31 Jan 2008, 12:21pm
Saving Forests
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Some Excerpts from the Johnson-Franklin Testimony

Last December Drs. K. Norman Johnson and Jerry F. Franklin gave public testimony calling for forest restoration, protection, and maintenance. The statement was given before the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests (Chair Ron Wyden, OR), who heard testimony regarding forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction efforts in the forests of Oregon and Washington.

The following are excerpts from that testimony (full testimony [here]).

Our definition of “restoration” is the re-establishment of ecological structures and processes on these forests where they have been degraded and, simultaneously, restoration of economic and other social values on these lands…

These forests… differ greatly from their historical condition in having much higher stand densities and basal areas, lower average stand diameters, much higher percentages of drought- and fire-intolerant species (such as white or grand fir), and many fewer (or no) old-growth trees…

We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake aggressive active management programs…

This is not simply an issue of fuels and fire; because of the density of these forests, there is a high potential for drought stress and related insect outbreaks. Surviving old-growth pine trees are now at high risk of death to both fire and western pine beetle, the latter resulting from drought stress and competition. Many fir-dominated stands are now at risk of catastrophic outbreaks of insect defoliators, such as the spruce budworm, as has occurred at many locations on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range in both Oregon and Washington. Without action, we are at high risk of losing these stands-and the residual old-growth trees that they contain-to fire and insects…

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29 Jan 2008, 4:41pm
Federal forest policy
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An Open Letter to the SAF Policy Committee

Dear Committee,

I am a practicing professional consulting forester. It has come to my attention that the Wildland Fire Leadership Council will be holding a meeting on Feb. 5, and that they have invited the Society of American Foresters to present a position statement on wildland fire.

Here is my view of the WFLC: they have been captured by pro-fire entities including the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Society, two big international non-governmental organizations (BINGO’s).

For the last few years the WFLC has been heavily promoting the idea of let-it-burn, variously termed WFU’s, Wildland Use Fires, Wildland Fires Used for Resource Benefit, or “suppression” fires that are more or less unmanned and unfought (de facto WFU’s).

Although no NEPA process has been followed, the WFLC has promulgated maps, models, and statements of intent to let burn more than 50 percent of the entire National Forest system, and is adding more acres all the time. Record fire seasons and record fires have resulted. The largest fires in state recorded history, and/or the most expensive, have occurred in the last ten years in OR, WA, ID, MT, CO, UT, NV, AZ, NM, and CA.

Megafires originating on Federal land have escaped and burned tens of millions of private acres, rural and urban alike. Suppression costs have soared into the $billions per year. But much worse, the damages to forest resources and other assets, public and private alike, has been in the tens of $billions each year this century, and is getting worse year by year.

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29 Jan 2008, 3:33pm
Federal forest policy
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The Skates Fire

Note: this essay was originally posted at SOS Forests (Old Version) [here].

The following report was sent to me by resident X, who wishes her name hidden to preclude acts of retribution. The report describes the Skates Fire, a 2006 whoofoo (WFU or wildland use fire) on the Gila N.F.

The fire was called the Skates Fire. They lit a back burn during high wind conditions. Stupid. Yes, it was a whoofoo.

They decided to bring the fire within ¼ mile of our property lines. I am not joking here. They put the smoke monitor miles away. I know of one person put in a nursing home that did not come out again due to the Skates Fire.

I forced them after the fire was out of control for 24 hours to suppress. I think I read that rule somewhere. I am not into suppression but when safety and private property is at stake, it makes sense to me not to burn.

The USFS agents were very pissed at me. There was a lot of slander in the local cafes later because I would not let them at 2 AM burn my land.

My horses were freaked out and one colicked that night. The USFS were rocketing the mountain. Burning my sliver of land would not help them, and the way they were burning I was worried they would burn all my fencing, hay, and barn, not to mention jumping the road.

I would not let them come on my land and they were pissed. I had two angry men yelling at me at 2 in the morning. They even had the gall to say, “See what Nature is going to bring you.” They were threatening and intimidating.

I know one of their names.

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28 Jan 2008, 9:07pm
Federal forest policy
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Charred Roadless Forests Don’t Lie

Chris Horgan of Stewards of the Sequoia [here] sent the following clipping from the Seattle Post-It [here].

The clipping is a Letter-to-the-Editor written by Chris West of the American Forest Resource Council [here].

Mike Dombeck’s guest column on the Roadless Rule ignores reality (”Fight over Roadless Area rule in national forests is purposeless,” [here]).

First, a little history — several western governors asked the Clinton administration to be formal partners in the development of a Roadless Rule as provided for under NEPA — they were denied. Then when the states and public were asked to comment on the proposal, there were no detailed maps on which to make informed assessments. Just think of the all negative editorials had a president proposed a rule involving just a million acres of timber, grazing or mining use without providing detailed maps.

After years, not days, the Bush administration offered a new roadless protection plan where governors could petition the Secretary of Agriculture to protect those truly unique roadless areas within their borders — a process allowing for meaningful public involvement and informed decision making. This was an attempt to find a solution to conflicting court rulings, but this too was challenged in the courts. Thankfully several governors have taken advantage of this new process, drawing lines on maps and getting roadless areas protected in their states.

So where are these catastrophic and budget busting wildfires occurring? They are overwhelmingly in national forests where more than 60 percent of the land is either roadless or wilderness. Both in number of large fires and acres burned. Not only are these unnatural events costing taxes payers billions, but they are destroying critical wildlife habitat, key watersheds, threatening communities and releasing green house gasses. Just look at the devastating fires over the past seven years in Washington and Oregon — blackened and charred roadless forests don’t lie. Some may want to put the blame on the changing climate, but adjacent state and private forests have very different results when these wildfires cross the property boundary.

So, while President Clinton and Chief Dombeck had hoped their legacy was going to be nearly 60 million acres of preserved roadless areas, the reality is a devastated landscape, polluted air, silted streams and not enough money to fulfill the Forest Service’s mission of “Caring for the land and serving the people.”

Chris West — American Forest Resource Council, Portland OR

Thank you Chris and Chris.

Added bonus: for an excellent slide show, see Save Our Forest from the Stewards of the Sequioa [here]

28 Jan 2008, 12:04pm
Saving Forests
by admin
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The Destructiveness of Un-Management

Recent calls for active management of our National Forests are based on the very evident fact that the set-aside of forests into No Touch “un-management” zones ends up destroying those forests.

Wilderness Areas, Roadless Areas, riparian reserves, Late Successional Reserves, and other No Touch zones are burning up in catastrophic megafires. The megafires kill all trees, including old-growth, incinerate wildlife, violently consume habitat, convert ecosystems to weedy brush, pollute air and water, destroy recreation opportunities, uglify scenery, and generally result in outcomes at total odds with the mission and purposes of our land management agencies.

Un-management destroys all the values the US Forest Service was established to protect. Un-management is also destroying the USFS itself. Since inception of their un-management program, the USFS has lost more than two-thirds of its personnel and most of its professional stewardship expertise. Their capacity to manage public lands, even if the agency wanted to, has been crippled.

The imposition of un-management land set-asides is wrecking the very values the land was ostensibly set aside for.

The only active program the USFS has left is whoofoos, so-called Wildland Use Fires, more properly let-it-burn fires that hasten the demise of our public forests.

In their hysteria to shut down all stewardship, proponents of un-management have left millions of acres of public and private land permanently scarred. Megafires have not been contained on un-managed Federal forests, but instead have ravaged private countryside and urban areas alike. No Touch, Let It Burn has caused hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage to resource and human values over the last 20 years.

The Precautionary Principle cautions against forest management for fear the outcomes might be bad. Yet un-management justified by the Precautionary Principle has directly resulted in horrendous outcomes, without any shadow of a doubt. The movement to “save the ecology” has left tens of millions of acres of ecosystems in smoking ruins.

New legislation is being devised to counteract the trend toward un-management. Such efforts are often touted as “compromises” between loggers and environmentalists. Loggers and environmentalists are special interest groups that do not represent the majority of Americans, nor does either group offer any management program that would save our forests.

The only “special interest groups” that offer viable solutions are those that advocate active, professional stewardship of our public lands, in order to protect, maintain, and perpetuate forests. Good stewardship means active management that protects rather than destroys forest and natural landscape values.

No doubt, whatever legislation is proposed, the anti-management, pro-destruction special interest groups will fume and sputter. It is important that the American public, whose land it is, not be fooled by deep-pocket, globalist industrialists, no matter whether they are putatively “loggers” or “environmentalists.” Both those lobbies are mega-rich, mega-powerful, and think they run this country. But they don’t.

Stewardship is not successful if it is restricted to a tiny percentage of the landscape. Unless the majority of acres are treated, megafires will erupt on the un-managed portions and spread to all lands. Wilderness, roadless, and other set-aside zones are ticking time bombs that wreak destruction far beyond their regulatory boundaries.

Unless the new legislation legitimizes stewardship on the majority of the public acres, we will not be able to stem the tide of megafires and environmental destruction. Congress and the public need to realize that un-management is not the answer; in fact, it is the problem.

28 Jan 2008, 2:20am
Introduction
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The HFRA Text

For comparative purposes (with DeFazio’s PNW Forest Legacy Act linked to in the previous post), as well as a general lesson in the gobbledy gook of environmental law, we present the text of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 [here].

26 Jan 2008, 12:24am
Introduction
by admin
6 comments

The PNW Forest Legacy Act: Discussion Draft

SOS Forests has obtained a copy of the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act: Discussion Draft.

Download the full text [here] (pdf format, 794 KB)

Note: you will need to reorient the pages in Adobe Reader with the tool bar menu command View>Rotate View>Counterclockwise.

I discussed the incipient PNW Forest Legacy Act [here], and that Congressman Peter DeFazio (D, OR) was preparing it. The discussion draft is slated to appear on a new website DeFazio has established [here]. The draft is not there yet, but SOS Forests has it and we link to it above.

My first impression is that there are many poorly worded sections, a few good ones, and a great deal missing. Overall, I am disappointed.

However, it is very early in the process. Peter DeFazio and the rest of Congress could use some assistance in modifying the PNWFLA so that it accomplishes the right goals while minimizing unintended consequences. Some clauses need to be dropped, some altered, and entirely new ones added. That’s the purpose of a discussion draft.

This is an opportunity to discuss and debate the mission of the US Forest Service and how the right mission might best be achieved, in the Pacific Northwest at any rate.

In future posts I will parse the discussion draft and offer constructive criticism, in the hopes that suggested modifications are adopted. I invite your participation in that effort. (Much of that group-thinking may occur in the Members Forum rather than here at SOS Forests. The Forum is the best place for multiple folks to jigger with legal language.)

As it stands right now, I would not support the legislation, but if it were modified in the right ways, I possibly could. More importantly, the debate/discussion could be the most productive aspect of the whole process, whether or not the bill gets passed.

We have been and shall be engaging in the debate/discussion. The PNW Forest Legacy Act is the next venue, and we are looking forward to the show.

24 Jan 2008, 8:39pm
2007 Fire Season
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Flash Floods on the Zaca Burn

The following collection of items extracted from the Web tell a story all by themselves.

ZACA FIRE UPDATE [here]

USDA Forest Service - Los Padres National Forest, Last Modified: 10/04/07

“The Zaca Fire burned in very steep and rugged terrain, and while there are islands of unburned vegetation, there are vast areas that are a moonscape now,” Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez explained. “With the vegetation gone, there is nothing to hold the soil in place, so the land is very unstable. Dry landslides, rockslides and other erosion is occuring on a daily basis. We expect mudslides and flash flooding when the rains come. Out of concern for public safety, and to allow the watersheds to begin to heal, I will keep the burned area closed to public entry at least through spring 2008,” she added.

“The burned or otherwise disturbed soils are very vulnerable, especially to wheeled vehicles, until vegetation gets reestablished,” said Hernandez. “We know people are anxious to get back into their national forest, but we are asking for their patience and cooperation.”

Preliminary surveys of the burned area show that many hiking trails have been severely damaged by the fire and are completely impassable. “Our volunteers are very anxious to get in there and help reestablish the trails. Unfortunately, it may be some time before the ground is stable enough to allow them to be rebuilt,” said Santa Barbara District Ranger Cindy Chojnacky.

The Zaca Fire started on July 4, and burned approximately 240,207 acres before it was contained on September 2. It is the second largest fire in California’s recorded history and the largest in Santa Barbara County’s recorded history.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

Dry ravel erosion has obliterated the Santa Cruz Trail near the San Rafael Wilderness boundary.
Photo Credit: Lori Rafferty
Courtesy the USDA Forest Service
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24 Jan 2008, 12:27pm
Saving Forests
by admin
7 comments

Mr. Mensa Challenges Mike on Global Cooling

None other than Mr. Mensa himself sent us a comment, in response to a post we entitled Global Cooling Sets In [here]. Out of respect for the august reputation of the author, we reprise Mr. Mensa’s comment in full:

Mike - Stick to the forestry issues - when you post global warming-related comments you sound just plain silly.

It’s a bit early for your 2008 and 2009 predictions.

Despite your misinformation, here are the facts:

For 2007, the global land and ocean surface temperature was the fifth warmest on record. Separately, the global land surface temperature was warmest on record while the global ocean temperature was 9th warmest since records began in 1880.

Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1995. The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6°C and 0.7°C since the start of the twentieth century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend.

2008 is set to be cooler globally than recent years but is still forecast to be one of the top-ten warmest years.

Get your facts straight buddy!

Well, indeed! I rise to that bait like a trout to a fly!

In this preface to my reply to Mr. Mensa, which is this essay, I must first establish some turf. “Stick to forestry” advises Mr. Mensa. Well sir, climatology is a sub-specialty of foresters and forestry.

Foresters are generalists, meaning they have to know quite a bit about many fields. These include botany, zoology, ecology, natural history, anthropology, hydrology, engineering, statistics, economics, business, sociology, meteorology, and yes, climatology, especially in this day and age. Others may specialize, but foresters must be generalists because their responsibilities encompass all those disciplines.

The sciences may be compartmentalized, but the forest cannot be; the forest is the sum of all the parts, all mixed together.

So I am, in fact, highly qualified to discuss global warming and/or cooling, as I shall amply demonstrate.

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23 Jan 2008, 4:06pm
Introduction
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Appearing Soon: the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D, OR) is preparing legislation he calls the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act. A “draft discussion document” is slated to appear on a new website DeFazio has established [here].

Already on Defazio’s site there are “Frequently Asked Questions,” an outline of the Bill, and “volume estimates,” but the actual proposed draft Bill is not up yet.

The descriptive verbiage indicates that the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act is, in part, an outgrowth of the Dec. 13, 2007 testimonies to the US Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests [here]. SOS Forests has also posted previously on the political run-up to this legislation [here, and here].

Without the actual language, it is impossible to judge the current merits and demerits of the Pacific Northwest Legacy Act. Some of the descriptive verbiage that has been posted is encouraging; other is not. In some parts the verbiage appears to be self-contradictory. But in any case, it is the actual legal language of the legislation that must be debated, adjusted, refined, and finalized.

There is no substantial reason to be in favor or opposed to the Pacific Northwest Forest Legacy Act at this time. Even if the draft doc was available, no doubt there’s a lot more sausage-making yet to go. But it does seem to have some potential value, if only to bring forest issues to the forefront.

SOS Forests will be tracking the PNWFLA very closely. We have even created a special category. Expect updates and analyses right here as this process unfurls.

22 Jan 2008, 2:07pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
5 comments

Global Cooling Sets In

There has been no global warming since 1998. The solar cycle that lifted the planet out of the Little Ice Age is over. That worm has turned, and we are headed back into a cooling cycle. This year, 2008 is expected to be the coolest since the early 1990’s. And 2009 will be cooler yet.

Global temperatures are not affected by atmospheric carbon dioxide. The planet is cooling despite “record” levels of CO2 (today’s CO2 concentrations are minuscule compared to paleo-atmospheric concentrations). Humanity has not warmed the planet. Temperatures are dipping despite everything humans do.

The current and former Chiefs of the USFS, Gail Kimbell and Dale Bosworth, both blame global warming for record forest fire acreage during their tenures. The Association of Fire Ecologists went so far as to issue a Declaration calling for direct and immediate conversion of forests to brush via a No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch it Rot, No Regrets policy.

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council, the federal advisory committee that oversees federal firefighting and is dominated by special interest groups, specifically the Nature Conservancy and the Wilderness Society, has launched a “Black, Dead, Burned Forests Are Beautiful” campaign. The propaganda effort is in support of their WFU program, the Let It Burn policy that encompasses most of the western U.S., public and private land alike.

Yes, in December the USFS formally extended its Let It Burn directive to hundreds of millions acres of private land, an official acknowledgment of their de facto policies of the last 15 years.

That announcement comes on the heels of a government-wide “Blame the Victims” approach to addressing the tens of thousands of private homes the USFS has incinerated during the last 15 years. Nearly 90 million acres have burned in wildfires in the last decade and a half, including the largest fires in the history of every western state.

The destruction of America’s public forests has been horrific. Trillions (with a “t”) of dollars in resource values have been lost. Regional economies have been crippled. Wildlife populations have crashed. Millions of acres of heritage old-growth forests have been converted to brush.

But hark! That’s all over now. Since global warming was the cause, now that global cooling has set in the problem has been solved. Right?

Wrong. Global warming was never the cause; bad land management was and is. And since the bad land management promulgated by the USFS and WFLC is getting worse, expect fire seasons to get worse, too, regardless of “climate change.”

Expect more acres, more forests, more homes to be incinerated this year. Your watershed, neighborhood, property has been targeted. It does not matter whether you live in a rural, urban, or suburban setting. Fire does not discriminate. And megafires arising from the deliberate actions (and inactions) of the federal government especially do not discriminate.

The time to act is now. The time to reintroduce stewardship into the landscape is now. The federal government needs to hear that message and get it in gear, now. The mistakes of the last 15 years must be corrected, now.

Regardless of global warming, cooling, or “climate change.”

20 Jan 2008, 5:08pm
Saving Forests
by admin
8 comments

Fire Suppression Is Not To Blame

This morning I read a dead tree press article about defensible space. The article was okay, but the reporter felt compelled to add the usual PC canard about fire suppression having caused fuel build-ups.

I’m not going to link to the article because I don’t want to embarrass the reporter. There was nothing special about his remark; it’s a common misstatement and falsehood. I could cite thousands of other, similar utterances, probably millions if I had the desire and capital to do it.

Far better (and cheaper) would be to quash this canard once and for all.

Fire suppression, throughout its entire history, has not added one ounce of fuel to the environment. Not even a microgram of fuel has been added by fire suppression.

The culprit is photosynthesis. All the biomass in the Biosphere got there directly or indirectly via photosynthesis. There is an exception: sulfur bacteria growing near undersea vents, but besides that paltry scum, the rest of Life is photosynthetic in origin or dependency.

Reducing, hamstringing, and/or banning fire suppression altogether will not solve our fire crisis. Withholding fire suppression will not stop any fires.

It’s the biotic fuels that are burning, and they got there via photosynthesis.

Another non-solution to our fire crisis would be to attempt to eliminate photosynthesis. This would be an impossible task, for Life is Resilient. If it could be done, it would also have the unintended consequence of killing off all oxygen-dependent life forms, including you and me.

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19 Jan 2008, 5:05pm
Introduction
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Check out the other W.I.S.E. subsites

There’s a lot of good stuff building up here at SOS Forests, the New Version. But there’s a bunch of good stuff on the other W.I.S.E. subsites, too.

Forest, Fire, and Wildlife News contains a number of items that boggle the sensibilities. They amuse, surprise, shock, and delight the cynically-inclined! Many suggestions for news articles to post have been received, and all are very much appreciated.

Wildlife and People also has some enlightening posts, and much more to come.

The Colloquia are gradually expanding, too. Bit by bit the best new paradigm science is inching onto the site. Not as fast as I’d like, because it’s time-consuming to read (or re-read) cutting-edge science books and reports and then write decent reviews. But we’re getting there.

Lots to read at W.I.S.E. already, though. And fun to read, whether you agree with the item/author or not. Not to mention educational.

Feel free to comment elsewhere at W.I.S.E. I think Forest, Fire, and Wildlife News especially has some doozies worth a shot or two.

18 Jan 2008, 11:11pm
Federal forest policy
by admin
4 comments

USFS Alters NEPA Approach

The US Forest Service is redesigning their NEPA approach. Instead of forest by forest creation of NEPA docs (such as Environmental Impact Statements) they plan to concentrate that work in six new NEPA “service centers.”

For an excellent report on this new arrangement, see the Rogue Pundit [here].

Consolidating the Forest Service

In 2006, the Forest Service hired a consultant to study its work involved in satisfying the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The goal was to come up with recommendations for improving efficiency and saving money, with an eye towards possibly privatizing the work. The resulting feasibility study (here) hasn’t exactly impressed the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Here are the calmer parts of the press release…

The U.S. Forest Service is on the verge of approving a massive restructuring that will remove land management planning from individual forests, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The resulting reorganization will affect one in four agency jobs, shrink its on-the-ground firefighting militia and rigidify resource planning.

The plan, called a “Business Process Reengineering,” would consolidate virtually all work performed under NEPA, the basic planning law that shapes significant agency resource management actions. Altogether, nearly 8,000 employees out of the agency’s 30,000 person workforce now perform NEPA-related work. Almost all of this work is done at the forest level.

Under the Business Process Reengineering, all of these functions would be moved into six “eco-based Service Centers” where forest planning would be standardized… [more]

18 Jan 2008, 1:50pm
Saving Forests
by admin
4 comments

Resident Stewardship

The most important things grown in Oregon, the things we most desire to sustain, are not Douglas-fir, salmon, spotted owls, or watershed values. The most important things grown in Oregon are children, human children. That’s what we need to sustain: children and their parents. Without people, there really is no point to sustaining anything else.

Children should grow up where it is clean and green, where there is real dirt, real grass, real trees, and a big outdoors to explore.

Once upon a time human beings considered themselves to be a part of nature. Once there was a time when human beings were the Caretakers of Creation. We were part of nature, nature was part of us. Humanity has tended our landscapes for thousands of years.

That time has apparently passed. Today modern humanity is widely considered to be an infection, a cancer on nature. Ask any environmentalist, “What is the most overriding problem facing the planet today?” and he or she will tell you: too many people.

They will not have to think about it. The response will be knee-jerk automatic. The dogma has been memorized and re-memorized: too many people.

A long time ago forests were valued as home, the neighborhood, places where people lived.

Today, in contrast, forests are valued as dehumanized places. Dehumanization outweighs all the old, passé values. As long as a landscape is devoid of humanity it does not matter if the forest is old or young, beautiful or ugly, green or burned to snags and soot. A “forest” can be a burned-out wasteland, lacking in every respect including trees, but if it is dehumanized, then all is well.

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