3 Sep 2009, 3:54pm
Climate and Weather The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
1 comment

Mega Smoke in LA

The Station Fire [here] is 145,000+ acres and growing, and it has churned out smoke in unbelievably vast quantities. The smoke consists of ash and pyrolytic compounds such as carbon monoxide and dioxide. The smoke particles range in size from large embers down to a micron or less in diameter.

The fire has produced its own weather, including pyrocumulus clouds:

Time lapse pyrocumulus for the LA Station Fire

by Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That, Sept 2, 2009 [here]

Like volcanic eruptions, some fires grow large enough to make their own weather with the heat being released acting like convection. Witness this neat time lapse in HD showing the “Station” fire in the Angeles National Forest.

This video was made by photographer Brandon Riza on August 30th, 2009. It is quite well done and quite visually stunning. Click image for time lapse video.

pyrocumulus — A pyrocumulus or fire cloud is a dense cumuliform cloud associated with fire or volcanic activity.

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud. The detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere will also produce a pyrocumulus in the form of a mushroom cloud which is made by the same mechanism. The presence of a low level jet stream can enhance its formation. Condensation of ambient moisture (moisture already present in the atmosphere) as well as moisture evaporated from burnt vegetation or volcanic outgassing occurs readily on particles of ash.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Pyrocumuli contain severe turbulence which also results in strong gusts at the surface which can exacerbate a large conflagration. A large pyrocumulus, particularly one associated with a volcanic eruption, may also produce lightning. This is a process not fully understood as of yet, but is probably in some way associated with charge separation induced by severe turbulence, and perhaps, by the nature of the particles of ash in the cloud. Large pyrocumuli can contain temperatures well below freezing, and the electrostatic properties of any ice that forms may also play a role. A pyrocumulus which produces lightning is actually a type of cumulonimbus, a thundercloud and is called pyrocumulonimbus.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

more »

Utah Governor Slams USFS for Foofurb Disaster

Utah Governor Gary Herbert criticized the US Forest Service for the Mill Flat Fire that burned into New Harmony, destroying three homes, damaging others, and forcing the evacuation of the town.

“It appears the Forest Service started the fire,” Herbert said Sunday. “They should take responsibility.”

The Mill Flat Fire [here] ignited July 25 in the Dixie National Forest. Bevan Killpack, Pine Valley District Ranger and Rob MacWhorter, Forest Supervisor for the Dixie NF, decided the fire should be allowed to burn unchecked. One person was assigned to monitor the fire and a 29,000 acre “maximum manageable area” was designated. The Mill Flat Fire was declared a foofurb, a “fire used for resource benefit”, despite the fact that no benefits were elucidated, no EIS created, and no public involvement or hearings held.

As of August 22 the fire was 550 acres. Then last Saturday the wind came up, the fire blew up, and by Monday the fire was 10,382 acres. The fire is still only 5 percent contained and it may be another 10 to 12 days before full containment is achieved. Over 700 firefighters are engaged. The suppression costs have not been reported as yet.

No estimates of the damages have been made yet either, although Killpack warned that floods next spring could cause additional losses [here]:

One of the biggest future problems with the Mill Flat fire, Killpack said, could be flooding in the spring created from loss of vegetation. Killpack said he has already put in a request for Forest Service for funds to help mitigate flooding. Requested items might include sandbags, square baskets full of rocks to impede stream flow or other recommendations from an agency hydrologists.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s comments were reported yesterday:

Herbert views fire, criticizes federal policies

By Mark Havnes, The Salt Lake Tribune, 08/31/2009 [here]

New Harmony » Gov. Gary Herbert on Sunday joined critics questioning why the 10,000-acre Mill Flat fire that destroyed at least three structures and threatened more than 600 others was not suppressed earlier.

After flying over the blaze’s towering smoke column in a helicopter, he aimed his criticism at a decision to let the lightning-caused fire burn as a way to clear old growth and invite rejuvenation.

“A lighting strike may be a good way to manage resources but [it] may not be the best practice,” the governor said. …

“With wilderness, our hands are tied behind our backs,” Herbert said. “It sets us up for a tragedy.”

Perhaps sheep should be allowed to graze in now-restricted areas, he said.

Officials had been monitoring the fire mostly burning through dead vegetation for nearly a month before it exploded in size on Saturday as heavy winds quickly pushed it closer and closer to residential areas.

At a town meeting Sunday afternoon, Patricia Smith asked how much money would have been saved had officials opted to suppress the fire earlier. …

Jon Petersen, who lives in Las Vegas but whose family has a house in New Harmony, said the Forest Service “screwed up.”

He said he went up to a ridge top to look at the fire two weeks ago and saw tragedy coming.

“The smoke would flare up in Pine Valley and drop its ashes [and embers] on New Harmony.

His brother, Ralph Petersen, also criticized slow response to fight the flames.

“My solution is the first five days [the fire] is nature made, after that it should be treated as manmade,” he said.

Fire spokesman Kenton Call said questions about cost and the decision not to fight the fire earlier will be addressed at a later date.

For his part, Herbert said he wants to ensure state taxpayers won’t bear the cost.

“It appears the Forest Service started the fire; they should take responsibility,” he said.

Some conflicting statements: the USFS claimed the fire would “benefit” resources but never presented any explanation of what those benefits might be. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the “benefits” were to “clear old growth and invite rejuvenation.” Yet clearing old-growth is not generally recognized as a benefit. In fact, clearing old growth is something that “environmentalists” rail at length against.

The SL Tribune also reported that “the fire mostly burning through dead vegetation for nearly a month” and that the purpose of the fire was to “reduce the amount of available fuel.”

That is, a wildfire was allowed to burn unchecked in mid-summer because there was a significant threat to resources and to public health and safety from a fire in those fuels.

Next week the USFS will be driving all its vehicles over a cliff because there is a threat that the vehicles may fall off a cliff someday.

In another SL Tribune report [here] Killpack was quoted:

“We have an unhealthy ecosystem with a lot of stressed trees so bugs are able to kill them,” he said. “We have 35 percent dead trees in tight vegetation above the towns of Pine Valley, New Harmony and Leeds, and one day that will burn. It’s not if, it’s when.”

Evidently he thought the middle of summer was the best time to incinerate his Ranger District.

Environmentalists blamed the victims:

“New Harmony is no longer New Harmony,” [long-time Utah wilderness activist Dick] Carter said of building homes in fire-prone areas. “It’s out of harmony and it’s been out of harmony a long time because we have failed to understand the consequences of growth and that’s the thing Governor Herbert and others will have to deal with.”

Carter did not blame himself for insisting on wilderness designation, even though that designation precludes any sort of true restoration that might benefit resources. Indeed, wilderness designation is an invitation to catastrophic fire:

In managing wildfires in wilderness, district rangers such as Killpack must request permission from supervisors at the forest and regional level to use chain saws, land helicopters or drop water or retardants from the air in wilderness areas. For the Mill Flat fire, that permission was granted last Thursday, Killpack said.

Unfortunately, that was a little too late to save the town or the forest.

The site of the conflagration, Pine Valley, has been home to human beings for more than 10,000 years. It is not “wilderness,” not “untrammeled,” and not “pristine.” It is and has been homeland and was managed by the residents with anthropogenic fire for millennia. Traditional management precluded catastrophic fires, which would have been disastrous, would have destroyed resources, and would have compromised the survival of the residents. Hence they burned the landscape on a frequent, seasonal, regular basis with light, low intensity fires. Frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires engendered the pine savanna which gave the valley its name.

In the absence of traditional stewardship, and indeed in the absence of any stewardship at all, the pine savanna has been destroyed and severe damage has been done to environmental and human-built resources. And that destruction has come at great expense, far greater than common sense traditional stewardship would have cost.

The Mill Flat Fire is another forest fire tragedy and disaster that arose from fatheaded politics and unmanagement in support of a myth. Similar tragedies arising from the same causes have ravaged western landscapes in recent years, and there appears to be no light at the end of that tunnel.

14 Aug 2009, 3:45pm
Saving Forests The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

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.

more »

8 Aug 2009, 6:02pm
Saving Forests
by admin

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.

more »

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.

more »

22 Jul 2009, 11:14am
Saving Forests The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

The Unfinished Saga of the Backbone Fire

By Mike Dubrasich

The Backbone Fire was ignited by lightning on July 1st and is currently burning in the Salmon Mountains of Trinity County in Northern California. As I write, the Backbone Fire [here] is reported to be 6,324 acres and 80 percent contained. Both direct and indirect fire suppression actions are being undertaken.

Thus the Saga of the Backbone Fire has no ending, yet. Furthermore, surprising as it may seem, the story begins deep in the misty past, long before there was even a forest there.

In this essay we will attempt to tell the saga, as best we are able, in full knowledge that the whole story is beyond the scope, backwards and forwards, which we peer through. And we hope to add to this essay in the future, when it arrives, and the final chapters transpire in the present-to-be.

Ancient History

Before the Great Warming occurred that signaled the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation about 12,500 years ago, the Salmon Mountains were icy peaks laden with glaciers. Along the California coast to the west was an Ice Age refugia, warmed by oceanic currents and kept free of ice. There towering Pleistocene redwoods grew, isolated from the rest of the continent by tundra and ice.

Some 13,000 years ago, or perhaps earlier, hardy bands of human beings made their way south to the redwoods from the Bering Land Bridge, or perhaps north from already inhabited South America, no one knows for sure. They were likely a maritime people, living on the edge of the ocean and dining mainly on seafood. Some evidence (there is very little remaining) suggests that those people were also knowledgeable about and utilized the vegetation of the refugia, for food, clothing, shelter, medicines, and fuel.

The Great Warming came, in fits and spurts, and by 11,000 years ago the climate had warmed to more or less modern conditions. The Salmon glaciers melted and forests invaded the formerly frozen ridges and valleys.

This timeline has one telling feature: human beings preceded the forests in the Trinity Mountains, as we did across much of North America. People came before the forests, not after.

more »

19 Jul 2009, 10:58am
Federal forest policy Forestry education
by admin

Ecobabble from the Fire Community

As we have pointed out repeatedly [here and here, for instance], the fire community is largely ignorant of forest science. They see wildfire as a glorious panacea for whatever ails forests, and they stoop to new levels of ecobabble to justify their prejudices.

Ecobabble is the misuse and abuse of terminology from the ecological sciences to paint a false picture and to imply that the user knows something that they manifestly do not. I didn’t invent the term; see some Web definitions [here].

When the fire community uses ecobabble, it is particularly offensive because they abuse the terminology to cover up their abuse of the environment. Some examples and explanatory comments follow. I have not cited the actual ecobabblers, although I could do so, out of compassion for the low-level functionaries who spew propaganda as ordered by higher ups.

Fires recycle the forest — Forests are not garbage; they do not require “recycling.” This ecobabble canard is an outgrowth of the “decadent forest” agitprop that was used to justify old-growth logging. The logging of old-growth was halted 20 years ago (or more) but ironically the protesters of by-gone eras now use their adversaries’ ecobabble to justify incinerating old-growth forests today. Forests develop and change over time. They are aggregations of organisms in various conditions. Forests are not single organisms that get old and must be killed dead so new forests can grow there. That sort of thinking is a-scientific.

Fires rejuvenate the forest — This is the same type of ecobabble as above. “Rejuvenate” means to make young again. There is no ecological reason to kill old-growth forests and replace them with baby forests. Indeed, there is ample reason to protect, maintain, and perpetuate old-growth forests.

The “rejuvenation” ecobabble has been applied (by the fire community) to return fires. Return fires are reburns of older burns, often within 15 years or less. The first fire killed all the old-growth and left a sea of snags and brush. The second fire is supposed to “rejuvenate” the burn. But if wildfire was so rejuvenational, why didn’t the first fire accomplish the feat? And how will the second fire do what the first did not? In fact, return fires often cement the conversion of forests to fire-type brush.

Ensuring that fire plays its natural ecological role in fire-adapted forests — This is double ecobabble. First, most Western Hemisphere forests have been subject to human-set (anthropogenic) fires for millennia. Human tending through anthropogenic fire gave rise to open, park-like forests and induced the forest development pathways that led to old-growth trees. The “natural ecological role” of fire in our forests is to convert them to tick brush, the historical human role has been to manage fire regimes to tend forests.

The fire community is sadly ignorant of actual, historical forest development pathways. It could be said that much of the forest science community is equally sad and ignorant of the ecological processes that have nurtured our forests for thousands of years. The denial of historical human influences is a-scientific, a-historical, and seen by many as racist. Denying the presence and actions of millions of human residents over millennia is a pernicious myth rooted in extreme cultural prejudice.

All forests are “adapted” to fire, but not all fires are alike. The frequent, seasonal, human-set and tended fires that guided forest development during the entire Holocene were materially different from the catastrophic holocausts perpetrated by the Federal Government today. The severe burns that denude whole landscapes and convert them from forest to brush fields are not “ecological” or desirable in terms of forest maintenance or resource protection.

Fires like this do not “rejuvenate,” “play a natural ecological role,” or “benefit resources.”

Fires reduce fuel loadings — That frequent claim is not ecobabble per se, because it is closer to fire engineering than ecological terminology. The statement is counter-factual nonetheless, as can be seen in the photo above. The severe fires that the Federal fire bosses are so fond of kill green trees and leave more dead and dry fuel than was present before the fire. The fire hazard is increased, not mitigated, by catastrophic fire.

Fire suppression in the past is responsible for fires today — Another ecobabble statement with no basis in fact. Catastrophic fires are nothing new. The First Residents experienced landscape-scale severe fires that destroyed whole regions and left the people starving. They soon learned, from painful experience, that human beings could reduce the holocausts that challenged survival itself by setting frequent, seasonal, light burning fires.

It was the elimination of stewardship and anthropogenic fire, steeped in millennia of traditional ecological knowledge, that led to modern fuel build-ups and the catastrophic megafires of today.

Had the government NOT attempted to suppress fires over the last 100 years or so, those fires would have been megafire holocausts (such as the Idaho fires of 1910). Backing off and letting fires burn does not reduce the fire hazard; it actualizes it.


Ecobabble is nothing new; some might contend that most of ecological science is babble. But the egregious use of ecobabble to justify catastrophic forest fires is a modern invention, recent propaganda designed to excuse horrifically bad forest management.

Based on a-historical myths and lies, modern ecobabble promulgated by the fire community is harmful and destructive. It does not justify — it exacerbates the harm done by adding insult to injury.

We have barely scratched the surface in this post. Send us your own favorite ecobabble phrases. We will disabuse the abusers of the terminology and set the record straight here.

Return Fire

A 5-part essay by Mike Dubrasich

No Forest Worries, Mate, Says the JSFP

The Joint Fire Science Program (JSFP) is a government bureaucracy dedicated to wildfire [here]. Fire is the be-all and end-all of their existence.

Now, I’m not saying that the JSFP is made up of bug-eyed arsonists, but fire is their bread and butter, the source and inspiration of their funding, their primary focus, and their conceit.

Forests are not their focus, although wildfires often burn forests. Fire is the consuming concern of the JSFP; forests are merely the backdrop — in their eyes piles of fuels ready to burn –- and in some ways justification for the existence of the JSFP and buttering their bread.

Because forests sometimes erupt into forest fires, which enflame the passion and conceit of the JSFP, and because the JSFP styles itself as a scientific institution, they occasionally foray into forest science. Sadly, those forays betray a profound ignorance of the subject. The JSFP knows next to nothing about forests, and indeed, next to nothing about why and how forests burn.

That ignorance is on display their web publication, Fire Science Brief, Issue 49, May 2009 [here]. In that issue the JSFP resurrects a two-year-old paper and badly fumbles the context and the findings.

The resurrected paper discussed in Fire Science Brief is from an actual forest science study, (Shatford J., D.E. Hibbs and K Puettmann. 2007. Conifer Regeneration Following Forest Fire in the Klamath-Siskiyous: How much, how soon? Journal of Forestry 105:139-146), but the JSFP discussion does not reprint the report. Instead, they misinterpret it out of context.

more »

22 Jun 2009, 1:29pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
1 comment

A Pyne Trifecta

Stephen Pyne, World’s Foremost Expert on fire and author of over 20 books on the subject, has written three “fire journalism” essays on modern anthropogenic fire in the Midwest. They are now posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences.

Missouri Compromise was posted last December [here]. Patch Burning is [here]. People of the Prairie, People of the Fire is [here].

“Fire journalism” is Pyne’s label. I see them more as non-fiction literary essays. Pyne further demurs:

Anyone familiar with the pyric geography of these sites will appreciate that I add nothing to data or concepts. Instead, I have sought only to establish a different perspective and narrative for their understanding.

which is too humble, in my opinion. In truth, Pyne once again plows new ground with insight and wit.

This collection of three essays is group-titled Middle Ground and surveys fire in Oklahoma, the Missouri Ozarks, and prairie remnants in Illinois. The set has also been posted at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center [here]. A photo montage entitled Middle Ground: Image Slideshow accompanies the essays at the WFLLC site [here].

As usual with his writing, there are numerous quotable quotes, or Pynisms. From Patch Burning:

Especially as the proneness of landscapes to propagate fires splintered to the eastward, as land roughened, watercourses multiplied, and humidity thickened, only people could have set enough fires. Remove any part of this prairie fire triangle and the fire would go out.

The upshot is that those prairie patches were not only pyric landscapes: they were cultural landscapes. They remain so today. …

And from People of the Prairie, People of the Fire:

The indigenes at the time of European contact, the Potawatomi, were known variously as the people of the place of the fire, or the keepers of the fire, because they maintained the great council fire around which the regional confederation of tribes gathered. But that fire did not stay within the council circle: it spread throughout the landscape, a constant among the diversity of grasses, trees, shrubs, ungulates, small mammals, birds, and insects that congregated around the informing prairie. In time the Potawatomi became known equally as the people of the prairie since the one meant the other. Remove fire, and the prairie disappeared. Remove prairie, and free-ranging fire lost its habitat. Remove the keepers of the fire and both prairie and fire vanish into overgrown scrub, weedy lots, or feral flame. …

Yet there is a second narrative of fire restoration at work as well, in which fire is returned not only to the land but to the hand. The reconstruction of Nachusa reinstates fire to ordinary people. The volunteers, who do much of the hard work of gathering and disseminating seeds, clearing invasive shrubs and weeding new acres, also do the burning. As much as reinstating big bluestem and lady fern, Nachusa has returned the torch to folk practitioners, the kind of fire wielders who sustained the prairie peninsula through millennia. The people of the new prairie have become people of the new fire. …

Please study and enjoy these works. This post is the proper place to make comments about Pyne’s Midwest trifecta — generally speaking, comments are not allowed in the Colloquia subsites to avoid littering them with extraneous dialog.

18 Jun 2009, 10:30am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

An Open Letter to Tom Tidwell

Dear Tom,

SOS Forests welcomes you as the next Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. We salute your prior accomplishments, share in the excitement of your appointment, and wish you every possible success.

And we really mean that. We really do wish your tenure as Chief to be successful. It is going to be a difficult road, though. The deck is stacked against you, but we will help you all we can.

You need our help because the USFS has lost more than half of its staffing over the last 20 years. Many District, Forest, and Regional offices have closed, and those that remain open have skeleton crews. Active management has ground nearly to a standstill.

As a result, megafires are exploding out of control every summer. 2008 saw the California fire bust, with over a million acres burned in that state alone, and more than a dozen firefighter fatalities. 2007 was the worst fire season in five decades, with nearly 10 million acres burned by wildfires and 20 firefighter lives lost. Over 800,000 acres burned in Central Idaho alone, and the aftermath brought catastrophic erosion and degradation of soils and waterways. 2006 was another record-breaking fire season. This year promises to be even worse, if national USFS fire policies do not change.

Halting our current crisis of megafires is a very tall order. You can, however, take a few initial actions that will start your administration off on the right foot.

First, please use the word “forests” in speeches and writings. You are going to be Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. The ground you will oversee is neither “timberlands” nor “wildlands.” It is forests, or forestland. Please refer to it as such.

This is easy to do, costs you nothing, and will demonstrate your core values. (Not to mention that failing to do so will handicap you right away, and come back to haunt you later, too, as it did your predecessor.)

Second, cancel the Whoofoo program. Whoofoo’s (wildland fire use fires) are accidental fires in accidental locations started by lightning during the height of the fire season. Such fires should be suppressed with rapid initial attack, not left to burn. Whoofoo’s led to enormous and expensive tragedies like the Warm Fire, the Tripod Fire, the Tatoosh Fire, the Middle Fork Fire, the South Barker Fire, the East Slide Rock Ridge Fire, the Cedar Fire, and many others.

Whoofoo’s are the renamed equivalents of “prescribed natural fires” which caused catastrophes such as the 1988 incineration of Yellowstone National Park. The lack of rapid initial response with adequate firefighting forces was directly responsible for the 500,000 acre Biscuit Fire of 2003 and dozens of other megafires in the last two decades. Inadequate initial response has been ultimately responsible for every modern megafire, as a matter of fact.

You should also reconsider Appropriate Management Response, a euphemism for Let It Burn. AMR has led to over 1,000 square miles of unnecessary forest destruction in each of the last two years, including the Payette fires of 2007 and the Northern California fires of 2008. Decision made under AMR have huge ecological consequences but never go through normal NEPA processes. It does not serve our national forests, the Agency, or the mission to avoid proper legal and public involvement procedures.

Third, please initiate a national program to develop natural histories for every National Forest in the System. The histories should reach back at least 10,000 years, and should document the actual, historic, forest development pathways that occurred, in reality, location by location.

We cannot care for our forests, or restore them, or prevent megafires, if we don’t have a good handle on how our forests got here in the first place. Emphasis in the histories should be on ancient anthropogenic fire and the actual human/forest relationships that have had so much impact on the conditions, indeed the very existence, of our forests today.

Fourth, it is time to reconsider and restate the mission of the USFS. In the absence of a clear mission the Agency is rudderless. All resource values are threatened. I encourage you to engage in a national dialog in that regard.

Fifth, please look to forest experts outside of government for advice on forest stewardship. We have much to offer. Ignoring our expertise and deep concern for our public forests is a grievous mistake made by prior Chiefs, much to the detriment of our forests and the Agency. We are ready, willing, and able to assist you. Do not dismiss or discount outside expertise.

We extend our best wishes to you, and to your family and friends, as you embark on this important voyage. We wish you every success. We really do. Because the survival of our priceless, heritage, American forests depends on it.


Mike Dubrasich
SOS Forests

16 Jun 2009, 1:38pm
Politics and politicians
by admin

Obama, Congress Target US Public

The Climate Hoax has reached Pearl Harbor proportions. Illegitimate President B. Hussein Obama has now fired upon the American Public in a bellicose attack based on the most colossal forgery and sham of the century, anthropogenic global warming.

From the UK Guardian:

Obama targets US public with call for climate action

Climate impacts report warns of flooding, heat waves, drought and loss of wildlife that will occur if Americans fail to act on global warming

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, guardian.co.uk, 16 June 2009 [here]

The Obama administration is poised for its most forceful confrontation with the American public on the sweeping and life-altering consequences of a failure to act on global warming with the release today of a long-awaited scientific report on climate change.

The report, produced by more than 30 scientists at 13 government agencies dealing with climate change, provides the most detailed picture to date of the worst case scenarios of rising sea levels and extreme weather events: floods in lower Manhattan; a quadrupling of heat waves deaths in Chicago; withering on the vineyards of California; the disappearance of wildflowers from the slopes of the Rockies; and the extinction of Alaska’s wild polar bears in the next 75 years.

Today’s release is part of a carefully crafted strategy by the White House to help build public support for Obama’s agenda and boost the prospects of a climate change bill now making its way through Congress.

Thirty scientists? Thirty thousand scientists have signed a petition declaring that “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate” [here].

Some 800 scientists, economists, legislators, policy activists, and media representatives attended the Third International Conference on Climate Change, in March, with 80 speakers and 60 co-sponsoring organizations expressing the viewpoint that “global warming is not a crisis, that it is probably natural and not caused by human activity, and that computer models are unreliable guides to future temperature change” [here].

In addition:

* Sea levels have not risen in three years [here]. After a rapid rise during the first 8,000 years of the Holocene, sea levels have risen only 2 mm per year for the last 2,000 years [here]. Yet that natural increase has slowed of late as polar ice has increased.

* Hurricanes and tornadoes hve declined in number and strength in recent years and have been shown to be related to natural oceanic oscillations, not falsely alleged global warming [here, here].

* There have been no floods in Lower Manhattan. Terrorist bombings perped by Islamo-Fascists yes, floods no.

* Cold weather-related human mortality vastly exceeds warm weather-related mortality [here, here]. The carbon taxes proposed by Obama and Congress will kill more people as both heating and air conditioning costs will skyrocket.

* Grapes are not “withering on the vine,” wildflowers are not disappearing, and polar bears are not going extinct. Those claims are pure falsehoods. As a matter of fact, over the the last three decades of “global warming”, the world polar bear population has tripled or quadrupled.

* Climate warming, which is not happening, would increase agricultural production. The warmest areas of the planet are also the most productive. That is an undeniable fact.

* Computer model based greenhouse gas theories of runaway global warming have been thoroughly debunked. The earth’s atmosphere, with cloud albedo and tropical heat transfer from the surface to outer space, has kept global temperatures within a range of plus or minus 8 degrees Centigrade for at least the last half a billion years [here], despite asteroid collisions, super volcanoes, flood basalts, and other global catastrophes.

* The carbon taxes to be inflicted by Obama and Congress on America will do absolutely nothing to alter global temperatures — but will destroy our already reeling economy. Mass poverty, disease, and starvation will result worldwide from the despicable hoax-backed blitzkrieg waged upon America by evil-doers, who are reminiscent of the 20th Century megalomanical dictators who perpetrated the greatest inhumanities in recorded history.

The time has come to impeach the entire US Congress and the illegitimate President, and replace the evil hoaxers with rational, pro-American, pro-human representatives.

There is no point in writing letters to criminals and traitors in public office. Instead, petitions for recall should be prepared and signatures gathered. There is no time to waste. Dump your Congressperson and Senators now. Concurrently, a total housecleaning of worthless government functionaries should be enacted — fire everyone regardless of past performance — and restock government offices with entirely new personnel, chastened by the upheaval that proceeded them.

The hoax-based, ruthless, and destructive attacks on America waged by our own government against the citizenry must be abated and extinguished immediately.

4 Jun 2009, 12:50am
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin

Junk Science Rules

Nothing comes close to the eruptions of absolute junk science when it comes to forestry in Oregon. Every kook in the world is suddenly an expert on matters they know nothing about. (Unless it is global warming alarmism, another arena in which junk science abounds).

Case in point: the “discussion” today at the Oregon Board of Forestry hearing regarding management of the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.

Clowns in fish costumes paraded the grounds before the meeting, a fitting precursor to the lunacy they brought inside.

The circus was covered by the Oregonian:

OREGON ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS: Going green, green living, eco friendly tips and articles

Liveblogging: Tillamook and Clatsop state forests debate

by Matthew Preusch, The Oregonian, June 03, 2009 [here]

Salem — The Oregon Board of Forestry is hearing input this morning in Salem on a proposal to increase logging at the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. …

Before the meeting began, salmon advocates rallied with signs and fishing boats to show their support for keeping more of the 500,000 acres of state-managed timber land as wildlife habitat. …

Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity kicked off the public response by critiquing the method behind the department’s analysis.

“Increasing the cut, it’s not supported by the science,” he said. …

What “science” is Noah talking about? Let’s look at some facts.

more »

26 May 2009, 1:31pm
Forestry education
by admin

Towards a True Science of Fire

An interesting article appeared last week in Science Mag entitled Fire in the Earth System.

It was written by a flock of folks: David M. J. S. Bowman, Jennifer K. Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Jean M. Carlson, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D’Antonio, Ruth S. DeFries, John C. Doyle, Sandy P. Harrison, Fay H. Johnston, Jon E. Keeley, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, J. Brad Marston, Max A. Moritz, I. Colin Prentice, Christopher I. Roos, Andrew C. Scott, Thomas W. Swetnam, Guido R. van der Werf, and Stephen J. Pyne.

The paper arose from a conference held at UC Santa Barbara, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Everybody in attendance got their name on the paper. Of some interest is that one author, Dr. Stephen J. Pyne, Regents Professor at Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, did not even attend (he had to cancel due to pressing family matters).

Despite his absence, the paper calls for the development of “a coordinated and holistic fire science,” a theme that Pyne has promoted for many years.

The paper is [here]. Much of it is global warming gibberish. But the essential idea — that the study of exogenous (outdoor) fire needs a more formal discipline — is quite valid.

That discipline MUST recognize that fire is more than a physical process: it is both biological and cultural.

Fire is biological because fuels are biological, and fire doesn’t happen without fuel. (There are some exceptions such as volcanic eruptions and solar combustion by nuclear fusion, but when a forest burns, the stuff that burns is biomass). Hence fire study should be an outgrowth of biology.

And fire is cultural. Humans are the only animal that makes fire. Anthropogenic fire is ancient and has had significant influence on Earthly ecosystems for tens of thousands of years.

The spread of highly flammable savannas, where hominids originated, likely contributed to their eventual mastery of fire. The hominid fossil record suggests that cooked food may have appeared as early as 1.9 Ma, although reliable evidence for controlled fire use does not appear in the archaeological record until after 400,000 years ago, with evidence of regular use much later. The routine domestic use of fire began around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, … and hunter-gatherers used fire to reduce fuels and manage wildlife and plants beginning tens of thousands of years ago.

Steve Pyne wrote compellingly about the need for a new scientific discipline of fire in his 2006 essay, The Wrath of Kuhn: Meditations on Fire Philosophy [here].

What I do urge is a lusty attempt to center fire within biology. … What is needed is to assert that in its essence it is biologically constructed and to elaborate that proposition into a unifying theory that can range from genes to the biosphere. Today fire remains a sidebar in the life sciences. It should be on the commanding heights.

Pyne has written over 20 books, most of them pertaining to fire, including the best (perhaps only) textbook on fire, Introduction to Wildland Fire, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1996).

The spin of the Science article emphasizes “catastrophe, carbon, and climate” (Pyne’s words). The motivation behind that was to entice the editors at Science with “popular” themes. But the real meat may be hidden as a result. Dr. Pyne wrote to me:

The real issues, I think, are getting fire into some formal scholarship and getting people at the core of fire scholarship. I’ll repeat myself: the only fire department at a university is the one that sends emergency vehicles when an alarm sounds.

The Science article is a group paper and possibly suffers from the too-many-cooks syndrome. Hopefully discerning SOSF readers can navigate through the brush of distracting pontification about global warming etc. and discover the heart of the argument: that fire is a multi-faceted phenomenon that affects lives and landscapes, and so deserves a more focused albeit holistic scientific approach.

The Last Gasps of a Dying Paradigm

As mentioned previously, I attended the “Ecosystems Dynamics Seminar” at OSU last Thursday. It was the fourth of four seminars (put on by the Institute for Natural Resources [here], an unabashedly political “policy research” entity at OSU) on the subject of “ecosystems dynamics.” A set of “white papers” laying out the politicized “science” of the seminars is [here].

It is not my intention in this post to deconstruct the Institute for Natural Resources. Maybe some other time. Suffice it to say that it is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars; and even worse than a waste — it is an abomination. But on to the seminar itself.

There was a good presentation by Adam Novick, Risk to Maintenance-Dependent Species on Private Land from Species-Based Land-Use Regulation, which I will describe in a future post.

The rest of the day was filled with total tripe from a pathetic crew of Old Paradigmers.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Bill Ripple, a a professor of forest resources in OSU’s College of Forestry, gave the most clownish presentation regarding wolves I think I have ever seen, (entitled Using Large Carnivores to Sustain Forest Ecosystems). Ripple is not a wildlife biologist (his specialty is GIS), so that might explain (but not excuse) his stunning lack of insights on the subject.

Ripple maintains that wolves generate “an ecology of fear” in elk, deer, moose, and other herbivores. Wolves scare the critters and they run away, and that results in a reduction in browsing, according to Bill. Of course, wherever the frightened ungulates run to, they browse in that new place and probably eat more to offset the energy expended running from the wolves. But that’s a minor hiccup in his bankrupt theory.

Wolves also slaughter ungulates and livestock for blood sport as well as spread rabies and other deadly diseases. One thing they don’t do is restore forests.

Ripple showed slides of old-growth black oak in Yosemite and interpreted those as “unhealthy.” If there were more wolves in Yosemite, the old-growth would die off, which is his stated goal. Bill decried open, park-like forests in Yellowstone, Jasper, and other places. Nothing is more “unhealthy” than old-growth, according to Bill.

more »

8 May 2009, 2:18pm
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Santa Barbarans Burned Again

You would think that somebody there would have figured it out by now.

Here you have a coastal community with a Mediterranean climate pinched between the Los Padres National Forest and the deep blue sea. Water to the south, chaparral to north. One of those two eco-types catches fire now and again. Guess which one.

The Los Padres NF is a vast fire-adapted ecosystem. That is well known. What is little known is that the kind of fires that have been most prevalent over the last ten thousand plus years have been anthropogenic ones.

Human beings have lived in Santa Barbara for 10,000+ years and generally have been adverse to catastrophic fire. Major fires destroy resources and so put the survival of the residents in jeopardy. The residents long ago realized that frequent, seasonal, deliberate burning was preferable to sitting around on backsides and waiting for the fuels to build up to catastrophic levels.

But unfortunately, in our modern mobile age, the current residents have forgotten, or not been clued into, the fact that flammable fuels accumulate in Mediterranean climates and will burn catastrophically unless treated before that happens.

The previous residents, during the entirety of the Holocene up until recently, managed to prevent catastrophic fires through experienced, applied stewardship, even though they lacked modern technology.

The current residents sit pretty much carefree or impotent in their technology-rich million-dollar homes. They are either clueless as to the hazard, or defenseless victims of forces they cannot control or influence, such as their own government.

The clueless hypothesis is questionable. Last year the Tea Fire [here] burned 200+ homes in Montecito and the Gap Fire [here] burned 9,400 acres north of Goleta in the West Camino Cielo area. The year before that the Zaca Fire burned 240,000 acres of the Los Padres NF over a two month period, cost more than $120 million in direct fire suppression expenses, and was the most expensive fire in California history.

Santa Barbarans have to know their landscape is flammable. There have been too many direct fire assaults to countenance claims of ignorance. Stupidity might be, but ignorance is not an excuse any longer.

As of yesterday evening the Jesusita Fire [here] had burned 75 residences in the Mission Canyon/Camino Cielo area adjacent to Santa Barbara. Over 30,000 residents have been evacuated. The fire is spreading west towards Goleta and south towards Montecito.

Last night more homes were destroyed as strong northwest winds fanned the flames. The Santa Maria Times reports [here]:

more »

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta