Supremes Limit Standing to Sue USFS

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

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

Some Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Greenhouse Effect

The sun came out in W. Oregon today, and a welcome visitor it was. Temps shot up into the upper 50’s, a comforting change from the soggy lower 40’s. I swear the grass grew an inch.

Much to do on Mike’s Back Acres: pruning, spraying, planting of trees, tilling, planting of peas, starting starts in the greenhouse, etc. In the coming weeks more time must be spent on the agrarian actual, less on the digital virtual, which will be nice for me.

The solar blessing of the day got me to thinking about the dreaded greenhouse effect.

I assume we all know why greenhouses have that word “green” attached. And that we all know why people build them and what greenhouses are used for. In case there is any confusion, greenhouses are places for growing plants, where the climate can be warmed, because plants like it warm.

Some folks worry that global warming, should it occur, will have a negative impact on agriculture. Grotesque Algore warns of “agricultural deterioration” [here]. Obama’s spanking new Secretary of Energy and Media-acclaimed genius-type Steven Chu warned [here]:

“I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” Chu told the newspaper. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.

Excuse me? You’re tripping, Stevo. Plants like it warm. The warmest places on the planet are Equatorial jungles, and they’re called jungles for a reason.

The warmest place in California is the Imperial Valley, a below-sea-level inland basin south of Death Valley. It is also one of the most productive agricultural areas in the USA. In 2007 tiny Imperial County produced $1.37 billion in farm commodities [here].

Get it? Warmer is better for agriculture. Farmers in the Imperial Valley are harvesting right now while farmers in the Willamette Valley are looking at rain-soaked fields and just starting to think about planting.

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

Biochar and Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greenpeace Opposed to Toilet Paper

Larf of the Day:

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

Suzanne Goldenberg, US enviro correspondent, 26 February 2009 [here]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Feb 2009, 10:52am
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
1 comment

Black Saturday: The Sequel

by Stephen J. Pyne, Forest History Society Guest Commentary, February 10, 2009 [here]

The fires are a horror, even by Australian standards, which is saying much. But for those of us who have long admired Australia’s gritty resolve in the face of conflagrations and have regarded it as a firepower for the caliber of its fire sciences and its bushfire brigades, the recent spectacle arouses dismay and sadness as well.

This is not the first such eruption. Australia has filled up the weekly calendar with Red Tuesdays, Ash Wednesdays, Black Thursdays, and so on. The chronicle is having to appeal to holidays like Black Christmas and renumber its sequels. Black Saturday II is a monster: the bad bushfire on steroids. But it is not an alien visitation. It is a recurring nightmare, at times worse, at times less savage, and Australians seem unable to do anything but fight and flee, and curse and console.


The reason for the fires is simple. Australia is a fire continent: it is built to burn. To this general combustibility its southeast adds a pattern of seasonal winds, associated with cold fronts that draft scorching, unstable air from the interior across whatever flame lies on the land. At such times the region becomes a colossal fire flume that fans flames which for scale and savagery have no equal elsewhere on Earth.

But even heat waves do not kindle fires of themselves, and cyclonic winds do not drive fire in the same way they do storm surges. Fire is not a physical substance: it is a reaction. It feeds on the vegetation, and whatever climatic forces exist must be integrated into that combustible biomass. Fire, that is, synthesizes its surroundings. Understand its setting, and you understand fire. Control that setting, and you control fire.


What saddens many of us is that Australia knows better. It developed many key concepts of fire ecology and models of bushfire behavior. It pioneered landscape-scale prescribed burning as a method of bushfire management. It devised the protocol for structure protection in the bush, especially, the ingenious stratagem of leaving early or staying, preparing, and defending. In recent decades, it has beefed up active suppression capabilities and emergency response services.

Almost uniquely, Australia seemed to have gotten the basics right, certainly better than the muscle-bound, paramilitary response of North America. That approach only set up an ecological insurgency which summer surges of hardware and firefighters could never quell. Americans looked to Australia especially as a cognate country that knew how to replace feral fire with tame fire.

Yet Australia keeps enduring the same Sisyphean cycle of calamitous conflagrations in the same places. It isn’t getting what it knows into its practices. It seems to be abandoning its historic solutions for precisely the kind of telegenic suppression operations and political theater that have failed elsewhere. Even when controlled burning is accepted “in principle,” there always seems a reason not to burn in this place or at this time. The burning gets outsourced to lightning, accident, and arson.

It’s too early to identify the particulars behind this most recent catastrophe. But it’s likely that investigation will point to the same culprits, perhaps aggravated by climate change and arson. Both are reasons, and both are also potential misdirections. Global warming might magnify outbreaks, but it means a change in degree, not in kind; and its effects must still be absorbed by the combustible cover. Arson can put fire in the worst place at the worst time, but its power depends on ignition’s capacity to spread and on flame to destroy susceptible buildings.

Neither is basic. With or without global warming or arson, damaging fires will come, they will spread as the landscape allows, and they will inflict damage as structures permit. And it is there – with how Australians live on the land – that reform must go.


Australia will have fire, and it will recycle the conditions that can leverage small flames into holocausts. The choice is whether to kindle those fires with some degree of deliberation, or whether to leave that task to lightning, clumsies, and crazies.

After the 1939 Black Friday conflagration, a royal commission set into motion the modern era of bushfire management. At the time the official ambition of state-sponsored conservation was to eliminate fire as far as possible, and through fire exclusion, ultimately to alter the very character of the landscape so that it would become less fire prone. Judge Stretton asked the nation’s forester why he continued to hold this view when it had never succeeded, when bushfires had inevitably wiped out his every repeated effort. Wryly, Stretton mocked the absurdity of those who sought to make sunburnt Australia into green England.

It seems likely that Black Saturday II will yield another royal commission. Much has changed over 70 years; Australians are more urban, more sensitive to environmental issues, keener to protect unique ecological assets. Yet perhaps they are substituting another, more modern delusion, striving to remake the burning bush into an unburnt Oz, only to find this vision also repeatedly obliterated by remorseless fire.

I hope not. We don’t need a Black Saturday III.

Note: Stephen J. Pyne is Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University and author of 20 books and numerous essays including Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia (1991) and The Still-Burning Bush (2006). Dr. Pyne is a frequent contributor to W.I.S.E. and we are honored and very grateful for that. Links to his essays may be found [here] and [here].

8 Feb 2009, 1:00pm
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
1 comment

Fuelish in the Land of Oz

For the last 40,000 years (at least, some say 60,000) the residents of Australia have been “burning off the bush.” Anthropogenic fire was perfected in Australia, if not invented there.

In the Aborigine, Australian fire had discovered an extraordinary ally. Not only did ignition sources multiply and spread, but fire itself persisted through wet season and dry, across grassland and forest, in desert and on mountain. Lightning was a highly seasonal, episodic ignition source; the Aboriginal firestick was an eternal flame. — Stephen J. Pyne. Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia. 1991, Henry Holt and Co.

Anthropogenic fire tamed the bush by frequently removing the pyrophytic vegetation of eucalypt and scrub, the unique botany and biota descended from the Mesolithic super-continent of Gondwana. Frequent fire set by residents steeped in traditional ecological knowledge controlled fuel build-ups, promoted landscape mosaics, and prevented continental megafires that could have severely compromised human survival.

That ancient wisdom has been all but lost; the most modern of Aussies are steeped in eco-babble and “natural fire” mythologies. And the piper has come home to roost, so to speak, again and again.

The latest Australian fire bust, born in untreated fuels, has claimed 84 lives and counting as of this morning:

Victoria’s bushfire toll hits 84 as fires continue to spread

from The Australian, Feb. 8, 2009 [here]

THE death toll from Victoria’s bushfires has risen to 84, amid grave fears for towns in the state’s northeast as fires continue to rage out of control.

Five people died at Flowerdale, two people at Hazeldene and three at Taggerty, while two more people were confirmed dead at Kinglake and a further person died at St Andrews. A person from Yea died in hospital.

The toll already surpasses the 28 in South Australia and the 47 Victorians that died in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, while the Black Friday blaze in 1939 claimed 71 lives. …

The Worldwide Dead Tree Press has already fingered global warming as the culprit, steeped in ignorance, as they are, about the ancient history of fire in Oz:

Bushfires and global warming: is there a link?

by David Adam and Ellen Connolly, The Guardian, Feb 8, 2009 [here]

Scientists have a hunch rising temperatures due to human activity are making fire and flood more likely

Scientists are reluctant to link ­individual weather events to global warming, because natural variability will always throw up extreme events. However, they say that climate change loads the dice, and can make severe episodes more likely. …

Bob Brown, a senator who leads the Australian Greens, said the bushfires showed what climate change could mean for Australia.

“Global warming is predicted to make this sort of event happen 25%, 50% more,” he told Sky News. “It’s a sobering reminder of the need for this nation and the whole world to act and put at a priority our need to tackle climate change.” …

Tackling climate change, however, will not do diddly to prevent bushfires. The climate has changed, dramatically, over the the last 40,000 to 60,000 years, yet Aussie bush fires have persisted throughout all those hoary millennia.

Foresters have a different view. Rather than tackling the chimera of “climate change,” a far more practical approach would be to manage the vegetation in the traditional manner, with prescribed fire. This prescient warning was published last March:

Phil Cheney. 2008. Can forestry manage bushfires in the future? Australian Forestry 2008 Vol. 71 No. 1 pp. 1–2 [here]

… In a strict statistical sense, the west cannot be a basis on which to assess the performance of fire management in the east, but the extensive fires in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are the result of a change in management, not a change in climate. The term ‘megafire’ has been coined to woo the press and assuage the politicians and support their apparent belief that these events are an act of God and not the result of the evisceration of the land management agencies, as pointed out by Roger Underwood in a previous editorial.

The forestry profession has always had a good appreciation of landscape scale and the management necessary to apply fire, but I believe that even foresters not intimately involved in the practice of prescribed burning have little appreciation of what is involved in applying fire at that scale. Few people recognise the effort required to burn 200,000 ha every year and produce the distribution of fuel of various ages, illustrated in Figure 1, which is necessary to effectively reduce the impact of wildfire. …

Unhappily I conclude that Australian forestry has abandoned fire management. This should of course be the responsibility of the conservation agencies — who now manage a substantial proportion of our public lands — as it is in WA. If the trend in Victoria extends elsewhere and fire management is placed it in the hands of the politicians and their emergency services organisations that focus on suppression by back-burning from strategic firebreaks, we can expect that large areas will be burnt severely in summer, perpetuating the myth of megafires.

Rather than set up the organisation and training for an effective prescribed burning program, it is far easier, I guess, to attribute the bushfires to God and climate change.

We can wring our hands and rail against the gods like savages, or we can take up the firestick and manage our landscapes like clever humans have been doing for tens of thousands of years.

Shall we pontificate in rotundas, or put our boots on the ground and do the job?

Shall we quiver in fear like powerless rodents as the megafires sweep away our forests, watersheds, towns, and cities? Or shall we lift our rears off our couches, resume our role as the Caretakers of our planet, and actively apply age-old wisdom?

Make no mistake about it; your life depends on how you answer that question.

30 Jan 2009, 11:11am
Saving Forests
by admin

We Are the Caretakers

We have not been shy here at W.I.S.E. in describing the role of Man in Nature. People have been a factor in forests since time immemorial.

Now the Smithsonian is getting into the act. The NY Times reports Smithsonian scientists are discovering that people and tropical rainforests co-exist.

New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests

By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, NY Times, January 29, 2009 [here]

CHILIBRE, Panama — The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle — palms, lizards and ants.

Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.

Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.

The pristine myth is dying as more and more people realize that humanity has been living here trammeling around and de-pristine-izing the landscape for a very long time.

Human beings have lived in Panama, and the Amazon, and the rest of the Americas, for thousands of years. Those human beings were smart and capable. They were masters of fire, adept hunters, and clever agriculturalists. Deliberate manipulations of the environment on a landscape scale have been happening here for millennia.

And yet there still exist tropical rainforests, old-growth temperate forests, prairies, savannas, meadows, rare plants, rare wildlife, and everything.

Humanity is not toxic to nature. People are not a deadly virus on the planet.

Humanity and nature have co-existed for as long as humanity has run around on two legs.

In fact, human beings are natural and nature likes us. Nature does great with people in it. Nature does better even, when people get involved.

Stewardship is natural. Nature loves people.

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23 Jan 2009, 2:11pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
by admin

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


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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20 Jan 2009, 7:41pm
Climate and Weather Saving Forests
by admin

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
by admin
leave a comment

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.

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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9 Jan 2009, 5:50pm
Saving Forests
by admin
1 comment

More destructive wildfires devastate our forests, climate

by Thomas Bonnicksen, Guest Comment, Capital Press, 1/8/2009 [here]

The impact of California’s wildfires on climate and forests is one of the most important issues of our time. This is a new era with a new federal administration, a new Congress, a new political and economic landscape and new opportunities.

The fact is that the wildfire crisis is becoming more serious each year.

Fires are getting bigger, more destructive and more expensive. In 2001, California wildfires burned half a million acres. Over 1 million acres burned in 2007 and again in 2008, the worst fire year in the state’s history. Next year could be even worse.

From 2001 to 2007, fires burned a total of more than 4 million acres and released an estimated 277 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from combustion and the post-fire decay of dead trees. That is an average of 68 tons per acre.

These wildfires kill wildlife, pollute the air and water, and the greenhouse gases they emit are wiping out much of what is being achieved to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to battle global warming.
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4 Jan 2009, 3:21pm
Saving Forests
by admin

No, we don’t need more fires

Guest Viewpoint by Bob Zybach, Eugene Register Guard, Jan 4, 2009 [here]

I disagree with the majority of statements and conclusions made by George Wuerthner in his Dec. 26 guest viewpoint on the topic of wildfire ecology.

Wuerthner is a nature photographer, trail guide and science journalist whose opinions on federal resource management policies are widely disseminated through books, blogs, letters and articles. To my knowledge, he has received no advanced degrees in a scientific discipline, conducted no formal scientific research, or ever written a peer-reviewed journal article.

This is important, because Wuerthner presumes to lecture his readers on the intricacies of ecological science, and to present his personal opinions as if they were generally accepted facts. For example, after noting a commonly known phenomenon (“remember, the sun does appear to go around the Earth”), he states: “Contrary to common opinion, large blazes are not driven primarily by fuels, but by climatic conditions.” These statements are not analogous. One is a fact, the other an opinion.

Contrary to Wuerthner’s assertions, my own research — and the research of hundreds of other scientists — demonstrates that wildfires are not a direct function of climate at all (think of a hot, arid desert, for example), but rather are functions of fuel, topography and seasonal weather (not climate!) conditions. Fire, first and foremost, needs fuel.

That’s a fact, not an opinion.

Wuerthner attempts to discredit an earlier Register-Guard guest viewpoint by Kathy Lynn of the University of Oregon, which reasonably called for fuel management actions to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfire. Wuerthner claimed Lynn’s statements were “full of flawed assumptions and consequently flawed solutions.”

Wuerthner presents no data to support his contentions. More telling are the personal values mixed in with his “science.” Even if wildfires were just as common in the past as today, does that mean they are good today? Malaria and cholera used to be more common in the past. Should their occurrence be returned to previous levels? And why is “increased biodiversity” implied to be such a good thing, and what does it have to do with wildfire? Think of the massive increase in “biodiversity” in Eugene during the past 150 years, for example, with the introduction of thousands of new species of weeds, domestic plants and animals — and all without wildfire! Is that somehow good for the environment?

Additional thoughts from Wuerthner: “If anything, we probably need more wildfire, not less. With global warming we will probably get it, as vegetative communities adapt to new climatic realities,” and: “Another surprising finding is that mechanical fuels treatment, commonly known as logging and thinning, typically has little effect on the spread of wildfires.”

If you believe Wuerthner’s claim that wildfires are “driven primarily by climatic conditions,” and if you accept global warming as a fact and believe such changes will be conducive to more wildfires, and if you think that plants live in “communities,” then perhaps he has a valid point. But suppose all this conjecture turns out to be true: So what? More wildfires? Didn’t he also say “we probably need more” (for whatever reason) anyway? Wuerthner’s arguments, much like his analogy of the sun, appear to go around in circles, with no real logic to them.

Oregonians old enough to remember the “six-year jinx” of Tillamook fires (1933-51), or who have closely observed the burning patterns of the 2003 B&B Complex, understand the fallacy of his statements. We do not “probably need more wildfire” (for lots of good reasons) — and logging and thinning, not “surprisingly,” often do have an observable and beneficial effect on the severity and spread of wildfires.

Our nation’s heritage forests are going up in predictable and preventable flames, creating an ugly, dangerous environment full of dead plants and animals, and contributing to air pollution, stream sedimentation, and ruined rural economies.

Something needs to be done to correct these problems. Kathy Lynn offers helpful suggestions based in science; George Wuerthner offers personal opinions.

Bob Zybach is a forest scientist with a doctorate from Oregon State University. Zybach has been program manager for the Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project (www since 1996.

23 Dec 2008, 12:57pm
Climate and Weather
by admin

Contrary To Popular Belief, There Is Hope

Chief Global Warming Alarmist, adviser to Al Gore, and NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen made a presentation to the American Geophysical Union last week. Hansen gave the honorary annual Bjerknes Lecture (pronunciation rather amusing). His slide presentation is [here] (warning, it is 2.5 MB) courtesy the estimable Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That [here].

The gist of Dr. Hansen’s talk is that Doomsday is upon us due to global warming. It is too late, runaway warming is happening, and the end result is that the oceans are going to boil away into outer space and all life will be extinguished on Planet Earth.

No kidding. This guy is a “scientist,” a highly paid one, and an employee and important adviser to our Government. And he is as nutty as a fruitcake.

Hansen said,

the danger that we face is the Venus syndrome. There is no escape from the Venus Syndrome. Venus will never have oceans again.

That is,

If the planet gets too warm, the water vapor feedback can cause a runaway greenhouse effect. The ocean boils into the atmosphere and life is extinguished.

Now, that’s a fairly alarmist statement. In fact, that’s the MOST alarmist statement I have ever heard. It’s pretty far out there. That’s not exactly what the IPCC says. They aren’t quite over the edge into complete hysteria, yet. But Hansen has plenty of fawning admirers, aka irrational paranoids having a mass panic attack.

Hansen cribs a little. He says,

Our model blows up before the oceans boil, but it suggests that perhaps runaway conditions could occur with added forcing as small as 10-20 W/m2.

Exploding models do not give confidence in either the models or their output. Should we rely on exploding models? Why does Hansen? When I was just a boy (this is a confession I hope my mother doesn’t read), we would put firecrackers in plastic models (that we built from kits with model glue) and blow them up. Is that the kind of exploding models Hansen refers to?

Hansen also cribs,

There may have been times in the Earth’s history when CO2 was as high as 4000 ppm without causing a runaway greenhouse effect. But the solar irradiance was less at that time.

What? Is 4,000 ppm a realistic prediction? Currently CO2 concentration is ~380 ppm. It has allegedly risen 100 ppm over the last 100 years. To get to 4,000 ppm at the current rate would take another 3,620 years. Besides, there is evidence that paleo-atmosphere CO2 concentrations hundreds of millions of years ago could have been as much as 7,000 ppm. And it is abundantly clear that the oceans didn’t boil away and Life was not extinguished. If it had been, you wouldn’t be here, nor would I, nor would Hansen.

And how does he “know” that solar irradiance was less? That’s a fairly speculative statement that requires some evidential support. Which is entirely lacking. The Sun is a pretty steady energy source. There are minor fluctuations, such as the current sunspot minimum, but the energy output varies by only a fraction of a percentage point. In fact, many scientists are quite curious as to how a sunspot minimum can effect climate (the Little Ice Age occurred during a sunspot hiatus known as the Maunder Minimum) since the decline in solar output is so minuscule as to hardly be detectable by modern instruments.

Further, Hansen says that “to preserve creation” CO2 must be reduced or constrained to less than 350 ppm.

Again, that’s a fairly hyperbolic assertion, and in strong contrast to his prior statements as well as reality. First, if, as Hansen claimed, CO2 levels actually were once 4000 ppm, it is quite evident that “creation” was not lost. Creation still exists. Indeed, if current CO2 levels are 380 ppm, and the oceans have not boiled nor has creation been eliminated, one wonders whether Hansen has lost his mind.

But lo! the oceans won’t boil for a few years yet. The lag time is not specified, but one assumes it will be something less than 100 years, right James? If we remain at 380 ppm for another century or so, poof, there go the oceans and creation along with them.

This is science? The best available science? This is the consensus?

The fellow is mad.

I had to laugh at his examples of global warming. He shows a dry pier many yards from the water on Lake Mead! It’s a reservoir! The water level on Lake Mead is controlled at the dam! By humans, not climate!

He cites US wildfire acreage since 1960, another phenomenon controlled by humans! This may shock you, but people have a great deal to do with how big fires get and how many acres they consume. It is NOT a climate controlled phenomenon, any more than Lake Mead water levels.

Hansen’s presentation is hysterical, in all the meanings of that word. The oceans are not going to boil away. Trust me.

Other Alarmists claim that “rapid” climate change is catastrophic. For instance, when the Wisconsin Glaciation ended, the massive continental ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere melted. Sea levels rose 100 meters over a 7,000 year period.

But in fact that was not a catastrophe. It was a enormous boon and blessing. As Martha Stewart says, “It was a Very Good Thing.” Before the Big Melt life was cold, brutish, and short. Afterwards civilization rose and flourished. Chances are we wouldn’t be here today if not for the Big Melt.

Note that the sea level rise of 100 meters in 7,000 years was about a half inch per year. Oooh, wicked! Why, you’d have to be Carl Lewis to outrun that! Plus the ice sheets are melted. They are kaput. The only significant ice sheets left are on Greenland and Antarctica, and they aren’t melting; they are growing.

Try not to freak out about the climate. The seas are NOT going to boil. Hansen is wrong about that, as wrong as wrong could be. Quell your panic attack. Irrational paranoia doesn’t suit you.

Alarmists also claim that rainforests are being mowed down in an orgy of deforestation, and that the End of the World is Nigh because of that.

This is going to blow your mind, so hang on to your chair, but people have been living in rainforests for thousands of years, and burning them, and deforesting them, and farming them. Humanity has had a huge impact on the Amazon and and all the other rainforests on Earth for millennia, and yet the rainforests are still here and the oceans have not boiled away! Imagine that! Creation still exists!!!

The galloping Doomsday paranoia expressed by the Chicken Little cacklers is NOT supported by science, not by good science anyway. The End is Not Near. We do not need to huddle in the cold and dark for fear the seas will boil and all life will be extinguished. That’s nutty nutbar talk.

Alarmists, this is Houston calling. Please take some valium. Have a timeout. Seek professional help for your problem, which is psychological on your end, and not real in the sense of actual reality.

There is hope for the world after all. As a matter of fact, we are doing quite nicely, all things considered. The current (as of today) arctic blast is unpleasant but tolerable. It would be nicer if it were warmer, because warmer is better, but we will survive. The world economy has been buggered up by Wall Street sharks and their suckfish corrupt toadies in the Government, but we will survive that, too.

Hope springs eternal. That’s the Message of the Season. Look on the bright side.

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Forest Service suppression tactics don’t meet muster

by Charley Fitch, Speak Your Piece, Redding Record Searchlight, December 7, 2008 [here]

The Concerned Citizens for Reasonable Fire Management, consisting of Forest Service retirees, foresters, Trinity County citizens and business owners, have been studying the 1999, 2006 and 2008 fires on the Big Bar Ranger District. We believe that we see a pattern that is most disturbing. Since 1999 over 300,000 acres of the district, in northwestern Trinity County, have been burned. From the 1905 inception of the Forest Service until 1999 — 93 years — less than 100,000 acres. Maybe a result of global warming or drought — we don’t believe so! We have the rain records to prove it.

The recent Fire Forum was definitely a step in the right direction. When studying fire suppression covering all of Northern California, involving multiple fire agencies with different suppression responsibilities, it is unlikely that any clear solution could evolve. However, our group has concentrated on only the Big Bar Ranger District of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Here we have been able to isolate some issues and have narrowed the focus.

Why such a dramatic rise in fire size and duration? Our analysis leads us to the following reasons. Forests are creating more woody volume each year. In fact the Shasta-Trinity as of the early 1990s was growing 400 million board feet each year. Now with the current environmental protections in place, the Shasta-Trinity is removing less than 50 million board feet annually. So each year the forest builds up more fuel in the forest. Of course we can just watch it grow and then let it burn. That seems to be the opinion of many people who call themselves environmentalists. Or we allow removal of reasonable amounts of timber that can be used to build houses, offset some of the lumber imports into this country and reduce the fuel loading in the forests. Tough choice?

One very important facet of this very complicated issue that was not brought out in the write-up of the forum is a change in suppression tactics used by federal fire managers. This seems to be one issue that nobody wants to bring out in the open. The federal fire agencies have at least in behavior if not in written policy altered their suppression tactics. The underlying issue is safety. Firefighting tactics long accepted as effective and safe are now shunned by fire managers.

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