29 Jan 2009, 11:54am
Politics and politicians Saving Forests
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Bailing Out Forests

The hugely irresponsible Stimulus Bill will probably send the country over the edge into economic oblivion. Spending a trillion dollars that do not exist on earmarked pork barrel projects is, in effect, looting the future incomes of Americans for generations.

The flushing away of the U.S. into a financial sewer, however, may have one tiny bright spot floating on top. H.R. 1, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009″ or Stimulus Bill passed by the House yesterday, promises $1.5 billion for forest improvement and maintenance.

The whole Bill (647 pages; 1.10 MB) is [here]. The page and a half dealing with forests reads:

pp. 119-120 of 647 pages

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOREST SERVICE

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE (INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS)

For an additional amount for ‘‘Capital Improvement and Maintenance’’, $650,000,000, for reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, energy efficiency enhancements and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and for remediation of abandoned mine sites, removal of fish passage barriers, and other critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects on Federal lands and waters:

Provided, That funds may be transferred to ‘‘National Forest System’’:

Provided further, That the amount set aside from this appropriation pursuant to section 1106 of this Act shall be not more than 5 percent instead of the percentage specified in such section.

WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT (INCLUDING TRANSFERS OF FUNDS)

For an additional amount for ‘‘Wildland Fire Management’’, $850,000,000, of which $300,000,000 is for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health, wood to energy grants and rehabilitation and restoration activities on Federal lands, and of which $550,000,000 is for State fire assistance hazardous fuels projects, volunteer fire assistance, cooperative forest health projects, city forest enhancements, and wood to energy grants on State and private lands:

Provided, That amounts in this paragraph may be transferred to ‘‘State and Private Forestry’’ and ‘‘National Forest System’’:

Provided further, That the amount set aside from this appropriation pursuant to section 1106
of this Act shall be not more than 5 percent instead of the percentage specified in such section.

The legal language is arcane and non-specific. There is no telling what the grasping greedhead bureaucrats will actually do with the funny money. But there is a slight chance that some restoration forestry might possibly take place (after everybody and their brother skims the graft off, of course).

The verbiage does include the words “forest improvement and watershed enhancement” and “restoration activities on Federal lands.” The word “rehabilitation” is also used, thereby implying a distinction between restoration and rehabilitation, which is a good thing.

Rehabilitation is treating incinerated forests after they have burned. Restoration is treating forests before they are roasted by fire in order to protect them from total incineration.

Whether any of either actually happens as a result of the Stimulus Bill is anybody’s guess. The Bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the President. The forestry language could be gutted from the Bill by then (who knows?). The funny money may never be allocated. The bureaucrats may not (I guarantee you they don’t) have a clue as to what to do with it if and when they get the money. The entire nation could be circling the bowl by then.

All manner of terrible slips ‘tween cup and lip could happen, but there is also a glimmer of hope that something good for forests might possibly come from this craziness.

We will continue to track this mad bus as it careens down the road. God Bless America.

26 Jan 2009, 9:09pm
Uncategorized
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Scientist Discovers Fundamental Nutrient of Life

In a stunning scientific breakthrough, a Swiss scientist has discovered that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the fundamental nutrient of carbon-based lifeforms. Without CO2 in the air, all life on Planet Earth would perish says Jean Senebier, botanist and also a Swiss pastor.

Senebier has clearly shown, in fundamental experiments which other scientists have replicated, that green plants, in the presence of sunlight, take up CO2 and expel oxygen, and that this process (termed photosynthesis) is the chemical source of plant growth.

Without atmospheric carbon dioxide, animals (including human beings) would have nothing to eat and no oxygen to breathe. We would all be dead!

Much like Mr. Senebier, who passed away in 1845.

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26 Jan 2009, 2:13pm
Politics and politicians Saving Forests
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Montana Bill to Reduce Wildfire Risk

Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, representing Senate District 42 in the Montana Legislature, has introduced Senate Bill 34 that extends the authority of counties to reduce fire hazards on USFS lands.

SB 34 is [here]. It passed the Montana State Senate last Saturday by a vote of 42 to 7. Now it remains for the Montana House and Governor Gov. Brian Schweitzer to sign on.

SB 34 adds to the “Community Decay” provisions of state law the words “the natural accumulation of fuel, INCLUDING NOXIOUS WEEDS, for fire that poses a threat to public health or safety.”

The bill would allow allow officers and employees of the county to enter upon Federal property for the specific purpose of abating the fire hazard and to assess the Feds for the actual costs for the abatement.

Sen. Lewis authored a guest column at Headwaters News [here] that explains SB 34:

Montana bill would reduce wildfire risk

By Sen. Dave Lewis, Guest Column, Headwaters News, Jan 26, 2009

What would Thomas Jefferson do?

I proposed a bill to the Montana Interim Fire Committee last summer. The concept was, effectively, if a federal agency let fuel build up on its land to the point that such buildup threatened private property owners then Montana counties could step in and reduce those fuels.

The point of the legislation is that since the Forest Service is hampered by lawsuits every time a timber sale is proposed, county governments would have the ability to step in and reduce the risk, which might enable the work to get done. The committee recommended the bill and I presented in on the floor of the state Senate last week. It passed 42-7 on Saturday.

I was pleased that senators understood the risk to the people of Montana brought on by the build-up of fuel in the national forests. The bill exempted private land used for agricultural purposes, which would be any land used to grow trees or grass for grazing. I believe that it is clear that only federal land is affected. It was a good long debate with lots of good questions.

The biggest problem with the bill is that it may violate the federal Constitution. My theory is that if you allow yourself to be slowed down by something like that, then you will never get anything done.

The Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution that says state and local governments have no say about how federal lands are managed. That provision has never been tested, to my knowledge, on the basis that the buildup of fuel on federal lands puts the property and lives of the neighboring landowners at risk. I think that it is time to test it. Sometimes you have to keep driving until you hear glass breaking!

I thought long and hard about challenging the U.S. Constitution. However, I kept coming back to the people who drafted it 250 years ago. I cannot imagine that Thomas Jefferson and the other people who developed this language ever imagined that we could have situation where citizens of this state would have to literally run for their lives in front of out-of-control fires.

Consider the impact of millions of acres of federal land being devastated by the beetle epidemic we are now experiencing. There will be tons of fuel added to every acre of our forests. This will give us fires of an intensity that we can not even imagine. There is a potential for a fire like the 1910 wildfire that burned most of North Idaho and Western Montana. We have a lot more people and development in this area than we had in 1910.

So when you see that your senator sponsored a bill that may violate the federal Constitution, please know that he can sleep at night because he knows that Thomas Jefferson did not intend to put our lives at risk..

Now we just have to convince the House, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and the federal courts. If we do not try, then we are going to regret it. Those fires are coming!

In related news, a bipartisan group of senators led by OR Sen. Ron Wyden are urging that the stimulus package include $1.52 billion in funding to log and thin national forests to reduce the potential for huge fires. See [here].

25 Jan 2009, 11:10am
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
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Cosmological and Earthly Realities

The Earth has experienced ~20 major glaciations over the last 1.8 million years. They last about 100,000 years with 10,000 year-long interglacial warm periods such as our own Holocene. The glaciations appear like clockwork because they are cosmological (see Ice Ages — Solving the Mystery [here]).

The GW alarmists base their alarmism on artificial computer models that apparently predict the seas are going to boil due to anthropogenic CO2 [here].

The alarmist claims fly in the face of a repeating cosmological pattern. They predict the End of Creation despite geological evidence that Creation is more than a billion years old and has survived incredible extremes of heat, cold, CO2, oxygen, comets, asteroids, super volcanoes, drifting continents, etc.

At some point regular non-scientist people need to grasp onto reality. The seas are not going to boil. Another glaciation is coming. There can be no doubt, no uncertainty, because the pattern is written in the astronomical perturbations of the Earth orbiting the Sun.

Instead of freaking out about global warming, we should welcome it. We should be investigating ways in which we might forestall the coming new Ice Age. Of course, it may not be possible for humanity to mitigate cosmology. In fact, the proposition seems pretty farfetched. But it would behoove us to consider what we can do to adapt to the coming COLD rather than crippling our economy in a bizarre and useless attempt to prevent imaginary global warming.

Warmer Is Better. Warmer means longer growing seasons, more rain, more productivity, more biodiversity, and more Life in general. Colder means mile-thick ice sheets covering much of the Northern Hemisphere, katabatic winds, tundra, deserts, and the elimination of forests, farms, cities, nations, species, etc.

The GW alarmist mantra has proved to be a cash cow for “scientists”. Umpteen billions of dollars have been spent “researching” the alleged effects of global warming. All the institutional nabobs want in on that gravy train. But their ridiculous theories and secret computer models are crocks of baloney.

It’s political. The GW alarmist rap and vacuuming up of all research funding is promoted by partisan political manipulations that are rooted in Stalinist authoritarianism and unbridled greed for money and power.

The perversion of forest science in the name of scientifically bankrupt theories (that are bankrupt in every other way, too) is killing our forests. It’s not global warming that’s doing it; it is junk science that “justifies” catastrophic megafire and the conversion of heritage forests to charred wastelands of scorched earth.

Please wake up, people. You have been conned by the biggest con-job in history. More than your wallets have been looted. Our landscapes are being destroyed by frauds and greedheads who trumpet bogus theories for personal profit and political power.

We can and should be good stewards of our forests, watersheds, and landscapes. It could be that we have only a few hundred years to develop planetary defenses against the coming Big Freeze. We should care for Creation with real science, not the junk variety. It is imperative.

Warmer Is BetterFight The IceSave Our Forests

24 Jan 2009, 6:54pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
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Warmer Means Wetter

The previous post I reviewed a research paper in which the authors speculated that global warming is causing increased drought, which in turn is causing increased tree mortality in forests. But does global warming cause drought? Or does warming result in more rain?

This complex question was discussed a year ago at World Climate Report [here]. On one hand some people theorize that warming will lead to more drought:

Raining on the Drought Parade, World Climate Report, January 11, 2008

One of the many pillars of fear regarding global warming is the claim that droughts will become more severe in the future, particularly in continental interiors. The story is very simple and is told over and over – temperatures rise, evaporation rates increase, and even with no change in rainfall, soil moisture levels decrease and droughts last longer and are more severe. Then, crops will fail, ecosystems will collapse, major cities will run out of water, diseases will spread – you know the story. There is always some drought occurring some place on the planet, so supporting evidence is easy to find.

On the other hand, increased evaporation could lead to more rain and less drought. At the same time heightened evapotranspiration in plants (due to the heat) and increased photosynthesis (due to more CO2 in the atmosphere) could deplete the additional soil moisture that results from the increased rainfall. Or, the plants enhanced by additional CO2 may become more efficient in utilization of soil moisture and thus need and use less water.

The heart of these complex questions, at least vis a vis tree mortality, is in regards to soil moisture levels: will they rise or fall as the globe warms? A better question (pertinent to the previous post) is: have soil moisture levels changed recently, and is that why more trees are dying (assuming one accepts the contentions of the authors of the research paper in question)?

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23 Jan 2009, 2:11pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
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Is Global Warming Killing Our Forests?

More Importantly, Is There Anything We Can Do About It?

By Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir, Western Institute for Study of the Environment

Introduction

An interesting research paper was published in Science Magazine yesterday that has captured national attention. The Washington Post headlined “Study Ties Tree Deaths To Change in Climate” [here]. The local Dead Tree Press, the Eugene Register Guard, declaimed “Study finds trees in Western forests dying at faster pace” [here].

Trees in old growth forests are dying at a faster rate across a wide swath of the West, with scientists saying that warming summers and shifting rain and snow patterns caused by global warming are likely to blame.

The US Geological Survey sponsored the study, and their press release is entitled “Tree Deaths Have Doubled Across the Western U.S. — Regional Warming May be the Cause” [here].

But is all that really happening, and if so, is there anything we can do about it?

To answer these questions, we have investigated in more detail. The actual research paper is Widespread Increase of Tree Mortality Rates in the Western United States by Phillip J. van Mantgem, Nathan L. Stephenson, John C. Byrne, Lori D. Daniels, Jerry F. Franklin, Peter Z. Fulé, Mark E. Harmon, Andrew J. Larson, Jeremy M. Smith, Alan H. Taylor, and Thomas T. Veblen. Science Vol. 323, 23 January 2009.

Co-lead author Dr. Phil van Mantgem has graciously supplied us with a copy of the paper [here]. The abstract:

Persistent changes in tree mortality rates can alter forest structure, composition, and ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration. Our analyses of longitudinal data from unmanaged old forests in the western United States showed that background (noncatastrophic) mortality rates have increased rapidly in recent decades, with doubling periods ranging from 17 to 29 years among regions. Increases were also pervasive across elevations, tree sizes, dominant genera, and past fire histories. Forest density and basal area declined slightly, which suggests that increasing mortality was not caused by endogenous increases in competition. Because mortality increased in small trees, the overall increase in mortality rates cannot be attributed solely to aging of large trees. Regional warming and consequent increases in water deficits are likely contributors to the increases in tree mortality rates.

My thoughts: first off, for all you Global Warming alarmists and skeptics out there, the research paper does not provide evidence for or against global warming. The authors did not research that phenomenon. They assumed that North America has warmed 1 deg F over “the last few decades” based on the work of others.

The authors did not confirm or deny that proposition. They did not do climatology. They did not investigate the fossil pollen record to see if forest die-offs had occurred in the past from global warming. That was not their focus. If you think the research paper will provide you ammunition for or against global warming theory, sorry – it doesn’t.

The authors purport that tree mortality rates have increased due to “exogenous” causes. They speculate that global warming could be responsible. That is all.

But that’s quite a bit by itself, to foresters and forest aficionados. We are curious about the validity of the author’s purport, and especially, is there a cure? Is there something we can do to prevent mass forest die-off, whether due to global warming or some other factor(s)?

The short answer is yes. There is something we can do about it. Restoration forestry can save our forests — from global warming, fire, insects, disease, and whatever else threatens them. Good stewardship and active management can protect, maintain, and perpetuate old-growth and every other forest type against a plethora of adversaries.

That’s the bottom line, the take-home that should be absorbed from the national discussion inspired by van Mantgem et al. We can save our forests, if we want to, by caring for them. We know how and we have the ability and capacity; it’s merely a matter of intention.

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Whoofoo Review Finds Faults

The East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire was ignited by lightning Aug 10, 2008, on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest about 15 miles southeast of Jarbidge, Nevada. Officials of the H-TNF declared it a WFU (Wildland Fire Use fire or “whoofoo”) immediately and let it burn unchecked.

The ESRR WFU Fire [here] was only 300 acres on Aug 17th, a week after ignition. But by Aug 20th it had grown to 5,000 acres and was threatening 30 historic cabins and the Pole Creek Guard Station. By Aug 21st the fire was nearly 10,000 acres and had spread out of the Maximum Manageable Area (previously established at 113,000 acres). Even so, the whoofoo designation was retained.

On Aug 21 the ESRR WFU Fire grew to 11,250 acres and the wind was blowing. Wiser heads prevailed and the whoofoo designation was scrapped. A Type 1 IMT (the big boys) was requested to suppress the fire. However, on Aug 24th all personnel were evacuated as high winds pushed the fire to 14,489 acres. The next day the fire doubled in size and threatened over 100 residences in the community of Murphy Hot Springs, ID.

By Aug 26th the ESRR WFU Fire was 38,595 acres and zero percent contained, but winds died down. Two days later the fire was 47,701 acres and aggressive backburning and aerial attack had slowed the fire front. On Aug 29th Governor Gibbons, US Congressman Heller, Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson, and other government and local officials visited helibase, received a briefing, and toured the fire area. The next day the fire reached 54,329 acres, close to its final size.

On Sept 10th the final acreage was 54,549 acres. Suppression costs to that date were $9,571,300.

For more discussion of the East Slide Rock Ridge WFU Fire see [here, here, here, and here].

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20 Jan 2009, 7:41pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
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Thin to Win - Forests, carbon, fire and climate change

by Tom Knudson, Sierra Summit-Conversations and observations about California’s mountains, Sacramento Bee, January 19, 2009 [here]

A new study finds that thinning Sierra Nevada forests helps store more carbon over the long haul, making them more effective in the battle against global warming.

The study, scheduled to appear in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, a publication of the Ecological Society of America, can be found at [W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences here].

All trees sequester carbon, of course. But across the Sierra - and much of the West - most trees also burn. Using computer models, the study’s authors - Matthew Hurteau at the Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff and Malcolm North at UC Davis - found that after a century of growth, unburned stands stored the most carbon. But when wildfire was taken into account, much of the carbon went up in smoke. If stand density was reduced before the forest burned, however, less carbon was lost.

And the more big trees that remain, the better.

“If you want a make these stands more stable, so they can survive these fires, and not make large carbon releases, you need to direct them so they start putting a lot of growth into the large pine trees, which are very fire resistant,” North told me not long ago.

“People generally believe that with fire suppression, you get all this in-filling, all the stems are growing in there, that they would store more carbon - but we found that’s not the case,” North added. “There is actually less carbon in the stands because you’ve lost a lot of the big trees. So the small trees, you may have gazillions of them, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that you had more large trees in the past.”

So what do we do now with the Sierra climate warming and high-intensity, stand-destroying fire a growing threat?

“You need a combination of low-intensity thinning and prescribed burning,” North said. “It’s one of the great advantage we have in the Sierra: trees that are large and fairly old, if you release them, they actually start growing like a juvenile youngster again. They just start packing the carbon on. And we have the potential, if we pay this short-term penalty, to make the forests in the Sierra a substantial sink for carbon - and off-set the fossil fuel release underway with human activity.”

But the Hurteau and North study also suggested California carbon accounting practices actually contribute to the problem by counting timber harvest stock loss as a carbon emission. “However, accounting for emissions from wildfire is not required,” it says. “Current carbon accounting practices can be at odds with efforts to reduce fire intensity in many western U.S. forest types.”

20 Jan 2009, 7:07pm
Saving Forests
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Restore some forests to their precolonial condition

Note: yours truly in the Main Stream Media. Special thanks to Jack Wilson, Editorial Page Editor, Eugene Register Guard.

By Mike Dubrasich, Opinion, Eugene Register Guard, Jan 19, 2009 [here]

Restore some [public] forests to their precolonial [precontact] condition

Recent guest viewpoints in The Register-Guard have blamed forest fires on global warming (George Wuerthner, Dec. 26) and logging (Roy Keene, Jan. 11). However, forest scientists agree by overwhelming consensus that fuels cause fires. Further, without forest restoration treatments, wildfires will destroy Oregon’s heritage forests.

Foresters [Forest scientists Drs.] Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson testified to the U.S. Senate in December 2007:

We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs. … Without action, we are at high risk of losing these stands — and the residual old-growth trees that they contain — to fire and insects. …

Inaction is a much more risky option for a variety of ecological values, including preservation of northern spotted owls and other old-growth related species. We need to learn as we go, but we need to take action now. Furthermore, it is critical for stakeholders to understand that active management is necessary in stands with existing old-growth trees in order to reduce the risk that those trees will be lost.

Indeed, over the last few years catastrophic, stand-replacing fires have destroyed vast tracts of Oregon old-growth forests. Examples include the Biscuit Fire (2002), the B&B Fire (2003), and last summer’s Rattle and Middle Fork fires. Heavy fuels led to severe burns that killed old-growth and converted those forests to permanent fire-type brush.

The damage was not limited to vegetation. Habitat for endangered species was destroyed; soils were baked and stripped; air was filled with smoke and carbon; streams were polluted with soot, ash and eroded sediments; recreational opportunities were lost; scenery was degraded; public health and safety were threatened, and the economic costs have been enormous.

Restoration forestry is the art and science of returning forests to heritage conditions of fire resiliency, with open and park-like structures. Our forests today often are crowded thickets, overladen with fuels and prone to catastrophic fires.

Restoration forestry removes the excess fuels and puts forests back into their historic condition, as they existed before Euro-American contact.

Restoration forestry is different than [from] rehabilitation of burns. Restoration is the treatment of stands before they burn to protect, maintain and perpetuate old-growth forests.

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

Our old-growth trees arose under much different conditions than today. The forest development pathways of precontact eras were not punctuated by infrequent catastrophic stand-­replacing fires, but instead were the result of frequent, seasonal, light-burning fires in open, park-like forests.

Those fires largely were anthropogenic (set by indigenous people). 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.

Modern fires in dense thickets not tempered by frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires cause total tree mortality. No trees survive the infrequent holocausts, and so no trees attain old-growth status.

In fact, modern fires routinely kill old-growth trees that withstood multiple fires in bygone eras. Modern fires burning in dense, built-up fuel conditions often convert heritage forests to more or less permanent brush fields.

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

Restoration forestry, applied at landscape scales, will make our forests safer and less prone to catastrophic, forest-replacing fires. Restoration forestry protects, maintains and perpetuates habitat, heritage, wildlife, aesthetics, recreational uses, watershed values, economics, public health and safety, and every other forest characteristic valued by human beings.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, passed by the Senate on Jan. 11, includes Title I, Forest Landscape Restoration. It encourages “the collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes.”

Public forest tracts of at least 50,000 acres are to be identified and treated with active ecological restoration. Projects must include collaboration with state and local governments, tribes and local private, nonprofit or cooperative entities. Projects must contribute “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.”

We all need to understand that restoration forestry is vital to preserving, protecting and sustaining Oregon’s treasured heritage old-growth forests. We should support active restoration projects as proposed under the new Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.

Mike Dubrasich has worked as a [professional] forester in Oregon for 34 years. He is the executive director of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment in Lebanon.

20 Jan 2009, 6:45pm
Uncategorized
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Hard Disk Crash

My apologies to all. The hard disk in the server somewhere in the Midwest crashed, resulting in a 28 hour downtime for W.I.S.E. and the loss of a couple of days worth of posts and comments.

We are pursuing other ISP options, looking for providers with redundancy and back-up, so that situations such as just occurred never happen again.

Oregon Governor Flips Wig

The Salem Lookout reports that Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is having religious visions regarding global warming. They quote Strange Ted:

[Al] Gore is like John the Baptist in the Christian gospels, Kulongoski says. “He’s the prophet that tells you what’s coming.”

Teddy the Torch has never been all that mentally stable. While the largest fire in Oregon history was burning (the 2002 Biscuit Fire - 500,000 acres) Ted proclaimed, “Healthy forests stink… they just stink.”

The Outlook story [here] hints that Ted has finally gone over the edge. Some excerpts:

Salem climate change: Kulongoski earning green stripes

Global warming agenda pushed for 2009 session

By Steve Law, Pamplin Media Group, Jan 15, 2009

State crackdowns on polluters during Ted Kulongoski’s reign as governor have been timid or even toothless, according to many critics.

The governor’s early bid for a signature environmental achievement——cleaning up the Willamette River——ran aground.

But Kulongoski has found his green niche, and maybe his place in Oregon history, with an aggressive campaign to forestall global warming by reducing carbon emissions.

Under his stewardship, Oregon is swiftly becoming a world manufacturing center of solar energy materials, and a hotbed for wind and wave energy development.

Note: the sun has pierced the clouds over the Willamette Valley all of twice, for an hour or two, in the last three months. Oregon is famous for rain, not sunshine. Ted Screwloose wants to tear down the hydroelectric dams (renewable energy produced by our abundant runoff) and install solar panels where the sun don’t shine.

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13 Jan 2009, 5:04pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
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Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration

There may be silver lining to the dark cloud that is the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22), passed Sunday by Harry Reid and the US Senate, their very first action of 2009.

Hidden amongst some terrible stuff (like guaranteed forest holocaust [here] and sweetheart land exchanges for multi-millionaires [here]) is Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration.

Title IV has some admirable language and some not-so-admirable language, which we discuss below, but in concept it is a huge leap forward in saving forests. For the first time ever Congress has recognized that active restoration forestry, not mere fuels management, is necessary to protect, maintain, and perpetuate our heritage public forests.

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Bribery In Action: Mt. Hoodgate

In September, 2006 SOS Forests reported on Mt. Hoodgate, a sweetheart bailout package for a multi-million dollar company and its tycoon owner [here]. The Oregonian reported it too, in a full-color editorial that called for the American taxpayers pony up the cash and land to buyout/tradeout a private company.

Well, it happened. S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, was passed Sunday by Harry Reid and the US Senate, their very first action of 2009. The entire Act is 1,264 pages and may be downloaded [here].

I haven’t read the whole thing yet (it’s 1,264 pages long), but right there on pages 62 to 66 is the sweetheart landswap with the millionaire, laid out in black and white or more properly red ink for taxpayers. All that is missing is the quid pro quo that sleazed into Sen. Ron Wyden’s back pocket.

SEC. 1206. LAND EXCHANGES.
4 (a) COOPER SPUR-GOVERNMENT CAMP LAND EXCHANGE.—
6 (1) DEFINITIONS.—In this subsection:
7 (A) COUNTY.—The term ‘‘County’’ means
8 Hood River County, Oregon.
9 (B) EXCHANGE MAP.—The term ‘‘exchange map’’ means the map entitled ‘‘Cooper
11 Spur/Government Camp Land Exchange’’,
12 dated June 2006.
13 (C) FEDERAL LAND.—The term ‘‘Federal
14 land’’ means the approximately 120 acres of
15 National Forest System land in the Mount
16 Hood National Forest in Government Camp,
17 Clackamas County, Oregon, identified as
18 ‘‘USFS Land to be Conveyed’’ on the exchange
19 map.
20 (D) MT. HOOD MEADOWS.—The term ‘‘Mt.
21 Hood Meadows’’ means the Mt. Hood Meadows
22 Oregon, Limited Partnership.
23 (E) NON-FEDERAL LAND.—The term
24 ‘‘non-Federal land’’ means—

1 (i) the parcel of approximately 770
2 acres of private land at Cooper Spur identified as ‘‘Land to be acquired by USFS’’
4 on the exchange map; and
5 (ii) any buildings, furniture, fixtures,
6 and equipment at the Inn at Cooper Spur
7 and the Cooper Spur Ski Area covered by
8 an appraisal described in paragraph
9 (2)(D).

In September of 2006 we reported that the US Government Accountability Office investigated the deal, and the investigators had serious problems with the land appraisals. It seems the appraised land values on the acres the private company, Mt. Hood Meadows Oregon, Limited Partnership, wishes to convey to the government were hugely overstated.

The parcel of land that the private company wants to exchange is roughly 770 acres of fresh clearcuts. It is almost worthless. The land used to belong to Hood River County, up until a few years ago, when the private company swapped their Dog River 850 acres for HRC’s 770 acres. The HRC Forestry Department had previously clearcut 80 to 90 percent of the 770 acres over the last 20 or so years.

At the time of the land swap, the company was led to believe they could put a destination resort on the clearcut land, a land use the county had denied them on the Dog River property. Then the old switcheroo was pulled by HRC, and the company was left holding a bag of clearcut land they couldn’t use.

Business is business. Everybody went into the deal open-eyed. If both parties’ vision was clouded by greed, it is their own fault. If there were contract faults or mis-performances, then sue. Don’t ask the American taxpayers to bail out millionaires!

However, Oregon’s Congressional Delegation did exactly that, setting it up via S. 22 so that American taxpayers bail out the company. S. 22 calls for swapping 120 USFS acres in Government Camp for the 770 acres in HRC. The problem is, the 770 acres is nearly worthless, and the Government Camp acreage is worth millions.

Furthermore, the USFS has no desire for the clearcuts. They already have enough of that. The 770 acres does not block them up, but spreads Federal ownership out into private lands in an intrusive smear. This is in direct opposition to their Congressionally mandated land trade/acquisition policies.

The 770 acres has no special resource values. If it did at one time, the people of HRC took care of that by clearcutting it. If the 770 acres still has resource values, then the clearcuts didn’t impair them, and there is no need for the government to acquire the clearcuts to “protect” anything special.

The whole deal is out of the norm for USFS land swaps, to say the least. Frankly, the whole deal is a scam to enrich the rich at taxpayers’ expense. The actual parcels are just symbolic fronts for vast sums to be drained from the Federal Treasury to wealthy donors and to Ron Wyden.

Quid pro quo. You jam money at the Senator and he will reach into the Federal Treasury and pay you back a hundred-fold with the taxpayer’s land and money. That’s the way the bribery game works. He’ll write a special sweetheart law just for you, if you reward him handsomely for it.

Government land for sale or trade cheap, to the land sharks who play the game.

Note: more to come on S. 22. It is 1,264 pages after all, and there is enough sleaze in it to choke an elephant.

Senate Pushes Massive Forest Holocaust Act

In the very first act of the 2009 Congress the US Senate pushed through a catastrophic incineration bill that guarantees megafire holocausts across Oregon the West.

While the national economy collapses, the US Senate fiddled and earmarked 200,000 acres in Oregon and 2 million acres in eight other states for wholesale destruction by raging wildfire. It is important to note that those fires will not stop at the newly designated holocaust boundaries, either.

The Oregonian reported today [here]

WASHINGTON — Crashing through a barrier that blocked popular wilderness bills for more than a year, the Senate on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation that would permanently protect more than 200,000 acres of threatened “natural treasures” near Mount Hood and other Oregon locations, as well as 2 million acres in eight other states.

The 66-12 vote on a rare weekend session cleared the way for final passage later this week of a sprawling public lands bill that extends formal wilderness status and protection to federal land across a wide swath of the country in addition to expanding national parks.

Though many senators grumbled about a Sunday session, the vote was a happy milestone for Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has been pushing the Oregon elements for more than a year only to be blocked by objections from a single Republican lawmaker.

With Sunday’s vote, those objections have been overcome and the path to additional protection for land and streams in Oregon has largely been cleared.

Protection? Guaranteed destruction is more like it. Last summer alone catastrophic fires incinerated old-growth forests, habitat, and heritage in the Boulder Creek Wilderness, Sky Lakes Wilderness, South Sierra Wilderness, Jarbidge Wilderness, and Ventana Wilderness. The damages beyond the Wilderness boundaries from smoke, fire, and watershed destruction were severe and will be long-lasting.

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

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11 Jan 2009, 3:41pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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Cultural Legacies in Western Landscapes

As promised [here], we have posted (in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes) a recent report by Michael J. Heckenberger and co-workers entitled The legacy of cultural landscapes in the Brazilian Amazon: implications for biodiversity [here].

Heckenberger’s research indicates that Amazonia is not a primordial wilderness but instead has been home to sophisticated civilizations for thousands of years. Those “polities” have significantly altered the Amazonian environment and added to (not detracted from) the biodiversity found there.

Research from the southern margins of closed tropical forest, in the headwaters of the Xingu River, are highlighted as an example of constructed nature in the Amazon. In all cases, human influences dramatically altered the distribution, frequency and configurations of biological communities and ecological settings. …

The idea that any sustained human presence, even indigenous peoples with simple tools, is destructive or even invasive of biodiversity, is not only questionable in many cases but also backwards, since it was cultural forces, in significant part, that were responsible for patterns of biodiversity in the first place.

The implications are that dehumanizing the Amazon would be destructive to exactly the ecological diversity that popular Western culture is so enamored with. And equally tragic is the discounting and elimination of the native cultures that shaped the landscape in the first place.

That Amazonian landscapes are richly historical and constructed makes them no less natural or interesting, or tainted in terms of biodiversity. Many aspects of indigenous and folk resource management provide ready-made alternatives to imported and far more destructive development strategies and technologies. As Laurance et al. (2001, p. 439) suggest: ‘Rather than rampant exploitation, an alternative and far superior model for Amazonian development is one in which agricultural land is used intensively rather than extensively and ‘high-value’ agroforestry is valued and perennial crops are favoured over fire-maintained cattle pastures and slash-and-burn farming plots.’ Indeed, this is precisely what it seems some indigenous groups were doing. Indigenous practices limit deforestation and lasting partnerships between indigenous and rural peoples in the region will maintain standing forests and potentially even restore tropical forest degradation (Lamb et al. 2005; Nepstad et al. 2005). …

Heckerberger’s conclusions, like Susanna Hecht’s [here], are that native cultures and their sustainable agricultural practices are essential elements in protection and conservation of Amazonia, from a socio-political perspective as well as an ecological one. Our landscapes do not benefit from dehumanization, which is an exploitation (of environment and people) just as much as wholesale deforestation by axe or fire.

The new paradigm thinking is that humanity cannot and should not be divorced from the landscape. Wise stewardship, informed by history and environmental science, is that which incorporates traditional ecological knowledge and native and rural claims to land.

[A]s a hotspot in terms of genes, species and the overall ecosystem(s), as well as in terms of local, national and world heritage, issues of human agency, dynamic change in coupled human–environmental systems and human rights loom large in questions of conservation or sustainable development. In this regard, understanding indigenous systems of management, including those that are only or largely apparent archaeologically, may hold critical keys to future approaches to land use and land rights.

 
  
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