28 Mar 2009, 12:08pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Anthropogenic Fire in Australia

W.I.S.E. is pleased to present a rare monograph on anthropogenic fire in Australia — Fire, Flogging, Measles and Grass: the influence of early York settlers on bushfire policy in Western Australia by David Ward and Roger Underwood — in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here].

Fire, Flogging, Etc. describes through colonial letters the traditional use of bushfire by the Noongar people in Southwestern Australia.

Before Europeans settled in south-western Australia, the indigenous Noongar people used the land for hunting and gathering. As with other hunter-gatherers in Africa, India, and the Americas, Noongars used fire as a management tool, and had probably done so for tens of thousands of years. The arrival of Europeans whose homesteads, sheds, stock, crops, pastures and haystacks were vulnerable to fire led to immediate conflict: a fire-vulnerable society was seeking to establish itself in an environment in which fire occurred frequently, and was the dominant land management practice.

The importance of frequent fire in the land use and culture of the Noongars has been set out by West Australian scholars such as Associate Professor Sylvia Hallam and Dr. Neville Green. Amongst a wealth of historical references, Sylvia Hallam noted Lt. Bunbury’s estimate of two to three years between bushfires in the parts of the south-west that he had visited in the 1830s. She also noted Major Mitchell’s perceptive comment of 1848, based on observations in other parts of Australia, that “Fire, grass, kangaroos, and human inhabitants, seem all dependent on each other for existence… “. Neville Green drew on observations by the surgeons Scott Nind and Alexander Collie, at King George’s Sound in the 1830s, to amplify the links between hunting, vegetation, fire, land ownership, and seasonal migration between inland and the coast. John Mulvaney and others painstakingly deciphered Captain Collet Barker’s handwriting, and gave further information on the importance of fire to the Meananger group of Noongars on the south coast.

We have discussed anthropogenic fire numerously at SOS Forests [here]. We have also posted dozens of scientific studies, reports, and book reviews that detail historical human landscape burning on three continents [here].

The study of anthropgenic fire is important because it represents a new paradigm in ecology. The old paradigm is burdened by Clementsian notions of plant communities undergoing natural succession. That set of theories is riddled with anomalies — conditions on the landscape that defy what the old theories say should be there.

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Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration Enacted

The Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009 was passed this week by the U.S. House (it was attached to H.R. 146) [here] which followed passage by the U.S. Senate last week.

Hidden in the package of 170 or so bills is Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration. It is not clear whether our industrious and diligent elected representatives read any of the bill before voting on it (there were no hearings, either) but it makes no difference — as soon as the President signs it, Title IV will become the Law of the Land.

Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration calls for landscape-scale “ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes”. Each project must be:

(i) at least 50,000 acres;

(ii) comprised primarily of forested National Forest System land, but may also include land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or other Federal, State, tribal, or private land;

For the cadastrally-challenged, 50,000 acres is 78.125 square miles or roughly 2.2 townships, and that’s the minimum size; there is no maximum.

Congress, wittingly or otherwise, has determined that forest restoration is desirable to reduce the costs and damages that result from wildfire. They also hope that forest restoration will encourage “ecological, economic, and social sustainability” and utilize “forest restoration byproducts” to benefit local rural economies and improve forest health.

Important point: restoration is not rehabilitation — restoration is the treatment of forests BEFORE they burn whereas rehabilitation is the attempt to repair former forests AFTER they have been incinerated.

The full text of Title IV is [here].

We discussed Title IV previously [here].

All thing considered, Title IV is a surprisingly advanced and even ground-breaking change in Federal forest policy. It promotes a new mission for the US Forest Service: restoration forestry.

Whoda thunk it, considering the source?

There are some difficulties with Title IV that could have been ironed out IF there had been substantive hearings. But there weren’t, and so we will have to deal with these problems in the language:

1. The funding ($40,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2009 through 2019) has been authorized but not allocated. That means the intent of Congress is to fund Title IV, but they haven’t sent the dollars to the USFS yet. I expect that they will, considering they have squandered $trillions on foolishness, but they may need some additional encouragement.

2. The USFS leadership is completely unprepared to deal with the program. The USFS Washington Office will have to develop directives and send them out to each Region and National Forest which explain how the program is to be implemented. That could take awhile, since the WO has been caught unaware and probably will drag their bureaucratic feet.

3. The Act requires that proposed projects be evaluated by an advisory panel which “shall include experts in ecological restoration, fire ecology, fire management, rural economic development, strategies for ecological adaptation to climate change, fish and wildlife ecology, and woody biomass and small-diameter tree utilization.” Said panel will have to be established.

One bright note is that Title IV allows and even encourages the treatment of old-growth stands at risk from catastrophic fire:

[A] collaborative forest landscape restoration proposal shall… be based on a landscape restoration strategy that… fully maintains, or contributes toward the restoration of, the structure and composition of old growth stands according to the pre-fire suppression old growth conditions characteristic of the forest type, taking into account the contribution of the stand to landscape fire adaptation and watershed health and retaining the large trees contributing to old growth structure

Implicit but not directly stated is that restoration requires some previous reference condition as a target. That means that analysis of historical forest conditions and influences (including historical anthropogenic fire) is necessary to elucidate the reference condition. Title IV does not specify historical analyses, but it is impossible to proceed with “landscape restoration strategy that… is complete or substantially complete” without them.

The Western Institute for Study of the Environment has already prepared three landscape-scale forest restoration proposals consistent with the criteria of Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration. We plan on producing a dozen or more.

If you would like to participate in that proposal creation process, please indicate your interest by email to W.I.S.E. [here]. Our intention is to involve all interested parties in our efforts.

26 Mar 2009, 10:30am
by admin

Firing the Kiln

Busy today firing the pottery kiln, so will not be able to post a plethora of articles at multiple websites.

My wife is the Ceramic Artiste [here]; I am the Kiln Master. The kiln, which I built, is about 5 feet by 4 feet and 6 feet tall. The loadable space is 14.5 cubic feet. The kiln walls are 8 inches of K-26 refractory bricks with a 1 inch outer layer of refractory ceramic fiber board. It has a “Wisconsin flat roof” design, with the roof bricks held up by stainless steel rods wired with titanium high temp wire to steel angle irons supported by the exterior steel frame. It is a downdraft kiln, employing a venturi chimney damper with a maximum aperature of 44 square inches. The kiln is fired with propane under pressure using two venturi burners from Ward Burner Systems [here].

Today’s firing is Cone 6, 1222 degrees C or 2232 degrees F. That’s hot enough to melt almost anything, although a little below the melting point of steel. It will soften steel, however, and cause it to bend easily, which is why the steel frame is exterior to all the insulating bricks.

I follow a kiln schedule of my own devising. Since the pottery is already bisqued, I can run the temp up a little faster than when firing greenware. Generally I shoot for an increase of 250 to 300 degrees F per hour, but slow down to about 100 degrees per hour for the last two hours. Between 1150 and 1350 degrees F the rate of temperature rise naturally slows as the silica in the clay goes through some isomeric transformations. To get the temp to rise at the proper rate I need to monitor the kiln all day and increase the gas pressure every hour or so. I start at about 1 psi and finish at 5 or 6 psi, split between the two burners. I could reduce the gas needed by manipulating the damper but the Artiste prefers the bright glaze colors that come from oxidative firings. If the damper is employed to boost the temps, there is a danger of reductive (oxygen poor) conditions which can mute the colors. Some people prefer reduction firing; we don’t.

The Artiste also prefers soda firing, which requires the introduction of sodium bicarbonate in saturated solution late in the firing. The sodium reacts with the silica to alter glazes and to form it’s own glaze on unglazed ware. Soda firing is an alternative to salt firing, which was originally discovered in 14th century Germany. It is quite the process to spray a mist of soda through spray holes into a kiln when the temps are over 1200 degrees C.

Thankfully (IMHO) today’s firing is not a soda firing. The firing process is much simpler, and no spray holes need to be opened at extreme temperatures with flames licking out due to the propane being blown in under pressure. Today’s non-soda firing did, however, require a complete interior scraping of the kiln, kiln shelves, and supports to (hopefully) eliminate any residual soda. That took all day yesterday.

That’s it for now. Back to the kiln for monitoring and pressure adjustment. As the temp builds and the pressure increases, the burners roar. The noise can be almost deafening. Luckily we are in a rural farming neighborhood and all the neighbors make noise with tractors, guns, and other machinery, and the houses are far apart, so nobody is particularly disturbed. They are curious, however, and inquiries generally result in the gifting of mugs and bowls (the freebies are seconds, but everybody is happy about it, giftees and Artiste alike).

PS — the Artiste departed to babysit the grandson, so it’s just me, the dog, and the kiln today. The Kiln Master is an artiste in his own right, IMHO, though not generally recognized as such.

Like Drunks on a Binge

Dept. Interior Media Advisory, March 24, 2009 [here]:

Secretary Salazar, Rep. Rahall and other House Members to Hold Press Conference Following Vote on Omnibus Public Lands Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will join House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and a bipartisan group of House Members at a press conference following House vote of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (H.R. 146), which is expected on Wednesday.

The omnibus public land bill combines more than 160 individual measures – introduced in the previous Congress by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate – many of which have previously passed the House of Representatives. Among its many provisions, the bill includes new wilderness designations, wild and scenic rivers, National Park units, hiking trails, heritage areas, water projects, and historic preservation initiatives.

Who: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV)

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA)
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Rep. Mary Bono-Mack (R-CA)

What: News conference on the Omnibus Public Land Bill (H.R. 146)

When: Wednesday, March 25, 2009, at approximately 2:30 p.m. or immediately following the House Floor vote on the bill

Where: Room H-137 Capitol Building (House Ways and Means Committee room)


Like Drunks on a Binge

Central Idaho Post, Jim’s Corner, March 27, 2009

by James Huntly

Courtesy The Central Idaho Post, 1206 S Hall St, Grangeville, ID (208)-983-2344 (No website, but a great periodical. Please subscribe. You won’t be sorry).

WHEN I WAS a child, there were those who liked to change the rules if they were losing the game we were playing. They seemed to have the attitude that rules should only be obeyed when they were winning. The reason I mention this is because our representatives in Washington D. C. seem to play this childish game every day that they are in session.

Not long ago H.R. 146, a bill that would protect Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields was passed by the House of Representatives and sent on to the Senate. Then two weeks ago the House failed to pass S 22 the Omnibus Public Lands Act. After S22 failed the Senate went back into action determined to see this public lands legislation passed into law.

The Senate, in a move that would have made Mandrake the Magician envious, attached S22 to H.R. 146 as an amendment. On March 19th, before the ink was dry on my last article, the Senate passed H.R.146 as amended by a vote of 70-20 and sent it back to the House of Representatives for their approval.

It appears that, under a rule that blocks additional amendments, the House will pass the Senate version of H.R. 146 by the end of this week. This monstrous bill is going to cost you the taxpayer a minimum of ten billion dollars and will create several new wildernesses, 1,000 more miles of wild and scenic rivers, national monuments, national conservation areas, trail systems, historic parks, more national heritage areas in 8 states, a coastal and ocean observation system, coastal land conservations plans and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act.

It will fund land exchanges, travel management plans, land acquisitions, transfer of lands into trusts, establishment of a landscape conservation system, watershed management, wolf compensation and prevention, public awareness and education, Bureau of Reclamation authorizations, ocean exploration and undersea research, ocean and coastal mapping, Smithsonian laboratory and space in Edgewater, Maryland and in Gamboa, Panama and the construction of a greenhouse facility whose location I could not pinpoint.

It also addresses Native American Water Rights, protections of American battlefields, prohibited acts and criminal penalties and sets up advisory commissions.

Given that the Obama Administration and our Congress throw money around like a drunk on a binge, be prepared for an all out media blitz after this legislation is passed by the House and when our President signs it into law. It should be a real dog and pony show as the President hands out pens to every environmental organization that donated to the presidential campaign and the DNC. I wonder if the cost of several dozen pens was included in the ten billion dollar cost estimate.

Quote for the Week: “Alexander Hamilton started the U. S. Treasury with nothing, and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even.” — Will Rogers (This quote was found at BrainyQuote)


Very important note from Julie Kay Smithson, Property Rights Research [here]

Please call the staffer for the U.S. Representative for your area at this Congressional Switchboard number: 202-224-3121. Express your view about this Trojan horse and let the staffer know that “NO” is the ONLY way to vote on this horrid excuse for “legislation.” Make your call, please. It takes effort to fight these things — effort from us all! Cramming 150-200 “wouldn’t pass on their own” pieces of “legislation” into one “omnibus” or Trojan Horse “bill” is certainly a bill. It is a bill that every elected official in Washington, D.C., knows will be paid by American taxpayers. Such a monster leaves the enumerated powers as set forth in the United States Constitution, in the dust, ground underfoot by the designer heels gathered on both sides of the aisle.

It’s the Fuels, Stupid

I am working on a series of posts about Sierra Nevada fires. This particular post was to be one of them, and so by prematurely placing it here I am putting it a little out of order.

But, the issue of fuels and fire intensity is important and timely. Esteemed Australian forester Roger Underwood, Chairman of The Bush Fire Front, said [here]:

If fuels are allowed to accumulate, bushfires in eucalypt forests rapidly attain an intensity that exceeds the human capacity to extinguish them, notwithstanding the most modern and massive suppression forces.

Communities and economic assets in the path of high intensity fires will suffer horrible damage.

But! Potential damage can be minimised by application of a fire management system that incorporates responsible planning, and high standards of preparedness and damage mitigation, especially fuel reduction.

In short, excessive fuels contribute to fire severity and intensity, endangering forests, natural resources, and communities.

THE DEBATE ABOUT FUELS MANAGEMENT IS OVER. The scientific consensus is universal. Fuels management reduces fire intensity. Period. The end. Only a pro-holocaust terrorist or a moron would say otherwise.

And yet morons exist, in droves, and they continue to question the basic fact that fires burn biomass. My friend and highly regarded Australian Mountain Cattleman Phil Maguire of Bundarrah Days [here] notes that this kind moronity plagues Australia just as it does America.

The National Parks Advisory Council has the same problem with fuel reduction burning as every other radical green group. They claim it’s not effective. After the 2003 fires they stated in a submission to the Esplin Inquiry - a submission riddled with contradictions - that…

“Under extreme fire behaviour, when fires sweep through the tree crowns and spot many kilometres ahead, previously fuel reduced areas become largely ineffective in halting the fire front, though they may help reduce spread and damage around the flanks.”

That statement is counter-factual. There are innumerable cases where canopy fires dropped to ground when encountering thinned and fuel-managed areas. Recent megafires in AU and the USA were eventually contained, and the containment lines were all in reduced fuel areas. Fire suppression efforts were successful where fuels were limited, and unsuccessful where they were not.

The implication of the National Parks Advisory Council’s statement is that fires occur absent human intervention. That is patently absurd. Intervention is always applied to large fires — the question is where are the suppression efforts effective? The answer is where fuels have been reduced. In every case.

The following narrative is from the post-fire report on the Rich Fire of July 2008 [here] on the Plumas NF. It is yet another demonstration of efficacy of fuels management.

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Underwood on Australia’s Fires

Note from Mike: The following essay is a strident warning to Americans as well as Australians. Our forests and communities are under threat here just as in Victoria. Catastrophic fire is destructive and deadly (in the case of the Victoria fires of last month, over 200 men, women, and children were killed).

The lack of responsible forest management in the Western US is every bit as foolhardy and dire as the situation in Australia. Our forest fire crisis is untenable and unacceptable because the cure is evident and eminently achievable. Good stewardship will not prevent fires, but it will make them tame by comparison to the holocausts we have suffered seemingly every summer this century.

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 Bush Fire Front, an independent professional group promoting best practices in bushfire management.

Bookmark this essay. It is classic and the message is vitally important to the survival of our forests and our communities.


Australian Bushfire Management: a case study in wisdom versus folly

By Roger Underwood

One man’s wisdom is another’s folly - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago, still a young man, I watched for the first time the grainy, flickering black and white film of the British infantry making their attack on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The stark and terrible footage shows the disciplined soldiers climbing from their trenches and, in line abreast, walking slowly across no-man’s land towards the enemy lines. They scarcely travel a few paces before the German machine gunners open up. They are mown down in their thousands. They are chaff before a wind of fire.

I can still remember being struck nerveless by these images, and later my anger when I realised what that calamitous carnage represented. It spoke of the deep incompetence of the Generals who devised this strategy of doom and then insisted upon its implementation. It spoke of front-line men led by people without front-line experience. It spoke of battle planners unable to think through the consequences of their plans, and who devalued human lives. It spoke of a devastating failure of the human imagination.

Worst of all, the strategies of the World War I Generals demonstrated that they had not studied, or that they had forgotten, the lessons of history. In the final year of the American Civil war, 50 years earlier, the Union army had been equipped for the first time with Springfield repeating rifles, replacing the single shot muskets they had previously used and still were being used by the Confederate army. The impact on Confederate soldiers attacking defenders armed with repeating rifles was identical to that later inflicted by machine guns on the Western Front. But it was a lesson unlearnt, of collective wisdom unregarded.

None of you will have any difficulty in seeing where this analogy is taking me.

The catastrophic bushfires in Victoria this year, and the other great fires of recent years in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and South Australia are dramatic expressions not just of killing forces unleashed, but of human folly. No less than the foolish strategies of the World War I Generals, these bushfires and their outcomes speak of incompetent leadership and of failed imaginations. Most unforgivable of all, they demonstrate the inability of people in powerful and influential positions to profit from the lessons of history and to heed the wisdom of experience.

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22 Mar 2009, 3:26pm
Forestry education
by admin
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Sanderson’s Farm

Hugh Miller Raup (1901-1995) was a giant of American forestry and forest science. He is best remembered as the director of the Harvard Forest for twenty years and Bullard Professor in Forestry there. He was also the author of numerous books, papers, reports, and letters on forestry and forest ecology.

Professor Raup’s biography from the Harvard University Library [here]:

Hugh Miller Raup was born on his family’s farm in Springfield, Ohio on February 1, 1901 to Gustavus Phillip and Fannie (Mitchell) Raup. He attended Wittenburg College, receiving an A.B. in 1923. Immediately following his graduation, Raup was appointed as an instructor in biology, a position he held while pursuing his A.M. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1928, and was promoted to Assistant Professor at Wittenburg. Raup left Wittenburg College in 1932 to serve as a Research Assistant and Associate at Harvard, a position he held from 1932 to 1938. Raup’s association with Harvard included the Arnold Arboretum, the Black Rock Forest, the Harvard Forest, and the Department of Biology.

In 1935, Raup published “Notes of the Early Uses of Land Now in the Arnold Arboretum.” This study examined the historical influences, both natural and man made, that shaped the landscape. He challenged prior conceptions about the ecological history of the Arnold Arboretum, particularly the notion that historically, Hemlock Hill had been a pristine section of land. Much of Raup’s work revolved around such an examination of historical influences on New England, Honduran, and Cuban landscapes, which was a relatively revolutionary approach. Other remarkable research included a phytogeographic survey of the Peace River region of Alberta and British Columbia, returning with thousands of specimens, and studies in subarctic Canada, northeastern Greenland, and the boreal forests of Alaska, some of which was completed in collaboration with the Canadian National Museum.

Following his tenure as research associate, Hugh Raup held a succession of professorial appointments at Harvard. He was appointed Assistant Professor in Plant Ecology in 1938, and rose quickly up the academic ranks, receiving a promotion to Assistant Professor of Plant Geography associate professor in 1945. In 1949, he was promoted to full professor with an appointment as Bullard Professor in Forestry. He became director of the Harvard Forest in 1946, thereafter devoting much of his energies to the Forest through his retirement in 1967. Following Raup’s from Harvard, Raup spent three years at Johns Hopkins as a Visiting Professor. He and his wife Lucy then spent 20 years living on the Common in Petersham, Massachusetts, where he continued to correspond with colleagues, debating and questioning matters in the fields of biology, forestry, and ecology in lengthy letters. Near the end of his life, Raup and his wife moved to Wisconsin to be closer to their younger son. Raup died on August 10, 1995 at 94 years of age.

One of Professor Raup’s most famous papers is John Sanderson’s Farm: A Perspective for the Use of the Land, first published in Forest History, April 1966. A reprint from Forest History Today, 1997, is available on the Internet [here] (2.1 MB).

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21 Mar 2009, 9:59pm
Climate and Weather
by admin

The Ocean Really Is Cooling

by Jennifer Marohasy, jennifermarohasy.com, March 21st, 2009 [here]

THERE are 3,000 free-drifting buoys in the world’s ocean; first deployed in the year 2000 they allow continuous monitoring of the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean.

There has though been some difficulty in interpreting the data from these buoys. Initial signs of cooling were dismissed as due to technical errors subsequently corrected based on a small sample of the 3,000 buoys known as profiling floats.

Craig Loehle has analysed the data from only the profiling floats for ocean heat content from 2003 to 2008. In a paper recently published in the journal Energy and Environment he has concluded that there has been ocean cooling over this period.

This graphic is from figure 1 of the technical paper and shows the decline in ocean heat content (x1022J) smoothed with a 1-2-1 filter.

Dr Loehle’s findings are consistent with satellite and surface instrumental records that do not showing a warming trend over recent years.

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21 Mar 2009, 9:49pm
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Sorry for the Inconvenience

Server problems, again!!!

Hopefully all is working now, but there might be some glitch outages for the next 24 hours. Installing a new server and clearing all the bugs out. Seems like there are more than the usual amount of bugs, too. Must be Spring.

20 Mar 2009, 12:47pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Jungwirth on Forest Restoration and Climate Change

Climate change or not, restoration forestry is essential to saving our forests. Lynn Jungwirth of the Watershed Center in Northern California has been an important leader in educating the public on restoration forestry and in implementing restoration activities in her neck of the woods.

The follow excerpts are drawn from Lynn’s March 3rd testimony before the US House Subcommitte on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. Her remarks are quite excellent.

For the full text see [here]

Testimony of Lynn Jungwirth

For the U. S. House of Representatives, Committee on Natural Resources, Sub-Committee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands

Hearing on “The Role of Federal Lands in Combating Climate Change”

March 3rd, 2009

I’D LIKE TO THANK the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony at this important hearing. My name is Lynn Jungwirth and I am the Executive Director of the Watershed Center, a small community forest organization in the town of Hayfork, which lies in the middle of the Trinity National Forest in California. Since 1993, my organization has worked at the nexus of healthy forests and healthy communities. I’m privileged to work with the “Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition”, a group of over 40 organizations working in local community forestry activities in the west. …

Healthy, resilient forests sequester carbon. In the Trinities, we started 12 years ago, thinning overstocked stands both for hazardous fuels reduction and to improve the quality of the spotted owl habitat. Subsequent measurement has show increased growth rates in the remaining trees. The carbon sink is increasing. What is not so obvious is that forest restoration can also provide biofuels for transportation, reduce carbon intensive energy use in the industrial sector through combined head and power biomass plants, and reduce the carbon intensity of electrical power by co-firing coal plants with wood pellets and using woody biomass for electrical generation (a common strategy in the European Union). Four of the five strategies in the McKinsey and Co. report can be addressed through forest stewardship activities.

Climate Change and Wildfire: Social, economic and environment issues

There is no discussion in the McKinsey and Co. report on the GHG emissions from wildfire. However, some studies suggest wildfire and forest burning account for about 30% of global GHG emissions. Here in the United States, we average about 100,000 wildfire starts a year. About 50% of those are from human activity, about 50% from lightning. The precise quantification of GHG emissions from wildfire is still in debate. The California North Coast Air Quality Management District used Air Resources Board methodology to estimate the GHG emissions from two fire events in Trinity County – the 2002 Megram Fire (100,000 acres) and the 2008 Trinity Fire Complexes (200,000 acres). The estimates were 1.5 million vehicle year equivalents for the Megram Fire and 2 million vehicle years for the 2008 Trinity Fire.

Vehicle years provides an urban frame for GHG emissions. For rural communities, however, the frame is weeks of smoke so thick you can’t see across the street, increased chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in our elders, salmon streams full of sediment, rivers and ponds filled with debris, the decline of our tourism/recreation industry, the loss of our precious timber resources, and, this year, the death of 11 firefighters. These are not the fires of our childhood when low intensity fires would “skunk around” in the undergrowth, herded by local ranchers and the Forest Service. Those fires were fires of renewal. Today’s fires are those of ecological, social and economic destruction.

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Siskiyou County Climbing Out of an Abyss of Ignorance

A year ago I sent a letter to the Siskiyou County Commissioners predicting catastrophic fires would soon visit their region. The letter read, in part:

April 2, 2008

Dear Commissioners,

The Western Institute for Study of the Environment has submitted comments to the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest (RR-SNF) regarding their adoption of a Wildland Fire Use (WFU) program.

If that program is implemented, another Biscuit Fire will surely occur, possibly as soon as next summer.

The Biscuit Fire burned 500,000 acres of the then Siskiyou NF in 2002. It was the largest fire in recorded Oregon history and destroyed habitat for endangered species, including over 100,000 acres of prime spotted owl habitat (50 known nesting sites were destroyed). …

Allowing wildfires to freely roam the landscape is a terribly destructive idea. Too much is at stake, including forests, watersheds, and wildlife habitat, as well as ranches, farms, homes, and entire communities that may lie in the path of Federal megafires. …

Our culture and society have reached an important juncture in our understanding of our place in the landscape. As human beings we must become the caretakers and fulfill our responsibilities, not abandon our landscapes to catastrophic fire. You need to be involved in landscape-level decisions that will affect the communities you represent. We can help.

W.I.S.E. can provide expert speakers to convey this message to your group or constituency. We have provided this important testimony in regards to U.S. Forest Service policy in Southwest Oregon and Northern California as a first step towards rational forest management. …

Please help us to prevent another Biscuit Fire. Your assistance is needed now. You need to be engaged in this struggle for your sake and for the sake of the environmental legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren. Your constituents will appreciate your leadership in this vitally important effort.

Please contact me for more information about how you can help forestall environmental catastrophe and restore stewardship to our public lands.


Mike Dubrasich

The letter was sent with a CD that contained our comments [here] regarding the adoption of Let It Burn fire strategies by the USFS in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

The SisCo Commissioners failed to heed my warnings, as did all of the six counties the letter and CD were sent to. In fact, they ignored me utterly and did not even bother to respond. Then all heck broke loose.

Last summer 1,000 square miles of Northern California were burned deliberately by the USFS at a suppression cost of over $400 million dollars and collateral damages in the tens of $billions, far in excess of the Biscuit Fire.

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Train Wreck Senate

Today the US Senate passed the Omnibus Wilderness bill by a vote of 77 to 20. Over 100 bills that designated more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness had been attached to H.R. 146 “The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act” in a parliamentary maneuver to avoid hearings.

Seventy-seven Senators decided that holding hearings on bills was a bad idea. They prefer not to hold hearings, not to listen to testimony, and not to consult with the American people.

As a matter of fact, US Senators rarely even read the bills they vote on, and certainly did not in this case, just as they never read the TARP bailout bill they are so exercised about today.

The method they follow is to vote now, read it later, and then feign shock and indignation at what the law is, as if they had nothing to do with it.

Our current crop of US Senators are functionally illiterate, ignorant, and exceedingly offensive to one and all, with the exception of deep-pocket, Washington insider, special interests that play them like banjos.

The outcome of today’s Farce Theater will be catastrophic holocaust, suffering, and death of forests across the West. But since this country is going down the tubes in train wreck fashion anyway, chances are that few will even notice.

Jim’s Corner: Omnibus Wilderness

Note: Mr. Huntly graciously allowed us to post this 3-part essay. As we write this introduction the U.S. Senate is fending off amendments proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and they are about to pass The Omnibus Public Lands Act (H.R. 980 referred to below) grafted onto H.R. 146. It’s a sleazy end run around due process, engineered by Dirty Harry Reid [here].

by James Huntly

Courtesy The Central Idaho Post, 1206 S Hall St, Grangeville, ID (208)-983-2344 (No website, but a great periodical. Please subscribe. You won’t be sorry).

Part 1: Do you like to ride your ATV?

Feb. 20, 2009

Those of you who have recently complained about the Forest Service’s plans to further regulate motorized vehicle use on the forest need to start paying attention. In this column some 3-4 years ago I warned readers about restrictions that were going to be put in place to regulate ATV and other motorized vehicle use. With that in mind, pay attention, this is your next warning. Don’t wait until it is too late!

On February 11, 2009 Carolyn Maloney, Representative of New York introduced H.R. 980 which will designate certain National Forest Lands and other Public Lands in the States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, wildland recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors.

There are 50 cosponsors and only one cosponsor is from a state that will be affected by this legislation. He is Jay Inslee, Representative from the State of Washington. Most of the cosponsors are from states that lie east of the Mississippi River or are from the Deep South. The exception is the amount of support from the State of California, where twelve cosponsors signed onto this bill. This amount of support should not surprise anyone who is familiar with the la la state; a place where fruits, nuts, and ferries are common place.

This bill will lock up 6,253,000 acres in the greater Salmon/Selway Area as additional wilderness and 394,000 additional acres in the Hells Canyon Area. Because of the number of areas involved, I will only be discussing the land affected on the Nez Perce National Forest.

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18 Mar 2009, 9:40am
by admin
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Blame sunspots for cool winter, spring weather

By George Taylor, Albany Democrat Herald, March 14, 2009 [here]

Brrrr! It’s been a cold week, in a cold month, in a cold winter. And it shows no sign of letting up.

Last week the Northwest was gripped by unseasonably cold weather. Areas west of the Cascades saw temperatures dip into the 20s. Locally we dropped as low as 27 on the 13th. Eugene was even colder (24 on the 11th). Two days later, Eugene’s 25

degree-low broke the daily record (26) set in 1944.

So far in March our local Hyslop Experiment Station has seen nine days with lows of 32 or below. The month of March averages 5.7 days, so we’re already well ahead of average for an entire March.

As cold as it was here, the Cascades generally protected us from the coldest Arctic air, which remained mostly north and east of us. On the 11th, Spokane, Wash., reported a low of 2 degrees. This was the latest date for a temperature of 2 degrees or less. The previous latest date occurred March 6, 1891. Sandpoint, Idaho, set a similar record the same day with a reading of -4 degrees, the latest date for a temperature that low.

Western Montana saw temperatures as low as -14, and subzero readings were reported in other states. In Oregon, many daily records were set, many far below the previous. Meacham was -11 on the 11th; the record for was 7, so this week’s weather broke the record by 18 degrees! LaGrande, Pendleton, Moro, The Dalles, Bend, Redmond, and others also set new records.

The cause of this cold month and cold year? Two things: the tropical Pacific and the sun.

Sea surface temperature anomalies, March 9, 2009, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Note the colder than average (blue) waters off the Oregon Coast. Click for larger image.

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Killing Us Softly

by bear bait

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

Construction on the rise, but Weyerhaeuser closes mills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Housing starts surge; wholesale prices edge up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assholes all. — bear bait

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