their families and friends. It is better to extinguish a fire before it harms human lives. Animals are valuable too, and societies large and small see utility in putting out the fire before the pets and livestock succumb.

Even tyrannical dictators value their stuff, the opulent palaces, garages full of limousines, etc. Your average tyrannical dictator had to go to some effort to murder his way to the top, and he is generally less than enthusiastic about having his ill-gotten gains combusted when he gets there. So even murderous thugs see a need for a competent, well-equipped fire department close by the palace grounds.

The thinking worldwide is to spend some amount on fire suppression so that a greater amount of damages are prevented.

One way to phrase this thinking, in technical economic language, is that the economic utility of fire suppression is to minimize the cost-plus-loss from fires.

That language is not difficult to understand. The cost is the fire suppression expense, and the losses are the damages that fires inflict. The total of those is cost-plus-loss, and the idea is to make the total as small as possible.

It is a balancing act. If the fire suppression outlays are too small, the damages mount up, and the total cost-plus-loss can be huge. If the fire suppression outlays are profligate, there may be few damages, but the total sum can still be large. The trick is to find the most efficient amount of suppression that achieves the least amount of damages so that the total cost-plus-loss is as small as possible.

That’s the REAL calculation that governments face and must solve. Unfortunately, the GAO is off on some sidetrack and does not even acknowledge fire damages, let alone express the need to minimize them. They never heard of cost-plus-loss. Their only desire is to reduce suppression expenses. But that’s not the goal of fire suppression funding. The goal is to minimize cost-plus-loss. The GAO doesn’t get it, has never got it, and probably never will get it, sad to say.

It is not clear whether Congress gets it, or the USFS, or anybody except maybe insurance companies, economists, accountants, homeowners, foresters, the peasantry, and assorted riffraff like that.

In order to educate and inform the otherwise ignorant hoi polloi and ruling elites on this very important concept, some folks put together the Wildland Fire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project and wrote a paper about cost-plus-loss [here].

We (I was one of the authors) pointed out that the losses (damages) from wildfires are anywhere from 20 to 50 times greater than the costs (fire suppression expenses). Therefore, when contemplating fire suppression funding, it would behoove the ruling elites to consider the losses, to tally or otherwise estimate them, in order to arrive at the efficient funding amount. If total cost-plus-loss is not considered, then the goal of fire suppression funding cannot be achieved, unless by accident, which is unlikely.

However, to date the GAO has not glommed onto the concept, and neither has the Forest Service or Congress. Our ruling elites continue to skip down the garden path in blissful ignorance about what it is they supposed to doing and why.

Hence the question posed in the title of this essay. You know the answer to that question now. Wouldn’t it be revealing and possibly helpful in some respect to ask your Congressperson the question?

Try it and find out if they know the answer. And if they don’t know, as is likely, please inform them. You have only yourself and your stuff and your family and your town, forests, watersheds, neighbors, landscapes, nation, and planet to save.

Indian Forestry vs. Federal Forestry

Newly posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Science [here] is Two Forests Under The Big Sky: Tribal V. Federal Management, PERC Policy Series No. 45, by Alison Berry, a research fellow with the Property and Environment Research Center [here].

Two Forests Under the Big Sky compares the management styles on adjacent forest ownerships in western Montana - the first being that of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the second being the Lolo National Forest.

Some reviewer comments:

We have long been enthusiastic supporters of tribal forestry and less than enthusiastic observers of what is wrong with current federal forest management policy. Two Forests Under the Big Sky strikes deep at the heart of everything that is wrong with the way our national forests are being managed today—and everything that is right about the way Indians manage their forests. I’ve said for years that it is time for America to give its federal forests back to the tribes from whom these once beautiful lands were taken more than a century ago. Alison Berry’s essay only adds to my belief. — Jim Peterson, Evergreen Foundation [here].

Why is it that neighboring forests of similar size and makeup produce different economic and environmental outputs? In this essay, Alison Berry again demonstrates PERC’s unique ability to analyze how different governance structures, and their inherent incentive systems, impact the ability of land managers to achieve their objectives. The comparison Berry provides between federal and tribal forest management is a clever way to demonstrate what works, what doesn’t, and why. — Doug Crandall, Director, Legislative Affairs, USDA Forest Service

The Lolo National Forest (LNF) and the forests of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) are comparable in area, species composition, and ecological factors. The LNF is larger and has a larger timber sale program, but the CSKT actually earns a positive return from timber sales while the LNF loses money.

As one consequence, the CSKT has an effective conservation program and their forests provide “a range of products and amenities including not only timber, but grazing, recreational opportunities, wilderness areas, and habitat for fish and wildlife such as grizzly bears and Canada lynx.” The CSKT has managed for and increased the populations of peregrine falcons, trumpeter swans, northern leopard frogs, and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse.

In contrast, the LNF is beset by widespread beetle infestations and megafires. The ecosystems there are in collapse, including populations of the aforementioned wildlife.

Ms. Berry posits some explanations for these differences:

Since the CSKT rely on timber revenues to support tribal operations, they have a vested interest in the continuing vitality of their natural resources. Tribal forest manager Jim Durglo comments, “Our forest is a vital part of everyday tribal life. Timber production, non-timber forest products, and grazing provide jobs and income for tribal members and enhance the economic life of surrounding communities” (Azure 2005). The tribes stand to benefit from responsible forest stewardship — or bear the burden of mismanagement.

In contrast, on the Lolo, there is little connection between performance and reward. Management decisions are often dictated by politics rather than local conditions. National forests receive funding from Congressional appropriations apparently regardless of timber revenues or ecological concerns. Revenues from forest operations are sent to the general treasury. The disconnect between budget inputs and revenues generated means there is scant incentive to operate efficiently, or to manage the forest for future productivity. Moreover, there is no direct constituency for cost-effective national forest management comparable to the tribal members on the reservation. …

She also notes that

Some problems stem from a rash of environmental litigation on the Lolo National Forest, which diverts time and resources from on-the-ground management (USDA Forest Service 2002b, 2002c). Between 1998 and 2005, nineteen cases were filed against the Lolo (USDA Forest Service 2007a). In 2007, more than 21 million board feet were held up in appeals and litigation (Backus 2007) — about the equivalent of an average year’s harvest for the forest since 2000 (USDA Forest Service 2008a).

In contrast, tribal forest management is rarely challenged in court, so managers are more able to address environmental concerns in a timely fashion (Skinner 2005–2006). As Jim Peterson, editor of Evergreen Magazine said, “The tribes do a lot of things I wish we were doing on our federal forest lands if we weren’t all knotted up in litigation” (quoted in Hagengruber 2004). Only one timber sale has been appealed on the Flathead Reservation.

In the 1980s, Friends of the Wild Swan brought suit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The case was dropped, however, when the court required Friends of the Wild Swan to post a bond to process the appeal. “If they lost the appeal, they would lose the bond” (Jim Durglo, quoted in Skinner 2005–2006).

The CSKT is managed by and for the resident owners. The LNF is managed by an absentee government, politicized confusion, and enviro lawsuits. The former has a vibrant, conservation-minded stewardship program and healthy ecosystems. The latter is in ecological disarray and prone to megafire, insect infestations, and disaster.

Can we afford to allow our public forests to be the play toys of lawyers? Are we content to sit back and watch our priceless heritage forests being destroyed by nincompoops? Or should we learn a lesson from the First Residents and tend our lands with care and respect?

Time to Fight Back

by bear bait

I read today in the paper that a tree fell and killed a USFS employee near Baker City, Oregon, who was involved in pulling marijuana plants from a grow on the Wallowa-Whitman NF. Sad deal. Not what forest protectors and nurturers had in mind when they signed on. The family has my sincerest regrets and sympathy.

It appears this fire deal, burning up our public forests, is part of a plan to expand the Mexican Dope Cartel’s drug plantations. Get rid of the canopy, keep people out, and it all goes to dope growing. In Western Oregon, in the Coast Range, we have had two opium poppy fields discovered and pulled this summer in Yamhill county. The Trout Creek mountains of far southeastern Oregon saw a dope bust with over 30,000 plants and 8 people arrested and now indicted in Federal court in Eugene, Oregon.

The minders of the Federal Estate have become overwhelmed by their job requirements and red tape, due to extensive congressional nit-picking, poorly written law, and excessive “human resource” systems, and the local areas bear the burden of poor Congressional oversight and the disinterest of a distant absentee landlord as a matter of course.

The national enviro lobby has local shrills to keep disorder the way they want it, and willingly pay themselves well enough to warrant limousines and gracious benefits fit for kings. The Environmental Cartel is in tight control. Burning off our national forest heritage is a mindless goal, but when oligarchs of the environment are in control, it is about power, not good sense, and it is about the money they make, as per Al Gore, the newly coined billionaire of selling carbon credits, akin to trading in seines full of flatulence. Ethereal. Hard to grasp. But you know it is there by the smell.

These United States and we the people, especially states where liberal local politics rule, have lost control of our public lands. They have been systematically closed to the public by taking out roads, banning logging, and allowing fires to rage unchecked - managing to burn all too much of their charge in a mindless exercise of benign neglect.

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AU Royal Commission Interim Report Released

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission presented their Interim Report to the Victorian Lieutenant Governor on 17 August 2009. A copy of the report can be viewed or downloaded [here].

Last February wildfires ravaged the state of Victoria in southeastern Australia. Close to 200 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes incinerated. Termed “Black Saturday”, it was the worst fire disaster in Australian history, a history replete with fire disasters, most notably in 1939, 1944, 1969, 1977, 1983, 2003, 2005, and 2006.

A Royal Commission was formed to inquire, consult, and report on the fires and the fire suppression efforts associated with “an unprecedented loss of life, extreme property damage, and major community trauma and displacement.”

The Commission held 26 community consultations in 14 fire locations. Some 1200 people attended. Public submissions were invited and over 1200 submissions were received from people in fire-affected and unaffected areas, and from around Australia and overseas.

Interim Report contains 51 recommendations focused predominantly on changes that can be implemented prior to the 2009–10 bushfire season. An Implementation Plan will be issued by September 30, 2009, and a Delivery Report by 31 March 2010.

The Interim Report is critical of the warning and fire information system in Victoria and of the “Leave Early Or Stay And Defend” policy. That policy, which led directly to mass death, was recommended and promoted for use in this country by the US Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the National Association of State Foresters in their Quadrennial Fire Review 2009 issued last January [here].

The QFR advances new core strategies for reinforcing fire management’s role in ecosystem sustainability by developing strategic management response capabilities that are more flexible and agile and further in line with the national response framework. While continuing to promote the concept of fire-adapted human communities, the QFR outlines new strategies to realign fire governance by rethinking federal, tribal, and state and local roles and responsibilities for wildland urban interface fire prevention and protection. Tied to this mission strategy of building a new national intergovernmental wildfire policy framework, are specific strategy elements for developing community fuels reduction zones in the interface, supporting leave-early or stay-and-defend alternatives for property owners while working with communities to assure that community fire prevention regulations are in place along with adequate local response capability.

The massive failure of “Leave Early Or Stay And Defend” in Australia one month later has not yet entered into the consciousness of our federal land management agencies. It is hoped that the Royal Commission report will sink in here where it is also desperately needed. Generating mass death disasters is not good government, and our federal agencies should not barge blindly down that road.

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Exploring USFS Employee Dissatisfaction

In the previous post we noted that the US Forest Service ranked close to last among federal agencies in employee job satisfaction, according to the annual survey administered by the Office of Personnel Management.

Why might that be? What is it that is so awful about working for the USFS?

Many if not most people would assume that USFS employees get to work out-of-doors, in gorgeous settings, in the bosom of Mother Nature, with respectable pay and benefits, and so should be quite happy, or at least relatively happy compared to other federal employees.

But they are not happy, evidently. Why not?

We can only surmise, and invite you to consider the question as well. One clue is that USFS employees rated Effective Leadership - Leaders near the bottom. The employees are not happy with the USFS leadership. And the Office of Personnel Management rated leadership as the single most important factor in job satisfaction.

But that is a little too vague to really answer the question. What is it about the leadership that is so disheartening to the employees?

One answer might be that USFS leadership has put their employees in untenable situations. USFS policies have alienated rural communities, and the employees have to live in those communities where the public is at odds with their agency.

The USFS leadership has shut down all commercial uses of public forests, and that has been a hammer blow to the people whose livelihoods depend on resource production of one type or another from public lands.

The USFS leadership has promulgated megafires that harm adjacent communities in myriad ways. The residents don’t like that. They are also very aware that land management and fire policies are set by DC insiders and urban know-nothings without the least regard for the opinions of those most impacted.

Rural residents have watched in shock and awe as the USFS has burned their watersheds and destroyed their lives and livelihoods. Residents have been forcibly evacuated as USFS fires have been allowed to burn uncontrolled in mid-summer, exploded across federal property lines, and burned the homes, ranches, farms, and businesses of the evacuees.

The USFS leadership has promulgated road closures, roadless areas, wilderness areas, and other bans on human uses of the public estate, which may not affect dim-witted Easterners and other urbanites, but most definitely affect rural residents who work and recreate on public lands.

USFS Chief Gail Kimbell has made it her personal mission to shut people out of 400 million acres of their own private lands, as well. Her Open Space Initiative is designed to ban roads, homes, lawns, and any other form of human presence on lands that do not belong to the government but are the private property of rural residents, who were not consulted.

The USFS has lost any and all goodwill they once enjoyed with the rural public. Nowadays when the USFS holds a public meeting in an “affected” community, they must bring along federal marshals to safeguard the employees assigned to attend, because the affected public is madder than wet hens.

The cases are legion of angry crowds screaming imprecations at the poor sot employees who themselves have no say-so regarding USFS policies. None but the clueless rookies wear USFS uniforms in public or otherwise let it be known who they work for, for fear of angry backlash from understandably bitter and angry rural residents.

So that could be one reason for declining job satisfaction. Employees who thought they were going to commune with Nature have discovered they are looked on as an occupation army, one hellbent on utter destruction, and who have become the targets of extreme dissatisfaction from the citizens they oppress.

That would be my surmise. What’s yours?

What a Difference 25 Years Make

Today the US Forest Service announced a set of projects for the Willamette and Mt. Hood National Forests to be funded under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. One of those projects is entitled “Ramsey Creek Fish Passage Enhancement” and will cost $18,580.

That really takes me back. You see, 25 years ago I personally rebuilt the fish ladder on Ramsey Creek. It was attached to the small dam and pond on Ramsey Creek located at Camp Baldwin, the Boy Scout Camp west of Dufur in Wasco County, Oregon. When the Boy Scouts built the dam they included a fish ladder, but debris had plugged it and broken the step boards.

The Camp manager and I hauled a gas-powered air compressor down to the dam. I cleaned out all the debris and set new boards so that fish could again get over the dam. Although the Dufur District of the Mt. Hood NF was notified (as was the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife), none of those agencies gave a crap nor lent a hand. Total cost to the taxpayer: zero, zilch, nada.

I note this as a matter of historical record only. You can draw your own conclusions.

Fixing the fish ladder was a peripheral project to the restoration of the Camp Baldwin forest [here]. The forest there had become choked with dead fuels which we cleared out, leaving widely spaced older trees at a park-like density. We thus saved the camp from total incineration by severe fire, and maintained all the program activities the Boy Scouts enjoyed.

We also saved the habitat for a pair of spotted owls that nested there. The owls continued to nest at Camp Baldwin and fledge young for at least ten years.

Fours years after the restoration project, spotted owls became a listed endangered species. The USFS had a map of where all the owls were, but on the map the Camp Baldwin owls were located in the middle of severe burn on Fed land, not where they actually were at the Camp. I pointed out this error to the wildlife specialist at the Dufur District headquarters. She told me that she “could neither confirm nor deny” the owls real location. Of course, I could do exactly that, but what the hey.

I will always remember that bit of bureaucratic doggerel and obfuscation. However, I only note that it happened; you can draw your own conclusions.

This year I proposed similar restoration forestry treatments on the Willamette National Forest to be funded under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) rejected my proposals. The Forest Supervisor of the Willamette NF was quite upset with me for even making the proposals. He wanted me to make it quite clear to the RAC that the Willamette NF wanted no part of restoration forestry, had not contributed nor collaborated in any way, shape, or form, and were dead set against it.

You can draw your own conclusions.

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21 May 2009, 11:30pm
Private land policies
by admin

The Regulatory Community

I attended a forestry conference today, which I will post about in some depth tomorrow. This evening, though, a minor incident that transpired this morning occupies my thoughts.

During one of the question-answer periods a young (20-something) participant referred to herself as a member of “the regulatory community.”

Pardon my provincial lack of sophistication, but I had never heard of “the regulatory community” before. Evidently “the regulatory community” is made up of government functionaries who promulgate regulations, and by extension all the rest of us must be “the regulated community.”

Those are not vernacular communities; that is, they do not occupy some particular place. They are ersatz, pseudo-communities that exist in concept only. Calling one’s special interest group a “community” is common these days, I suppose, some examples being the Internet community, the bowling community, and the toe fungus community.

In the case of the regulatory community, the special interest group that uses the term consists of THEM, and the rest of us are US. This way of looking at the world is thus about as divisive as can be.

Now, I did not invent the concept of the regulatory community; it was heretofore not my way of looking at the world. However, apparently it is the way that government functionaries who promulgate regulations conceptualize their social caste. In the spirit of civil communitarianism [here], I accept their self-proclaimed ideological divisiveness — especially in recognition of the fact that I can’t do anything about it.

Hence I address the following remarks to the members of the regulatory community, whomever you are, speaking as a representative of the regulated community.

Firstly, let me point out that we in the regulated community pay your salaries. Without us, you would be penniless beggars scrounging for (hopefully useful) detritus on the town dump. I use the word “town” in this case in the vernacular, meaning a real community that exists in a real place.

Secondly, the money you get paid comes from the wealth we in the regulated community create. If we did not create wealth from our regulated properties, there would be nothing to pay you with, and you would be s*** out of luck (see the previous paragraph).

Hence (and I use the term “hence” to imply a logical conclusion drawn from the previous propositions) if you in the regulatory community screw the rest of us so badly that we cannot produce wealth, then you get screwed, too.

Do you see how that works? Can you follow that logic?

Now, I realize that you in the regulatory community feel as though you exist quite apart from the rest of us, as a separate social entity, almost as if you were aliens from the Planet Klothead. But in fact you are not all that separate. In fact you are our dependents, as it were, since you depend on us to provide you with succor and sustenance that keeps you from crawling around on the town dump grubbing for bits of discarded cheese sandwiches, etc.

The impression I received from today’s discussion is that you, the regulatory community, wish to eliminate all possibility that we, the regulated community, might produce wealth from our properties. By the term “wealth” I mean food, fiber, and other forms of commodities that feed, clothe, and house us all.

It is your raison d’etre (that’s French for reason for existence) to regulate us into oblivion by denying us (the regulated community) all productive uses of our properties. However, if you follow the deductive reasoning in the logical syllogism above, that would result in all of us (regulatory and regulated) being forced to crawl around on the town dump, except that there would be no discarded cheese sandwiches since there would be no cheese, no bread, and no other items necessary for survival.

I realize that deductive reasoning is not your forte (that’s French for strong point). Still and all, and even though you hail from the Planet Klothead, I believe you are capable of grasping this reality. By the term “reality” I mean the the quality or fact of being real.

At least, I hope you can grasp it. Because if not, we are all s*** out of luck.

Burning Out Private Landowners

The destruction of forests by deliberate incineration is not limited to public land. When the US Forest Service decides (without public notice) to burn vast tracts of USFS land, the fires often sweep across private land, too. And in some cases private lands are deliberately burned in backfires set by USFS personnel.

We discussed the (uncompensated) damages to private landowners done by the 2007 Egley Fire [here]. We also discussed the unnecessary and incompetent backfiring that destroyed homes and private property in Ravalli County, MT, during the Spade Fire of 2000 [here]. That incident led to a lawsuit.

Last summer the same idiotic and destructive backfiring of private property occurred in Trinity County, CA, during incompetently managed fires that burned 256,000 acres and caused ten firefighting deaths in the county.

In that case the Feds screwed up royal and then backpedaled in their usual manner: we take zero responsibility but you can go ahead and file a claim — you’ll just get burned again.

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Bushfires, Prescribed Burning, and Global Warming

The following essay was written a year ago, before the devastating and fatal fires that swept through Victoria, AU, last February. The issue discussed, the relationship between “global warming” and forest fires, remains a primary concern in Australia and the U.S.

Roger Underwood is a former General Manager of the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) in Western Australia, a regional and district manager, a research manager and bushfire specialist. Roger currently directs a consultancy practice with a focus on bushfire management and is Chairman of The Bushfire Front Inc.. He lives in Perth, Western Australia.

David Packham is Senior Research Fellow, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Victoria.

Phil Cheney is Honorary Research Fellow, CSIRO, Canberra, ACT


Bushfires, Prescribed Burning and Global Warming

Bushfire Front Inc. Occasional Paper No 1, April 2008 [here]

by Roger Underwood, David Packham, and Phil Cheney

This is not a paper about climate change or the contentious aspects of the climate debate. Our interest is bushfire management. This is an activity into which the debate about climate change, in particular “global warming”, has intruded, with potentially damaging consequences.

Australia’s recent ratification of the Kyoto Treaty has been welcomed by people concerned about the spectre of global warming. However, the ratification was a political and symbolic action, and will have no immediate impact on the volume of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, and therefore will not influence any possible relationship between CO2 emissions and global temperatures.

However, the ratification could have an impact on Australian forests. Spurious arguments about the role of fire contributing to carbon dioxide emissions could be used to persuade governments and management agencies to cease or very much reduce prescribed burning under mild conditions.

Decades of research and experience has demonstrated that fuel reduction by prescribed burning under mild conditions is the only proven, practical method to enable safe and efficient control of high-intensity forest fires.

Two myths have emerged about climate change and bushfire management and are beginning to circulate in the media and to be adopted as fact by some scientists:

1. Because of global warming, Australia will be increasingly subject to uncontrollable holocaust-like “megafires”.

2. Fuel reduction by prescribed burning must cease because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus exacerbating global warming and the occurrence of megafires.

Both statements are incorrect. However they represent the sort of plausible-sounding assertions which, if repeated often enough, can take on a life of their own and lead eventually to damaging policy change.

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Killing Us Softly

by bear bait

Fitting, no? Last day for the PI and last day for Weyco Dallas? Leadership in business from the State of Washington…

Construction on the rise, but Weyerhaeuser closes mills

By Andrea James, (the hard copy dead tree manifestation is defunct as of today), March 17, 2009 [here]

U.S. housing starts and building permits rose in February, providing a welcome economic surprise for the lagging housing market, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Data on housing starts measures how many new homes have started construction. New building permits help to determine future home construction. In February, housing starts rose 22.2 percent to 583,000 units, and new building permits rose 3 percent.

The slow housing market has led to falling demand for wood products, and February’s increases [see below] weren’t enough to stop the Weyerhaeuser mill closures announced this morning.

Weyerhaeuser Co., based in Federal Way, said that it would close two lumber mills, affecting 307 employees.

The mills, in Wright City, Okla., and Dallas, Ore., will close immediately, the company said. …

The company has closed 10 wood-products manufacturing facilities this year and reduced operations at all sites.

Housing starts surge; wholesale prices edge up

By Martin Crutsinger, (the hard copy dead tree manifestation is defunct as of today), March 17, 2009 [here]

WASHINGTON — Housing construction posted a surprisingly large increase in February, bolstered by strength in all parts of the country except the West.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that construction of new homes and apartments jumped 22.2 percent in February compared with January, pushing total activity to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units. …

So Whorehouser announces they are shutting down Dallas… for good… permanent… adios… cut and run.

The centerpiece of Willamette Industries, the original Gerlinger Mill, the Willamette Valley Lumber Co., now erased. Out of their shops came the Gerlinger lift truck (which became Salem Equipment), Gerlinger motor truck (which became Kenworth), and Gerlinger forklifts (which became Towmotor which became Caterpillar). Pretty big stuff for the entire world out of one little lumber company’s blacksmith shop. They built steam donkeys and locomotives, too, or at least repaired and rebuilt them.

So how pissed am I about Montana’s Sen. Baucus and his sweetheart $178,000,000 tax break last year for Weyerhaeuser????? They stole money from the taxpayers, and got away with it by purchasing a U.S. Senator. Baucus was extorted and rewarded in order to have Weyco’s blessing for his giant bailout of Plum Creek Timber in Montana — the purchase of cutover PCT lands with a billion dollars of taxpayer support courtesy the US Senate and the tax avoidance NGOs of the Environment.

Assholes all. — bear bait

‘Appropriate Management Response’ Tantamount to Arson

The Ukonom Complex Fires were ignited by lightning June 21, 2008. Initial attack was slow and meager. Four days later, when the fires totaled 750 acres, the Six Rivers National Forest invoked “Appropriate Management Response” and drew (on maps) a fire perimeter that encompassed 40,000 acres. They began to build fire breaks on that line and backburn towards the fire, then miles away.

Eventually the Ukonom Complex [here] burned over 80,000 acres and cost over $40 million in “suppression.”

The exact numbers are unknown because the Ukonom Complex was bureaucratically merged with the Panther Fire on the Klamath NF [here]. The Panther Fire was ignited a month later (by lightning) and eventually grew to 75,000 acres. Both fires were merged into the Siskiyou Complex and then into the Klamath Fire Theater [here]. The numbers became impossible to extract from the accounting jumble, but something like 200,000 acres burned at a cost of over $160 million.

Appropriate Management Response was applied to fire starts on the Shasta-Trinity NF, too. The final result: 208,460 acres burned at a “suppression” cost of $158.9 million.

All told, on those three NF’s (Klamath, Six Rivers, Shasta-Trinity) something like 650,000 acres (1,000 square miles) burned at a “suppression” cost of over $400 million. The fires burned for three months, choking Northern California airsheds, causing extensive public health problems, ruining agricultural crops, all but eliminating an entire season of recreation, and inflicting (conservatively) $10 billion in collateral economic damage. Major traditional heritage sites were incinerated, and an unknown but significant number of spotted owl nesting stands and salmon spawning beds were destroyed.

Twelve firefighters lost their lives, in machine accidents — not burnovers.

Appropriate Management Response broke the USFS fire budget, too.

Large amounts of private land were burned, too, in backburns set by USFS fire crews. Fires that could have been contained miles away were allowed to burn to the city limits of Junction City, Hayfork, and other NorCal towns.

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Fed Fire Policy Is Arson

Federal fire policy leaves private timber in ruins

by Dennis Possehn, Speak Your Piece,, March 15, 2009 [here]

Thousands of acres of private timberland are adjacent to and within National Forest boundaries, where fire protection responsibility comes under the U.S. Forest Service. It is the Forest Service’s legal duty to protect these private parcels just as Cal Fire protects lands outside of National Forest influence. It is apparent from last summer’s fires that fire protection no longer exists for thousands of acres of private timberland, as many private parcels were purposely set fire by the Forest Service and burned.

In fact, more acreage was burned, and more smoke and carbon were put into the air by the U.S. Forest Service than by natural wildfire. Most of the private timberland burned is not being reforested as owners are fearful of similar events happening in the future.

Following the death of several firefighters in Idaho a few years ago, the Forest Service adopted a new “safety policy” using indirect methods to fight fire. This policy change has resulted in the huge devastating fires and smoke plumes the western states are experiencing. The federal policy of indirect firefighting leads to larger fires that require many more bodies, equipment and aircraft be put in harm’s way. This action will always increase the number of accidents, not decrease them. The U.S. Forest Service must come to the realization that its policies are destructive and not meeting the agency’s safety goals.

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Innovative Tree Farming Guide Now Online at W.I.S.E.

The compleat and entire A Guide to Innovative Tree Farming in the Pacific Northwest by Mike Dubrasich, 2005, Whirlwind Press, is now posted at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Innovative Tree Farming [here]

Revolutionary! Controversial! Agricultural!

Attention! PNW tree farmers and rural landowners!

Escape the Douglas-fir trap and make more money growing profitable new tree crops with new methods for new and expanding markets!

A Guide to Innovative Tree Farming In the Pacific Northwest was written by an independent tree farm consultant originally for his private clients. A Guide to Innovative Tree Farming In the Pacific Northwest reveals tree farming secrets that can turn your woodlot, brush patch, or hay field into a veritable gold mine!

Don’t delay. Read A Guide to Innovative Tree Farming In the Pacific Northwest and then get growing! The first ones in capture market share!

If you own rural property in the Pacific Northwest, you need to read this book!

Big Changes at Evergreen

Evergreen Magazine [here] has been the leader in forest news reporting for over two decades. The hard copy magazine business has seen its heyday, however, and Evergreen Mag has not published an issue in two years.

They are not dead. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, and like so much of the rest of the publishing world, Evergreen Foundation is going digital.

Sometime near end of this month executive director, publisher, editor, and chief bottle washer Jim Petersen will be unveiling Evergreen Magazine Online. It will be more than a periodical, though. It will be an active website updated daily with news and essays about forests, forest management, logging, sawmilling, fires, wildlife, and all things forest, in keeping with Evergreen’s long tradition of excellence.

We will keep SOS Forest readers apprised and when the Big Day comes, you will be the first to know.

As a teaser, we present a recent speech by Jim Petersen about forest biomass. The speech is entitled “We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming To Bring You this News Flash” and was delivered at the Western Wood Products Association Annual Meeting March 9 in Scottsdale, AZ.

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