Supremes Limit Standing to Sue USFS

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that enviros who sue the US Forest Service must show that their members will be directly harmed in a concrete way by specific USFS actions.

Vague claims that blanket the nation will no longer be adequate for establishing standing to sue.

Some Background

The case at issue, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, arose when five enviro groups (the Earth Island Institute, Sierra Club, Sequoia ForestKeepers, Heartwood, Inc., and Center for Biological Diversity) sued the USFS to enjoin the Burnt Ridge Project.

The Burnt Ridge Project timber sale was proposed in September of 2003. It was to be a 238 acre rehabilitation treatment within the 150,700 acre McNally Fire (2002) on the Hot Springs Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest. This amounted to 0.16 percent of the burned area. But heaven forfend, the sky would have fallen if so much as one acre of the catastrophe had been treated, and so the “watchdog” groups slammed the USFS with a lawsuit to stop it.

The USFS had promulgated a rule, entirely consistent with NEPA, that microscopic projects like the Burnt Ridge Project could be categorically excluded from Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) analysis.

The five enviro groups claimed they had standing to sue because some joker from Indiana (Heartwood, Inc. is based in Indiana) avowed that he might drive or fly to California some day and might possibly hike out to the project area and view it, and that the very sight of a rehab project would ruin his recreational experience. From the Ninth Circuit Court decision of 2006 [here].

To establish their standing, plaintiffs rely on the declaration of Jim Bensman, an employee and member of Heartwood. According to his affidavit, Bensman has been using the National Forests for over 25 years, and has visited National Forests in California, including Klamath, Shasta, Six Rivers and Trinity. Bensman declared that he planned to return to California in August 2004 and Oregon in October 2004. He asserted that his interest in the biological health of the forest, as well as his recreational interest, is harmed when development occurs in violation of law or policy. Bensman specifically stated that if an appeal option were available to him on projects that are categorically excluded from appeal, he would exercise that right of appeal. He also alleged personal and procedural injuries under each challenged regulation.

Judge James K. Singleton of the US District Court of Eastern California bought that malarkey, and in 2005 enjoined the Burnt Ridge Project and every other micro-project in the nation, even though the Burnt Ridge Project was the only project specifically referenced in the complaint.

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1 Mar 2009, 5:27pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
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Biochar and Forests

We have posted three new studies on biochar at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences. Biochar is charcoal worked into soil as an amendment for increased fertility and productivity.

Biochar has some interesting implications for forests, and the three new studies express those.

The first is Soil respiration curves as soil fertility indicators in perennial central Amazonian plantations treated with charcoal, and mineral or organic fertilisers by Christoph Steiner, Murilo Rodrigues de Arruda, Wenceslau G. Teixeira, and Wolfgang Zech [here]. The lead author, Dr. Christoph Steiner, Ph.D., is Research Associate at the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, University of Georgia, and a co-editor of Amazonian Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek’s Vision [here, here].

Amazon dark earths, or terra preta, are ancient human-developed soils found in pre-Columbian settlement sites throughout the Amazonia. The deep, rich terra preta soils are in stark contrast to the nutrient-poor, red clay latisols that represent the unmodified soil condition. As noted in many research reports, including Amazonian Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek’s Vision, terra preta contains abundant charcoal (biochar) as well as compost and pottery shards. Scientists hypothesize anthropogenic terra preta supported intensive agriculture for hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, whereas the common latisols can’t support intensive agriculture at all.

To test that hypothesis, Steiner et al. planted banana and guarana starts in holes filled with charcoal, chicken manure, super phosphate, and lime, and top dressed the plants with potassium, zinc sulphate, ground charcoal, bone meal, and chicken manure. The idea was to create terra preta from scratch. They then tested the soil for microbial activity, specifically substrate (glucose) induced respiration. If microbes are present, they eat the glucose and emit the metabolic byproduct, CO2 (much like you and I do).

Different mixtures of charcoal, organic, inorganic fertilizers were tested. Both plantations received charcoal, the guarana plantation got organic (chicken manure and bone meal) fertilizers, and the banana plantation got inorganic (mineral) fertilizers.

The presence of charcoal increased microbial respiration (due to increased microbial biomass) in the banana plantation (inorganic fertilizers), but not so much in the guarana plantation. The organic fertilizers (chicken manure and bone meal) had more effect than charcoal in the guarana plantation.

Charcoal is not a plant nutrient, but it can bind to nutrients and prevent them from leaching out of soils. The propensity of charcoal to bind with metallic oxides (cations) is the reason it is used in many filtration systems.

The soil testing was done about a year after planting. Terra preta is thought to have been built up over many human generations. The upshot is that a one-time, short-term charcoal incorporation treatment is not sufficient, in and of itself, to create terra preta.

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Greenpeace Opposed to Toilet Paper

Larf of the Day:

American taste for soft toilet roll ‘worse than driving Hummers’

Suzanne Goldenberg, US enviro correspondent guardian.co.uk, 26 February 2009 [here]

Extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply toilet roll made from virgin forest causes more damage than gas-guzzlers, fast food or McMansions, say campaigners.

The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country’s love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public’s insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

“This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,” said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

“Future generations are going to look at the way we make toilet paper as one of the greatest excesses of our age. Making toilet paper from virgin wood is a lot worse than driving Hummers in terms of global warming pollution.” Making toilet paper has a significant impact because of chemicals used in pulp manufacture and cutting down forests.

A campaign by Greenpeace seeks to raise consciousness among Americans about the environmental costs of their toilet habits and counter an aggressive new push by the paper industry giants to market so-called luxury brands. …

Evidently Greenpeace prefers catastrophic forest fires that burn down “virgin” forests and spew millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over responsible forestry practices that protect, maintain, and perpetuate forests, watersheds, habitat, etc.

As Oregon Goober Teddy The Torch says, “It stinks. It just stinks.” Of course, he was talking about healthy forests, not the backsides of enviro lunatics.

Comments welcome. You can pull out all the stops on this one, but keep it clean.

Congressman Greg Walden On Forest Health

Greg Walden represents Oregon’s 2nd District in the U.S. House. He is the author and principal sponsor of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (2003).

He has spoken in favor of fuels management, forest thinning, and the protection of forests from catastrophic fire numerous times on the House floor. The following YouTube videos of a speech he gave are somewhat dated (October 17, 2007) but the message is still critically important.

Walden discusses forest priorities on the floor - PART 1 [here]

Walden discusses forest priorities on the floor - PART 2 [here]

He also spoke in support of the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act of 2008 [here]. The FLAME Act was passed by the House but died in the Senate.

Congressman Walden on the FLAME Act (July 09, 2008) [here]

All 35 Walden YouTube videos [here]

The Costs of Inaction

The just released (Winter 2009) issue of California Forests contains a powerful message: passive forest management leads to catastrophic wildfires that harm forests, watersheds, wildlife, public health, and other values.

California Forests is the official publication of the California Forestry Association. The entire issue can be downloaded from their website [here]. Some excerpts:

Wildfire Blazes Across Political Boundaries

by David A. Bischel, President, California Forestry Association

Wildfires in 2008 left nearly 1.5 million acres of California’s wildland charred … costing taxpayers more than $1 billion to fight. …

Wildfires don’t care about politics, nor do the watercourses that fill with mud and debris during post fire rains, or the wildfire displaced by the flames. …

Californians deserve to be made fully aware of the potential effects of action, or inaction, in our forests. They also deserve to have their elected officials engaged on the issue and participating in open debates.

That, unfortunately, does not always happen. …

Active Forest Conservation Beats Passive Preservation

by Jay O’Laughlin, Ph.D., professor of forest resources and director of the College of Natural Resources Policy Analysis Group at the University of Idaho.

A century of fire exclusion and a 90 percent decrease in national forest timber harvests have allowed unprecedented fuel loads to accumulate on public forest lands and increased the incidence of large-scale, high-intensity wildfires. These big fires put ecological, economic, and social values at serious risk.

Although active management can improve forest conditions, public policies thwart managers from restoring forests and effecting long-term fuel reduction designed to protect wood, water, wildlife, and other values. Rather than allowing managers to practice conservation, our policies tend to keep managers out of the woods. …

Conservation also forces us to make some tough decisions about our forests, starting with, what do we want our forests to look like? Given the fuel accumulations on much of our public lands, the answer is something other than what exists today.

Foresters call this the “desired future condition,” and it drives everything else. If we know what we want our forests to look like, managers can work towards that end by applying the science and technology that underpin the forestry profession.

Conservation targets a specific goal, whereas preservation assumes that whatever results from “natural” forces is preferable to human action-even with the unnatural fuel loads that exist today. …

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21 Feb 2009, 3:31pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
4 comments

New Cutting-Edge Book On Amazonian Soils

A landmark book has been published on terra preta (Amazonian dark earths), the carbon-rich soils developed by ancient civilizations in what was once thought to be a pristine wilderness. Dedicated to Dutch soil scientist Wim Sombroek (1934-2003) who was the first modern investigator of terra preta, Amazonian Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek’s Vision by William I. Woods, Wenceslau G. Teixeira, Johannes Lehmann, Christoph Steiner, Antoinette M.G.A. WinklerPrins, and Lilian Rebellato (Editors) is a compilation of the latest, cutting-edge studies in this fascinating and important multi-disciplinary field.

Amazonian soils are principally laterites [here], deeply weathered red clays lacking in most soil nutrients. Millions of years of rainfall have leached out everything but iron (hence the red color) and aluminum. Essential plant nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium are nearly missing. Amazon vegetation subsists on itself, the thin humus of decaying plant matter being the only source of key metallic oxides.

Except where there is terra preta, and it’s close cousin terra mulata. Terra preta is deep, rich, fertile black soil that occurs in patches on bluffs along the Amazon and its tributaries. Terra preta is filled with charcoal, ash, mulch, bones, and pottery shards! It is potting soil made from organic matter transported to the sites in pots! These anomalous soils are anthropogenic: people made them.

[Dr. William] Denevan (2001:116–119) has argued that in pre-Columbian times the use of stone axes made long-fallow shifting cultivation very inefficient, and as result probably uncommon until the European introduction of metal axes. Previously, soil fertility must have been maintained and improved by frequent composting, mulching, and in-field burning, making semi-permanent cultivation possible with only brief fallowing. Over time these activities could have produced fertile, self-sustaining dark earths.

Dark earths may occupy 0.1% to 0.3%, or 6,000 to 18,000 km2, of forested lowland Amazonia (Sombroek and Carvalho 2002:130). Because their densities vary greatly within subregions and almost no systematic survey has been accomplished within Amazonia, variations in density projections of an order of magnitude are to be expected. The dark earths occur in a variety of climatic, geologic, and topographic situations, both along river bluffs and in the interior, with depths sometimes exceeding 2.0 m. Individual patches range from 1 ha or so to several hundred hectares. — from Chapter 1, Amazonian Dark Earths: The First Century of Reports by William I. Woods and William M. Denevan

Rather than a pristine, untrammeled, unoccupied wilderness, Amazonia has been home to people for thousands of years. The residents were agriculturalists who modified soils in order to grow corn (maize), squash, beans, fruiting palms, gourds, pineapples, cotton, arrowroot, and many other cultivated fruits, nuts, tubers, and fibers.

Terra mulata is brownish soil that generally surrounds patches of terra preta. It is not quite as rich and has fewer artifacts, and is even more widespread than terra preta. In theory, terra mulata is the accidentally improved soil adjacent to the deliberately improved soils, or else it is terra preta in the making. In either case, anthropogenically altered soils are in strong contrast to the unaltered laterites, and cover a combined area the size of France.

One of the key elements of terra preta is charcoal, lately termed “biochar”.

Vegetation actively withdraws carbon from the atmosphere and stores it as organic matter. Biochar is created when organic matter is heated without oxygen and it contains twice the carbon content of ordinary biomass (Lehmann 2007). Biochar is much more resistant to decay and can store carbon for centennial timescales (Lehmann et al. 2006). The addition of biochar to the soil was part of the creation of ADE [Amazon dark earths] (Neves et al. 2003). This has lead some to speculate on the viability of a biochar carbon sequestration industry which would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases (Marris 2006; Sombroek et al. 2002) and improve soil fertility (Lehmann et al. 2003; Glaser and Woods 2004). — from Chapter 14, Locating Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE) Using Satellite Remote Sensing – A Possible Approach by J Thayn, KP Price, and WI Woods.

Biochar is touted as a “solution” to the global warming “problem.” I disagree. But biochar is definitely a valuable soil amendment because carbon binds to and stores the metallic oxide nutrients essential to plant growth. The addition of charcoal as well as organic detritus helped to create and sustain terra preta over centuries.

Amazonian Dark Earths: Wim Sombroek’s Vision is a wonderful account of the history and science of anthropogenic soils. The book is as rich as terra preta in literary as well as scientific writing.

Note 1: for more of this review see W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here].

Note 2: My own garden here in the Willamette Valley contains ancient human-altered soil. There is quite a bit of charcoal. Here are some flakes, knives, and scrappers that have roto-tilled to the surface.

Audio From a MT Legislative Hearing Dealing with the Fed Fire Hazard

As reported [here], the Montana State Senate passed Senate Bill 34, extending the authority of counties to reduce fire hazards on USFS lands, by a vote of 42 to 7 in January. SB 34 is one of several bills developed by Montana Interim Fire Committee last summer.

A subsequent hearing on SB 34 was held in the House Local Government Committee on February 3rd. An audio recording of that hearing is [here]. The streaming audio comes in a .rm file. That’s an outdated file type that plays in Real Media. If you don’t have that software, or have trouble paying the .rm file, you might try downloading Real Alternative v1.9.0 from Afterdawn.com [here].

The discussion on SB 34 begins about 29 minutes into the audio file and runs through 01.44.00.000. It is very much worth listening to.

In his opening remarks, sponsor Sen. Dave Lewis, Dist 42, explained that the six counties he represents contain tens of thousands of acres of bug-killed timber on Federal lands, presenting an enormous fire hazard. The potential exists for 1910-style catastrophic fires due to the enormous fuel loadings. People who live near to Fed lands are at significant risk.

SB 34 would allow counties to enter on those Federal lands to reduce the fuel hazards (the text of SB 34 is [here]). The question arises: does the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution preclude citizens from defending their properties from catastrophic fire? Does the right to self-defense and public safety extend to controlling and removing dangerously excessive, unnatural, and a-historical fire hazards on Federal grounds?

Richard Van Auken, Teton Co. Fire Chief, testified that in 2007 186,000 acres were incinerated in Teton County along the Rocky Mountain Front. Communities are at risk. County Commissions need a tool to address the hazards.

A number of other individuals testified in support of the bill. One individual testified against it. That person represents an envio-litigious group that frequently sues the USFS to halt healthy forest fuels management. Tom Tidwell, Regional Forester for the Northern Region, spoke as an informational witness (neither for nor against the bill).

An article about the hearing was published in the Great Falls Tribune [here]. That article fails to give a fair and balanced review of the testimonies heard.

Rather than attempt to describe every salient remark, I recommend you listen to the audio recording. It is very revealing.

The USFS is not prepared to deal with the enormous fuels problems in Montana. They claim they are treating fuels, but during the question and answer period it came out that the USFS counts wildfire acres as “treated” acres.

The USFS has been hamstrung by litigation and has resorted to “collaborative” planning with the litigious enviro groups. The process has dragged on and the USFS has consequently failed to layout mechanical forest restoration treatments over broad landscapes. Only a few acres are ready to be treated, and so the new Stimulus funding will be not be used for (very much) fuels management.

Not revealed in the hearing is that the USFS has dedicated 4 million acres in Montana and Idaho to Let It Burn [here, here, here].

Whether the Montana Legislature can spur the desperately needed hazard abatement or not remains to be seen. At least they have recognized the problem and are making an attempt.

16 Feb 2009, 1:41am
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
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Tall Tree Tales: Bear Bait Unleashed

Mike to bear bait:

Tillamook Head. Tallest trees I ever cruised. Hard to get a good look at the tops due to the 30-40 foot brush. Had to tunnel from tree to tree. The tops were way up there. Pencils to the sky. Ridiculously tall trees.

bear bait to Mike:

I have cruised trees with 4 and 5 forties in them to MBG 40% of dbh, but guess what? To be that tall, trees have to grow in high site 2 or better, in 2nd growth with crowding. They end up with a tassel top, which is a parachute, and you belly break the shit out of them falling. The butts hit the ground to about 60 to 80 foot up the bole, and then the rest of the tree arrives later, slowed by air resistance. So you lose the 3rd log to longitudinal breakage all too many times. You have to adjust your breakage from the gross scale by a factor of double or triple of normal.

Best to have some humps and broken ground to purposefully break them over, clean. Flat ground is destructive. I learned all that the hard way. I was with an outfit for several years that sold [telephone] poles from timber sales they bought. The best stand of poles I ever found would not make the grade because of not enough sapwood to treat. 70′-120′ poles up the wazz, but no sapwood. Grew too tight and not fast enough.

Most trees have a lean. Big trees can be wedged or jacked to some degree to control their fall to a pre-determined bed. The trick is to avoid stumps and landscape features. But tall, whippy second growth doug fir needs to be broken while falling. On a stump or over a little rise. Or else you lose a lot of wood to belly breaks.

Most small second growth today is 45-ed down slope and not bucked but processed on the landing by a stroker. Or if bigger, 45-ed up the hill to save out, and then it also gets butt hooked and sent up to a processor. Or maybe across the hill with a butt log cut and then processor for the rest. All depends on the site and timber type, lay of the ground.

Most trees have a lean, especially old trees on the coast. The land is constantly being upheaved by tectonic plate action, and the whole of the landscape is either marine sediments or basaltic intrusions. The different strata of sediment layers have a great range of common particle sizes, but each layer is a pretty much homogeneous particle type: siltstone, mudstone, sandstone, conglomerates, etc. And when rainwater infiltrates, it lubricates. So the layers are prone to slippage. That is why you are always on either the ridge top or a prior slump in the Coast Range.

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Is Restoration Forestry in the Stimulus Bill?

The Senate-House Conference Report on the Stimulus Bill has a small section (out of 1,000+ pages) devoted to US Forest Service capital improvement and maintenance and wildfire management.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOREST SERVICE

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE

The conference agreement provides $650,000,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance as proposed by both the House and the Senate. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Service should consider projects involving reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and remediation of abandoned mine sites, and other related critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects.

WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT

The conference agreement provides $500,000,000 for Wildland Fire Management instead of $485,000,000 proposed by the Senate and $850,000,000 proposed by the House. This includes $250,000,000 for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation activities on Federal lands and $250,000,000 for cooperative activities to benefit State and private lands. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the Service to allocate funds among existing State and private assistance programs to choose programs that provide the maximum public benefit. The Conferees encourage the Service to select individual projects based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and to create lasting value for the American public. The bill allows the Service to use up to $50,000,000 to make competitive grants for the purpose of creating incentives for increased use of biomass from federal and non-federal forested lands. To better address current economic conditions at the state and local level, funds provided for State and private forestry activities shall not be subject to matching or cost share requirements.

What does all that mean?

First, the word “restoration” is nowhere to be found. Restoration is akin to “hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation” but it is so much more than that.

Restoration forestry is science- and history-based active management that protects, maintains, and perpetuates the structures and functions of reference landscape conditions in order to achieve multiple goals, including enhancement of fire resiliency, protection of wildlife habitat and populations, recognition and preservation of heritage tribal sites, protection and enhancement of watershed functions, improvement of recreation opportunities, and enhancement of public health and safety in a sustainable manner.

Restoration forestry focuses treatment actions on thinning, strategic fuel breaks, and the use of prescribed fire in prepared stands to modify fire behavior that maximize the retention of large trees and recreate historical forest development pathways that led to modern old-growth.

Restoration forestry also reduces fuels and carbon losses due to wildfire, enhances carbon sequestering in wood products, productive forests, and in soils to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions, produces wood products and biomass energy, and benefits local economies. However, the concept and practice of restoration forestry is more than fuels management and firewood production. It entails a holistic view of landscapes as living ecosystems and strives to sustain the essential elements that translate to ecosystem values of heritage, habitat, watershed, and community well-being.

The Stimulus Bill lacks any statement regarding the particulars of restoration; it avoids the mention of the word altogether.

In contrast, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22) awaiting passage includes Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration [here]. Title IV does use the word “restoration” throughout, and approaches the holistic concept to some degree.

Appropriate and ecologically-sensitive restoration forestry applied on a landscape scale would meet and satisfy all the criteria in the Stimulus Bill. It would also prevent catastrophic holocausts such as the recent and ongoing Australian fires and the repeated megafire destruction that has visited American forests over the last twenty years.

Granted, it is difficult if not impossible for our Congress to grasp the key ideas behind restoration forestry. But the US Forest Service should be able to understand and implement technical restoration forestry on a landscape scale, particularly now that the start-up funding has been appropriated.

They might need some public encouragement in that regard. It might help if you called or wrote your local District Ranger and Forest Supervisor and told them that restoration forestry is what they need to be doing. They need to hear that. They need to know that the public desires more than fuels management, that the holistic, scientific approach of restoration forestry is preferable.

Environmental Policies Kill - Again!

by Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute, February 11, 2009 [here]

One of the main themes of my book, The Really Inconvenient Truths [here], is that misguided environmental policies often lead to humanitarian and environmental disaster. We’ve just seen another example in Australia, where fires have claimed many lives. Distraught survivors are certain they know at least part of the reason why the fires were able to do so:

During question time at a packed community meeting in Arthurs Creek on Melbourne’s northern fringe, Warwick Spooner — whose mother Marilyn and brother Damien perished along with their home in the Strathewen blaze — criticised the Nillumbik council for the limitations it placed on residents wanting the council’s help or permission to clean up around their properties in preparation for the bushfire season. “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down,” he said.

It’s called bushfire season for a reason: the bush catches fire. If you want to reduce the effects, you cut back the bush. Policies that stop this are criminally dangerous.

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Seneca’s plan a model for federal forests

by Darrel Kenops, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Feb 5, 2009 [here]

The Register-Guard’s Jan. 28 editorial, “More from every log,” rightly praises the plans of Seneca Sustainable Energy to build a $45 million, 18.8-megawatt biomass power plant on its northwest Eugene industrial site. The plant will generate renewable energy from sawmill byproducts and slash from the company’s timberlands. The project will not only benefit the company by cutting its energy costs, but it will serve the greater community by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, complementing intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and putting more people to work.

Seneca’s commendable effort uses biomass from its own private forests. Now just imagine what we can do if we apply Seneca’s example to our federal forests in Oregon.

Public and private forests cover nearly half the state. Of those forest lands, six of every 10 acres are federally managed. However, unlike private and state forests, many of these forests are unhealthy, insect infested and fire prone, presenting what might rightly be termed an opportunity disguised as a problem.

Converting wood from overstocked forests to energy offers a unique opportunity to simultaneously address three challenges: the need to restore the health of Oregon’s federal forests, the need to find renewable energy alternatives and the need to revitalize Oregon’s rural communities.

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Bradley Replies to Forsgren

Hi Harv-

Thank you for responding promptly to my e-mail of February 3.

I must have done a poor job of expressing my concerns, because your letter did not really respond to them at all.

I am very aware that there are areas in the national forests that are in dire need of fuel reduction. My concern is that it should be done in an appropriate way . Simply letting large areas burn in the peak of the fire season because they happened to be hit by lightning is a long ways from responsible action.

You place the blame for the “untenable” condition of the national forests on Smokey Bear and past fire policies. A couple of other factors are probably even more significant. As a nation, we have decided through laws, court actions, and agency policies that the forests are to be untouched by anything resembling a commercial use of the fiber and forage they grow. The last figures I heard on timber production in the national forest system quoted an annual growth rate of 20 billion board feet and an annual harvest rate of about 3 billion board feet. That means that every year we are accumulating 17 billion board feet of wood that will eventually burn either by prescription or by accident. To help visualize the magnitude of the problem, try to picture 11 lines of bumper to bumper loaded logging trucks reaching from New York to Los Angeles. They would be carrying the amount of timber that is grown but not harvested each year in the national forests.

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W.I.S.E. to Forsgren: Time for Public Dialog About USFS Fire Policies

Dear Mr. Forsgren,

Thank you for your email of Feb 5th. I have posted it in its entirety at SOS Forests [here].

Your email was in response to Mr. Glenn Bradley’s email of Feb. 3rd, posted [here]. Mr. Bradley is a retired USFS Forest Supervisor, as you know, and his concerns regarding the South Barker WFU Fire have been posted numerously at SOS Forests. Mr. Carl Pence, another retired USFS Forest Supervisor, has also weighed in on this topic, posted [here].

The Fires

Over the last three years SOS Forests has posted many, many essays and discussions about WFU (Wildland Fire Use). We have explored WFU fires that have blown up and caused extensive damage to heritage forests. These include:

• The Warm WFU Fire in 2006 [here, here, among many other posts]. The Warm WFU blew up to 58,640 acres and caused over $70 million in damages to old-growth spotted owl habitat on the Kaibab NF. Ancient home sites, soils, air, and watershed values were incinerated or severely damaged, along with rare old-growth ponderosa pine. The Warm Fire was designated and managed as a WFU in a prohibited zone in direct defiance of a legally binding Decision Notice issued by a federal judge and acknowledged in the Forest Plan EIS. In the aftermath the District Ranger was reassigned, and at angry public meetings USFS officials, including the Regional Forester, were excoriated, as I am sure you recall.

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2 Feb 2009, 4:31pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
by admin
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Who is speaking for the plants?

By Dr. Tim Ball, CanadaFreePress.Com, Monday, February 2, 2009 [here]

Our world would be so blah without them

The full proverb says, “Give a dog a bad name and hang him.” They’ve given carbon dioxide (CO2) a bad name and it is now being hanged by draconian and completely unnecessary legislation. Consider this comment by Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist, “I think you have to think about this stuff (CO2) as more like nuclear waste than acid rain: The more we add, the worse off we’ll be.” An alarmist, outrageous and completely unsupportable comment, but not surprising from the co-chair of Working Group I of the IPCC 2007 report.

The reality is if CO2 is reduced we are worse off as the plants suffer. Something must be done to protect the plants from fanaticism.

There is no evidence CO2 is causing global warming or climate change, but that is the basis for the slur and the proposed actions. As usual, little thought is given to the direct and collateral damage such as the economic impacts from increased taxes and cost of doing business. No thought is given to the damage to nature. So you have the paradox of environmentalists screaming to reduce CO2 to save the planet, while putting all life in jeopardy by killing the plants. It is blind faith. But this is not surprising because the great problem of environmentalism as a religion is the failure to do full and proper cost/benefit analyses. For example, all you ever hear about are the down sides to warming when there are actually more up sides. One major downside rarely mentioned is the impact on plants of reduced CO2 levels.

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2 Feb 2009, 12:16pm
Saving Forests
by admin
5 comments

Is Andy Coming Around?

Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, has written a guest column for the local dead tree press. Entitled Burning our bucks in the woods, Andy’s opinion appeared in the Oregonian Saturday [here].

He makes a few good points, eventually. After a sarcastic and stumbling intro, Andy opines:

OK, I’m only kidding. I don’t really want big forest fires this year. Firefighting is a cost, not a benefit.

That is a surprising (if not unbelievable) admission because Andy’s FSEEE has sued to ban the use of fire retardant [here, here, here, here], lawsuits which if not rejected would make firefighting much more difficult and dangerous and expand burned acreage enormously.

Andy notes that some effort has been made to reduce fuels on Federal lands:

The Forest Service is slated to receive from Congress $300 million to pay for hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal land. Hazardous fuels reduction includes removing small trees from forests, mowing brush and prescribed burning.

The National Fire Plan created the hazardous fuels reduction program. The Forest Service says the fuels program is intended “to help save the lives of firefighters and citizens and to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to our communities, forests, and rangelands.” Since its adoption in 2001, the NFP’s hazardous fuels program has treated fuels on 29 million acres at a cost of $2 billion.

That’s not quite accurate. Ninety percent of the claimed acreage was burned in wildfires. The USFS want credit for “fuels reduction” via burning forests down. It’s a fine point I suppose, but burning down forests to prevent them from burning down is a little bit counter-productive (if not a honking lie).

But Andy is no fan of hazardous fuel reduction per se. He points out that the National Fire Plan has been a catastrophic failure, and we have to agree about that:

Under the NFP, fires have burned an average of 7 million acres each year. In the seven-year period before the NFP, fires burned 4 million acres a year. In the last seven years, firefighting costs averaged $1.4 billion a year. In the preceding period before the NFP, costs averaged half that amount. Under the NFP, 1,482 houses have been lost annually to wildfires (most are in Southern California), compared to an average 563 houses lost yearly in the two years (for which I have data) before the NFP.

Unfortunately Andy does not offer any solution, other than to bash Keynesian economics (he sounds just like Ronald Reagan in that regard).

We, on the other hand, have been as vocal and detailed as possible about the real solution to our forest fire crisis: restoration forestry. W.I.S.E. has an entire Colloquium devoted to the subject [here], and numerous essays about restoration forestry have been posted at SOS Forests as well [here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here] to cite a few.

Restoration forestry is a lot more than hazardous fuel reduction. Restoring forests involves describing the historical reference conditions and then implementing active management to achieve fire resiliency, restore old-growth development pathways, preserve wildlife habitat, protect watershed functions, and enhance public health and safety, all based on the lessons learned from history.

Restoration forestry is self funding. It will save forests and the lives of firefighters while providing significant economic productivity (from the bottom up in Reaganesque fashion, not from the top down ala Keynes).

All of which Andy Stahl probably knows. He certainly hints at it. Now if he could only state it directly and steer his organization towards support for restoration forestry, we all might benefit. It is always better to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

 
  
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