16 Aug 2009, 3:58pm
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Paralleling Failed Fire Policies with Disastrous Military Strategies

Editor’s note: Roger Underwood is a renowned Australian forester with fifty years experience in bushfire management and bushfire science. He has worked as a firefighter, a district and regional manager, a research manager and senior government administrator. He is Chairman of The Bushfire Front, an independent professional group promoting best practice in bushfire management.

Last March we posted an essay, Australian Bushfire Management: a Case Study in Wisdom Versus Folly by Roger Underwood, in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here]. (We have posted other papers by Mr. Underwood, as well, see [here]. The essay also appears in the Fall 2009 issue of Range Magazine [here]).

Mr. Underwood mentions Australian General Sir John Monash in Wisdom Versus Folly. American readers may not be familiar with Sir John. Mr. Underwood writes:

I now realise that I presumed more knowledge of Australian military history than could be expected of any non-Australian. The Monash story is an interesting one from several angles. I jotted down the attached for you this afternoon, hoping it might fill in some gaps. Essentially, what Monash devised was the concept of “combined operations” which came to full fruition in WW2, notably on D-Day. It was Monash’s genius to find a way for the infantry, the artillery, the air force and the tank corps all to work together in a single detailed plan which fused their individual capabilities to best advantage.

Mr. Underwood’s “afternoon jotting” follows:

*****

Monash on the Western Front

By Roger Underwood

In a paper written earlier this year in the wake of the 2009 Victorian bushfire disaster, I drew a pointed analogy. The failed and failing bushfire policies and management strategies in Australia these days have their parallel with the disastrous military strategies adopted by the British Generals in the early years of World War 1. Both were designed to fail, both ignored the lessons of history, and both resulted in inevitable and un-necessary losses of lives.

In my paper I also drew attention to the role played by the Australian General Sir John Monash who engineered the final breakthrough on the western front, having designed and implemented a winning strategy. I called for a new Monash to lead a renaissance in modern Australian bushfire management.

Since then I have been asked several times to explain World War I strategies and Monash’s role. I had taken it for granted that most people understood this stuff. The questions have come especially from Americans who generally lack the intense interest in WW1 history felt by Australians — especially those of about my generation, most of whom had a father, grandfather or uncle who fought and died at the Dardanelles or in Flanders.

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Vilsack Forest Speech, Seattle Aug 14, 2009

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack New Direction and Vision for America’s Forests

USDA Newsroom: News Release No. 0383.09, August 14, 2009

Seattle, Washington, August 14, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today outlined his vision for the future of our nation’s forests. In his first major speech regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, Vilsack set forth a new direction for conservation, management, and restoration of these natural treasures.

“Our nation’s forestlands, both public and private, are environmental and economic assets that are in critical need of restoration and conservation,” said Vilsack. “By using a collaborative management approach with a heavy focus on restoring these natural resources, we can make our forests more resilient to climate change, protect water resources, and improve forest health while creating jobs and opportunities.”

Climate change, catastrophic fires, disease and pests have all led to declining forest health in recent decades. The resulting impact on watersheds, the climate, local economies, wildlife, and recreation, has led the USDA to offer a new vision for our nation’s forests. By taking forest management in a new direction, the Department will emphasize the role our national forestlands play in contributing to the health and prosperity of the country and reverse the trend of declining forest health.

“Declining forest health and the effects of our changing climate have resulted in an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires and insect outbreaks,” said Vilsack. “It is time for a change in the way we view and manage America’s forestlands with an eye towards the future. This will require a new approach that engages the American people and stakeholders in conserving and restoring both our National Forests and our privately-owned forests. It is essential that we reconnect Americans across the nation with the natural resources and landscapes that sustain us.”

In addition, the new approach to managing our forests aims to secure the nation’s water supply. Watersheds with a large proportion of forest cover are more likely to be associated with good water quality, with forests protecting soil, moderating streamflow, supporting healthy aquatic systems, and sustaining good water quality.

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Forest Cognitive Dissonance From the Obama Administration

The following pair of news articles demonstrate what all America is gradually coming to understand: the Obama Administration is schizophrenic.

There is the normally functioning government, primarily civil servants, who don’t function very well, but at least they are trying. Then there is a radical anti-American cabal of lunatic lefties who infest the White House like cockroaches.

In the first article we note that Tom Vilsack, current Secretary of Agriculture and former governor of Iowa, intends to call for active management and restoration of federal forests to address “catastrophic wildfires and insect outbreaks.” Way to go, Tom. We applaud your perspicacity and vision.

Vilsack calls for renewed emphasis on forests

By MATTHEW DALY - Associated Press Writer 08/14/09 [here]

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is urging more attentive management of forests, calling them valuable environmental and economic attributes that are in need of restoration and conservation.

Such an approach would combat climate change, protect water resources and improve forest conditions, he said in a speech prepared for delivery later Friday. Not only that, the changes would create thousands of jobs, Vilsack added.

“Declining forest health and the effects of our changing climate have resulted in an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires and insect outbreaks that have consumed the time and resources of the Forest Service,” the former Iowa governor said in remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

“It is time for a change in the way we view and manage America’s forest lands with an eye toward the future,” he said. “This will require an unprecedented, all-lands approach that engages the American people and stakeholders. It is essential that we reconnect Americans across the nation with the natural resources and landscapes that sustain us.”

Vilsack is set to deliver the speech, his first address on the Forest Service, later Friday in Seattle. He was urging “a collaborative management approach with a heavy focus on restoring” natural resources. …

But in the second article, all that is thrown under the bus by an unnamed and mysterious “spokesman for the Justice Department” who says the Obama Administration is opposed to active forest management and restoration of public forests. The Obamaloids want to revive the dead and buried, illegal and enjoined Clinton/Dombeck Roadless Rule [here].

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14 Aug 2009, 3:45pm
Saving Forests The 2009 Fire Season
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Overgrown Ohlone Garden Aflame

Much media attention is focused today on the Lockheed Fire [here] burning in the coastal hills north of Santa Cruz. The last report I have seen was 4,170 acres, 5 percent contained, 2,400 people evacuated, and 250 residences threatened.

The Lockheed Fire got its name from the Lockheed Martin top-security rocket science facility/campus on Empire Grade Road, which may be overrun if the winds shift. There is some irony in all that.

Among the 1,400 news stories (flagged by a Google search just now) on the Lockheed Fire was this one from the San Jose Mercury:

2004 Cal Fire report called area near Lockheed county’s worst fire hazard

By Genevieve Bookwalter, MercuryNews.com, 08/14/2009 [here]

SANTA CRUZ — In 2004, a Cal Fire report called land where the Lockheed Fire appears to have started the worst wildfire hazard in Santa Cruz County.

In February, North Coast residents at a community meeting circled the property, near Lockheed Martin’s Santa Cruz Mountains campus near the end of Empire Grade Road, on a map as one of their top wildfire concerns, said Ron Christy, president of the Rural Bonny Doon Association.

Now, instead of using that information to apply for brush-clearing grants and justify fire-prevention efforts, firefighters and nearby residents are responding to a dire prediction come true. …

One fascinating paragraph from that story:

At Big Basin Redwoods State Park, interpreter Susan Blake said the Ohlone Indians once set their own burns as a way of rejuvenating the land, and recent efforts to prevent forest fires have allowed it to become unnaturally overgrown.

“History shows there is a lot of natural burns by Ohlone that used to cultivate the area,” Blake said. “What we have now is an overgrown garden.” …

Meanwhile Big Name “fire ecologists” are shooting sparks about “natural fire regimes” and “fire adapted ecosystems”. Susan Blake is bullseye correct, however, and the Big Names are missing the mark.

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Without Preliminary Thinning, Fires Are Deadly to Old-Growth

The following article appeared last week in the Payson Roundup. [Note: Payson is located approximately ninety minutes North of Phoenix, AZ in the heart of Arizona's Rim Country. Ninety-seven percent of the land around Payson is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service (Payson is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest) or by tribal governments.]

The article was written by Pete Aleshire, Southwestern journalist, editor, and author. [Note: As a senior lecturer at Arizona State University's West Campus since 1992, Mr. Aleshire has taught journalism, magazine writing, creative nonfiction and other courses. He has published four history books about Arizona's Apache Wars -- "Reaping the Whirlwind," "Cochise," "Warrior Woman" and "The Fox and the Whirlwind." His articles have been published in Phoenix Magazine, Geo, Reader's Digest, Cerca, Arizona Highways, and other magazines.]

The article is about the work of Dr. W. Wallace Covington, Regents’ Professor of Forest Ecology at Northern Arizona University and Director of the Ecological Restoration Institute [here]. Dr. Covington been a professor teaching and researching fire ecology and restoration management at NAU since 1975 and is widely recognized as a founder and world-class expert in forest restoration.

An earlier essay about Dr. Covington, Friendly Fire by Stephen J. Pyne, may be found in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Restoration Forestry [here]. Dr. Covington’s 2002 testimony to Congress regarding the Wildland Firefighting and National Fire Plan is also posted in that Colloquium [here].

Mr. Aleshire’s article (emphases in bold by SOSF):

*****

Saving the Pine Forest

Wally Covington has shaped the debate and befuddled critics with woodsy charm and the tenacity of a badger

By Pete Aleshire, The Payson Roundup, August 7, 2009 [here]

Wally Covington, who has spent a quarter century reshaping the debate about forest management, leaned forward excitedly across the boundary between his biggest disappointment and his dearest hope.

On one hand, lush grass and scattered flowers swayed in the dappled sunlight in an open forest dominated by widely spaced, ponderosa pines.

On the other side of a wire fence huddled a dark, thick forest, with the smattering of grand old trees besieged by tangles of spindly saplings — the ground covered by pine needles rather than grass.

The contrast between those two patches of forest underlies his unsettling conclusion that the forests of the Southwest sway at the edge of ecological disaster, which can only be averted by a politically unlikely reinvention of the timber industry to thin millions of acres as a prelude to restoring fire to its rightful role.

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9th Court Decision on Roadless Rule Is Illegitimate and Destructive

by Mike Dubrasich

On Aug 5th the San Francisco based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the State Petitions Rule and reinstated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, more commonly known as the “Clinton/Dombeck Roadless Rule”.

The 9th Circuit Court, the most overturned court in the U.S., has once again overstepped its authority, written law from the bench, and worst of all, engendered massive environmental destruction across nearly 60 million acres of federal land in the West.

We have discussed this issue before, most recently [here].

Background: the Clinton (Dombeck) Roadless Rule was rushed through (by proclamation) in the waning days of that administration. It was immediately litigated in more than a dozen courts. In 2003, Judge Brimmer, a United States District Court Judge for the District of Wyoming, found, in response to the Complaint filed by the State of Wyoming, that NEPA had been violated on several different levels, including the fact that Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) input from the states had been excluded, the process had been rushed, the United States Forest Service (USFS) had failed to take the requisite “hard look” at the proposed rule, and that the NEPA process was a sham in order to adopt a political rule. Judge Brimmer also found that the Roadless Rule violated the Wilderness Act in that it designated 58.5 million acres as defacto wilderness despite the fact that only Congress has the authority to do so. Judge Brimmer enjoined the Roadless Rule. The USFS developed an alternative plan to ensure that states would be part of the process. This plan, called the State Petitions procedure, ensured that not only state concerns would be addressed, but that tribes, local governments, and the general public would be able to express their concerns in order to develop site-specific rules for each National Forest.

The usual environmental groups sued in the Ninth District Court and, in 2006, Magistrate Laporte concluded that the State Petitions procedure violated NEPA because it was not accompanied by an EIS. In the strangest twist of legal logic, she then reinstated the illegal Roadless Rule, and ordered that the USFS comply with its terms. She made that ruling despite Judge Brimmer’s earlier decision, despite the fact that Judge Brimmer reached his conclusions after a comprehensive review of the Administrative Record, and despite the fact that she had no idea as to whether the Roadless Rule complied with NEPA or not. Her decision was odd to say the least, which is confirmed by the fact that the State Petitions procedure was not an environmental action per se but a remedy to fix the original defective and illegal Roadless Rule EIS. Requiring an EIS to fix an EIS sets up an infinite loop of EIS’s.

Wyoming again filed suit in an attempt to fix the mess created by Magistrate Laporte’s decision. In August 2008, Judge Brimmer issued yet another permanent national injunction against the Roadless Rule.

Magistrate Laporte played a game of judicial chicken, perverting NEPA, and causing catastrophic harm to the environment. The 9th Circuit Court has now affirmed Laporte’s ruling and reinstated the defective and repeatedly enjoined Clinton/Dombeck Roadless Rule.

In legal terminology, that is abuse of discretion. It is certainly within the power of the 9th Circuit Court to throw out the the State Petitions Rule for violating NEPA. But it is not within their power to reinstate the Clinton/Dombeck Roadless Rule, which has itself been found to violate NEPA.

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8 Aug 2009, 6:02pm
Saving Forests
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The Benefits of Forest Restoration

Forest restoration is beneficial in numerous ways. The following outline describes these in general.

1. Heritage and history

To restore means to return to a former or original state. In the case of forests, restoration requires knowledge of and respect for forest history as a starting point. Forest restoration looks to pre-Contact forest conditions as a guideline.

Many (if not most) North American forests were at one time (prior to ~120 years ago) open and park-like, with widely spaced, large, old trees. Forests were conditioned to be that way by frequent, non-stand-replacing, anthropogenic fires. Historical human features included village sites; sacred and ceremonial sites; hunting, gathering, agricultural and proto-agricultural fields; extensive trail networks:; prairies and savannas; and other features induced and maintained by ancient human tending through the use of traditional ecological knowledge.

Forest restoration, properly researched, designed, and implemented, restores, protects, and perpetuates many of the heritage features of forested landscapes.

2. Ecological functions including old-growth development

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, it has been discovered that “old-growth” 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, anthropogenic fires. That is, the actual historical forest development pathways for many (if not most) of our forests involved frequent, light-burning fires, not stand-replacing fire.

Restoration forestry seeks to restore, maintain, and perpetuate historical forest development pathways that engender old-growth trees.

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Salazar Withdrawal of WOPR Illegal

The following letter was written by George Lea, President of the Public Lands Foundation [here]. The PLF was founded by retirees of the Bureau of Land Management. In their own words:

PLF is a national non-profit, all volunteer membership organization dedicated to the ecological stability of the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Ecological stability provides for clearer water, sustainable yields and more aesthetically pleasing landscapes. These attributes provide for improved riparian areas, wilderness experiences, wildlife habitat, timber production, livestock grazing, outdoor recreation, wild horse and burro habitats, mining activities, fire protection, endangered species protection and the stewardship of historical archeological and paleontological values. These public lands are the United States’ largest public land system; comprising over 261 million surface acres and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate. These federal lands produce more than $5.8 billion annually in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. These vital lands are increasingly the battleground where wars over issues of biodiversity, forest harvest/protection, grazing, mineral/oil/gas production and environmental protection are fought!

PLF Letter to Interior on Western Oregon Plan Revision

To: Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of the Interior

Re: BLM’s Western Oregon Plan Revision

Date: July 24, 2009

Dear Secretary Salazar:

We are writing to express our deep concern about and strong opposition to your recent decision to withdraw the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision records of decision.

The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) is a national non-profit conservation organization founded in 1987. Our membership is primarily retired former employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and as such represents a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience in public land management. Our membership includes former BLM State Directors, District and Area Managers and a wealth of experienced personnel. PLF’s mission is to support keeping BLM managed lands in public hands and, through education and advocacy, foster the proper use, protection and management of these lands to sustain their ecological, social and economic vitality.

BLM’s planning decisions meet the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Endangered Species Act, (ESA), the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other regulatory Acts. The decisions also meet the requirements of the O&C Act of 1937. BLM by law must manage O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road lands for permanent timber production on a sustained yield basis, as interpreted by the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, while complying with the before mentioned laws.

Over the course of almost 5 years the BLM collaborated on almost a continuous basis with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other federal agencies to develop the plan that would meet the requirements of public land and environmental laws. In addition, the BLM included in this collaborative effort numerous Oregon state resource agencies, the Governor, tribal representatives and 18 individual counties. These agencies worked together on research, modeling, biological impacts, transportation and water quality issues, economic and social impacts, and most importantly, impacts on endangered fish and wildlife. By any measure, the BLM’s planning process constituted informal consultation with all the agencies involved, including especially the USFWS and NOAA. The BLM’s intensive planning effort was based on the latest technologies and science and resulted in a plan that provided direction for ensuring (1) forest sustainability (2) permanent timber production on a sustained yield basis, (3) the conservation and recovery of species listed under the ESA and (4) meeting federal and state clean water and air standards. In addition, the plan provided through long-term sustained yield forestry a permanent means of helping to economically support 18 Western Oregon O&C Counties through timber receipts and by supplying timber to local industries for the purpose of creating jobs and income. This cannot be accomplished by withdrawing the BLM plan and reverting back to the failed Northwest Forest Plan.

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5 Aug 2009, 8:11pm
The 2009 Fire Season
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Another Foofurb Blows Up

The Kootenai Creek Foofurb Fire blew up yesterday, almost tripling in size from 768 acres to 2,033 acres.

“Foofurb” is a euphemism for “fire used for resource benefit.” However, as is usual with foofurbs, no benefits have been elucidated for the Kootenai Creek Fire, no EIS created, and no NEPA process undertaken or envisioned. Even though the fire management actions promulgated by the Bitterroot National Forest have had significant impact, and the National Environmental Policy Act requires that such actions be preceded by a NEPA process, none were undertaken — in direct violation of the law.

The Kootenai Creek Foofurb Fire [here] was ignited by lightning almost a month ago (July 12). The Bitterroot NF immediately declared it a foofurb, a Let It Burn fire. They promised a long term plan which was never forthcoming. They announced no maximum burn zone or estimated date of containment.

On June 24 fire crews “temporarily securing the SE/SW corners of the fire by utilizing natural barriers and aircraft.” Then they left the fire smoldering.

Temporary is right. Yesterday strong winds sparked the embers and blew the fire up. From the Missoulian this morning:

Kootenai Creek fire: Blaze blows up - Heavy winds fan wildfire as it more than doubles in size

By Rob Chaney, The Missoulian, August 05 2009 [here]

Unexpectedly strong afternoon winds whipped the Kootenai Creek fire into a frenzy Tuesday, more than doubling the blaze from 900 acres to about 2,000.

The wildfire - which is being allowed to burn - started moving west along the steep canyon walls where it has burned since a mid-July lightning storm, then took a run into dense timber along the divide between Kootenai and Bass creek canyons.

The resulting plume of smoke could be seen throughout the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys. The fire is burning due west of Stevensville, two miles into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Bitterroot National Forest spokeswoman Nan Christianson said flames were running through the tree crowns and spotting across Kootenai Canyon trail and creek to the south. Strong winds were pushing it up a north-facing slope toward the ridgeline, and also toward the eastern mouth of the canyon. …

Tuesday’s late-day winds were so strong that [Stevensville District Ranger Dan] Ritter had to ground the helicopter flying water to the fire. No ground firefighters are assigned to Kootenai Creek, as it is being allowed to burn as a lightning-caused wilderness fire.

Fire managers intended to take infrared readings of the burned area overnight, then “we’ll decide what to do,” Ritter said. “It’s still in the wilderness and in rugged terrain. It’s too steep for hand crews.”

Because no buildings or private property is threatened, the fire will likely be allowed to continue burning. It is now the largest wildfire in the state of Montana.

Unexpected? Hardly. Strong winds blow every August across the Bitterroot Range. Unplanned? No, the USFS long ago declared a 4 million acre Let It Burn zone in Montana. Legal? No, nothing about Let It Burn fires are legal.

Are resources “benefiting”? No, the following resources are being devastated: vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat, soils, air quality, hydrology, water quality, recreation, scenery, public health and safety, historic cultural resources, fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, and local, regional, and national economies. In addition, long-term significant cumulative impacts will occur to all the above.

There is a purpose to NEPA, and that is to evaluate the environmental effects of Federal actions before they are implemented. Violation of NEPA can lead to environmental degradation and devastation. In this case, exactly that happened and is happening.

There are those who argue that burning the Bitterroot is preferable to stewarding our public lands. If they really believe that, they are welcome to make their case in a lawful NEPA process before inflicting devastation on the rest of us. However, making that case in the absence of a NEPA process, as an after-the-fact justification for illegal activities such as Let It Burn fires, is dishonest and shows a complete disregard for the law.

Those who sanction and excuse lawbreaking by Federal land overseers invite the worst form of government: tyranny and authoritarianism. That is not what America is all about.

Sadly, the largest fire in Montana is raging out of control and incinerating natural resources precisely because the USFS refuses to obey the law.

4 Aug 2009, 1:27pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss

What are the actual costs of a wildfire?

A new research paper posted at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here] addresses that question. The title is U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The “One-Pager” Checklist, and the authors are Bob Zybach, Michael Dubrasich, Gregory Brenner, and John Marker.

Official Forest Service tallies usually include suppression expenses only. Media reports sometimes include estimates of damage to homes and infrastructure. But the economic impacts of wildfires are far-reaching and new (and old) research shows the need for improved cost estimates of wildfire.

Large wildfires consume more than just suppression expenses (costs) –- they also do measurable short- and long-term damages (loss) to public and private equity and resources. Traditional fire appraisal uses the term cost-plus-loss to account for all the economic impacts of wildfire. This econometric analysis method is sometimes expressed as C+NVC (costs plus net value change). The goal (economic utility) of fire suppression is to minimize cost-plus-loss, sometimes expressed as LCD (least cost plus damage).

The paper describes a method for accounting for all the costs and losses associated with wildfires. A one page checklist is appended that serves as a mini-ledger for performing that accounting.

We have discussed the cost-plus loss issue many times at SOS Forests [here, here, and here, for instance]. One post worth highlighting:

* The Western Forestry Leadership Coalition recently released a report [here] entitled “The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.” (Dale et al 2009). The authors examined six major US wildfires, and compared suppression costs and tactics with “total costs.”

A full accounting considers long-term and complex costs, including impacts to watersheds, ecosystems, infrastructure, businesses, individuals, and the local and national economy. Specifically, these costs include property losses (insured and uninsured), post-fire impacts (such as flooding, erosion, and water quality), air quality damages, healthcare costs, injuries and fatalities, lost revenues (to residents evacuated by the fire, and to local businesses), infrastructure shutdowns (such as highways, airports, railroads), and a host of ecosystem service costs that may extend into the distant future.

Day-lighting the true costs of fire highlights opportunities to use active management to curb escalating costs. Unhealthy forests can increase the risk of fire. Investing in active forest management is therefore valuable in the same way as investing in one’s own preventative health care. Upfront costs can be imposing, and while the benefits may seem uncertain, good health results in cost savings that benefit the individual, family, and society. This analogy helps to highlight the importance of fostering resilient ecosystems before fires occur, as a tool for reducing the costs associated with suppression and recovery as well as extending benefits to a far wider circle of individuals than might be initially expected.

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4 Aug 2009, 11:11am
Climate and Weather
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Heat Waves, Global Warming, and the Hijacking of Science

Heat waves yes, warming no

by Gordon J. Fulks, Guest Opinion, the Oregonian, August 4, 2009 [here]

Even before our record heat wave subsided last week, politicians and journalists were ramping up their all-purpose explanation: “Global Warming.”

Warming it was; global it was not.

When Portland hit 106 on Tuesday, it was 61 in San Francisco, 70 in Santa Barbara, and 79 in Los Angeles. Frequently-hot Pendleton was only 101, far from the record high for the Northwest of 119 set there in 1898.

Charlatans use every opportunity to promote climate hysteria, claiming that the global temperature is rising inexorably. Yet they overwhelmingly lack training in physics and meteorology. And the best satellite data show that the Earth as a whole has been gradually cooling for a decade.

They love “green science” because it is wonderfully suited to selling expensive climate “solutions” to the scientifically challenged. Never mind that it is neither green nor science, just politics. Never mind that climate variations are perfectly natural and unstoppable. An army of propagandists say that man is the culprit, and carbon taxes are the solution.

If President Obama’s climate agenda passes, expect the problem to slowly fade — because it never existed in the first place and few will tolerate escalating energy prices that dramatically lower our standard of living.

Real science is based on real evidence that can be independently verified, not on testimonials from those funded by politicians.

Real evidence of climate change is easy to find.

Real evidence that man caused it via greenhouse gases is completely missing.

Man does cause local warming through urbanization. This biases many terrestrial temperature records, providing fodder for alarmists.

The real causes of global climate change are variations in the Earth’s orbit, in output from the sun, and in ocean surface temperatures.

Although Arctic sea ice extent has fractionally declined, global sea ice has shown no trend for 30 years; the Greenland ice sheet has thickened, the Arctic and Antarctic are cooler than 50 years ago; northern hemisphere winter snow cover reached its greatest in 2007; the Sahara has shrunk by 300,000 square kilometers; hurricane landfalls show no trend for 100 years; and tropical cyclone activity is at a record low.

This comes from a new assessment by prominent physicists. Previously, 31,478 scientists signed a petition objecting to global warming hysteria, including 9,029 of us with Ph.Ds.

The problem with allowing politicians and journalists to hijack science is not only that they might sell us economic disasters such as “cap and trade,” but that we miss what is really going on: the Earth is cooling.

In addition to the atmosphere cooling, our oceans, which contain the vast majority of mobile heat on Earth, are also cooling. This is a stunning new development reported by the Argo array of ocean-conditions monitoring buoys and completely at odds with computer models. The Pacific Decadel Oscillation climate index has swung negative, the Atlantic is becoming cooler, and sea level has stopped rising. Our sun has been unusually quiet, and physicists from the National Solar Observatory predict subdued solar cycles well into the future.

Memorable heat waves occur in local regions because our oceans and atmosphere are never in complete equilibrium. In the 19th century, during the “Little Ice Age,” a government ship anchored at Santa Barbara reported a temperature of 133 degrees, which became the record high for the United States for many years. That heat wave was likely caused by a Santa Ana effect, much like our heat wave last week.

Gordon J. Fulks, Ph.D., lives in Corbett, OR. He holds a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago, Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research.

3 Aug 2009, 2:44pm
The 2009 Fire Season
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More Eightmile Foofurb Obfuscations

The Boise NF issued a press release about the Eightmile Foofurb Fire [here] this morning. The press release is not yet up on their website but can be viewed at InciWeb [here].

Some high- and lowlights, with commentary:

Lowman, ID – The lightning caused Eightmile Creek Fire, continues to burn and is being managed by the Boise National Forest as a “wildfire managed for resource benefits”. The fire is located about 12 miles northeast of Lowman.

They have dropped the “in the Lowman Burn” counter-factual verbiage. That’s just about the only highlight.

The Type 3 Incident Management Team assigned to this incident is completing development of a Long Term Implementation Plan (LTIP). The LTIP will aid in the management of this incident until a season ending event occurs. The LTIP will address the anticipated fluctuations in growth and predicted long-term weather.

Type 3 means local. The fire managers and crews are from the Boise NF. They plan on Letting It Burn until the snow flies (otherwise they would not need a LTIP).

Late on the evening of Sunday, August 2, management actions taken to help contain the fire in the main Eightmile Creek drainage included water application from Type 1 and Type 2 helicopters and several retardant drops from small fixed wing aircraft. These actions were successful in checking the fire. …

Some sort of half-assed suppression is underway. No line building is mentioned, just aviation. Without line building the fire will not be contained, controlled, or extinguished.

The fire has been burning since July 12 and has grown to 630 acres as of Monday, August 3. It is burning in a management area that is Proposed Wilderness and continues to show low to moderate fire intensity with small uphill runs resulting in tree torching. Other areas within the fire are experiencing creeping ground fire. Current resource objectives are being met. …

The fire doubled in size over the weekend. “Proposed wilderness” is a red herring; Let It Burn with zero fire suppression is not a legal requirement in wilderness, designated or not. Wilderness fires can be suppressed. In fact, every time that wilderness is proposed, the argument is made that the USFS will suppress the fires despite the lack of roads. They have developed special minimum impact techniques for wilderness fires. The idea that their hands are tied and they can’t suppress fires because the area is “proposed wilderness” is hideous obfuscation and totally objectionable.

Besides, the area has been occupied and managed by human beings for 11,000+ years. It isn’t “untrammeled” because human transportation networks, ancient and modern, crisscross the area.

When trees torch, they die. The “resource objectives” are unstated and have never been subjected to any NEPA evaluation or process.

The fire began on the west side of the Eightmile Creek drainage and has been burning in a west and southwest direction. It spotted across Eightmile Creek to the east and is now burning near the ridge line between Eightmile and the East Fork of Eightmile Creek. …

More obfuscation and a pathetic attempt to say that they knew all along the fire was not in the 1989 Lowman Burn. That’s either an admission that they lied, or an admission of incompetence at mapping. The fire has spread in every cardinal direction from the ignition point, something the press release minces around about.

As big game seasons approach, those hunters who desire to scout the Eightmile Creek and neighboring drainages should contact Fire Information 208-259-3729, or the Lowman District Office 208-259-3361, for current fire conditions. No closures or restrictions are in effect at this time due to the fire, but current information could be important to a successful recreational or hunting trip.

There is no game in the burned over area. The deer and elk either ran away or got fried. All forage and browse has been incinerated. If you want to hunt in an active fire that the USFS plans to keep burning until November, you must be a real idiot. Recreational use, including hunting, is kaput for this year. That resource category has been eliminated by this “fire for resource benefit.”

Smoke can be seen within the Highway 21 corridor in the evening and through early morning hours. Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has installed a Real Time Smoke Monitor to measure air quality. Local air quality is also being affected by drift smoke coming from wildland fires in eastern Oregon, where 132 new fires were started Sunday from lightning storms. In addition, several new fires were started on the Boise National Forest.

The IDEQ installed a smoke monitor on private property in the community of Eightmile, at the request of a private property owner. The USFS had nothing to do with it, it wasn’t their idea, and it freaked them out. Here are the early readings:

Note that for the first 24 hours the device was malfunctioning. The smoke has been (still is) very thick, and the declining readings during the first 24 hours are anomalous and incorrect. For more on health damage from wildfire smoke see [here and here].

The smoke impacting the residents is 99+ percent from the Eightmile Foofurb Fire. It is not Oregon smoke. That’s another specious claim made by the Boise NF. You would think that having been caught in other lies about this fire, the Boise NF would start telling the truth. If so, you would think wrong.

Jackson Peak Lookout continues to closely monitor the fire and reports to the Incident Management Team twice daily. Adequate suppression resources are available if needed.

More specious claims. When this fire blows up the Boise NF will be begging for help, and help is already detailed to other fires. They could have doused this fire when it was one tree aflame for far less than they have already spent. When all is said and done, it is likely that millions of taxpayers dollars will have been spent incinerating the Boise NF (par for the course) and $millions more in damages will have been inflicted.

The Boise NF is out of control and so are their fires. Their game is Burn Baby Burn America’s forests, for specious reasons, attended by out-and-out lies and feeble attempts at cover up. This forest needs a management overhaul and complete house cleaning. The citizenry cannot trust the current crop of Boise NF leadership, and should not, and should seek a new crop immediately.

Eightmile Old-Growth Forest Incineration With Glee

America’s Let It Burn laboratory, the Boise National Forest, is on fire once again. Surprise, surprise.

The Eightmile Foofurb* Fire [here] is over 600 acres and headed for Montana.

*foofurb: euphemism for “fire used for resource benefit.” However, as is usual with foofurbs, no benefits have been elucidated, no EIS created, no NEPA process undertaken or envisioned [here].

The Boise NF is famous for Let It Burn, or should we say infamous. The USFS announced in 2006 that they intended to burn Idaho severely, and then in the middle of the 2007 fire season they declared Idaho forests to be national “Let It Burn Laboratories.” And Let It Burn they did! Over 2 million acres in Idaho were burned deliberately in this fashion by the USFS, including 1,250 square miles of the erosion-sensitive Idaho Batholith in the Payette, Boise, and Nez Perce National Forests [here].

With only 60 percent of the average fire starts, 2007 should have been a mild fire year. However, due to a national policy of Let It Burn, numerous small fires were allowed (encouraged) to become megafires. Approximately 9.75 million acres were roasted nationally in 2007, second only to 2006 (9.89 million acres) since the 1950’s(before cooperative fire protection was fully implemented).

Let It Burn is particularly popular in Idaho, where the National Interagency Fire Center is located (in Boise, where else?). Fire guys like fires. It’s their bread and butter, They see forests as piles of fuel — opportunity knocking, in other words — double-overtime hazard pay when those forest fuel piles are torching away. Hence the Boise NF is one of NIFC’s pet incineration projects, for which they feel the same sort of affection that jet fighter pilots feel for a bombing range.

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Sen. Tester’s wilderness bill fails reality check

by Fred Hodgeboom, Clark Fork Chronicle, July 31 2009 [here]

Senator Jon Tester’s “new style jobs and wilderness bill” introduced July 17 models the current mode of Congress’ handling of legislation:

* Prepare the actual bill provisions in secret with only representatives of selected political supporters at the table.

* Roll the Bill out with great political campaign style fanfare and carefully staged media events.

* Do not publicly discuss the actual mandates in the Bill, only spout selected talking points provided by staff that are often outright falsehoods or at best half-truths.

* Push the Bill through as quickly as possible using political tactics to squash debate so that other members of Congress and the public have little opportunity to learn details of the Bill and opponents have little opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Passing legislation using the current Administration tactics is un-American. Like most political hype reported in the media, what most people hear is mostly smoke and mirrors. From the rhetoric to date, it is likely that Tester, even if he has read his own Bill, doesn’t really understand the actual consequences of mandates in the Bill.

The claim that the proposals are a product of open public “collaboration” and “consensus” is just not true. There was no consensus on the Three Rivers designations on the Kootenai National Forest. Tester’s Bill violates the most important principle requested by stakeholders in the Lincoln County Coalition (which morphed into the “Three Rivers Challenge). The principle is a requirement for multiple use access and timber management with jobs in-place that are just as permanent as the wilderness designations at the time of any new wilderness designations. Contrary to this request for equality, Section 7 of Tester’s Bill even requires termination of the timber harvest targets after 15 years, or earlier if the Bill’s timber harvest targets are actually achieved. Apparently few or none of the Lincoln County Coalition stakeholders were involved in writing Tester’s Bill except the Wilderness activists who plan to negotiate another “deal” for more wilderness in the same area after 15 years.

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31 Jul 2009, 11:04pm
Forestry education
by admin
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Historic Ranger Station Dedicated at High Desert Museum

by John F. Marker, USFS (ret.)

BEND - July 31, 2009. The old one room ranger station officially began its tour of duty today in its third Forest Service Region since it was built in the 1930s. The station was dedicated at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon today in a brief ceremony launching its use as a national forest learning center at the museum.

The ranger station was born in the Bridgeport, California, area in about 1933, as a CCC project to build facilities for the local ranger district of the U.S. Forest Service in Region 5. Later in its life it was moved to central Nevada to serve as a station for the USFS near Austin, Nevada, in the Forest Service Region 4.

Budget cuts and shifting workloads eventually forced the abandonment of the ranger station. The Forest Service did their best to secure the building from vandalism and the weather elements, and were reasonably successful. However, time always takes its toll. Discussions about the one room “shack” began.

Long story short: Les Joslin,who had worked out of this old Ranger Station in the early 1960’s, remembered fondly his days working in the building as a part time clerk (he could type) and member of the fire crew. Now a FS retiree as well as a Navy retiree (USNR Commander) the fond memories stirred him to convince Bob Boyd, Western History Curator for High Desert Museum, that the abandoned ranger station belonged at the museum to help tell the story of national forests in the High Desert and the people who cared for them.

After much creativity and much fund raising, the old ranger station found a new home at the museum, 550 miles from Austin in its third Forest Service Region, Region 6. It will be the focal point for educating Museum visitors about how important the forests are to their day to day lives.

Left is Les Joslin, right is Bob Boyd. Photo by John F. Marker (click for larger image).

The one room ranger station. Photo by John F. Marker (click for larger image).

View of attendees (60 plus or minus). Photo by John F. Marker (click for larger image).

 
  
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