New Aerial Photos of the Rim Fire

Google Maps now has updated photos that include the Rim Fire. Now, we can explore the whole of the burned areas to see all of the damages and realities of last year’s epic firestorm.



Here is where the fire started, ignited by an escaped illegal campfire. The bottom of this deep canyon has to be the worst place for a fire to start. It’s no wonder that crews stayed safe by backing off.,-120.0467671,900m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


While there has been talk about the forests within Yosemite National Park, a public assessment has been impossible, in the National Forest, due to closures. Here is an example of the plantations I worked on, back in 2000, completed just a few years ago. What it looks like to me is that the 40 year old brushfields caused most of the mortality within the plantations. A wider look shows some plantations didn’t survive, burning moderately. When you give a wildfire a running start, nothing can stand in the way of it.,-119.9503067,1796m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en


There is also a remarkable view of Sierra Pacific Industries’ partly-finished salvage logging. Zoom into this view and take a look at their latest work, including feller-bunchers. Comments?,-119.976156,3594m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

New Interactive Maps Show National Forest Timber Sale Data

From Headwaters Economics:

Headwaters Economics produced two interactive maps that help users better understand the commercial activities on National Forests such as the timber economy–gross receipts, timber harvest sales, and timber cuts–at a variety of scales.

Gross Receipts from Commercial Activities allows users to view and download data on gross receipts from all commercial activities at the National Forest, State, and National Forest Region scale for the updated period Fiscal Year 1986 to 2013.

Timber Cut and Sold Reports allows users to view and download cut and sold data on timber volume, value, and price at the National Forest, State, and National Forest Region scale for the updated period Fiscal Year 1980 to 2013.

Interview With Lynn Jungwirth, Community Forestry Pioneerwith

Lynn Jungwirth

Lynn Jungwirth

About 15 or so years ago, I attended a Leadership Academy for the Society of American Foresters for which Lynn Jungwirth was the keynote speaker on leadership. She was amazing and inspiring. I was thinking about the SAF meeting and thought I’d see if I could find a copy of her speech. While I couldn’t, I did find this interview from 2013, when she became a board member of Sustainable Northwest and so here’s a link. She is one of the founders of the community forestry movement in the US west, so this is relevant to our ongoing community forestry discussion.

SNW: What are some of your biggest accomplishments in the past year, policy or otherwise?

Lynn: Too many to list! We’ve made significant inroads in the state of California on biomass policy, especially as it relates to forest health. We’ve done a lot of community level work, as well as work with state partners. We have seriously affected the national cohesive wildland fire strategy to build capacity at the local level, so communities can adapt to fire and help the land around them adapt as well. On a local level, we have launched a prescribed fire strategy in Trinity County and trained local crews in understanding and conducting prescribed burns. This has been a great year for providing jobs to get young people experience in natural resources management.

SNW: What are your goals for the next three to five years?

Lynn: We are going to work on expanding the tools for community forestry in more communities throughout the West, especially by developing and improving the “hub and spoke” network. We will try to get the Forest Service involved on the local level and have them designate Trinity Forest as a community forest. We also receive significant Forest Service contracts each year and need to meet land planning goals as well.

SNW: What barriers are preventing you from achieving your goals?

Lynn: The biggest barrier is that there is no legal framework for local groups to work with federal land managers. We are doing “out of the box” work and therefore have to bend the system to do things differently. We must find another way because there is no standard policy to support our work. Many of the rules we deal with were written for a former institution, and there is no legal process or framework to do things differently. The Forest Service National Partnership Office has done a lot, but now we need the land management, procurement, and acquisition side to get involved as well for planning decisions and financial arrangements. Changes in tools and policies need to be prioritized.

SNW: If you could have 1 minute to address the President or Congress, what policies would you pitch?

Lynn: (Three things):

1. Congress: please permanently reauthorize Stewardship Contracting.

2. Mr. President: We are ready for a rural agenda (AGO was ok?), but we need the people and land relationships figured out better. Livelihoods based on recreation don?t create the kind of relationship that we should have with natural resources. The practice of ?use and exploit? doesn?t work for both sides. We cannot continue to demean rural; rural lands are more than just vacation destinations. So far we either exploit it or have service jobs.

3. Some of the brightest, most courageous and energetic young people that want to live with and treat the land properly, have homes and families in our community. We must give them the tools to provide effective land management.

New Rim Fire Study: Extreme Weather Trumps Fuel Reduction

Rim fire studyA new scientific study on the Rim Fire has just been published. “Severity of an uncharacteristically large wildfire, the Rim Fire, in forests with relatively restored frequent fire regimes” by Jamie Lydersen, Malcolm North and Brandon Collins is available here.  What follows is the abstract, with some emphasis added.


The 2013 Rim Fire, originating on Forest Service land, burned into old-growth forests within Yosemite National Park with relatively restored frequent-fire regimes (P2 predominantly low and moderate sever- ity burns within the last 35 years).

Forest structure and fuels data were collected in the field 3–4 years before the fire, providing a rare chance to use pre-existing plot data to analyze fire effects. We used regression tree and random forests analysis to examine the influence of forest structure, fuel, fire history, topographic and weather conditions on observed fire severity in the Rim Fire, as estimated from an initial fire severity assessment based on the relative differenced normalized burn ratio (RdNBR).

Plots that burned on days with strong plume activity experienced moderate- to high-severity fire effects regardless of forest conditions, fire history or topography. Fire severity was also highly negatively associated with elevation, with lower severity observed in plots over 1700 m.

Burning index (a composite index of fire weather), time since the last fire, and shrub cover had strong positive associations with fire severity. Plots that had experienced fire within the last 14 years burned mainly at low severity in the Rim Fire, while plots that exceeded that time since last fire tended to burn at moderate or high severity.

This effect of time since last fire was even more pronounced on days when the burning index was high. Our results suggest that wildfire burning under extreme weather conditions, as is often the case with fires that escape initial attack, can produce large areas of high-severity fire even in fuels-reduced forests with restored fire regimes. 

“Ecological Forestry” As Regional Model?

Good piece on the Buck Rising sale in Oregon, one of the pilot sales designed under the “ecological forestry” pitched by Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson. Having visited the sale and talked with the foresters who implemented the sale, My answer to the question posed by the article’s title is Yes. If timber management with a strong emphasis on creating and maintaining wildlife habitat won’t work (due to opposition from enviro groups), then nothing will. This is a battle that needs to be fought — it’s all or nothing.


Should A Controversial Oregon Timber Harvest Become Regional Model?

Citizen forest planners using GIS

This seems like a strange source for hearing about evolution in forest planning policy, but here is what the Region 6 regional forester is telling the world.  It’s not something I remember serious discussion about when the 2012 Rule was developed, nor have I heard of it being done anywhere.  Has anyone participated in something like this in forest planning?  (I’ve added the bold type.)

Connoughton: Public policy for each national forest is set by law. The national forest plan follows the procedures of the National Environment Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and a few other pieces of legislation. The advantage of collaborating on a GIS platform is that people have data, tools, and maps that give them greater insight, and they can ask design questions. On the platform, you are in a spatial environment that allows you to display the problem, query one another’s ideas, and look at the logical outcome. This type of dialog becomes a mechanism for designing alternatives. Instead of forest service specialists putting together alternatives that are mandatory under the National Environmental Policy Act, they could collaboratively engage in setting public policy and ask design questions.

Boy, what an advance that is. Otherwise, we are drawing public policy from inside the government and the outcome does not capture people’s interest. Why not turn the ability to design public policy over to them. The foundation of policy is spatial. Its design is largely supported by sets of spatial information. This is very liberating to people who otherwise have had to depend on the government to create the forest plan.

Turning forest information over to people in a way they can understand is empowering. The responsibility of government is to be faithful and trusting to the people. The people then use tools for designing alternative solutions and public policies.

Hashing out habitat: Crowd debates wildlife habitat in forest management plan meeting

Pretty good article about planning on the the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests:

Hashing out habitat: Crowd debates wildlife habitat in forest management plan meeting

Couple of excerpts:

“The overall theme that I feel like from the wildlife habitat perspective is to manage this forest for diversity,” Sheryl Bryan, a U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist, told the crowd.

Depending on your definition of “young,” the acreage of young forest in the Pisgah-Nantahala now hovers around 1 percent, and most stakeholders agree that’s too low. The Forest Service’s preliminary research is exploring what it would take to get early successional habitat to command somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of the forest. But that’s a big range.

“The reality is that the Forest Service cannot afford to cut all the trees across the forest that some folks want cut,” said D.J. Gerken, managing attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’re going to have to make choices about focusing that action on places where it is most appropriate.”

Give Forests to Local People to Preserve Them

Fred Pearce from New Scientist…Here’s the link.

The best way to protect rainforests is to keep people out, right? Absolutely not. The best way to keep the trees, and prevent the carbon in them from entering the atmosphere, is by letting people into the forests: local people with the legal right to control what happens there.

Given the chance, most communities protect rather than plunder their forests, says a new study by the World Resources Institute and Rights and Resources Initiative, both in Washington DC. The forests provide food, water, shelter, medicines and much else.

The report, Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change collates many existing studies. It concludes that forest communities only have legal control over one-eighth of the world’s forests. The rest is mostly controlled by governments or leased for logging or mining, often in defiance of community claims.

But community-owned forests are often the best-protected. In the Amazon rainforest, deforestation rates in community-owned areas are far lower than outside.
Hand it over

Since 2000, annual deforestation rates in Brazil have been 7 per cent outside indigenous territories, but only 0.6 per cent inside. The report estimates that indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon could prevent the emission of 12 billion tonnes of CO2 between now and 2050.

Brazil’s indigenous territories are an important reason why deforestation rates there have fallen by two-thirds in the past decade. The country is a leader in handing over forests to local people, having recognised some 300 indigenous territories since 1980. Almost a third of all community forests are in Brazil.

Likewise, in Guatemala’s Peten region, which includes the Maya Biosphere Reserve, deforestation is 20 times lower in community areas than those under government protection. In Mexico’s Yucatán state, deforestation is 350 times lower in community forests.

“We can increase carbon sequestration simply by transferring ownership of forests from governments to communities,” says Ashwini Chhatre of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the report. He led a 2009 study that reached similar conclusions (PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905308106).
Not happening yet

However, global progress on recognising community claims has slowed since 2008. Governments, especially in Asia and Africa, are reluctant to give up control. In Indonesia, which recently overtook Brazil as the country that is deforesting fastest, the report found that only 1 million of its 42 million hectares of forests are formally under the control of their inhabitants.

“No one has a stronger interest in the health of forests than the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods and culture,” says Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative. “It is tragic that this has not yet been fully adopted as a climate change mitigation strategy.”

That could change. This year’s round of international climate negotiations will be in Lima, Peru, near the Amazon. Agreeing how to protect forests and the carbon they contain will be a central focus. “Strengthening community forest rights is critical to mitigating climate change,” says Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute.

Spirituality, Ethics and Natural Resources II

Bob’s first question was:Are there any spiritual values associated with natural resource management?
If not, should there be?

Bob’s second question is:
If so, what’s the fundamental legal/moral/ethical basis?

My favorite summary of the issue of thinking about using natural resources ethically is a book by Rushworth Kidder called “How Good People Make Tough Choices.”

What I liked about the book is the direct, down-to-earth language, and his idea that many ethical choices are,
in the words of his preface (2009), “right vs. right” :

The toughest choices lie not in deciding whether to comply with the law, but in choosing what to do when both sides are right. As the world shrinks and complexity grows, those choices provoke the most intellectually challenging and socially significant conversations of our time.”

I’ve attached here about six pages from the book, with his discussion of what he calls “conservation vs. consumption” Below are a couple of excerpts.

Here Kidderkidder on conservation describes different ethical approaches to the problem, ends-based, rule-based, and care-based:

How do our resolution principles help us? Ends-based thinkers, brooding upon consequences, layout sober prophecies of future doom and gloom-on both sides of the issue. Global warming vies for our attention with prognostications of future job losses and welfare increases. To the ends-based thinker, a dose study of such figures, and the methodologies behind them, is essential: How else will we know what “the greatest good” will be? Not surprisingly, then, the policymakers’ well-known penchant for utilitarianism plunges modern society into endless rounds of expert testimony, scientific debate, and statistical saber-rattling-the assumption being that whoever gets it intellectually right will also have captured the moral high ground.

Rule-based thinkers look on all this with wry detachment. The moral sense, to them, has little to do with such arcane debates. What rule, they ask instead, should be universalized? If it is to save species at all costs, then that must be done regardless of consequences. If, on the other hand, it is to honor every individual’s basic human dignity by supplying food and shelter, that must take precedence, no matter what happens. What gives these thinkers the shudders is the spectacle of moral inconsistency, a waffling set of policies that change every few years depending on scientific fashion or public whim. Get the rule right, they argue, and carry it out in full trust that it will produce the highest sense of goodness.

The care-based thinker may well dismiss both these views-the first for its cold disregard of suffering, the second for its rigid demand for consistency. What, they ask, would I want to have done to me? Living in a Dhaka slum, I would want a meal, an education, a job, a sense of hope-not a lecture on saving the whales. Living in a Los Angeles suburb, however, I would want a set of policies that would compel my entire community-myself inc1uded to support alternatives to the gasoline-powered cars whose exhausts once engulfed me in smog.

Placing my highest emphasis on caring for others-and observing that there are more slum-dwellers than suburbanites- I might finally come down more in favor of supporting the former than the latter.

This dilemma also gives us a dear look at another part of the resolution process: locating the trilemma options. Among the most encouraging signs of progress has been the growth of coalitions that involve both environmentalists and developers. From a past filled with the strident animosities of stark opposition, we seem to be moving toward a greater recognition of the fact that like all true dilemmas, this one has a lot of right on both sides. The trilemma goal-saving the environment while at the same time providing economic development-is being met in some areas. Already supermarkets are offering reusable fabric bags as an alternative to plastic ones. The once-ubiquitous water bottle is becoming increasingly unpopular as it becomes clear that not enough people are recycling. Hybrid cars, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and four-minute showers are looking more attractive and affordable as energy prices go up. Ecotourism is on the rise, helping travelers visit unspoiled areas with damaging them. In these and other ways, a resolution process as old as Aristotle’s Golden Mean is on the twenty-first century’s agenda.

In another place, he says:

“To be sure, there are environmentally “clean” jobs in IT,… But even those depend upon the prosperity generated somewhere in the world through a manufacturing base, which almost always involves some exploitation of natural resources. To refuse that exploitation, then is to condemn the world’s poor to continued poverty- a condemnation that seems all the more inequitable when promoted by those in the developed world who already enjoy significant prosperity.”

The idea that “we already exploited our natural resources, and we think you should not exploit yours” can exist within one country, as well as between countries. This can occur anywhere that one location or group of people holds power over another.

Exploiting resources can have health effects and effects on the environment. Poverty can have well-known health effects as well (hopefully I don’t have to cite them). And if we are trying to find a place where use of resources and protecting the environment can coexist, to me it is to be found locally (or at the state level), where the rubber meets the metaphorical road.

Which leads us to the discussion on this blog in 2010 on the ethical approach called “environmental pragmatism” as described by desJardin in his experience with a local environmental issue in his book I linked to here.

I do kind of disagree with Kidder from my perspective as a person who dealt with on-the-ground can get into vast debates about science and with experts regardless of the ethics behind your choice. Because you have to understand impacts if you care, and because following a rule doesn’t mean that you will get the desired outcome. What do you think?