Global Warming, Forest Fires, and SOS Forests

by Mike Dubrasich, Exec. Dir. W.I.S.E.

2010 the warmest year on record!

Or so the Warmistas claim. The drumbeat started back at least as far as last May [here]. And again in July [here]. And in September [here]. And in October [here]. And not surprisingly, this month [here, here, here, etc.] even though all year record cold waves pounded the U.S., Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia.

Let’s accept that premise for the moment. Boy, was it ever hot! Somewhere, not here, but somewhere.

Another premise that has gained huge air play is that forest fires are linked to global warming. It’s a no-brainer, right? It has been so hot that the woods catch fire and burn like there’s no tomorrow.

Or say the pundits. One paper that made a big splash and is cited in every USFS fire study, and every USFWS endangered species lawsuit, and has been anointed as canonical theology by all the High Priests of Ecology is:

A. L. Westerling, H. G. Hidalgo, D. R. Cayan, and T. W. Swetnam (2006) Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity. Science 18 August 2006:
Vol. 313 no. 5789 pp. 940-943 [here]

The authors state:

Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.

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26 Dec 2010, 3:07pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Slow Children At Play In Colorado

It’s tough enough to do forest restoration given the hurdles of a corrupt and clueless Congress, a nearly dismantled US Forest Service, and an army of hysterical dis-enviros.

But somehow, once in awhile, the USFS does something right. Today we salute the Boulder Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests for stellar achievement in forest restoration.

The Boulder Ranger District covers 250,000 acres of the Front Range mountains in Boulder County and Gilpin Counties of Colorado. The Boulder RD forests are particularly at risk from catastrophic wildfire due to a-historical fuel accumulations and continuity of those fuels. Planning for the St Vrain Fuel Reduction Project [here] began in 2004, with goals of reducing fuels, opening up ponderosa pine stands to reduce crown-to-crown continuity, retaining and enhancing the old-growth pines, and restoring the meadows and open, park-like stands that are fire-resilient and historically appropriate.

Extensive public outreach was conducted, beginning in 2005. An Environmental Assessment was written and approved calling for treatment of 2,657 acres of mechanical and manual thinning. Treatment areas selected are close to the community of Allenspark [here].

After years of hand-holding with the local residents, the Boulder RD finally initiated the treatments last month.

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2011 Wish List For Congress

As the 111th Congress, the Worst Congress in History, waddles lamely into oblivion (but not before laying rotten egg after rotten egg), our thoughts turn hopefully toward the new 112th Congress scheduled to convene Jan. 5, 2011. ‘Tis the season of hope, after all.

To aid the new batch, we propose a list of tasks that will advance (rather than retard) America. Our suggestions are below. You are cordially invited to add your suggestions to the list.

1. Repeal or radically revise the Endangered Species Act

The ESA has failed to protect species; indeed it has failed to even define what a species is or adequately elucidate what “endangered” means. Under the aegis of the ESA whole regions of this country have been plunged into economic nightmares without any appreciable protection of anything. The ESA is a worthless boondoggle joke that does far more harm than good (in fact, a lot of harm and zero good).

Many of the species on the List are not endangered in any way, shape, or form, such as Gray Wolves, Grizzly Bears, and Polar Bears. Others have seen their populations plummet after listing. Still others do not even exist, but are imaginary species. The cost/benefit of the ESA has never been examined by Congress.

Please fix all that, 112th-ers, in open, public, transparent fashion.

2. Repeal or radically revise the National Environmental Policy Act

NEPA is another worthless boondoggle that does more harm than good.

3. Repeal the Equal Access to Justice Act

This misnomered law excludes equal access to justice by the people most affected. The EAJA has squandered $billions on monkey-wrenchers whose mission is to rob the Treasury while fomenting environmental and economic disasters.

4. Stop incinerating America’s priceless heritage forests

Here’s a thought: maybe our land management agencies should practice stewardship instead of catastrophic annihilation of our natural resources.

5. Fund forest restoration

$Trillions have been squandered on pork barrel boondoggles that are truly bridges to nowhere. It would be nice if the 112th Congress could invest a few $million in restoring our forests instead of $billions in burning them down. One first step: define forest restoration in an open, public, transparent fashion.

6. Restate through statute the USFS mission

The USFS has lost its bearings. Every new Chief brings in his or her own agenda that has no relationship to the statutory mission. Past Congresses have failed to direct the agency through law. Nobody is steering the ship. It has run aground on rocky reefs of nonsense. If Congress cannot or will not lead, then they should give all those acres back to the states for the states to manage.

7. Terminate the Global Warming Hoax

The globe is not warming, but if it were it would be a good thing. Federal agencies have run wild with pseudoscientific calamity-inducing programs based on a complete lie. Congress should quash all that immediately, starting with (but not limited to) the EPA and NOAA.

8. Repeal or radically revise the Wilderness Act

Wilderness is a pernicious and racist myth, ala Hitlerism. The proponents are deluded, which is a nice way of saying it. Wilderness designation leads directly to environmental catastrophe, holocaust, and extirpation of species. It is the opposite of “protection”; wilderness is live sacrifice to gods that do not exist.

9. Terminate the “Roadless Rule”

See #8 above. The Roadless Rule is illegal. Congress writes the laws; they should not have so much trouble obeying them.


I can think of a great many more instructions to the 112th Congress, but I want to give you the chance to chime in. Please use the leave-a-comment app to expand this wish list. If we don’t tell our elected representatives what we want, they won’t do the right things but will continue to do all the wrong things.

Porkers Thwarted, For Now

The Omnibus Pork Bill [here], a parting gift from the lame ducks, has been shot down by duck hunters outside the Beltway.

Death of a Spending Bill

By JOHN FUND, Online WSJ, Dec 17, 2010 [here]

Why did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat an embarrassing retreat and yank the $1.1 trillion earmark-filled omnibus spending bill off the Senate floor last night?

The decision came despite the alliance that Senate Democrats had formed with old-bull Republicans, such as retiring Utah Senator Robert Bennett, to provide enough votes to overcome the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, feeling the heat from tea party groups, put pressure on his GOP caucus to hold together and block the omnibus. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina threatened to force a reading of the 1,924 page bill, a chore that would have consumed 50 hours of Senate floor time. … [more]

Exposing the crooks had to have helped. We don’t want all the credit, unless you want to give it to us, in which case we accept with appropriate and characteristic humility.

Machu Picchu of the Umpqua

by Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir W.I.S.E.

Last summer intrepid researchers rediscovered an ancient Indian village perched on a recondite ridgetop in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. Preliminary findings indicate that the site has been occupied for at least 3,000 years, or five times longer than the Incan sanctuary of Machu Picchu in Peru [here].

Now known as Huckleberry Lake, the ancient village was likely a summer residence for tribes from both the Umpqua and Rogue watersheds, including Molallan, Takelman, and Latgawan people, in recent precontact times (prior to ~1800).

Huckleberry Lake in 2010. Click for larger image. Photo courtesy Bob Zybach, Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project, Inc.

Following leads from Chuck Jackson, elder of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, landscape historians Dr. Bob Zybach and Nana Lapham located abundant evidence of ancient human use along the Rogue-Umpqua Divide in the vicinity of Huckleberry Lake. That evidence includes mortar and pestle rocks, obsidian debitage, food and fiber plants, and an ancient trail system, all consistent with oral histories of the Cow Creeks.

The Rogue-Umpqua Divide is a southwest tending spur of the north/south tending High Cascades that extends ~20 miles west of the Cascade Crest at elevations above 5,000 feet. Huckleberry Lake is on the westernmost point of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide, less than a day’s walk from known winter village sites near Tiller, OR.

Numerous springs that arise seemingly from the ridgetop are fed by lava tubes originating far to the east. They water small lakes perched above steep canyons that fall away to the north and south. Athough the vegetation today consists of dense true firs, remnant huckleberry fields (Vaccinium membranaceum) are evidence of a larger huckleberry complex that once carpeted the entire Divide [here].

Human tending with frequent anthropogenic fire must have been the principal factor that maintained the huckleberry brushfields, by excluding tree invasions. In the absence of such tending over the last 100 years or so, tree invasion has been extensive.

Dr Zybach stated:

There is very little history or other information available about the people who lived in the study area 200 years ago; however, much can be inferred from what is known of neighboring Tribes of that time, the presence and extent of current and historical vegetation patterns (particularly those of food and fiber plants), archaeological research, and known precontact travel and trade routes. Because people at that time did not have horses and because the South Umpqua headwaters are not navigable by canoe, travel was done by foot, along well-established ridgeline and streamside trail systems. Primary destinations would have been local village sites, seasonal campgrounds, peaks, waterfalls, the mouths of streams, and various crop locations, such as huckleberries, camas, and acorns.

Trail networks indicate where people went at certain times of the year, where they camped, and where they came from (or went to). Trails connect principal seasonal campgrounds, based on food harvesting and processing schedules, fishing and hunting opportunities, and trade. Freshwater springs at higher elevations were a critical element, such as Neil Spring near Huckleberry Lake.

Location and carbon dating of ancient home sites at Huckleberry Lake has yet to be done, but camas ovens in the area (with charcoal that has been carbon dated) indicate “intense and continuous [occupation] between 3,000 and 300 years ago” by Native Americans [here].

The research efforts are part of the South Umpqua Headwaters Precontact Reference Conditions Study, sponsored by Douglas County and supported by the Umpqua National Forest and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe.

Four New Colloquia Posts

After a long hiatus (been working on a paper) we are pleased to announce the posting of four new works in our Colloquia:

Nataraja: India’s Cycle of Fire by Stephen J. Pyne may be found [here]. Dr. Pyne’s essay on the history of fire on the Indian subcontinent is a chapter from World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth (Pyne S.J., 1997, Univ of WA Press). He graciously sent it to W.I.S.E. as a companion piece to Roger Underwood’s Baden-Powell and Australian Bushfire Policy [Part 1 here, Part 2 here]. An extracted gem of a quote:

India’s biota, like Shiva, dances to their peculiar rhythm while fire turns the timeless wheel of the world. Perhaps nowhere else have the natural and the cultural parameters of fire converged so closely and so clearly. Human society and Indian biota resemble one other with uncanny fidelity. They share common origins, display a similar syncretism, organize themselves along related principles. Such has been their interaction over millennia that the geography of one reveals the geography of the other. The mosaic of peoples is interdependent with the mosaic of landscapes, not only as a reflection of those lands but as an active shaper of them (emphasis added). Indian geography is thus an expression of Indian history, but that history has a distinctive character, of which the nataraja is synecdoche, a timeless cycle that begins and ends with fire.

Stand Reconstruction and 200 Years of Forest Development on Selected Sites in the Upper South Umpqua Watershed, W.I.S.E. White Paper 2010-5 by yours truly (and the cause of the recent hiatus), examines the forest development pathways over the last 200 years in an Oregon Cascades watershed:

Several lines of evidence suggest that the prairies, savannas, and open forests have been persistent vegetation types in the Upper South Umpqua Watershed for the last few thousand years, at least. Precontact forest development pathways were mediated by frequent, purposeful, anthropogenic fires deliberately set by skilled practitioners, informed by long cultural experience and traditional ecological knowledge in order to achieve specific land management objectives. At a landscape scale the result was maintenance of an (ancient) anthropogenic mosaic of agro-ecological patches. In the absence, over the last 150 years, of purposeful anthropogenic fires, the anthropogenic mosaic has been invaded and obscured by (principally) Douglas-fir. As a result, the Upper South Umpqua Watershed is now at risk from a-historical, catastrophic stand-replacing fires.

In Pre-Columbian agricultural landscapes, ecosystem engineers, and self-organized patchiness in Amazonia by Doyle McKey, Stephen Rostain, Jose Iriarte, Bruno Glaser, Jago Jonathan Birk, Irene Holst, and Delphine Renard, the authors examine the manner in which arthropods and other critters have maintained nutrient-rich soils long after the pre-Columbian human residents created said soils:

Combining archeology, archeobotany, paleoecology, soil science, ecology, and aerial imagery, we show that pre-Columbian farmers of the Guianas coast constructed large raised-field complexes, growing on them crops including maize, manioc, and squash. Farmers created physical and biogeochemical heterogeneity in flat, marshy environments by constructing raised fields. When these fields were later abandoned, the mosaic of well-drained islands in the flooded matrix set in motion self-organizing processes driven by ecosystem engineers (ants, termites, earthworms, and woody plants) that occur preferentially on abandoned raised fields.

In The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing by Robert A. Dull, Richard J. Nevle, William I. Woods, Dennis K. Bird, Shiri Avnery, and William M. Denevan, the (accomplished and distinguished) authors posit that Old World disease epidemics in the 1500’s eliminated anthropogenic fire along with the human population of Amazonia. The decline in human-driven carbon cycling was at a continental scale, and the reduction in emitted CO2 may have induced the Little Ice Age:

Pre-Columbian farmers of the Neotropical lowlands numbered an estimated 25 million by 1492, with at least 80 percent living within forest biomes. It is now well established that significant areas of Neotropical forests were cleared and burned to facilitate agricultural activities before the arrival of Europeans. Paleoecological and archaeological evidence shows that demographic pressure on forest resources—facilitated by anthropogenic burning—increased steadily throughout the Late Holocene, peaking when Europeans arrived in the late fifteenth century. The introduction of Old World diseases led to recurrent epidemics and resulted in an unprecedented population crash throughout the Neotropics. The rapid demographic collapse was mostly complete by 1650, by which time it is estimated that about 95 percent of all indigenous inhabitants of the region had perished. We review fire history records from throughout the Neotropical lowlands and report new high-resolution charcoal records and demographic estimates that together support the idea that the Neotropical lowlands went from being a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere before Columbus to a net carbon sink for several centuries following the Columbian encounter. We argue that the regrowth of Neotropical forests following the Columbian encounter led to terrestrial biospheric carbon sequestration on the order of 2 to 5 Pg C, thereby contributing to the well-documented decrease in atmospheric CO2 recorded in Antarctic ice cores from about 1500 through 1750, a trend previously attributed exclusively to decreases in solar irradiance and an increase in global volcanic activity. We conclude that the post-Columbian carbon sequestration event was a significant forcing mechanism.

It’s a hypothesis that is very difficult to test, but one that recognizes the historical impact of human beings on the environment. That theme permeates all four new Colloquia postings.

Our protocol with Colloquia postings is that comments there must be scholarly, commensurate with the scientific efforts of the authors. Less than scholarly comments on any of the postings are welcome, but should be placed here (see the leave a comment aplet below).

We endeavor to post the best, cutting-edge research papers, and all of these meet our stringent criteria. They are not too technical for the lay audience, though. I hope you enjoy them.

12 Oct 2010, 8:32am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Fire Retardant DEIS Scoping Letters

The two letters below, one from W.I.S.E. and one from the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, have been submitted the US Forest Service as official scoping comments for a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) regarding the use of aerial application of fire retardants.

To: James E. Hubbard, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry
Joe Carbone, Assistant Director for Ecosystem Management Coordination
U.S. Forest Service, Post Office Box 26667, Salt Lake City, UT 84126-0667

From: Darrel Kenops, Executive Director
National Association of Forest Service Retirees

Comments on the Proposal to Prepare a DEIS on the Aerial Application of Fire Retardant

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your proposal to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) as outlined in your September 3, 2010 document to Forest User under file designation “1950/3120”. The document indicates that the focus of the environmental impact statement will be the continued use of aerial application of fire retardants to fight fires on National Forest Land.

The comments have been prepared by the National Association of Forest Service Retirees’ (NAFSR) Fire Committee. Committee members have significant fire management experience in managing National Forest Land and leadership in fire management and suppression activities at the national, regional and local levels.

NAFSR understands this proposal is to apply to National Forest System land nationwide. One concern is that to the general public your “background section” leaves the impression that all National Forests are the same. There is no recognition of regional differences, vegetation types, fuel condition, relationships to communities, etc. and great variations in weather both current and long term. The first paragraph under background is biased to the management of wildfire to restore fire-adapted ecosystems. In many National Forests, aggressive suppression is the only option available, including in the wildland-urban interface where aggressive initial attack with all available tools is necessary. We suggest the following rewrite should be considered:-

“Forest Service management direction for National Forest System Lands includes restoring fire-adapted ecosystems through prescribed fire, other fuel treatments and effective management of wildfire to achieve both protection and resource benefit objectives. In many circumstances fire must be suppressed to protect life, property or to preserve natural resources and critical habitat for threatened and endangered species. In addition the current and long term weather conditions are essential factors to be considered in suppression strategy. Fire retardant is one of the tools necessary to suppress fires.”

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Some Let It Burn Questions Answered

Correspondent Zeke asked some pertinent questions regarding the Oak Flat Fire [here].

Dear Zeke,

Thank you for your questions. Here are the answers:

1. This fire could indeed have been contained at 800 acres. On Aug 15 the fire grew from 600 to 800 acres. On that date there were already nearly 500 firefighting personnel on the scene, 8 helicopters, and air tankers standing by in Medford.

The area is not “wilderness” or roadless. It is well-roaded throughout. No additional dozer work was necessary to contain the fire. There have been no strong winds so far, thank goodness, or the fire would have swept into Grants Pass within hours. Allowing the fire to grow and grow for weeks on end runs the risk that winds will arise and the fire will become a major disaster, burning farms, homes, towns, and cities. The USFS has chosen to endanger tens of thousands of residents, none of whom had any say so in the matter. That increased risk is manifest right now and will be for weeks to come.

2. It was and is possible to SAFELY put this fire out by ‘going direct’ on it. Indirect attack is LESS SAFE. Right now the “plan” is to put 1,000 firefighters a day for weeks on this fire. That is 10 to 20 times the man-hours necessary to contain it. By expanding the man-hours enormously, the risk of accidents increases.

Most firefighting injuries and fatalities are not due to burning up. They are due to machine accidents and fireline accidents, such as helicopter crashes and falling trees. The chance that those kind of accidents will occur is INCREASED by extending the fire for weeks and by extending the fire perimeter 10-fold.

3. There are no “benefits” to resources from wildfire. The USFS does not claim such. The use of the term “wildland fire used for resource benefit” is kaput. You can read the memo [here].

It is important to note that the deliberate use of fire produces significant impacts to the environment. We have laws regarding federal agencies impacting the environment, such as NEPA. If you read that law, you will note that “benefit” or “detriment” do not matter. What matters is whether the impacts are “significant”. No one argues that fire effects are insignificant.

Yet the USFS did not follow the legally mandated NEPA process before deciding to expand this fire ten-fold. They broke the law. That makes them criminals. Nobody wants federal agencies to break the law. I don’t at any rate. Do you?

For more discussion on this aspect, see [here, here, here, here].

4. Instead of looking at Google Earth, you may wish to examine the forest road map. That will show you the existing road density of the area. The road network is extensive. No new roads are needed, or new dozer lines, to contain this fire.

5. 6. 7. So you think that they could have held it to this footprint? Have you ever fought fire in that country? Are you an expert on wildfire tactics? Yes, Yes, Yes.

8. Is anything about that ground worth killing a single firefighter? Hold on there, Zeke. I am not for killing anybody. As I discussed above, extending the fire in time and space INCREASES the risks to firefighters.

In 2008 over 650,000 acres were incinerated in Northern California on the Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers, and Klamath National Forests. The fires were allowed to burn vast tracts in accord with a revised fire policy the USFS called “Appropriate Management Response” (since then the USFS has dropped that lingo term, too). Building firelines miles away from the fires and backburning hundreds of thousands of acres of private and public land alike were deemed “appropriate.” Despite the remote firefighting techniques, ostensibly intended to save money and protect firefighters, over $400 million was spent on suppression and 12 firefighters were killed.

In 2009 direct attack was used on a fire in the same area. The Backbone Fire [here] was 6,100 acres in steep un-roaded country when the decision was made to use direct attack. The fire was 100% contained within a week at 6,324 acres, with no accidents and no fatalities.

So you see, Zeke, extending this fire is far more likely to result in death to firefighters than direct attack would have. Perhaps you should aim your “killing firefighters” question at the USFS instead of at me.

9. What do you hope to accomplish with your rant? My purpose, indeed the purpose of W.I.S.E., is to educate. The “rant” characterization is impolite on your part, but whatever the literary quality, my post caught your attention. And now I am educating you further. Please read (study) the links provided. You have much to learn, and we are here to aid you in that.

Thank you again for your questions. Please feel free to ask us such good questions anytime.


Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir W.I.S.E.

Ninth Court Upholds Restoration in Spotted Owl Forest

In a stunning and precedent-setting decision yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and upheld the Five Buttes Project on the Deschutes National Forest.

The Project [here, here] is planned for the Five Buttes area (near Odell and Davis Lakes) in the Crescent Ranger District approximately 50 miles south of Bend, Oregon. It includes 4,235 acres of commercial thinning, with an estimated volume of 14.4 million board feet; 4,235 acres of fuels treatments associated with commercial harvest units; 3,931 acres of fuels treatments in units (including 368 acres in Unit 435) that will not have commercial harvest at this time; and 5.9 miles of temporary road construction and rehabilitation of temporary roads when they no longer are needed.

The Five Lakes Project has been in the planning process since 2004, in part in response to the 2003 Davis Fire (21,000 acres). The League of Wilderness Defenders, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and the Sierra Club sued to halt the Five Lakes Project, winning an injunction [here] from Michael R. Hogan, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2008. The US Forest Service appealed, and Hogan’s decision was reversed [here] yesterday by Richard A. Paez, Richard C. Tallman, and Milan D. Smith, Jr. of the Ninth Circuit Court. Smith wrote the majority opinion, and Paez wrote a dissent.

Attorneys for Daniel Kruse, Cascadia Wildlands Project [here] and Christopher Winter and Ralph Bloemers, Crag Law Center [here] argued that another large fire in the Five Buttes Project area was highly unlikely. Interestingly, less than a week after the Hogan decision in 2008, the Royce Butte Fire [here] erupted in the Five Lakes Area, forcing evacuations of Crescent Junction.

While Judge Paez, in his dissent, argued that the risk of catastrophic fire in the Project area was “inconsistent,” the majority disagreed. Judge Paez cited John Muir, God, and Uncle Sam in his dissent:

Old-growth forest is the end result of an ancient and intricate process. Its ecosystem is rich and complex, and because we do not fully understand the inner workings of the relationships between the plants and species that inhabit them, human harm to old-growth forests remains irreversible. In the words of John Muir, a preservationist and the man largely credited for the creation of Yosemite National Park:

“It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods,—trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty. … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools,—only Uncle Sam can do that.” John Muir, American Forests, Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1897, at 145, 157.

But fortunately the other judges were not so full of it. Everything Paez (and Muir) states above is false. The interjection of religious myth into judicial decisions is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State as established in the U.S. Constitution. It is kind of amazing that Federal Judge, especially a Ninth Circuit liberal judge like Paez, would base his judgment on (clearly racist) religious claptrap nonsense. But it doesn’t matter. Paez was out-voted by the rest of the judicial panel.

The Pantiffs argued that “commercial” harvest for “profit” is a terrible thing and should never be allowed. While not saying so expressly, the goal of shutting down the economy by eliminating “profit” is part of Marxist doctrine. It is remarkable how many people bad mouth “profit” these days. They prefer losses, evidently, except in their own personal finances. But that is neither here nor there.

The fanciful idea that spotted owls cannot abide thinning is debunked by numerous situations where owls have thrived in thinned forests. It is good to see that myth dashed on the rocks of reality.

The idea that removing fuels has no effect on fire risk was also debunked in this ruling. Obviously it does.

The pro-holocaust, anti-forest, super-litigious “enviros” were thumped by this precedent-setting ruling. It’s nice to see the bad guys lose once in awhile.

Ten Forest Restoration Projects Selected by USFS

The US Forest Service has selected ten landscape-scale forest restoration proposals nationally to begin implementation of Title IV - Forest Landscape Restoration of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 [here, here, here, here] (among many other posts - for the full panoply see here).

Out of the 150 national forests in the system, 31 submitted CFLRP project proposals [here]. Regional Foresters screened proposals first, so the 31 possibly represent a reduced subset of the total number proposed at the forest level.

The ten projects selected are:

* Southwestern Crown of the Continent, MT

* Uncompahgre Plateau, CO

* Colorado Front Range, CO

* 4 Forest Restoration, AZ

* Southwest Jemez Mountains, NM

* Dinkey Landscape, CA

* Tapash, WA

* Deschutes Skyline, OR

* Northeastern Florida, FL

If Congress continues to fund the CFLRP, ten more landscape-scale forest restoration proposals will be selected next year and in future years.

These first proposals are of varying quality; it is possible that future projects (and proposals) will be better, having been informed by this first go-around.

On the other hand, the language in some of the proposals is completely obnoxious. Why our government has to talk in Stalinese is beyond me. The uber Potemkin Village rhetoric is depressing.

Also, there is no discussion in any of the proposals regarding landscape history, particularly cultural landscape aspects. Even the Yakama Nation is apparently unaware that they have a heritage on the land — they certainly don’t discuss that aspect in their proposal. It is not clear what the USFS thinks it is that is to be restored.

Also, there is no discussion of the overall USFS mission and how the proposals might or might not dovetail with that.

These are fumbling, stumbling first steps. I suppose it is the best that can be expected from the competency-challenged folks we have hired.

As usual we welcome your comments. You may wish to inspect the proposals first.

Another Forest Tragedy

The Rooster Rock Fire [here] near Sisters, Oregon is now 6,124 acres and 65% contained. It is unlikely to grow any larger because winds have died down and the CO2’s (Central Oregon Type 2 Incident Management Team, Mark Rapp I.C.) in cooperation with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry have done their usual excellent job of controlling the fire.

The fire began from unknown causes on US Forest Service (Deschutes NF) land on August 2nd. It quickly spread east and south to private lands. Approximately three-quarters of the area burned by the Rooster Rock Fire is private land.

Rooster Rock Fire Map, 08/06/2010, courtesy Central Oregon IMT. Click for larger image.

The fire was about 5 miles south of Sisters. A few homes were evacuated, but the evacuations have now been lifted. An estimated 50 homes were threatened, but no homes burned.

The Rooster Rock Fire was the 13th large fire in the northern Deschutes NF in the last 8 years. Over 160,000 acres, primarily in the the Metolius River watershed, have been incinerated. The scar of burned old-growth now extends from Warm Springs to the north to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south, from the Cascade Crest to private lands to the east. The following Burns make up this destroyed forest landscape (this list is missing a few smaller ones):

Cache Mountain Fire (2002) - 3,894 acs

Eyerly Complex Fires (2002) - 23,573 acs

B&B Complex Fires (2003) - 90,769 acs

Link Fire (2003) - 3,574 acs

Black Crater Fire (2006) - 9,400 acs

Puzzle Fire (2006) - 6,150 acs

Lake George Fire (2006) - 5,740 acs

GW Fire (2007) - 7,500 acs

Dry Creek Fire (2008) - 110 acs

Summit Springs Complex Fires (2008) - 1,973 acs

Wizard Fire (2008) - 1,840 acs

Black Butte II Fire (2009) - 578 acs

Rooster Rock Fire (2010) - 6,124 acs

Total - 161,225 acres in eight fire seasons

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Washington View: Federal policies helped spark California wildfires

By Don Brunell, The Columbian, August 3, 2010 [here]

Once again, dozens of wildfires are raging across California, reducing entire forests to cinders and displacing thousands of families. As they burn, these fires pump millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) —declared by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a dangerous pollutant — into the air.

Ironically, this environmental and human devastation is due in part to federal environmental policies.

For decades, federal forest management policy has been, in effect, not to manage forests. Because of pressure from environmental groups, many federal and state forests are off limits to harvest and even to “housekeeping” activities, such as thinning, clearing undergrowth and removing dead and diseased trees. The philosophy is, let nature take its course.

Unfortunately, nature cleans its house with fire. Undergrowth and diseased trees provide the fuel; lightning or the errant camper provides the spark. …

President George W. Bush tried to address the situation with his Healthy Forests initiative, which put people to work clearing brush and salvaging diseased trees while bringing in income from salvage logging companies. Unfortunately, the effort was stopped in its tracks by environmentalists. …

The consequences of a massive wildfire today would be catastrophic. A century ago, the Big Burn scorched three million acres of forests from Boise into Canada and from east of Spokane to west of Missoula. Today, more than 13 million people live in that area.

Even our firefighters are being handcuffed in the name of environmental protection. Recently, a federal judge rejected the way the U.S. Forest Service uses fire retardant to fight wildfires because it couldn’t ensure that the retardant wouldn’t harm threatened and endangered species. The judge did not address the harm a raging inferno would cause to those same animals.

One has only to watch the nightly news to see the devastation caused by wildfires. Add to that the human and economic cost to battle the fires and the environmental degradation that results.

Congress and the President must restore sanity and common sense to our federal forest management policy. Sensible management, clearing dead and diseased trees and reducing underbrush is a much more responsible policy than “burn, baby, burn.”

Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s chamber of commerce. Visit

Squandering the Wisdom

Native Americans maintained American forests before the Europeans arrived and knew what they were doing.

Words and photos by Steven H. Rich, Range Magazine, Summer 2010 [here]

Selected excerpts:

The Danish forest ecologist sighed explosively, then spoke: “Your government’s wildfire and forest policy is a foolish and ignorant insult to the poor, and an insult to nature.” His voice was shaking, his tone illustrating the fact that grownups sigh when weeping seems out of place.

“Do you know the estimates of unused logging residues and dead wood rotting in your country are equivalent to 32 billion barrels of oil [more than four year’s supply for the whole nation]? When ecologists project a yearly total of the ecologically available logging waste [branches and tops] generated on private lands in the United States to all your forests, it makes 1.36 billion barrels [a good start on the 20 million barrels a day we use].

Do you know what that waste does to the price of fuel in poor countries? Every year you let another two- to six-million acres burn up! You do nothing effective to stop it and you do nothing with it!” …

The American public is not told that three times the CO emitted during any severe fire event continues to reach the atmosphere as the dead wood continues to degas and decompose. The environmentalists’ pro-wildfire/no-logging policy is a gigantic CO and other biogas factory, stacking up more and more “production units” in the form of billions of “sacred” dead trees which — due to lawsuits — no one is allowed to harvest. Frivolous fund-raising lawsuits that prevent sound use of forest biomass alternatives could end up as the single greatest cause of American fossil carbon releases, while hugely accelerating detructive fire emissions. …

The policy — letting disease-ridden too-dense forest structures continue and allowing fuel loads to build — kills forests. On average, they burn at least twice by the time the trees of the first fire decompose. The fire that burns the wind-fallen and/or rot-fallen fire-killed trees is vastly more destructive than the first.

In close contact with forest soils, the 1,700-degree Fahrenheit heat of 200 tons per acre of downed logs deeply sterilizes the forest floor. These intense blazes can last for many hours. Few biological potentials survive, nor does the wildlife that depends on these habitats.

Researchers Matthew Hurteau and Malcolm North modeled six prescriptions for mixed-conifer forest structure to study their potential for carbon sequestration. They came up with basically the same answers that Dr. Wallace Covington at Northern Arizona University reached in his work: Do it the way the Native Americans did.

Allowing a tangled mass of stunted trees to grow does sequester (take out of the atmosphere) lots of carbon — until it catches fire. When fire is added to the model, it becomes clear that a forest of widely spaced big trees is much safer from fire and sequesters more carbon for much longer. …

The ecological, social and economic benefits vastly favor restoring the Native American forest-structure maintenance system. Every year, the stream flows will increase and stabilize, wildlife will increase and soils will grow richer. This is a grazeable woodland, very productive of biodiversity and progressively healthier. These are the landscapes from which dozens of Arizona trout streams once flowed down to broad, beautiful, lower-slope grasslands, which are now choked with alien Utah junipers and chaparral shrubs. …

Who would object to restoring paradise while aiding the cause of energy independence? Who objects to restoring rural economies, relieving taxpayers of the burden of supporting the Forest Service (which used to make money), and greatly enhancing our national security both through an ecologically positive boost in tax revenues and a huge drop in oil imports? …\

Long ago, Native Americans knew that the trees and shrubs grew too thickly choking out everything else and then catching fire, doing huge damage. They worked very hard and used cool-season fire to thin tree and shrub stands, release grasses and flowers from domination, make meadows, attract game and increase useful plants and animals. They also did it to protect their families from being burned to death. They greatly admired large trees and used small ones. They increased nut crops by decreasing competition from other trees. Their management plan greatly increased nuts, berries, bulbs, corms, basketry and cordage materials, grass-seed production, game and water. It created farming opportunities. It was intelligent, superbly adapted, highly sophisticated, and it created beauty.

The environmental movement must abandon the false belief that the America the European explorers found was “pristine” in any way. Almost every American landscape was what ethnologists and ethno-biologists call an anthropogenic (human-created) landscape. Doctrinaire environmentalists are trying to recreate a world that never existed. To deny the Native Americans’ role in the beauty and abundance Europeans found is to perpetuate the 15th-19th century assumption that they had no role. Rural Americans must firmly resist any plans which use nature unsustainably and result in diminished potentials.

New forest-products technologies make smaller trees profitable in making beautiful homes. We can now spare many of the forest giants to make a safer, more beautiful, more productive forest using the research-proven model that Native Americans created.

Steven H. Rich lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is president of Rangeland Restoration Academy [here]

The Douglas County Forest Predicament

by Mike Dubrasich

Yesterday Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance delivered an excellent testimony to Congress. I amplify that testimony with the following of my own, which was not invited by Congress, nor delivered to them, but is instead posted here.

Douglas County extends from the crest of the Oregon Cascades to the Pacific Ocean and encompasses the entire watershed of the Umpqua River, over 5,000 square miles. As of the census of 2000, there were 100,399 people, 39,821 households, and 28,233 families residing in the county.

Douglas County is one of the premier timber-producing counties in the nation. Approximately 25-30% of the labor force is employed in the forest products industry. Agriculture, mainly field crops, orchards, and livestock (particularly sheep ranching,) is also important to the economy of the county.

In 2008 approximately 416 million board feet of timber were harvested in Douglas County, less than one third of the historical average. The reason for that is the USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management administer more than 50% of the county’s land, and their combined timber harvest in 2008 was less than 50 million board feet, less than 5% of their historical harvest and less than 1% of the annual growth on those lands.

In economic terms, considering stumpage value, remanufacture value, and the multiplier effect, a million board foot of timber is worth a million dollars and/or ten family wage jobs.

The precipitous decline (from historical levels) in timber harvest from federal lands in Douglas County costs the county’s economy 10,000 jobs per year. That has been the case for nearly 20 years now, since inception of the Northwest Forest Plan, and Douglas County has suffered enormously as a consequence.

As of last October, 23,336 Douglas County residents received food stamps. That is roughly a quarter of the population. The number has risen since.

The federal (USFS, BLM) forestland in Douglas County continues to grow timber at a prodigious rate. Over a half billion board feet are added very year. In other words, less than 1% of the annual growth is harvested each year.

That accumulating biomass has another effect on the economy of Douglas County. It fuels catastrophic fires that damage the watersheds, wildlife, public health and safety, recreation, and all businesses.

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Douglas Co. Commissioner Joe Laurance July 15 Testimony

Today the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held an Oversight Hearing on “Locally Grown: Creating Rural Jobs with America’s Public Lands”. Among the testimonies [here] was that of Joseph Laurance, County Commissioner, Douglas County, Oregon.

Commissioner Laurance brought up many important points, not the least of which is that that our national forests today are unnaturally loaded with fuels. Over 110 million acres are in Fire Regime Condition Class 2 and 3, the most hazardous conditions.

The safest condition is FRCC 1, of which there are 60 to million acres. Commissioner Laurance noted that FRCC 1 closely approximates the natural, historic conditions “characteristic of the ‘anthropogenic’ forest in the year 1800, immediately prior to the European American presence.”

The following is the full text of his remarks, with complementary photographs:

Testimony of Joseph Laurance, County Commissioner, Douglas County, Oregon before the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, July 15, 2010.

Distinguished members of the committee,

At a meeting of Oregon county commissioners last summer, I complained to my colleagues that while endless debate continued in congress about how federal forests should be managed, fires were ravaging federal timberlands in my county and throughout the western United States. The worldwide financial crisis that was draining the national treasury made re-authorization of “Secure Rural Schools” funding seem doubtful, threatening many of Oregon’s 36 counties with social and economic ruin. Bad news just kept coming with the word that unemployment in Douglas County had reached 16.4% and if unreported joblessness was considered, was probably greater than the 19% experienced here during the height of the “Great Depression”.

Talks were ongoing in Copenhagen about greenhouse gas emissions while the three fires in my county burned toward an eventual total of 20,000 acres, equal to the greenhouse gasses emitted by one million cars in a year’s time. My fellow commissioners suggested that I craft a solution to the problems you of this body are all too familiar with. The resultant resolution* has been carefully considered by commissioners from across the western United States who helped in its preparation. It has been unanimously adopted by the Association of Oregon Counties, Western Interstate Region of Counties, and the National Association of Counties (NACo) Public Lands Committee and is expected to be adopted by NACo at its annual national conference next week.

Twenty years and twenty days ago the Northern Spotted Owl was listed as threatened under the federal “Endangered Species Act”. It was then thought that loss of old growth habitat through logging was the culprit causing a declining population. In response, federal timber harvests were vastly curtailed. The Umpqua National Forest in my county saw an annual harvest of 397 million board feet in 1988 reduced to 4 million board feet in 2002. In the years since a policy of “benevolent neglect” of federal lands has seen Spotted Owl numbers continue to decline through habitat destruction caused by increasingly numerous and intense forest fires and through predation by the Barred Owl which favors this new “unmanaged” forest habitat. Federal policy, which had been multiple use of the forest with an emphasis on industrial harvest, sought a new strategy which has yet to be formulated in all these intervening years.

The resolution presented you provides that needed new strategy, not only for Oregon but for all of our nation’s federal forests from Appalachia to Alaska. Federal forest managers would now have a clearly defined desired forest condition that must be obtained within a specified time. If this becomes the “Intent of Congress”, the Forest Service and BLM would join with private industry to restore forest health and rural economies without drawing on the national treasury.

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