17 Jul 2008, 9:28pm
The 2008 Fire Season
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California Lightning Fires Update

On June 20 and 21 dry lightning raked California. Over 2,000 fires were ignited and nearly a million acres burned. Most of those fires have been contained, but thirty-eight are still burning outside containment lines. Here are some updates on a few notable uncontained fires, nearly a month after ignition:

Lime Complex Fires, Shasta-Trinity NF

Situation as of 07/17/08 6:30 PM
Total Personnel: 1,312
Size: 102,776 acres (USFS, 84,493 ac, CalFire, 18,283 ac.)
Percent Contained: 64%

Costs to Date: $28,019,000 (Lime Complex Fires: $25,928,000, Yolla Bolly Complex Fires: $2,091,000)

Personnel continued burning and holding indirect line on the Miners Fire, and contructing line around the spots to the south of the Lime Fire (12,950 ac 52%). National Guard units continued holding and mop up operations.

Crews made good progress with containment goals on the Trough Fire (3,690 ac 90%).

Crews worked on containing spots to the south of the Yellow Fire (12,800 ac 0%)and continued stucture protection to the south of the fire.

Personnel continued construction of indirect line in the Yolla Bolly Wilderness with a mule team on the west side of the Vinegar Fire (25,925 ac 0%). The Vinegar Fire merged with the Sulpher [sic] Fire on 7/10, and was henceforth to be called the Wilderness2 Fire, but that pronouncement has not been followed.

No estimated date of containment has been announced for the Yellow Fire or the Vinegar Fire. The estimated date of containment for the Trough Fire is 07/30 and for the Miners Fire 08/15.

The Lime Complex is officially a megafire now, having topped 100,000 acres. It is the second CA megafire this year, the firest being the Basin/Indians Fire, now at over 205,000 acres. It remains to be seen whether the Lime Complex will top the 1999 Big Bar Fire at 141,000 acres to become the largest fire in the history of Northern California.

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The wood to rebuild Tahoe is sitting there, rotting

The following excellent essay was published last Saturday in the Sacto Bee [here]. We re-post it in full:

By William Wade Keye, professional forester

A year after the Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe, the dead trees, debris and rubble are cleared from the devastated neighborhoods. New homes are sprouting from the earth to the tune of contractors’ blaring rock music, hammers and nail guns.

Lumber to sustain the rhythm is being transported from Canada, Oregon and Washington. Dozens of structures are rising in a cacophony of recovery and new life.

It’s all taking place within the afternoon shadows cast by the thousands of dead trees that remain standing on adjacent national forest lands. Although seared and killed by high heat, inside their charred bark is unburned wood, light and bright.

Yet despite this volume of usable fiber, these cellulose skeletons will never be tapped to help build a single structure.

Rather, the trees killed by the fire will be left to rot, under assault by insects and fungi, as the U.S. Forest Service plans and plans, and then plans some more, about what to do in the aftermath of the last year’s disaster. It doesn’t want to get sued, having lost the will to fight against environmental activists and their attorneys.

Judicial decisions have broken the back of a once-proud federal agency, handing de facto control of the public’s forest to people who don’t like forestry. The wood to rebuild Tahoe is being imported from distant forests hundreds of miles away. This is called protecting the environment.

As an American citizen, I’m troubled that the Toyota Prius was engineered in Japan while Detroit was figuring out how to build a better Hummer. I also don’t understand why we, as Americans, can’t both expand our domestic energy supplies (including fossil fuels and nuclear power) and push for much greater efficiency, alternative sources and new technology.

As a forester, I don’t get the environmental benefit of burning forests down, letting them rot and then – perhaps – trying to clean them up at great expense to taxpayers. I don’t accept that we won’t look to quickly salvage and utilize dead public timber instead of sourcing our wood from living trees in someone else’s backyard, at great cost in terms of wasted energy, carbon emissions and true community. I can’t imagine why we don’t plant trees in denuded areas just as fast as we possibly can to prevent brush encroachment and deforestation.

These behaviors contribute to global warming. A wildfire such as the Angora fire emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases, followed by years of slow methane release. (Methane is 20 times more active as a global warming agent than CO2.) If, instead of allowing dead timber to decompose, we harvest and utilize it in long-lasting products and bioenergy, we can store carbon for long periods and also offset the burning of fossil fuels. Finally, by not reclaiming the site with a growing young forest, we fritter away decades of opportunity to capture and store high levels of atmospheric carbon. This is something that healthy forest ecosystems are remarkably good at doing.

All over the country there is a movement toward locally grown fruits and vegetables, organic foods and community gardens. People are demanding authenticity in terms of what they eat and where it comes from. It helps us make sense of our lives in an increasingly corporate and impersonal world.

In national forest policy, it should be Prius drivers and organic farmers who are leading the way, clamoring for local responsibility and economies of ecological authenticity. Taking wood from distant forests in order to rebuild in Tahoe should be simply unacceptable. Especially when it’s just sitting there, rotting on the stump.

Instead, we accept the grim counsel of the eco-clergy: better to do nothing than risk anything. Burn down the forest, let it go to brush, but just don’t touch it. Where our wood comes from is not important.

No wonder the Forest Service has given up on actively managing its lands, even to the extent of trying to keep them green.

Theodore Roosevelt, who set aside most of our vast system of national forests during his risk-taking years in the White House, is turning over in his grave. Roosevelt intended them to be used, not neglected. Conservation was not about minimizing risk, but about maximizing the social good.

Forestry, like sustainable agriculture, is a “can do” enterprise, as integral to the human experience as rebuilding homes after a terrible catastrophe. When we suppress something so wholesome and engaging, we kill off a bit of ourselves. We become poorer, more afraid, easier to corral into a world of diminished possibilities.

The post-wildfire blight and deforestation in Tahoe, and spreading throughout our national forests in the American West, is a Hummer we are driving, wasting resources and spewing greenhouse gases while new life – and fresh oxygen – is so abundantly available.

William Wade Keye is a California registered professional forester.

16 Jul 2008, 11:34am
Introduction
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Please Donate to the Cause

W.I.S.E. is non-profit. Heck, we’re damn near non-income. But we are endeavoring against all odds to save forests and spread good information and knowledge about stewardship of our forests and landscapes.

We’re trying to save forests. We’re trying to stop or reduce the megafires that are ravaging our forests. We’re trying to make this planet a more habitable place for all life forms.

To that end we have created and are managing 12 websites. Our most recent site, W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking, is building records of the major fires burning this year, so that we can evaluate those fires after the season is over and seek ways to lessen the destruction.

We have not shirked from controversy. We have pushed the envelope. We have berated the Powers That Be for their incompetence and misguided policies that destroy forests, both public and private, and incinerate homes, farms, and ranches, and pollute the air and water, and cripple economies, and drain the Treasury.

We have endeavored to post the best, most cutting edge science, so that visitors can learn the facts for a change instead being pepper sprayed with rude and a-scientific propaganda all the time. We are a beacon, a light in the smoky darkness of a thousand forest fires burning at once.

W.I.S.E. is free. Our sites are open to all, free of charge, without a fee, buy in, ticket charge, or gate receipt.

But it is not free to do all this work. It is time consuming. Moreover, the expertise displayed here is the result of hundreds of years of combined professional effort. All of the experts published at W.I.S.E. have contributed their knowledge for free, and we are deeply grateful, but we also recognize that their expertise is hard won and represents lifetimes of dedication.

Your financial contributions are also deeply appreciated. We share this wonderful letter we received today, with gratitude:

Dear Mike,

Enclosed please find a check in the amount of $200. I hope it will help to keep your great sites going and allow you to continue to share wisdom and expertise.

As I promised myself, “a dollar a day” contribution will hopefully assist this endeavor to spread the word about forest health in particular and the rational study of the environment in general.

Randy

We send Randy a big Thank You. He would never admit it, but he is a victim of excruciatingly bad forest policies. His home and landscape are under tremendous threat. His area has been visited by fire storms emanating from mis-managed federal forests and hundreds of his neighbors’ homes have been incinerated by those fire storms. There is little he can do to change those terrible policies on his own.

But W.I.S.E. is attempting to do just that. We want to save rural homes from predicted, preventable fires. We desire to save the taxpayers $billions in emergency fire costs by encouraging the application of restoration forestry to millions of acres, thereby rendering forest safe and resilient to fire and far less prone to catastrophic destruction by holocaust. We wish to protect, maintain, and perpetuate forests, wildlife habitat, watersheds, airsheds, recreation opportunities, and all the other amenities and values that forests provide us. We are deeply cognizant of the heritage of our landscapes, and promote the respect and restoration that our heritage deserves.

That is our quest. Little by little we are having an effect. Top policy makers are reading our sites. The pendulum is being swung, the elephant is slowly moving.

Your contributions make it possible for W.I.S.E. to pursue this quest. Our budget is threadbare. We can barely pay our monthly Internet fees. But with your help we will persevere.

Your contributions are tax deductible. The Western Institute for Study of the Environment is a 501(c)(3) non-profit collaboration of environmental scientists, practitioners, and the interested public.

W.I.S.E. provides a free, on-line set of post-graduate courses in environmental studies, currently fifty Topics in eight Colloquia, each containing book and article reviews, original papers, and essays. In addition, we present two Commentary sub-sites, a news clipping sub-site, and the W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking site.

Our mission is to further advancements in knowledge and environmental stewardship across a spectrum of related environmental disciplines and professions. We teach and advocate good stewardship and caring for the land.

Please help us out. Please visit our donations page [here].

Thank you.

15 Jul 2008, 6:57pm
Climate and Weather
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What’s Wrong with NASA?

In a recent news post at W.I.S.E. Forest, Fire, and Wildlife News entitled “What’s Wrong with the Sun? (Nothing According to NASA)” NASA scientist David Hathaway is quoted as claiming that the extended and continuing lull in sunspots is “normal” [here]. The fact that Solar Cycle 24 is one to two years late is nothing to worry about, says Hathaway at NASA.

It’s not the same as when your girlfriend is “late.” Now that’s something to worry about!

We did point out editorially that:

The stat babble in this article is misleading. The article states “the ongoing lull in sunspot number is well within historic norms for the solar cycle” but historic norms include long lulls such as the Maunder Minimum. The article states the 142 month decaying Solar Cycle 23 is “within a standard deviation.” That is a meaningless statistic since non-linear cycle lengths are not normally distributed.

The word “normal” is used in this article with two different meanings. Statistical normal is not the same as common usage normal. The article confuses the two.

Facts: Solar Cycle 24 still overdue by more than a year and solar magnetic activity is low, indicating that Solar Cycle 24, when it does show up, will be very weak.

The use of “standard deviations” by NASA in this case is a misuse of statistics. It implies a level of confidence that is entirely too much, inappropriate, and statistically invalid. Wm. “Matt” Briggs expands and expounds on this and other issues of uncertainty in his fine blog, William M. Briggs, Statistician [here].

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15 Jul 2008, 1:16pm
Saving Forests The 2008 Fire Season
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About W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking

This Spring W.I.S.E. initiated a Fire Tracking site [here]. We have been endeavoring to track the larger fires in the West. So far we have tracked over 110 fires, many still active.

The way W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking works is that each fire (that we choose to track) gets it’s own post. That post is updated periodically. We try to update on a daily basis while the fire is active, but some days the information is not available.

If a fire you are interested in is not on the main page (it only holds 15 posts), then there are a few ways you can find it. First, try typing the name of the fire in the search applet in the upper righthand sidebar. Second, you can click on the “state” category if you know what state the fire is in. Third, if you know what month the fire started, you can look in the archives under that month.

For each fire we are attempting to post daily stats for acreage, personnel, percent containment, and suppression costs to date. That way each post becomes a historical record for that fire. You can see how the fire grew day by day, along with the changes in the other stats. That’s something InciWeb doesn’t do.

W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking is in blog form, designed for feedback. People on the scene, or anywhere else for that matter, can contribute information, photos, or ask questions. It’s a two-way communication, something else InciWeb does not do.

W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking is free. It costs the taxpayers nothing. That’s definitely not the case with InciWeb. Your donations are sincerely appreciated, in any case.

Unlike other fire sites, W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking is not designed by and for firefighters. Our expertise and concern is about forests and other landscape types, and so we can provide indepth analysis regarding the effects of a particular fire on multiple forest values and resources. By collecting and posting the daily record for each fire, we are establishing the basic information needed to analyze fire effects.

InciWeb, the government fire reporting site, has been up and down this year. Right now it is functional again. If the InciWebbers show they can report fires consistently and without server glitches, we may pick and choose which fires we track more selectively. Our intention was never to compete with InciWeb or supplant them. We only provided a comprehensive fire reporting service because we thought such was needed during their long absence.

Due to the workload involved with W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking, the other subsites at W.I.S.E. have been neglected. Sorry about that. Hopefully in a week or two the fire season will calm down a bit and the other subsites will get more attention.

In that regard, if you feel like reviewing a new book or paper of exceptional quality and cutting-edge, new paradigm thinking in the environmental sciences, please do so. We are always happy to post contributions from the experts.

For those select few among you to whom we have promised specific projects, please bear with us. We have not forgotten. The list is still right here on the W.I.S.E. bulletin board. Your project is circled in red. We will get to it when we can and eventually for sure.

Please take some time to explore W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking. There is a wealth of information being collected there. Sometimes you may need to read between the lines because the whole truth is only hinted at. Your analysis of specific fires is also welcome, as are your photos, maps, and on-the-ground observations.

12 Jul 2008, 6:46pm
The 2008 Fire Season
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Assuaging Fears About the Basin Fire

USFS fire managers held a meeting yesterday in Carmel Valley yesterday evening to calm fears about the Basin Fire. It is questionable how well they did that.

From the article about the meeting in the Monterey Herald [here]:

Calming fire fears in Carmel Valley

By LAITH AGHA, Monterey Herald, 07/12/2008

As the Basin Complex Fire burned Friday, prompting a voluntary evacuation near Arroyo Seco, fire management team officials held a public meeting in Carmel Valley Village to douse fires in the rumor mill about the blaze’s proximity to the valley’s more populated areas.

About 250 people filled the Tularcitos Elementary School auditorium to hear what officials had to say and to ask questions that reflected growing concerns in the community.

Though the fire claimed another 21,000 acres along the eastern front Friday, fire officials said they are confident containment efforts will keep it from approaching the village and most Cachagua neighborhoods.

“The threat of it breaking containment is very low,” said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Hutchinson.

Jerry McGowan, incident commander of the Basin Complex Fire’s eastern side, said he is sure the fire management team will meet the July 30 containment date.

“I feel pretty confident we will beat or match that,” McGowan said.

The fire is at least eight miles from the village as the crow flies, but about 15 miles away when factoring in undulation of the terrain, Hutchinson said. Winds are mostly blowing from the north and northwest, which means “the fire wants to go to the southeast,” and away from the village, Hutchinson said.

Before the fire could reach the village, or even Cachagua, it would have to jump two firebreaks. One is nearly done and the other is being held as a proposed backup plan.

Today, the day after the meeting, a Voluntary Evacuation order was issued for Upper Cachagua, Paloma Creek, Lower Carmel Valley Road, and Arroyo Seco as the Basin Fire grew another 3,000 to 5,000 acres, a gain of close to 20,000 acres in two days.

The combined acreage of the Basin/Indians fires is now over 200,000 acres. The two fires merged last week.

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10 Jul 2008, 10:39pm
Federal forest policy
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Timber Harvests Slowing Further

by the Rogue Pundit [here]

Today, there have been several news stories on Oregon’s timber harvest last year. Here’s part of one article and some additional data and thoughts.

Oregon’s timber harvests continued their decline since 2004 with 3.80 billion board feet being harvested in 2007, a 12 percent decrease from 2006.

This is the smallest Oregon timber harvest since the recession-based record low recorded in 2001.

The harvest in 2001 was 3.44 billion board feet. Last year’s harvest also topped the ones in 1998 and 1999. But before that, one has to go all the way back to 1938 to find a lower harvest (historical records here).

The reduction in timber harvest volumes came from declining harvests from private forestland owners. An 11 percent, or 344 million board feet, decrease in volume from forest industry land owners was accompanied by a 43 percent decline in harvests on non-industrial private lands, which declined from 422 million board feet in 2006 to 240 million board feet in 2007. Federal harvests remained at historically low levels, accounting for less than 10 percent of the cut.

Timber harvests were down in both western Oregon and eastern Oregon. Harvests in all of western Oregon declined 11 percent from 2006 levels, driven primarily by the 44 percent decrease on non-industrial private lands, from 351 million board feet to 198 million board feet.

Klamath County straddles the Cascades, but its totals are included in-and easily lead-Eastern Oregon. At 107 million board feet, its harvest is more than a quarter of the total from that side of the state. However, its harvest only topped six counties in Western Oregon, which confusingly includes Hood River County from the other side of the Cascades.

Lane County continues to lead Oregon’s counties in harvesting, despite decreasing by 15 percent to 504 million board feet in 2007. Douglas County was second with 479 million board feet, while Clatsop and Coos were third and fourth with 338 and 303 million board feet respectively.

Overall, harvests decreased in all western Oregon counties except for Curry, Hood River, Linn, and Yamhill, resulting in the 11 percent decline in that region.

Curry County and Jackson County totaled 95 million and 74 million board feet, respectively. And once Josephine County was next to last here in western Oregon, topping only Multnomah County (Portland). Last year’s harvest of 22.4 million board feet was the lowest here since 1939. Our peak was in 1952 at 318 million board feet. And note that none of last year’s harvest here was from BLM or USFS land…none.

Let’s not forget with the BLM’s former O&C lands…

Section 1181(a) of the 1937 O&C act reads that O&C lands “Shall be managed… for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the principal of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating streamflow, and contributing to the economic stability of the local Communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities.”

The feds don’t have to backfill the reduction in timber fees due to decreased logging of the national forests, but they do owe us for the checkerboard of O&C lands (example map here). With the success our Congressional delegation isn’t having at extending the timber funds, why hasn’t the State of Oregon sued the feds yet (previous blog here)?

Meanwhile, here we sit… logging isn’t generating much in the way of timber fees, Congress isn’t replacing those timber fees, the majority of our county land isn’t generating property taxes, and the fuels load and thus the fire risk continues to grow. If we don’t raise our property taxes this fall to replace the lost timber funds, our Sheriff’s Office all-but-disappears. And if we’re burned out, it will be our fault for living near the forest.

[Note: for all the embedded links, please see the Rogue Pundit]

Rep. Goodlatte on Exploding Fire Suppression Costs

Statement of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Ranking Member, House Committee on Agriculture

RE: H.R. 5541, the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act)

July 9, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment with the bill before us today, H.R. 5541 the Forest Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Act or the FLAME Act. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the authors of this bill are well intentioned and truly want to solve the wildfire funding problem, but, sadly, the FLAME Act does not provide the comprehensive solution needed to adequately resolve this problem.

With the unhealthy conditions in our forests, extreme drought, and the increasing influx of people building in fire-prone areas, the size and severity of wildfires has dramatically increased. In the 90’s, an average of 3.2 million acres burned each year. Since 2000, that annual average has doubled to 7.1 million acres. The cost of fighting these wildfires has skyrocketed, from averages of $400 million annually in the 90’s to roughly $1.4 billion in 2007. This year an area roughly the size of Connecticut has already burned, at cost of over $665 million to date.

This is not just a western issue. In my home state of Virginia, more acres have burned already this year than in any single entire year since 1963 at a cost of millions of dollars.

As firefighting costs have increased, the overall USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior budgets have not. So, the Forest Service and DOI are footing the bill for these large, unpredictable emergency wildfires within the confines of a flat budget. For the Forest Service, this has meant a 77 percent increase in fire expenditures, a 23 percent decrease in funds to manage the national forests, and a 38 percent decrease in funds to help states and private owners manage their forests. Whether you’re a wilderness advocate, a hunter, a mountain biker, or a logger, everyone will be impacted if we don’t solve this problem.

Wildfires are not only consuming more forestland, they are consuming the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior themselves.

The FLAME Act falls short of protecting the Agencies’ budgets from this continued erosion. H.R. 5541 does not change the current budget practice of funding firefighting based on the average expenses over the previous decade. Without this change, we will continue to see more and more of the Agencies’ budgets go toward fire and less towards taking care of our nation’s forests.

In addition to this shortfall, the FLAME Act lacks a comprehensive set of solutions to the problem. Fixes to the wildfire budgeting system must be accompanied by strong cost containment and accountability standards while also ensuring fire fighter safety, incentives to encourage communities to step up to the plate and reduce wildfire risks, and more tools to prevent or minimize damage due to catastrophic wildfires, particularly in our federal forests.

H.R. 5648, the Emergency Wildland Fire Response Act of 2008 which Chairman Peterson and I introduced along with a bipartisan group of our colleagues, provides this comprehensive solution. Unfortunately, negotiations for a more comprehensive solution were cut short.

I’m pleased to see that the authors of the FLAME Act have incorporated aspects of H.R. 5648 that encourage communities to step up to the plate and become “fire-ready” and encourage the Agencies to contain costs in their firefighting efforts.

Unfortunately, even with these improvements, the FLAME Act ignores the underlying problem causing the increases in firefighting costs- the unhealthy condition of our federal forests. We will continue to see skyrocketing firefighting costs and more damage to our forests, watersheds, and communities unless we take steps to reduce fire risk in our federal forests. We must provide the Agencies additional tools to get our federal forests in a healthy, more fire resilient condition.

My alternative bill, H.R. 5648 provides a new contracting tool for the Forest Service to partner with states to address these unhealthy conditions in federal forests. This authority has been tested in Colorado and Utah where it’s proven to be very effective. Unfortunately, HR 5541 contains no such tools.

Mr. Speaker, as California and other states are dealing with massive wildfires even as we speak, we shouldn’t squander our time with legislation that is only half the solution. H.R. 5541 is akin to using the watering can to fight a wildfire: it might have some short-term benefit of slowing down the flames, but ultimately, it won’t stop the fire.

That being said, I will vote for this bill because it does move the ball forward. I’m hopeful that we can improve it as we move forward and ask my colleagues to join me in this effort.

8 Jul 2008, 9:30pm
Saving Forests
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The Mystery of the Older Cohort

When I began SOS Forests in Sept. 2005, this is one of the first photos I posted:

It is not a particularly artistic shot, but it is illustrative of the mystery of the older cohort. The picture is of the East Fork of the Hood River about 6 or 7 miles south of the community of Mt. Hood. The forest pictured is typical of the slopes in the upper watershed.

If you look carefully, you will notice there are two distinct cohorts. The older trees are ponderosa pines ranging from 150 to 350+ years old. They are taller and their tops are often broken. Up close they are much bigger in diameter than the younger cohort trees, which are mostly Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch. The younger trees range from 25 to 100 years old.

That presents a mystery: why was this forest dominated by ponderosa pine for 200+ years with very few of the other species present? Is it because the other species wouldn’t grow there due to climate or soils?

No, the soils and climate are just the same as they were. The other species grow just fine there. In fact, they out-compete the ponderosa pine in the younger cohort. After a stand-replacing fire, all the species germinate, but the pines are soon overtopped by the others. They get spindly and die in dense thickets.

But for some mysterious reason, there are few if any Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western larch in the older cohort. The older trees are almost pure ponderosa pine. Look carefully and you will see that. If you can’t see it, take my word for it; that’s the situation. The ponderosa dominate the older cohort, but not the younger one.

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8 Jul 2008, 2:08pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
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Old-Growth Trees vs Old-Growth Stands

For many veteran readers of SOS Forests, this post is going to seem repetitious. But we have many new readers and so please bear with me.

Old-growth are old trees. Generally speaking, true old-growth trees are those that germinated prior to Euro-American contact with the aboriginal (Native American) populations in a region. In Oregon true old-growth trees are 175+ years old.

In most regions, including all of Oregon, true old-growth trees arose in an age of frequent, regular, seasonal anthropogenic fire. Indian burning maintained prairies and savannas. Hence true old-growth trees were open-grown in open, park-like stands.

Following elimination and/or removal of Indian populations, the anthropogenic fires stopped. Thickets of young trees, so-called second growth, arose under the open canopies of the park-like stands. What resulted are multi-cohort forests.

Multi-cohort forests have 5 to 10 true old-growth trees per acre and the rest are second growth, sometimes numbering as many as 500+ trees per acre. The increased tree density makes those forests susceptible to catastrophic stand-replacing fires.

Previously, when the Indians were burning, fires would stay low to the ground and not kill many trees. In contrast, our modern fires kill all the trees, old and young alike.

It has been recognized that to save and preserve old-growth we must thin out the second growth, younger cohort trees. That was the gist of the important testimony given by Drs. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin last December [here].

No longer do forest scientists view entire stands as old-growth. That was the old paradigm. Today the general understanding is that only a few trees in most “old-growth” stands are actually old. The concept (forest condition) is called multi-cohortedness.
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7 Jul 2008, 9:31pm
Saving Forests
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Siuslaw NF “Old-Growth”

Guest post by Bob Zybach

To the Editor of the Eugene Register Guard:

I enjoyed the July 5 article on the centennial celebration of the Siuslaw National Forest. For many years I was a friend and neighbor of Rex Wakefield, who was Supervisor of the Siuslaw in the 1950s, when timber harvests were intensified to meet national housing demands. Rex was also a great forester, and pioneered many of the site preparation and Douglas-fir plantation methods that were widely used by federal land managers and industrial foresters in subsequent decades.

About 20 years ago I was commissioned to write a detailed land-ownership history of the Siuslaw, and relied upon Rex for much personal recollection, as well as important historical records he had retained from his years as a Supervisor. One of the most interesting records was a history of the Forest written in 1940 by one of Rex’s predecessors, Dahl Kirkpatrick. This report was later updated during WW II, but I was fortunate to be able to read the original type-written document.

A very common — and important — misconception about the history of the Siuslaw NF is similar to what you report in your paper, that of the “two billion” feet of timber sold from the Forest between 1960 and 1990 “much of it [was] old growth giants that today are a rare find.” That is simply not true. Almost all of the timber sold from the Siuslaw during its entire existence has been second-growth, not old-growth.

In 1940 Dahl Kirkpatrick noted that only 35,000 acres or so of the 600,000 total acreage in the Siuslaw was old-growth. That is about the same figure as exists today. People often think the trees are much older because they are so large and grow so fast, as Phyllis Steeves is quoted as saying in your article.

The reason the Siuslaw has never contained very much old-growth during its 100-year history is because of the “Great” Yaquina, Coos, and Nestucca Fires of 1849-1868 which killed most of the trees over the landscape during those years. Trees logged between 1960 and 1990 were almost entirely large second-growth, between 90 and 140 years of age, not old-growth.

The Great Fires of the 1800s were similar to the Big Sur, San Diego, Biscuit, and B&B wildfires of today in that they killed almost everything in their path and were hundreds of thousands of acres in size. Kay King, also quoted in your article, is entirely correct when she worries about all of the huge fuel build-up of the past 20 years, which she terms “biomass for fires.” If this biomass isn’t reduced by regular burning — such as practiced by local Indians before 1849, by grazing, by logging, or by some other means, the Siuslaw NF is destined to be the site of another “Great Fire” sometime soon, in the foreseeable future. That is its history, and also the nature of untended forestlands.

Hearing On S.2593 Thursday By Deaf Senators

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, S. 2593, will be the subject of a hearing Thursday, July 10, before the US Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands [here].

Just in case you don’t know what S. 2593 is all about, click the Category “Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008″ in the right hand sidebar. You will see that the Western Institute for Study of the Environment analyzed this bill and wrote a lengthy set of suggested amendments.

We sent those in to our US Senators and to the Subcommittee but never heard boo from any of them. Now they will be holding a hearing sans our input. How the US Senate can hold hearings when they are terminally deaf is beyond me.

Now, I don’t expect the US Senate to respond to every piece of mail they get, but a collaboration of the top forest scientists in Oregon put together our suggested amendments and we sent them in four months ago. I did expect our Oregon Senators to respond, since S. 2593 concerns Oregon. That bill is a thousand times better than the piece of crap bill Ron Wyden put forth last month [here].

Wyden’s bill, the Oregon Forest Restoration and Old Growth Protection Act,
(no number that we are aware of) is dead in the water from the get-go. It has numerous poison pills. It will never be passed, and if passed will screw up forest management in Oregon even worse than it already is.

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act of 2008, on the other hand, holds considerable promise, especially if the amendments we suggested are adopted.

Unfortunately, the US Senate has ignored our input, as I said. We did not jam sacks of hundred dollar bills in any Senator’s freezer. We did not provide them with free trips to fabulous resorts with hookers and coke and all the accoutrement they expect. It’s not that we didn’t want to; we simply cannot afford it on our limited incomes.

You would think that Gordon Smith might be interested, since he is running again. You would think Ron Wyden might be interested, since he has put forth a weak and stupid forestry bill of his own. If so, you would think wrong.

So the hearing will happen in our absence, much palavering will be done, and then the bill will be buried in the mud of the Potomac, and that’s it for that.

But we tried. You can’t say we didn’t try. It’s not our fault that our government is of, by, and for the criminal elite. Maybe if we elect a Maoist Shining Path Communist revolutionary (there is one running), then things will change. A new class of criminals will take over. That will be better, right?

One By One

What is a land swindle? A prime example is the O&C land frauds and double dealings that have gone on in Oregon since the 1870’s. Wealthy industrialists have been bribing elected representatives for over 100 years and lining their pockets the whole time while impoverishing the citizenry, exploiting forests, and destroying the landscape.

You can read all about it in this history:

One By One: A documented narrative based upon the history of the Oregon & California Railroad Land Grant in the State of Oregon, by Robert Bradley Jones, Sources Magazine, Inc. 1972-73.

“When bad men combine, the good must associate, else they will fall, One by One, an unpitied’ sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke, 1975

Full text [here] (4.3 MB)

Then draw your own comparisons to the latest Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008. The parallels are many. The outcomes will also be similar. If you live in Montana, you just got screwed. You may not realize it now, but your children and grandchildren will suffer because of it. That is, unless they are among the fat cats that just profited by looting the Federal Treasury.

The Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008

On June 30 Senator Max Baucus announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land. It is the biggest Montana land swindle in many years, perhaps since the days of the 19th Century railroad barons.

The so-called Montana Legacy Project will use $500 million in taxpayer monies to enrich Plum Creek, TNC, and TTPL and will provide no significant change in actual land management or environmental stewardship. In fact, stewardship will diminish.

The funds will come from the U.S. Treasury through a slick earmark Baucus inserted into the recent Farm Bill, passed by Congress over President George W. Bush’s veto. In addition to the $500 million to be given to the above named corporations, the Farm Bill also gave a $182 million tax break to the Weyerhaeuser Corporation.

The Montana land swindle was reported by the Flathead Beacon [here]:

Standing just below the summit of Kalispell’s Lone Pine State Park, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Monday announced the purchase of 320,000 acres of Plum Creek Timber Company-owned land by two conservation groups, calling the deal, “the largest land purchase, for conservation purposes, in American history.”

Dubbed, “The Montana Legacy Project,” The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land are buying the acreage for $510 million, and will finance payments on the land over the next three years through private and public sources, with the federal government paying for about half the cost through a forestry conservation bond mechanism Baucus inserted into the recently passed Farm Bill.

Plum Creek is selling 223,400 acres in Missoula County, and 35,500 acres in the Swan Valley, along with 13,800 acres in Lincoln County. No land close to Kalispell or Whitefish was on the selling block.

Spokesmen for the conservation groups said the deal will preserve the land for wildlife habitat, public recreation and sustainable forestry.

Unfortunately, the land deal will do no such thing. What it will guarantee is catastrophic fire, the destruction of wildlife habitat, the elimination of public recreation, and conversion of forest to brush.
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3 Jul 2008, 1:08pm
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin
8 comments

Ninth Circuit Court Okays Thinning Project

As California suffers under a fire bust of historic proportion, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court has decided that thinning forests to prevent catastrophic fire storms in constitutional after all.

In a landmark turn of the worm, yesterday the 9th Court overturned itself and denied a motion by enviro-litigious plaintiffs the Lands Council and the Wild West Institute that would have enjoined the Mission Brush Project, a selective logging of 3,829 acres of forest in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

The Court en banc (Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, Pamela Ann Rymer, Andrew J. Kleinfeld, Michael Daly Hawkins, Barry G. Silverman, M. Margaret McKeown, Raymond C. Fisher, Marsha S. Berzon, Richard R. Clifton, Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith) reversed an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the same court.

The opinion written by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. contained some pithy remarks. The entire Decision is [here]. We extract some of the more important statements:

We took this case en banc to clarify some of our environmental jurisprudence with respect to our review of the actions of the United States Forest Service. …

Boundary County, City of Bonners Ferry, City of Moyie Springs, Everhart Logging, Inc., and Regehr Logging, Inc. (collectively, Intervenors) intervened on behalf of the Forest Service. The district court denied Lands Council’s motion for a preliminary injunction. A three-judge panel of this court reversed the district court’s decision and remanded for entry of a preliminary injunction in Lands Council v. McNair, 494 F.3d 771 (9th Cir. 2007). We vacate that decision and affirm the district court. …

The Mission Brush Area (or Project Area) encompasses approximately 31,350 acres and is located in the northeastern portion of the Bonners Ferry Ranger District. Approximately 16,550 acres of the Project Area are National Forest System lands, which are home to a variety of species (or their habitats), including the northern gray wolf, Canada lynx, grizzly bear, black-backed woodpecker, flammulated owl, fisher, western toad, pileated woodpecker, and the white-tailed deer. The Project Area is also home to old-growth trees.

The current structure and composition of the forest in the Project Area differs significantly from the forest’s historic composition. While the Project Area previously consisted of relatively open ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir stands, today it is crowded with stands of shade-tolerant, younger Douglas-firs and other mid-to late-successional species. The suppression of naturally occurring fires, past logging practices, and disease are primarily responsible for this shift in forest composition.

The increased density of trees has proven deleterious to the old-growth trees and the Project Area’s ecology. First, old-growth trees need relatively open conditions to survive and maintain their growth rates. Second, the increased density is causing a decline in the health and vigor of all trees because they must compete for moisture, sunlight, and nutrients, and the densely clustered trees are less tolerant of insects and disease. Third, dense, dry forests are at risk for large, stand-replacing fires, due to the build-up of fuels. Lastly, wildlife species that prefer a relatively open forest composition with more old-growth trees have suffered a decline in habitat.

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