17 Dec 2008, 3:05pm
Saving Forests
by admin
3 comments

True Heritage Forest

Mike,

For your viewing pleasure here are four photos of the way our pine forests once were! This is the only place like this that I know of in the entire world: ponderosa pine and native grasses!

This is one of my special spots in southern Utah.It is quite an effort to reach this site, but I try to do it at least once every deer season. I usually sit there for three or four hours waiting for a monster buck to walk by, but in all the years that I have been doing this I have never seen even a single deer! This year there were not even any deer tracks.

So, if the truth be told, I go there just to visit the trees and to imagine what the West was like under aboriginal management. The site has never been logged or grazed, though it is now home to an ever growing number of wintering elk. The site is very sandy and is at the lower limit of pine growth on the mountain, which likely explains why there has been no forest in-growth. The site is on a little flat-topped mesa surrounded by pinyon/juniper and oakbrush and is slightly north-facing. A prescribed burn gone feral ran through the area about 30 years ago, but as you can see from the photos, there were no small trees for that fire to kill.

The photos were taken this fall. — Charles

[Dr. Charles E. Kay, PhD. Utah State University, author of Wilderness and Political Ecology: Aboriginal Influences and the Original State of Nature [here], Are Lightning Fires Unnatural? A Comparison of Aboriginal and Lightning Ignition Rates in the United States [here], and Native American influences on the development of forest ecosystems [here], among a remarkable body of landmark wildlife and forest ecology works].

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Forest Service suppression tactics don’t meet muster

by Charley Fitch, Speak Your Piece, Redding Record Searchlight, December 7, 2008 [here]

The Concerned Citizens for Reasonable Fire Management, consisting of Forest Service retirees, foresters, Trinity County citizens and business owners, have been studying the 1999, 2006 and 2008 fires on the Big Bar Ranger District. We believe that we see a pattern that is most disturbing. Since 1999 over 300,000 acres of the district, in northwestern Trinity County, have been burned. From the 1905 inception of the Forest Service until 1999 — 93 years — less than 100,000 acres. Maybe a result of global warming or drought — we don’t believe so! We have the rain records to prove it.

The recent Fire Forum was definitely a step in the right direction. When studying fire suppression covering all of Northern California, involving multiple fire agencies with different suppression responsibilities, it is unlikely that any clear solution could evolve. However, our group has concentrated on only the Big Bar Ranger District of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Here we have been able to isolate some issues and have narrowed the focus.

Why such a dramatic rise in fire size and duration? Our analysis leads us to the following reasons. Forests are creating more woody volume each year. In fact the Shasta-Trinity as of the early 1990s was growing 400 million board feet each year. Now with the current environmental protections in place, the Shasta-Trinity is removing less than 50 million board feet annually. So each year the forest builds up more fuel in the forest. Of course we can just watch it grow and then let it burn. That seems to be the opinion of many people who call themselves environmentalists. Or we allow removal of reasonable amounts of timber that can be used to build houses, offset some of the lumber imports into this country and reduce the fuel loading in the forests. Tough choice?

One very important facet of this very complicated issue that was not brought out in the write-up of the forum is a change in suppression tactics used by federal fire managers. This seems to be one issue that nobody wants to bring out in the open. The federal fire agencies have at least in behavior if not in written policy altered their suppression tactics. The underlying issue is safety. Firefighting tactics long accepted as effective and safe are now shunned by fire managers.

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25 Nov 2008, 12:48pm
Saving Forests
by admin
3 comments

Telltale Black Earth Indicates Amazon Not a Pristine Wilderness

I don’t have cable so I missed it, but last Thursday the National Geographic Channel aired a special entitled “Superdirt Made Lost Amazon Cities Possible.” For a review and a video clip from that show see [here]. An excerpt:

Superdirt Made Lost Amazon Cities Possible?

by John Roach for National Geographic News, 11/19/2008

Centuries-old European explorers’ tales of lost cities in the Amazon have long been dismissed by scholars, in part because the region is too infertile to feed a sprawling civilization.

But new discoveries support the idea of an ancient Amazonian urban network—and ingeniously engineered soil may have made it all possible. …

Scientists have long thought the river basin’s tropical soils were too acidic to grow anything but the hardiest varieties of manioc, a potatolike staple.

But over the past several decades, researchers have discovered tracts of productive terra preta — “dark earth.” …

With the increased level of agriculture made possible by terra preta, ancient Amazonians would have been able to live in one place for long periods of time, said geographer and anthropologist William Woods of the University of Kansas.

The article and TV special follow a Nat Geo News article of last August [here]:

Ancient Amazon Cities Found; Were Vast Urban Network

by John Roach for National Geographic News, 10/28/2008

Dozens of ancient, densely packed, towns, villages, and hamlets arranged in an organized pattern have been mapped in the Brazilian Amazon, anthropologists announced today.

The finding suggests that vast swathes of “pristine” rain forest may actually have been sophisticated urban landscapes prior to the arrival of European colonists.

The topic of terra preta has been examined before at W.I.S.E., most recently [here]. For more on terra preta two excellent starting references are: Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. 2005. Alfred E. Knopf, and Denevan, William M. Cultivated Landscapes of Native Amazonia and the Andes. 2001. Oxford Univ Press. Both are extremely well-written and have extensive bibliographies/citations.

The take-home is that the Americas have been home to humanity for 10,000 years or more. The First Residents were more than wandering bands of savages; large and complex societies existed here with art, science, religion, and advanced agriculture. Those civilizations had significant impact on soils, vegetation, wildlife populations, and American ecosystems in general.

This continent was NOT a wilderness. People have been living here for a very long time. Human beings trammeled all over (including the Pacific Northwest) and affected our landscapes in complex and profound ways.

Wilderness and legal wilderness designation are false conceits grounded in ignorance and cultural bigotry. Wilderness designation leads to abandonment of stewardship and the subsequent destruction of history and heritage as well as natural resources. Roadless designation is also a form of conceited blindness, beacuse this entire continent has been well-roaded for millennia.

The wilderness myth is rooted in conquest and genocide and was reinforced by nineteenth-century romanticism [here]. The only thing wilderness designation protects is cultural delusion.

A far better approach to our heritage landscapes would be realization and study of the ancient human-environment relationships and a renewed commitment to stewardship. Instead of abandonment to ignorance and holocaust, perhaps we could begin to intelligently care for our forests and prairies once again.

24 Nov 2008, 5:55am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin
4 comments

Fire Kills Old-Growth Say Researchers

We have stressed repeatedly that wildfires kill old-growth. This is not news. It is a well-known fact. Old-growth was killed in the Biscuit Fire (2002), B&B Fire (2003), Black Crater Fire (2007), and Rattle Fire (2008), among hundreds of other recent fires covering millions of acres.

I don’t think there is any point to linking to all the previous SOSF posts on this subject. It would be a lot of work anyway, because there are so many. Here is one of many photos of fire-killed old-growth posted previously. Click on the pic for a larger image.

If you can find the unhappy blogging forester in this photo, it will give you some sense of scale.

Other forest experts have pointed out the obvious, that fire kills old-growth. Drs. K. Norman Johnson and Jerry F. Franklin gave testimony to Congress a year ago [here], and they were quite frank about the fact that fire kills old-growth.

Now a new study by US Forest Service researchers confirms what everybody already knew: fire is killing old-growth.

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Invoking Misconceptions About “Ecosystems”

Another in our seemingly endless series about the “balance of nature” and other intellectually bankrupt eco-babble concepts [see also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and many others].

The Ecosystem Illusion

Review by Mark Sagoff, professor at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park. 2000. [here]

of: Defending Illusions: Federal Protection of Ecosystems, by Allan K. Fitzsimmons. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, 330 pp.

The protection of nature is a goal easier to embrace than to explain. If by “nature” we mean everything in the universe-all that is bound by the laws of physics-then our protection of nature is not required. Since we cannot perform miracles, our actions are as natural and fit as much into nature’s design or plan as the behavior of any object or organism. The opposite of nature in this sense is the supernatural, defined as anything to which the laws of nature do not apply. …

In Defending Illusions, Allan Fitzsimmons, an environmental consultant, argues persuasively that nature in this sense, above the level of the organism, possesses neither organizing principles nor emergent qualities that biologists can study. It has no health or integrity for humans to respect. The only laws or principles in nature are those that apply to everything and that human beings cannot help but obey. …

Historically, racists, sexists, and tyrants of all sorts have invoked conceptions of nature or of the natural to condemn whatever they happened to oppose. Fitzsimmons believes that environmentalists who appeal to the notion of the ecosystem similarly misrepresent their own preferences as those of Mother Nature. Because science must speak in secular terms, it refers to ecosystems instead of to Mother Nature or to Creation and ascribes design to ecosystems without any mention of the Designer. This conception of nature as orderly, however, derives not from any empirical evidence but from assumptions and beliefs that are essentially romantic or theological.

Fitzsimmons quotes Jack Ward Thomas, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service in the Clinton administration: “I promise you I can do anything you want to do by saying it is ecosystem management. . . But right now it’s incredibly nebulous.” The utter nebulousness-indeed, vacuity-of the ecosystem concept accounts for its amazing prominence in environmental policy and planning, because researchers can absorb any amount of funding in trying to understand concepts such as ecosystem health, integrity, and stability. These concepts, Fitzsimmons argues, will always mean what anybody wants them to mean and thus will only add confusion to the already impossible goal of keeping nature free of human influence.

Fitzsimmons also quotes environmental scientists such as Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, who concedes that the goal of sustaining ecosystems “is difficult to translate into specific objectives” in practice. He adds that “no amount of training-theological or ecological-can give substance to such notions as ‘the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.’” This does not imply, however, that Fitzsimmons opposes well-defined efforts to provide green space, protect wetlands, add to the nation’s parklands, preserve endangered species, and so on. Rather, he argues that vague imperatives implied in theories of ecosystem management provide no clear goals and offer no way to measure progress in these efforts. ..

For the entire review, please see [here].

20 Nov 2008, 9:13pm
Saving Forests
by admin
5 comments

Retardant Justice

This essay was written last March by the venerable Forrest Grump.

It must be spring. After all, environmentalists have “sprung” at least six or seven new lawsuits on the Northwest court system the past couple weeks — and Earthjustice is about ready to file against delisting Northern Rockies wolves.

But it’s a just-dismissed lawsuit that has my attention, especially since I just got “carded” for this year’s fire season. It was filed by the Eugene, Oregon-based, so-called Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) in District Judge Donald Molloy’s Missoula courtroom, way back in October 2003. I’ll spare you the stultifying federal acronym soup.

On the surface, FSEEE basically sued the Forest Service (USFS) in order to force a full-blown paperwork shuffle on the environmental effects of air-dropped fire retardants.

Judge Molloy took two years to rule for the paperwork shuffle, in October 2005, at which point FSEEE crowed “Group Wins Lawsuit to Protect Firefighters and the Environment From Toxic Aerial Fire Retardant.”

But the use of chemical retardants hasn’t been stopped. FSEEE never asked for that to begin with. Molloy’s 35-page ruling specifically pointed out the case was not about the safety or toxicity of retardants per se, but only a procedural case affirming the need to shuffle paper if and when “substantial questions” of environmental impact “may” exist.

The already-overwhelmed Forest Service dragged butt on the shuffle, goading Judge Molloy into threatening Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey with jail unless the paperwork hit Molloy’s desk –- which it did in late February 2008.

The Forest Service concluded that using retardant poses no “significant environmental impact” to Judge Molloy, who dismissed the case March 12.

Now, after four-plus years, FSEEE spokesman Andy Stahl (the guy who made “spotted owl” a household word) is telling reporters his group intends to file ANOTHER lawsuit over retardant in Molloy’s court. It’s all part of what Missoulian reporter John Cramer terms “another decade-long campaign” to stop “the war on fire.”

With the “no significant impact” paperwork from USFS in hand, FSEEE apparently now plans to attack the paperwork in court, in the hopes of finding an uncrossed T or undotted I that will bring about a legal injunction against retardant use.

Now, how much environmental impact is at issue? Bomber slurry is basically 85% water, 15% fertilizer. The fertilizer binds the water, slowing evaporation, plus it sticks to everything it lands on. A bomber line of slurry therefore stays more effective at slowing or stopping a fire’s advance for a longer time than plain water drops. It work… so well that the Forest Service uses 15 to 40 million gallons of slurry per year. Using a 2,700-gallon P2V Neptune tanker as an “average” slurry bomber, that comes out to at least 5,500 to 14,800 “bomb runs” a year.

In its complaint, FSEEE raised the issue of retardant drops directly into streams or lakes, citing one in 1996, one in 2000, one in 2003, and most scandalous of all, a 2002 drop into an Oregon stream that killed 20,000 fish. Bad? Of course, but one run out of 5,000 (or more) is objectively a darned low “defect” rate for such technical flying. Never mind that Eugene’s ecotopians probably eat 20,000 organically-killed fish a week.

Nuts? Yep, yet FSEEE righteously claims its “mission is to forge a socially responsible value system for the U.S. Forest Service.” They intend to ram their retardant version of social responsibility through the courts, and just might.

Don’t be surprised if FSEEE files their case, and on some trivial technicality, an injunction comes down at the worst possible time. Some poor fire boss will have to announce: “Folks, we need to ground our air fleet and wash out the tanks today. We’re also pulling all our crews, as the bombers were the last chance we had of holding this line without killing someone. Sorry. The judge says a one in five thousand chance of killing a few minnows overrides any of your trivial concerns. We hope you got your heirlooms and families out in time, have a nice day.”

Retardant justice, indeed.

16 Nov 2008, 8:37pm
Saving Forests The 2008 Fire Season
by admin
8 comments

Retarding Firefighting

Gag me!!!! ABC News just ran an anti-fire retardant video-bite on their national report. Mop-topped Tim Ingalsbee, sociologist and executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics & Ecology (FUSEE) appeared with his line about fire retardant being a waste of money and polluting the environment.

For more on Ingalsbee and his Eugene radical associations, see [here]. For more on the radical enviro-Left’s war on fire retardant see [here].

But the real story is that fire retardant saves lives, saves homes, saves wildlife, saves habitat, saves watersheds, and thereby saves money.

The real “cost” of wildfire is much, much more than suppression expenditures. Fire destroys and kills. The damages that ensue from wildfires are anywhere from 10 to 40 times the cost of fighting the fires.

There is utility to firefighting. That’s why we fight fires. The utility is that by controlling the fire (which can be expensive), we prevent the fire from destroying valuable property, resources, and lives (which are worth a great deal more than the costs of suppression).

Fire retardant is an important firefighting tool. The phosphate-based fire retardants in use today are similar to phosphate-based laundry detergents, also in wide use today. Fire retardant, when dissolved in water at parts per million, acts as a wetting agent. It spreads a thin layer of water across whatever it is applied to. That damps fires better than plain water, which tends to bead up.

It’s a wetting agent, people! Nothing magic. But fire retardant is effective. When dropped (in highly diluted solution) from airplanes, fire retardant damps the fire immediately. The flames die down. If you have ever seen a roaring wildfire get hit with fire retardant, you might think it was magic because the fire quiets right down.

The effect is not long-lived. Firefighters have only a few minutes to take aggressive action before the film of water evaporates and the flames rise up again. But in those few minutes lives can be saved. Hoses can be trained on hot spots. Fire lines can be extended. Helicopter pilots can see to drop more water. Those few minutes of quiet provided by fire retardant drops can mean the difference between stopping the fire here and now and not stopping the fire at all.
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14 Nov 2008, 10:40am
Politics and politicians Saving Forests
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6 comments

Omnibus Monstrous Disastrous

The lame duck Congress has gone quackers. Harry Reid (D, Mafia) has honked his intention to burden American with the morbidly obese Omnibus Lands Bill. Dirty Harry has scheduled Monday as the day when he puts a gun to the head of rural America, and pulls the trigger.

The Omnibus Lands Bill is a humongous land grab that will shut down and lock up millions of acres of public land. Made up of over 150 separate pieces of legislation, the Omnibus Lands Grab designates millions of acres of Wilderness in eight states, at least three wild and scenic rivers, four national trails, and authorizes dozens of land exchanges and land conveyances.

Congresspersons are lining up to hang pet projects on this pig. Vicious little subversive acts that would never stand on their own have been larded onto the Omnibus Lands Bill. No due process, no public hearings, no consideration of public will, and no evaluation of environmental impact are the hallmarks of this sausage-making.

While families across the country struggling with their mortgages, excessive gas and food prices, and uncertain financial conditions, the Senate is scheduled to spend the few remaining legislative days of 2008 forcing through a bill that not only ignores these problems, but will exacerbate them.

The Omnibus Lands Bill will lock up land for holocaust incineration in megafires the likes of which this country has never seen. It will prohibit energy exploration on vast tracts of the public estate. It will restrict the use of the Federal domain for wealth-creation, recreation, wise-use, unwise use, and any use whatsoever.

Massive lock up, devaluation, and wholesale destruction of millions of acres of public lands is the most irresponsible program imaginable, especially when the country is reeling under an economic crisis that portends another Great Depression.

Harry has lost his mind. The King of Earmarks has finally gone completely bonkers. The Senate Majority Leader, fresh from stealing all the water in Nevada, now wishes to inflict a reign of terror across America. Burn Harry Burn was NOT elected by the People two weeks ago. He wasn’t on my ballot. I would have voted to dump Harry in Lake Mead wearing cement shoes, but that was not one of the measures we got to vote on.

Lame ducks are planning to steal your land. The heist is scheduled for Monday. Some of the myriad attachments include shoveling money to extremist cults. That kind of thing is all the fashion these days in ACORN-ville. Shakedown slush funds for eco-terrorist groups were also missing from the ballot, but not from the Omnibus Lands Bill grab bag.

The Omnibus should be thrown under the bus. We don’t need these multiple stabs in the back from Congress. Call your Congressperson and Senators today and explain to them why stealing from you is a no-no. They are dense, so be explicit.

Mt. Hood Wilderness Expansion Is Bad Public Lands Policy

Wilderness designation is fatal to forests. As we pointed out in our (not yet completed) series entitled Fraudulent Wilderness [here, here, here], wilderness designation destroys forests, wildlife, habitat, watersheds, airsheds, heritage, and other environmental values by eliminating stewardship, stewardship that has been ongoing in the Americas for 13,500 years.

For example, this summer catastrophic fires incinerated old-growth forests, habitat, and heritage in the Boulder Creek Wilderness, Sky Lakes Wilderness, South Sierra Wilderness, Jarbidge Wilderness, and Ventana Wilderness. The damages beyond the Wilderness boundaries from smoke, fire, and watershed destruction were severe and will be long-lasting.

Other designated wilderness areas subject to catastrophic fires since designation include Alpine Lakes, Bandelier, Black Canyon, Bob Marshall, Bull of the Woods, Frank Church-River of No Return, Golden Trout, Gospel Hump, Hells Canyon, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth, Manzano Mountain, Marble Mountains, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Okefenokee, Rogue Umpqua Divide, Saddle Mountain, Selway-Bitterroot, Siskiyou, Tatoosh, Yolla-Bolly, San Rafael, Dick Smith, Three Sisters, Kalmiopsis, Matilija, and many others.

The lame duck Congress is gearing up to declare millions more acres “wilderness” in contempt of the true nature of those lands and without regard for the environmentally disastrous consequences.

The following letter from Mr. John Marker, USFS (ret.) points out to Congress, once again, that wilderness designation is fraught with negative externalities, not the least of which is the inevitable destruction of watershed values. SOS Forests kudos to John for his unwavering devotion to good stewardship and indefatigable efforts to educate Congress about the on-the-ground realities.

10 November 2008

To: Senator Ron Wyden

Dear Senator Wyden:

Once again I write to you urging reconsideration of your support for expanded legislated wilderness on Mt. Hood. The past summer provided another wake up call of why wilderness expansion is a bad idea. The Gnarl Ridge Fire, the second major fire in the last five years on the North side of Mt Hood, burned 3280 acres, killing most of the trees on half of the burned area, and damaging trees on the remainder. The fire would have also destroyed Cloud Cap Inn and Tilly Jane recreation area, both historic sites, without several accurate air tanker drops and good luck. Control costs of the fire are estimated at $15 million.

The Gnarl fire burned through about 40% of the Crystal Springs Water District’s Zone of Contribution, land that collects snow and rain for Crystal Springs, a major source of domestic water for the Hood River Valley. Damage to the watershed is still being studied. Insect killed trees, heavy fuel loading from overstocked forests, topography and lack of access were major obstacles to control of this fire. Half of the land burned was in designated wilderness. Wilderness areas, as the two recent fires illustrate, neither save or protect Mt. Hood. Fire on the mountain with today’s fuel loading and changing weather conditions is not natural, but destructive, and healing the damage is in decades if not centuries. The expansion of legal wilderness area on the mountain is bad public policy, in my opinion, based upon 50 years as a forester.

The goal of protecting this magnificent natural resource is commendable, but proposed wilderness expansion will, in my view, place the mountain at greater risk of damage, and also increase risk of harm to neighboring lands and communities. The proposal also ignores the 1897 Organic Act’s mandate of sustained production of renewable resources from the national forests with water and wood priority. Wood supply may no longer be critical, but water is, and certainly from Mt. Hood.

Legislated Wilderness provides no protection for the land from impacts of fire, insects, disease, catastrophic storms, air pollution or climate change. This designation severely limits the ability to control or prevent damage from such forces by strictly limiting management and treatment options as well as access. Wilderness constraints jeopardize protection of adjacent non-wilderness areas such as Bull Run, Government Camp, Cooper Spur and other land and communities adjacent to the national forest.

Currently many areas of forest inside the proposed Wilderness expansions are threatened by aggressive insect and disease activity, plus the continuing build up of fire risk from dead and overcrowded trees. If, as many scientists predict, the Northwest climate pattern continues warmer and drier, the risk of destruction will expand as forest ecosystems are weakened by this change. The increasing human use of the mountain also raises the threat of damage to the land from overuse and abuse. To ignore these realities contradicts the stated goal of “protecting” and “saving” Mt. Hood.

An alternative for protecting Mt. Hood is available. It is development of the plan called for in the Walden-Blumenauer legislative proposal, starting with acknowledgement of the biological and climatic forces constantly at work on the mountain, which recognizes Mt. Hood’s critical role of providing clean and abundant water for more than a million people living in its shadow. The plan must also recognize the reality of federal budget constraints.

Once these fundamentals are understood, a plan for the mountain’s future, with watershed value as the critical resource, can be built. It will establish guidelines for protecting watershed values, the forests, recreation and other values. This process can be expedited by using the existing congressionally mandated national forest plan as a starting point.

To my way of thinking, recognition up front of the priority for Mt. Hood management, and understanding that locking up the land is not the way to save or protect against the challenges of people and nature. Stretching and bending the intent and provisions of the Wilderness Act to “protect” and “save” this land does a disservice to the intent of the act and those who created it, and to the public’s land.

Sincerely:

John F. Marker, Forester (ret.)

8 Nov 2008, 4:18pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Why Historical Human Influences Are Important

We have written numerous times on Antropogenic Fire Theory. That theory expresses the conclusion that human beings played a vital role in shaping our landscapes (vegetation and wildlife populations) during the entire Holocene.

Why is that important? For two principal reasons.

First, recognition and study of the historical impact of human beings provides a better scientific description of the pathways that led to forests (including old-growth forests), prairies, meadows, berry fields, wetlands, and virtually every ecosystem type extant upon our continent (and other continents as well).

Old theories that exclude human influence are filled with anomalies. They do not adequately explain ecosystem development nor current conditions. The presumption that “Mother Nature” alone was responsible is too simplistic to account for what we see on the landscape.

Second, a better understanding of the actual ecosystem development pathways should inform current management. We cannot depend on out-moded theories of “natural balance” and a hands-off approach to provide desirable ecosystem conditions. Management based on incorrect theories leads to disaster.

Our forests, prairies, meadows, etc. arose under conditions of frequent, regular, seasonal anthropogenic fire. Those traditional practices have been abandoned. As a result, fuels have built up and catastrophic fires have altered ecosystems across vast tracts and entire landscapes. Those fires have not only destroyed heritage ecosystems, they have inflicted “externalities” such as air pollution, water pollution, public endangerment, public health degradation, agricultural losses, home destruction, tax and budget strains, etc.

We need better land management based on more accurate environmental science, science that recognizes the actual historical influences of humanity.

We have discussed these concepts previously. The W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here] is devoted to that field of study. In addition, the following is a (partial) selection of those discussions:

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6 Nov 2008, 10:33am
Politics and politicians Saving Forests
by admin
3 comments

Nothing Better To Do

What does the election of B. Hussein Obama mean to our national forests?

Absolutely nothing. B. Hussein has no forest policy, has zero experience in natural resources, knows nothing about forests, and has never even seen a forest. The topic did not come up in the campaign.

The people who voted for B. Hussein did so because of his skin color, not because of his forest policy. For the first time in American history, a president was selected on the basis of his race and race alone. B. Hussein is our “token” president.

Natural resource issues were not a factor because John McCain had no discernible natural resource policy either. The word “forests” was not mentioned one time in his campaign. The only glimmer of a resource issue was global warming, and both candidates shared the far out viewpoint that the US should unilaterally shut down two-thirds of our economy in the name of a total hoax.

Hold on to something steady, sports fans. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GLOBAL WARMING. The globe is cooling and has been cooling for about 9,000 years. Yes, there are minor peaks and valleys. Most recently (for the last 10 years) global temps have fallen to their lowest point in 35 years, effectively wiping out any (minor) temperature increase seen over the 20th Century. The outlook is cold and getting colder.

B. Hussein wants to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant, when in fact it is the KEY NUTRIENT OF LIFE. Last time anyone looked we were carbon-based lifeforms here on Planet Earth. Your bodily carbon, which is to say all of your cells and your basic corporeal existence, derives from carbon dioxide, without which you would not be.

B. Hussein wants to declare war on life, in other words. His opponent, Republican-In-Name-Only John McCain shared the exact same view, so voters had no choice whatsoever, which is why they selected on the basis of skin color, since there were no other substantive differences between the candidates.

Even in Oregon the massive forest crisis we face was not an issue in any campaign, local or statewide. The populace is inured to seeing their watersheds destroyed in catastrophic holocausts. We have come to expect that. No one questions whether forests policies should be any different from No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot. Our one RINO senator wouldn’t touch forest issues with a ten-foot peavy and neither did the radical Leftist who replaced him.

Oregon’s RINO party has abandoned the state just as they have abandoned our forests. The closest thing to a Republican in Oregon is in Alaska. And Oregon’s Far Left Democommie party is pro-forest holocaust. They “rendezvous” in the ashes whenever the big burns happen. When old-growth forests were incinerated last summer in Oregon in various megafires, the Dems celebrated. Their dream is to declare every square inch of Oregon a free fire zone and burn the whole state to smithereens.

But there is nothing new in all of that. It is the same old, same old. Our state and national forest policy has been Burn Baby Burn for 20 years, and nothing has changed in that regard. In an election touted as the Big Change, when it comes to forest policy, it wasn’t. There has been no change at all and none is expected.

Which is why we must buckle down and teach the new bozos what we tried (and failed) to teach the old bozos, that forest stewardship is preferable to forest holocaust and destruction. It seems like a simple, logical, pragmatic thing, and it is, but we are dealing with some serious bozos once again.

So get out the tow ropes and prepare to drag a new bunch of clueless imbeciles up the learning curve, kicking and screaming all the way (on the part of the imbeciles).

Can it be done? Can you teach the clueless? Can we save our forests from destruction?

Maybe, maybe not. But we’re going to try. Got nothing better to do.

29 Oct 2008, 9:02am
Saving Forests
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Restoration Forestry

Our forests are beset by disease, insect infestations, and especially megafires. Millions of acres of unhealthy forests burn every year, denuding whole landscapes, filling the air with smoke, killing wildlife and destroying their habitats, baking soils and causing massive erosion into rivers and streams, and draining the budgets of our public land management agencies. The crisis of catastrophic forest destruction seems insoluble.

But there is a solution, one that protects, maintains, and perpetuates forests, wildlife, water and air, public health and safety, heritage, and our economy. The solution is restoration forestry.

Restoration forestry is the art and science of returning forests to heritage conditions of fire resilient, open and park-like structures. Our forests today are often crowded thickets, overladen with fuels, and prone to catastrophic fires. Restoration forestry removes the excess fuels and puts forests back into their historic condition, as they existed before Euro-American contact.

Restoration forestry is a silvicultural system, broadly speaking, that is neither even-aged nor uneven-aged. The objectives of restoration forestry include maintenance and enhancement of multi-aged, low density stands with a predominance of older, fire-resilient trees. Those are forest goals, not tree farming goals, but they are silvicultural.

Restoring historical conditions sustains forests by protecting them from total mortality canopy fires, by maintaining fire-resilient old-growth trees, and by enhancing the capacity of forests to grow trees to old ages.

Our old-growth trees arose under much different conditions than today. The forest development pathways of pre-Contact eras were not punctuated by catastrophic stand-replacing fires but instead were the outcomes of frequent, seasonal, light-burning fires in open, park-like forests. Those fires were largely anthropogenic (human-set by the indigenous residents). Because the fires of historic eras were frequent and seasonal, they gently removed fuels without killing all the trees. The widely-spaced trees thus survived repeated burning and grew to very old ages.

As more and more forests have been investigated for actual age distribution, a gaping hole in the early theory of stand-replacement forest development has arisen. The anomaly is that many forests, particularly older, untouched forests, are not even-aged. Instead, many (if not most) older forests are distinctly multi-cohort. That is, forests often have two or more widely divergent age classes of trees.

This fact tends to disprove the “stand replacement fire” theory, at least in regards to older forests. Their development pathways must have been different than that. It is now widely concluded that many (if not most) North American forests were at one time (120 to 500 years ago) open and park-like with widely spaced, large, old trees, and that forests were conditioned to be that way by frequent, non-stand-replacing fires. The new theory holds that historical frequent fires were light and low-burning, and that those fires did not kill the bigger trees.

That is, the actual historical forest development pathways for many (if not most) of our forests involved frequent light fires, not stand-replacing fire.

Modern fires in dense thickets, untempered by frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires, cause total tree mortality. No trees survive the infrequent holocausts, and so no trees attain old-growth status. In fact, modern fires routinely kill old-growth trees that withstood multiple fires in bygone eras. Modern fires, burning in dense, build-up fuel conditions, often convert heritage forests to more or less permanent brush fields

By restoring thicket forests to their historical norm of open, park-like conditions, and in addition restoring historical anthropogenic fire regimes, forests can be saved from catastrophic incineration and conversion to brush.

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26 Oct 2008, 12:11pm
2007 Fire Season Saving Forests
by admin
2 comments

Forest Health and Fire

Six years ago the National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR) issued a prescient report entitled Forest Health and Fire: an Overview and Evaluation. Written by Richard J. Pfilf, John F. Marker, and Robert D. Averill, the report detailed critical problems and offered wise solutions to the growing forest fire crisis in our public forests.

Since that report was issued our forest fire crisis has worsened significantly. Megafires have ravaged every western state. Annual fire acreage has doubled, fire suppression costs have increased 5-fold, and resource damages have skyrocketed.

All that was predicted by expert observers. Implementation of the solutions offered by Forest Health and Fire: an Overview and Evaluation could have prevented much of the destruction.

More forest and landscape destruction by megafire is predictable today. The ongoing crisis has not been averted or lessened in any way because the obvious solutions have not been adopted, as yet.

We raise the alarm again, and offer the solutions again, by posting excerpts from Forest Health and Fire: an Overview and Evaluation. The full text is [here] (3.5 MB). The National Association of Forest Service Retirees is a non-profit, non-partisan, science-based organization with members consisting of Forest Service retirees, associates and sustaining members. Their website is [here].

Selected excerpts from Forest Health and Fire: an Overview and Evaluation:

by Richard J. Pfilf, John F. Marker, and Robert D. Averill, October, 2002

The National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR) offers its experience and expertise to establish a factual basis on which to build public policy regarding forest health and fire mitigation; specifically:

1. To Identify Misconceptions about Forest Health and Fire

Misconceptions often influence public policy. We must challenge some of these, listed below, that hinder understanding the problem and steer discussion toward more productive courses of action.

* The Balance of Nature Myth: The imagined forest often consists of a continuous forest cover of large trees, individually having indefinitely long lives. This idea often ignores all the changes in vegetation states that the forest undergoes over time.

* Long-Term Care for the Aged, Sacrifice the Young: Many advocate managing fuels by removing only small material by “thinnings,” “clearing underbrush,” and removal of trees only up to a certain diameter. It would be a mistake to arbitrarily preclude removing trees above a given size or age.

* One Hundred Years of Aggressive Suppression Caused the Fuel Buildup: Fire suppression forces were few and the tools were primitive for most of the 20th century. Forest growth that greatly exceeded removals, and fifty years of cooler, wetter climate had an effect on forest biomass and burning conditions.

* Fires are Bigger and More Destructive than in the Past: There is little historical support for this assertion. Western North America has been beset with large fires since the glaciers receded.

* Selective Logging is the Answer: We must be wary of applying blanket prescriptions. Selective logging is appropriate only in certain forest types and under certain conditions.

* Only Protect Human Communities: While protecting communities must be a high priority, we must not neglect the other values of the forest.

* Big Trees Don’t Burn: Large trees are only more fire-resistant. Hot ground fires and crown fires kill them also.

* Cutting Cookies: Forests are complex. Solutions must be temporally and spatially tailored to specific conditions.

* Prescribed Fire is THE Solution: Prescribed fire is not the total answer. There are many locations and situations that will render it infeasible.

* Logging is the Problem: Current use of best management practices has not had long-term detrimental effects.

* Let the Taxpayer Subsidize Forest Health: Maintaining forest health is a matter of establishing sustainable stand conditions and reducing risks. This has significant economic impacts, and forest products can help finance them.

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21 Oct 2008, 12:19pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin
3 comments

Forest Fires Degrade Soils

New findings by a team of Oregon forest scientists reveal that the Biscuit Fire (2002) not only incinerated 500,000 acres of forest, it also stripped soils clean off the landscape. Millions of tons of “sequestered” carbon were emitted by the Biscuit Fire, but more than that, the soil was sucked up into fire plumes and blown off the site, leaving a only a rubble of heavier stones.

The study, Intense forest wildfire sharply reduces mineral soil C and N: the first direct evidence by Bernard T. Bormann, Peter S. Homann, Robyn L. Darbyshire, and Brett A. Morrissette, is to be published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Journal of Forest Research [Can. J. For. Res. 38: 2771–2783 (2008)] in December. Extracts and a link to the full text may be found in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here].

The study was unique in that soil measurements were taken before the fire and the same plots remeasured after the fire. Most studies examine burned and unburned post-fire plots, and retrospective assumptions must be made regarding pre-fire conditions. In this case, however, the Biscuit Fire burned through a portion of a 150 ha Long-Term Ecosystem Productivity (LTEP) experiment (Bormann et al. 1994; Homann et al. 2008), and the forest scientists were able to examine soil changes in paired pre- and post-fire plots.

Bormann et al found that more than 10 tons per acre of carbon and between 450 to 620 pounds per acre of nitrogen were vaporized by the fire. Some 60% of soil carbon and 57% of soil nitrogen losses came from mineral soil horizons (below the duff and humus top layers). In addition they found that 127 megagrams (127,000 kilograms) of soil per hectare disappeared. The scientists conjectured:

An intriguing alternative explanation for most of the missing fine soil is transport via the massive smoke plume. The elevation of the smoke column and the spread of the plume provide a plausible convective erosion process for off-site transport of substantial material. Large plumes of smoke, some more than 1500 km long, were visible most days during the months of the fire from the NASA MODIS satellite (Fig. 9). Fine soil particles have been detected in smoke (Palmer 1981; Samsonov et al. 2005), and wind speeds near the soil surface — driven by extremely strong vortices resulting from fire-driven atmospheric convection (Palmer 1981; Banta et al. 1992) — can carry smoke to the lower stratosphere (Trentmann et al. 2006).

They called this an “alternative explanation” because their first thought was that post-fire water erosion carried the soil away. However, erosion box measurements accounted for only a third of the missing soil. The plume explanation was based on speculation because the plume contents and volume were not accurately measured (for obvious reasons).

Total soil carbon losses from the Biscuit Fire were estimated to be 9 teragrams (9 million metric tons). That does not include carbon emissions from the incinerated vegetation, which we estimate to be an additional 35 Tg. The sum (44 teragrams or million metric tons) is roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of 9 million cars driven all year.

The fire was hot enough to melt heavy-duty aluminum tags on steel grid posts placed as part of the LTEP experiment. The scientists estimated that fire temperatures were hotter than 700 degrees C (1300 degrees F) based on kiln tests on similar tags. At those temperatures tree mortality was near total as was fine fuel consumption.

The result was a seared landscape, devoid of living organisms, charred beyond recognition, and cooked deep into the soil. Fine soils were blown away, seed banks destroyed, and the essential productivity of the site vastly depleted. Bormann et al concluded:

The intensity of wildfires and magnitude of losses of fine soils and soil C and N have additional implications for soil fertility and subsequent rates of plant production and C sequestration. Soil C losses lead to increased bulk density and reduced soil water-holding capacity, cation-exchange capacity, and sources of energy for microbial communities. To the extent that soil N, soil C, and soil structure control productivity, these changes should result in major declines that will last as long as it takes to return to prefire conditions.

That could take decades or perhaps centuries.

It is stunning to realize that the US Forest Service calls such fires “beneficial” to resources. The USFS has embarked on a program of Wildfires Use For Resource Benefit (WFU). They have not specified which resources benefit, or how, or quantified the alleged benefits. It is abundantly clear from this study that resources are seriously degraded by wildfire, at least by this fire. Soil, biological, air, and water resources were severely damaged and those damages will remain and continue for perhaps many human lifetimes.

The authors of this study point out that resource degradation is contrary to the legal mandate and mission of the USFS:

Any potential loss in productivity is relevant to the US National Forest Management Act of 1976, where the Secretary of Agriculture is required, ‘‘through research and continuous monitoring, to ensure that management systems will not produce substantial and permanent impairment of the productivity of the land’’. The US Endangered Species Act of 1973 is also relevant to the management of high-intensity fires, for example, in the case of the northern spotted owl that nests primarily in stands of large trees averaging only 32 large trees ha–1 (Hershey et al. 1998). When soils can no longer produce such trees, the area of suitable habitat that could redevelop after fire is also lessened.

It is hugely unlikely that spotted owls will ever reoccupy the Biscuit Burn. The area has been rendered unfit to grow large trees, and current USFS policies virtually guarantee that severe, catastrophic fires will revisit the area periodically.

There is no question that prevention of the kind of forest destruction inflicted by the Biscuit Fire is desperately needed before all our public forests are similarly destroyed. Current USFS policies of WFU and unrestrained forest incineration must be altered. Restoration forestry, which prepares forests to receive fire in a manner that protects, maintains, and perpetuates forests, must be mandated and implemented on a landscape scale as soon as possible. From Bormann et al:

Much of the recent debate has centered on the effects of post-wildfire management on tree regeneration, wildlife habitat, and future fire risk (Donato et al. 2006; Newton et al. 2006; Shatford et al. 2007; Thompson et al. 2007). In light of the first direct evidence of major effects of intense wildfire on soils — based on extensive and detailed pre- and post-fire soil sampling — we think that soil changes, especially the potential loss of soil productivity and greenhouse gas additions resulting from intense wildfire, deserve more consideration in this debate. In forests likely to be affected by future intense fire, preemptive reduction of intense-fire risks can be seen as a way to reduce losses of long-term productivity and lower additions of greenhouse gases. Preemptive strategies may include reducing fuels within stands but also improving fire-attack planning and preparation and changing the distribution of fuels across the landscape to reduce the size of future fires. Practices can include thinning and removing or redistributing residues and underburning.

In forests already affected by intense fire, amelioration to increase C sequestration, tree growth, and eventually late successional habitat should be strongly considered. Amelioration practices might include seeding or planting N2-fixing and other plants, fertilizing, and managing vegetation and fuels through time. To the extent that receipts from pre- and post-wildfire logging are the only means of paying for these practices, such logging should be balanced against other management objectives and concerns. Harvesting before and after fire to generate revenue, if done improperly, has the potential to harm soils, but this outcome needs to be weighed against the outcomes resulting from increased high-intensity fire and from not ameliorating after soils have been burned intensely.

This forest science paper is cutting edge and a breakthrough (we hope) from the typical dull and pointless pseudo-science we have been subjected to over the past two decades. It is late, but not too late, for the general public to realize that forest stewardship is preferable to forest incineration. The public must demand responsible forest stewardship, and particularly restoration forestry, from our public land management agencies.

This year we have (again) witnessed massive forest destruction by deliberate burning, from Idaho to California. Old-growth forests have been decimated in the South Barker, Rattle, Middle Fork, Iron, Siskiyou, Ukonom, Blue, Clover, and dozens of other fires. The resource degradation from fires of past years has been amply evident and continues. The situation is intolerable. The USFS MUST learn how to care for forests and MUST engage in forest stewardship right away. Resistance to stewardship is untenable and should serve as grounds for immediate dismissal of any who advocate or engage in forest destruction.

This paper quantifies some of the destruction inflicted by catatsrophic forest fires. Let us hope that the lessons learned are taken to heart.

Fraudulent Wilderness, Part 3

Wilderness designation is wrongly thought to provide the “highest form” of environmental protection. In fact, wilderness designation destroys land by eliminating stewardship, stewardship that has been ongoing for 13,500 years.

Wilderness designation has wrongly applied, in denial of the actual history of our landscapes, and catastrophe has ensued. The elimination of human stewardship and wholesale destruction go hand in hand.

We have given some examples in Parts 1 and 2 of this essay. Here are some more:

The 19,100 acre Boulder Creek Wilderness was incinerated last summer by the 20,200 acre Rattle Fire. That was the second fire to decimate the Boulder Creek watershed since designation in 1984. The first was the 16,500 acre Spring Fire in 1996. Those fires burned in accumulated fuels, and crowned, plumed, and killed most of the old-growth trees.

One special area within the Boulder Creek Wilderness is Pine Bench, an old-growth ponderosa pine flat in the midst of a predominantly Douglas-fir forest. The pine are artifacts of thousands of years of human occupation. Frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires maintained the pine in an area of traditional use for food production. The wilderness designation of “untrammeled” was applied even though the evidence was clear that this area had experienced thousands of years of human use and the imprint of man was strong and well-documented.

The 100,000 acre Kalmiopsis Wilderness has been roasted by severe fires twice since designation in 1964. In 1987 the Silver Fire burned 110,000 acres of which 53,600 acres were in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. In 2002 the Biscuit Fire ignited in the Kalmiopsis, burned the entire wilderness area, escaped the boundaries, and burned an additional 400,000 acres beyond. Over $150 million was spent to stop the Biscuit Fire from burning down towns 20 miles away from the Kalmiopsis.

The 286,700 acre Three Sisters Wilderness was designated by the original 1964 Wilderness Act. Since then it has been burned by the Cache Mountain Fire (2002), Eyerly Complex Fire (2002), B and B Complex Fire (2003), Link Fire (2003), Black Crater Fire (2006), Puzzle Fire (2006), Lake George Fire (2006), and the GW Fire (2007), to name a few. The old-growth ponderosa pine forests that were destroyed in the Three Sisters Wilderness were there because that area had hosted extensive human activity and stewardship for millennia. Santiam Pass has been the main trafficked way in the Central Cascades for the last 6,000 years, at least. Obsidian Cliffs have been the principal obsidian quarry for much of Oregon for all that time.

The Ventana Wilderness, 240,026 acres, established in 1978. This year 244,000 acres burned in the Indians/Basin Complex Fires, the second largest fire in California history and most expensive at $120 million. Most of that fire was in the Ventana Wilderness. Contrary to political perceptions, the Ventana has been home to human beings for more than 10,000 years.

Last year the Zaca Fire Fire burned 240,000 acres and cost $117 million to fight. Significant portions of the San Rafael Wilderness (197,380 acres), Dick Smith Wilderness (64,700 acres) and Matilija Wilderness (29,600 acres) were burned. Again, the areas were designated wilderness in defiance of the established historical fact that they had been occupied by humans since the dawn of the Holocene.

The Jarbidge Wilderness in eastern Nevada was established in 1964 and expanded to 113,000 acres in 1989. This year it was decimated by the 54,500 acre East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire that spread well beyond the wilderness boundaries. It is well-known that the area was home to the Shoshone and other northern Uto-Aztecan language groups for millennia.

Other designated wilderness areas subject to catastrophic fires since designation include Alpine Lakes, Bandelier, Black Canyon, Bob Marshall, Bull of the Woods, Frank Church-River of No Return, Golden Trout, Gospel Hump, Hells Canyon, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth, Manzano Mountain, Marble Mountains, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Okefenokee, Rogue Umpqua Divide, Saddle Mountain, Selway-Bitterroot, Siskiyou, South Sierra, Tatoosh, Yolla-Bolly, and many others.

Every single one of these wilderness areas has documented and extensive evidence of human occupation for millennia. Yet that well-known human use has been denied repeatedly.

For instance, the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute, in concert with the University of Montana, both ostensibly scientific organizations, make this claim about the Siskiyou Wilderness [here]:

Many authorities on the subject suspect Bigfoot could be hiding out in the untrammeled regions.

That is crap, pure crap, and racist jibber-jabber to boot. Our “educational” institutions have sunk to pure bullshit in their efforts to deny real history, real science, and real traditions. So desperate are these politically motivated (and taxpayer funded) organizations to inflict destructive wilderness designation that they gladly heave all their scientific integrity into the burn barrel to do it.

This is not a yuck-yuck moment. Real destruction and enormous costs has ensued from fraudulent wilderness designation. The wilderness promoters are in utter denial, and their denial is a-scientific and racist without a doubt.

To be continued…

 
  
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