Blog Volunteer Wanted!

Have you ever wanted to contribute to the maintenance of this blog? Well… I could really use some help.
I get behind in posting the Litigation Weekly, and I realized it is a task that would be easy for someone else to do. I will email it to you, you run it through an OCR reader of some kind, and then copy and paste it to be a blog post. You would also upload the legal files. It takes me about 15 minutes per week.

The reason I was told by the FS that they couldn’t send the files in an easier to copy format (as they did formerly) is that someone copied and posted it somewhere but changed it, and someone in the FS got into trouble. As a veteran of many sizes, shapes and forms of “getting into trouble,” I am absolutely against that happening to anyone else unnecessarily. So part of this task is that you would have to promise not to change anything while copying the text of the Weekly. You would be free to comment – but in the comment boxes.

Now you might think that if the FS would just post Weeklies to the public, the “changed wording” would cease to be problem- because anyone could see for themselves what the right wording is. You might also think that changed words would be more of a problem if people like us, with the best intentions, have to run them through an optical character reader. These can be inaccurate. Don’t go down that rabbit trail! It will only lead to frustration and low morale. I think the right attitude is “just another hill to climb to provide valuable information on the workings of government to the citizen.”

If you think this might be fun, a learning experience, or just want to contribute something meaningful and popular to this blog community, please email me at terraveritas at gmail. I will provide such training as needed, and lavish amounts of appreciation.

Good Neighbor Authority

This isn’t something that has been discussed here, but in the last couple of days I’ve seen two stories that make it sound like the greatest thing since tab tops.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest may sell 123 million board feet of timber by the end of fiscal 2017, WJFW-TV reported. That would mark the fifth annual increase in a row for the forest, which is nearing its maximum yield.  Forest Supervisor Paul Strong said this year’s expected yield is “absolutely great news.” The forest’s management plan aims to sell 131 million board feet annually. Strong said the timber program has grown thanks to the National Forest Services’ increased authority under the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill and policies allowing organizations to remove small trees and keep the timber.  He also cited the federal Good Neighbor Authority policy, which has allowed the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to manage the sale of about 25 million board feet of timber in the national forest annually.

Idaho has been seeing success with using the “Good Neighbor Authority” it was granted under the 2014 federal Farm Bill to partner with the U.S. Forest Service and increase active management and timber harvests on national forests in the state – and it’s poised to ramp the program up.  Under GNA, the state Department of Lands can offer its expertise and help to the Forest Service where the service’s staffing is short, for everything from administering contracts for timber sales to jointly designing projects that are backed by local collaboratives.   Because Idaho had numerous forest collaboratives already in place – which bring together sportsmen, conservationists, industry, local government and more to help design projects to improve forests in their area – it was able to spring into action.  Schultz said the piece Idaho’s been able to include that earlier states didn’t is actual timber sales – which add the jobs and economic impact piece, along with fund the program itself.  Jonathan Oppenheimer, government relations director for the Idaho Conservation League, attended the Land Board meeting. “We’ve been involved in a lot of these collaboratives,” he said afterward. “We are cautiously supportive of the program. We see it as a good way to get work done.” He called GNA “a good tool, but one that we’re certainly watching closely.”

Here’s what the Forest Service says about it:

The Good Neighbor Authority allows the Forest Service to enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with States and Puerto Rico to allow the States to perform watershed restoration and forest management services on National Forest System (NFS) lands. Congress passed two laws expanding Good Neighbor Authority (GNA): the FY 2014 Appropriations Act and the 2014 Farm Bill. Each law contains slightly different versions.

  • The Farm Bill permanently authorizes the Good Neighbor Authority for both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) extending it to all 50 States and Puerto Rico. It excludes construction, reconstruction, repair, or restoration of paved or permanent roads or parking areas and construction, alteration, repair, or replacement of public buildings or works; as well as projects in wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and lands where removal of vegetation is prohibited or restricted.

  • The Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Appropriations Act included a five-year authorization for the use of GNA in all states with NFS lands to perform watershed restoration and protection services on NFS and BLM lands when similar and complementary services are performed by the state on adjacent state or private lands. Other than the adjacency requirement, there were no exclusions as to type or location of work.

Is there more here than meets the eye (good or bad)?  It does help with the financing.  Focusing on national forest lands that are “adjacent” to state or private lands seems like it would minimize controversy.  No mention of a collaboration requirement, but that seems to figure into it somehow.  If this is working so well, does the FS need more legislation?

We Got This!

New Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke announced today that the Forest Service is unrolling “bold moves we will make throughout the agency to help our employees improve our ability to do more work on the ground, deliver more results and live up to our responsibility for sound land stewardship.” The new planning and analysis tactics will be announced next week at a Phoenix workshop attended by over 200 Forest Service leaders. These “innovations [will] demonstrate ways to significantly reduce costs and the time it takes for us to do this work, while delivering safe, high quality outcomes—with meaningful results that honor our stewardship responsibilities.”

The Forest Service’s Phoenix workshop comes at a time when some members of Congress believe that changes in environmental laws are needed. It appears Chief Tooke and his leadership team believe that the Forest Service already has the tools needed to get the job done.

Here is the complete text of Chief Tooke’s all-employees email:’

From: FS-Office of the Chief
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2017 5:03 AM
To: FS-All FS
Subject: ***MESSAGE FROM THE CHIEF***Employees Invited to Participate via Live Stream in National Workshop on Environmental Analysis and Decision-making

Next week more than 200 leaders from around the country will convene in Phoenix, AZ, for a national workshop aimed at initiating Forest Service-wide reform of our environmental analysis and decision-making processes.

We invite you to join us via live streaming for the opening and closing sessions of the Environmental Analysis and Decision Making workshop, which brings together professionals from every level of the organization. It will result in bold moves we will make throughout the agency to help our employees improve our ability to do more work on the ground, deliver more results and live up to our responsibility for sound land stewardship.

The Workshop takes place Monday-Thursday, September 26-28. You can join 8 a.m.-noon Pacific Time Tuesday, September 26, for the opening session and 2:15-4:15 p.m. Pacific Time Thursday, September 28, for the closing session. (See instructions below)

The National Leadership Council and I will participate in portions of the session. Participants will draw on more than 30 years of experience of completing environmental analyses and making sound decisions. This includes learning from innovative efforts taking place in various units of these agency. These innovations demonstrate ways to significantly reduce costs and the time it takes for us to do this work, while delivering safe, high quality outcomes—with meaningful results that honor our stewardship responsibilities. Now is the time to apply these innovations nation-wide.

This gathering serves as a critical next step toward a collective shift for the Forest Service. The timing is right: A confluence of factors—including a back log of needed mission critical work, a need for increased employee capacity, land conditions calling for extensive forest restoration, and increased expectations for the agency to deliver services—have come together to create an urgency for change. To be successful, we will need support and commitment from all employees. I am asking you to participate in this change that will advance our commitment to citizens we serve and lands we steward.

I am personally committed to keeping this effort moving forward; I am working right alongside you to get it done. We look forward to your workshop participation—in person or live stream–and thank you for the commitment to our work ahead to improve results to sustain healthy, resilient and productive forests.

Live Steam Broadcasts:

Opening Session: 8 a.m-12 Noon, Pacific Time, Tuesday September 26
Closing Session: 2:15-4:15 pm. Pacific Thursday, September 28.

To connect to the live stream, please click on the link below:

http://fsweb.wo.fs.fed.us/nfs/live.html

Helpful advice:
· Because of bandwidth limitations, every unit should attend from a central location if at all possible.

· Confirm your system has the most recent version of Adobe Flash player appropriate for your computer.

Chief Tony Tooke

Rain’s Ecosystem Service Value

The Columbia River Gorge’s Eagle Creek Fire will be history as about 5 inches of rain are forecast to fall within the next several days. Tongue-in-cheek, we can calculate the ecosystem service value of rain by analyzing the avoided cost of an alternative delivery vehicle — the Global Supertanker.

Five inches of rain delivered across the Eagle Creek Fire’s 48,387 acres is 6.6 billion gallons. The Supertanker can dump about 20,000 gallons per sortie, and, if a sufficient airfield is nearby, can perform about seven sorties per day at a daily rate of $250,000 (note that these calculations are for dumping water, not retardant, which would add a couple of bucks per gallon to the cost). It would take the Supertanker about 47,000 days to dump the equivalent of 5 inches of rain at a cost of $10 billion and change.

Ahh, blissful, beautiful, cheap free rain!

Thinning for Water in California: Various Disciplines Weigh In

Sediment basin for KREW (KIng’s River Experimental Watershed) from SNAMP website.

M of T noted in a comment that a force against MT (mechanical treatments) which may be necessary before PB (prescribed burns) is the problem of dealing with non-commercial material that needs to be removed. Her comment reminded me of this article in The Economist.

Thinning efforts are off to a great start but must accelerate, says Timothy Quinn, head of the Association of California Water Agencies. Five times as much forest should be thinned every year, estimates Roger Bales, a hydrologist at the University of California, Merced. To find out how much extra water a thinned watershed produces, the university has placed sensors in thinned and control plots in the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest north of Yosemite National Park. Depending on landscape and precipitation, thinned areas shed 10-40% more water into streams, Mr Bales estimates.

More accurate numbers will be available next year. The hope, says Eric Knapp, a Forest Service ecologist in Redding, is that a new thinning technique will prove to produce even more water when flow volumes from next spring’s snowmelt are known. Some plots are not thinned evenly, but rather by clear-cutting gaps with a diameter one or two times the height of surrounding trees. The idea is to clear an area big enough for a good snowpack to form, but small enough for shade to reduce evaporation and extend the melting season.

California’s governor recently signed a bill that facilitates thinning watersheds. But some environmentalists resist “cutting any tree for any reason”, as the Forest Service’s Mr Murphy puts it. And some think thinning doesn’t produce meaningfully more run-off. That’s the opinion of Chris Frissell of Frissell & Raven Hydrobiological and Landscape Sciences, a consultancy in Polson, Montana. Thinning has become popular in the state, but, he says, it disturbs soil, generating silt that harms aquatic life.

Clearing trees with fire is cheap if all goes to plan but only makes sense in certain areas. Thinning with big chainsaws on wheels can cost up to $650,000 per square mile. This could be recouped with timber revenue if big trees are felled. But the chainsaws are usually only let loose on smaller trees, so taxpayers must cough up.

One solution would be to get water utilities or hydropower producers to fund the thinning. AMP Insights, a consultancy which has estimated the value of water flowing out of the Sierra Nevada, reckons the extra flow would defray the cost of removing trees by 20% and, in wet years, by 60% or more.

Here we have one scientist (Bales) with monitors in plots saying that thinned areas get more water into streams, but (Frissell) possibly at the expense of aquatic life. We’ll explore that in greater depth in the future.

As Brian Hawthorne said earlier, thinning for fuel treatment is not the only reason to thin. Brian also mentioned restoration. Bales and others are thinking about dealing with climate change and water resources, another purpose, involving more disciplines. The scientists in the article come from a variety of disciplines.
Here’s Eric Knapp, forest ecologist.
Tim Murphy is a hydrologist/soil scientist (according to LinkedIn)
Chris Frissell seems to also be a scientist at U of Montana in addition to the consultancy the article mentions. Here’s his information. He is an aquatic ecologist.
Roger Bales works on water and climate engineering and is a professor at U of Calif Merced. Here’s his info.

Wildfire and Fuel Treatment Minus the “Blame Game”

It seems like one person’s “accountability” is another person’s “blame.” So let’s not use any inflammatory or pejorative words, and talk here civilly (no politicians in this room :)).

We in the interior west must live with fire. To do so we need an “All of the Above” strategy or a “Three Legged Stool”, 1. (community and personal actions) 2.(prescribed burning, mechanical treatments and WFU) and 3.(suppression). It seems to be PB, MT and WFU in which most of the disagreement lies. For a variety of reasons, once a wildfire is ignited, it’s easier to burn areas than if a project to burn them is planned ($ are there, not so much analysis and no litigation (yet)). And since planned fires can avoid environmentally sensitive area, be placed in areas that will help suppression, and put smoke in the air outside of “smoke season,” it seems logical to try to increase these. So what forces work against that?

In terms of forces that work against PB, MT and (to a lesser extent) WFU:

– Funding
– Air quality concerns and regulatory framework (does not reflect that PB will make for less fire season smoke)
– Fear of prescribed fires getting out of control/safety (e.g. state of Colorado stopped PB for a couple of
years)
– Litigation, “bulletproofing” documents and associated related work

It seems to me that litigation is not “the problem,” but it certainly contributes to slowing down and stopping projects that lead to fuel treatment, and is one of many contributing factors. Litigation is particularly interesting because, in contrast to public meetings and comments, and appeals or objections, there is no timeframe. So we can imagine some tweaks that would speed up the ultimate resolution without messing with the legal fundamentals.

If we are to move to an “all of the above” strategy, we need to be able to openly talk about what factors would need to change to “get more fire on the landscape,” as so many have said is a desirable goal. Environmental protection, avoiding prescribed burns that turn into wildfires, and so on, all these are good things with good people representing those interests.

In your opinion:
What other forces are out there working against “more fire on the landscape?”

How can we all work together better to get more fire on the landscape?

University of Montana Forest Ecologist Takes Senator Daines to the Woodshed for Wildlife Blame-Game

Dr. Andrew Larson (center, seated) is an Associate Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Montana.

Last night Montana Senator Steve Daines, who hasn’t hosted an in-person town hall meeting in over 1,000 days hosted a ‘teletownhall’ to blame ‘radical environmentalists’ for wildfires.

Montana Public Radio News Director Eric Whitney sat in the studio and listened to Senator Daines’ phone call with University of Montana Forest Ecologist Dr. Andrew Larson.

You can listen to the interview here, and the transcript is below. Suffice to say, Dr. Larson took Senator Steve Daines to the woodshed and dumped cold water on his incendiary and childish “radical environmentalist” rhetoric.

P.S. For at least the past twenty years us ‘radical’ ‘fringe’ and ‘extremist’ environmentalists have been basically delivering the same message and points that Dr. Larson does in this excellent, in-depth Montana Public Radio interview. – mk

Last night Senator Steve Daines held what he calls a “tele-townhall,” one of the periodic conference calls he invites Montanans to join, in which he takes a few questions from callers. This one was also live streamed on his Facebook page. The topic was forest management and wildfires.

Senator Daines said Montanans are angry about the fires and smoke they’ve been enduring this summer, and placed the blame for the fires on, “Radical environmentalists, who are blocking projects to remove dead trees, even in some cases, trees, lodgepoles, that died from insect infestation,” Daines said. “We have radical environmental groups that do not represent the vast majority of Montanans, who believe in a balanced, common sense approach. They stop these projects.”

As he’s done before, Daines offered the Stonewall project outside Lincoln as an example of a logging project proposed by the U.S. Forest Service that could have reduced fire danger, had it not been stopped by a lawsuit. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies sued to stop the Stonewall, which was proposed for an area now being partially consumed by the 18,000-acre Park Creek Fire.

“The environmentalists are not responsible for that fire burning, and had the Stonewall project advanced, it’s very likely that the site would be burning today,” says Andrew Larson. He’s not an environmental activist. He’s an associate professor of forest ecology in the forestry college at the University of Montana.

“As an ecologist, as someone — I’m trained as a forester — I would expect and hope that that forest, that hypothetical treated forest, would burn. Because that’s what it needs to function, to be a healthy forest ecosystem. Montana forests are only going to function when they have fire in them. That’s a healthy forest,” Larson said.

I listened to Senator Daines’ conference call with Larson, who said he detected a change in the senator’s comments about wildfires. Daines has been saying that more logging would prevent forest fires. Last night he said more logging and forest management won’t entirely eliminate fire from the landscape, but will reduce risks from and severity of wildfires.

“I really was pleased to hear him say that. That’s, I think, a really important incorporation of some forest ecology, fire ecology knowledge into the types of things he’s saying,” Larson said.

“However, the entire conversation tonight on the tele-townhall mingled them, sometimes explicitly. More often there was the implication that, if we do more logging, more vegetation management, more thinning, we won’t have as many acres burned, and we won’t be breathing as much smoke; and that’s just absolutely not true,” Larson said.

“What we might be able to achieve with a more active vegetation management program are areas that don’t burn with as high a severity, we also might have safer working environments for fire managers.”

Larson acknowledged that it may seem counterintuitive that not removing vegetation from forests will have no impact the number of acres that burn in a given year, or the amount of smoke, but, “The total biomass that’s consumed might be less, but the only time you do not have enough fuel to carry a fire is going to be in the first year or two after a fire has burned,” he said.

“Even after you go and thin a forest, when it’s dry like it is now, it’s still going to carry a fire, it’s still going to generate smoke. So, in terms of day to day life, the experience we have during the fire season, we need to not get our hopes up,” Larson says. “You can anticipate more smoke. Even if we were to double, triple, increase the amount of area logged or thinned by a factor of ten or 20, we’re still going have smoke, we’re not going to stop the fires. We may change how they burn, and that’s an important outcome, it’s something that a lot of my research is directed at. But we need to make sure people don’t get their hopes up and expect something that the forestry profession, that managers in the Forest Service, the Department of Interior, can’t deliver on.”

A woman identified as Patricia from Ft. Benton, was one of the eight callers who were able to speak to Senator Daines last night. She asked about trees killed by pine beetles.

“And I was troubled, because I couldn’t understand why those trees were remaining, because they are a fire hazard, they are dead trees, so there is no reason for them to remain.”

Daines agreed, and said only, “radical environmentalists” would try to stop efforts to remove dead trees from Montana forests.

“That’s an attitude that I’m always kind of disappointed to encounter,” Larson said, “because a healthy forest has dead trees and dead wood. The snags — standing dead trees — and dead logs are some of the most important habitat features for biodiversity. You can’t have an intact, healthy wildlife community without dead wood in your forest.”

One of the lines Senator Daines often uses when talking about public lands management is, “a managed forest is a healthy forest.”

“One of the problems is, ‘healthy’ doesn’t have a scientific definition,” Larson said, “so, when we come at it from a technical perspective, it can mean whatever we want it to mean. Some of the most intensively managed forests in the world are in Northern Europe, and they are in a biodiversity crisis, because they have mismanaged their dead wood. They never let their trees get old, they never let ’em die. They cut ’em down and take them to the mill, and there is a horrible deficit of dead wood in those forests. And as a consequence, they’re compromised, they’re not functioning, they’re not providing the habitat for all the native biodiversity, the native wildlife species.

I asked Professor Larson what he thinks is important for Montanans who listened to Senator Daines’ conference call to keep in mind.

“My main points are, climate and weather drive fire. Healthy forests have to have dead trees in them. That’s not saying that we can’t cut some of the dead trees down. But you can’t have a functional forest without dead trees, they’re incredibly important for habitat,” Larson said.

“And the forestry profession, we need to be careful to not promise things that we can’t deliver,” he said. “And we’re never going to stop fire. We can help society live with fire, but that’s going to be a big team effort. We have to change our expectations. We need to expect that fire to come at some point, and not be surprised. We need to be planning for it — individual land owners, home owners — because that’s the environment we live in.”

Forest planning for hunting

“A number of environmental groups, including the Endangered Species Coalition, want to keep hunters who use packs of dogs out of public lands in Wisconsin, including the state’s national forests.  The groups say the hunters and their dogs have made the public lands inhospitable, and they want the federal government to launch an investigation into the practice.  Robert Williams is a Madison resident who frequently camps on public lands in northern Wisconsin. He says the packs of hunting dogs wreak havoc on the native wildlife.”

This brings to mind a similar situation in Louisiana. In 2012 the Forest Service amended the Kisatchie National Forest plan to prohibit the “age-old tradition” in Louisiana of hunting deer with dogs because of user conflicts.  In Louisiana Sportsmen Alliance v. Vilsack, a federal district court upheld the forest plan amendment. It stated: “We are conscious of the fact that KNF is a National Forest, owned by the United States and to be utilized in the best interests of all. The law empowers the agency to make precisely the kinds of decisions made here.”  (The Fifth Circuit then held that plaintiffs had not established standing to sue and dismissed the case.)  If the agency has the authority to regulate recreation that impacts species listed under ESA, then its failure to do so in Wisconsin might violate the law.  (However, under the 2012 Planning Rule, forest plans do not directly regulate users by themselves, and a separate closure order would be required.)

The Science of Fighting Wildfires Gets a Satellite Boost

This piece, “The Science of Fighting Wildfires Gets a Satellite Boost” from Megan Molteni in Wired is certainly worth a read.

While the news media in Montana seems entirely intent on just letting Montana’s politicians – especially from the GOP – engaged in childish name calling like calling Montana citizens who are environmentalists ‘extremists’ ‘fringe’ or ‘radicals’ (thereby inciting hatred, and maybe even potential violence against environmentalists in Montana)….

Numerous national media outlets (here and here, for example) seem to have no problem picking up the phone and contacting actual, real-life Montana scientists and researchers who actually do things like study wildfires. Crazy, right?

This part of the Wired article caught my eye (emphasis added):

Here’s the straightforward logic of Zinke’s scapegoating: Environmentalists block the Forest Service from lowering the fuel load on the land, land catches on fire, and now it’s harder to put out. Thanks, tree-huggers.

But fire scientists say it’s more complicated than that. Many question the ecological (and economic) value of thinning forests out, for three big reasons. One, the evidence for its efficacy is both scant and at times contradictory. Two, probabilistic risk assessments show that the thinning doesn’t really help much because the likelihood of a fire starting close enough to interact with thinned areas is negligibly small. And three, in the worst weather conditions — dry, hot, and most importantly, windy — no amount of thinning or selective logging is going to make much difference.

[Geez, where have we heard these points before… – mk]

A case in point: that Park Creek fire burning outside of Lincoln. It started on a remote slope that wasn’t slated for any prescribed burns or dead tree removals. But such treatments wouldn’t have made much difference anyway, according to Carl Seielstad, a fire ecologist at the National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis at the University of Montana, because the closest road is more than mile away, at the bottom of a slope.

If you know anything about fire behavior, you know it moves much faster uphill. And in this case there wasn’t much in that direction, except more trees. “Without any roads in this area there was nothing for firefighters to anchor to,” says Seielstad, pointing at a 3D rendering of the fire’s path he’s pulled up on his computer. “It’s fair to say that regardless of treatment, this area would probably have been impossible to contain.”

Well, as careful readers of this blog will recall, Montana’s Republican politicians including Secretary Ryan Zinke, Senator Steve Daines, Rep Greg “Gonna Body Slam Ya” Gianforte and even Sec of Ag Sonny Perdue all pointed to the Park Creek Fire in an effort to blame ‘fringe’ ‘radical’ ‘extremists’ environmentalists for wildfires throughout Montana. And of course the Montana timber industry had to jump on that blame the environmentalists bandwagon too.

Over the past 22 years, as I went from a seasonal wildland firefighter to a year-round forest and public lands activist, I’ve come to realize that one of the first things torched during wildfire season is the truth.

Hopefully more national news outlets continue to reach out to actual scientists and researchers in Montana to get their side of the story. Maybe someday soon more media outlets in Montana will be able to locate the wildfire scientists, researchers and experts literally living right under their noses, or maybe even right next door.

Success Story for “All of the Above”- Post Blow Down Actions in Boundary Waters

Severe blowdown in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness and adjacent areas.

It might be illustrative (and encouraging!) to look at landscape scale fuel treatment strategies that did work- when all the forces are aligned- and what it takes to get things done and the effects. It’s also interesting to take the discussion (with the same elements, prescribed fire, mechanical fuel treatments, wildfires) away from the western US. Oh, and this one has Wilderness to add to the complexity.

Let’s look at a success for an All of the Above Strategy and how it happened. Remember 1999 and the 500,000 acres blowdown event that occurred in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness?

The obstacles to preparing and planning for the fire seasons to come were formidable. First, they needed to develop an entirely different set of suppression responses. The sheer scale of downed timber made it difficult to move around in the blow-down. This created conditions that negated the effectiveness of most direct attack strategies. The fire management personnel had to develop a set of ‘check and hold’ techniques. Also, the potential size of a blaze and the threat it could pose to communities and lands outside the forest meant that emergency response would
involve local, State, and federal resources. Extensive planning and coordination was required.

Second, the Forest needed to implement large-scale, landscape level fuel treatments and they needed to do it as quick as possible. This was made more difficult by the fact that most of the blow-down was in the nation’s most popular Wilderness area with a local economy dependent on uninterrupted access to the backcountry. There would have to be new levels of cooperation and communication established with the
local communities that would be the most impacted by the fuel treatments.

The fuel loading was beyond the experience of the land managers and fire personnel on the Superior; and they needed a quick upgrade in skills and training to do able to do the large-scale fuel treatments, primarily large acreage prescribed burns. Again, they had to develop interagency and public/private partnerships that were only loosely organized at the time of the blow-down.

The Forest quickly requested and received alternative NEPA procedures from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the White House allowing expedited salvage logging, mechanical fuel treatment, and prescribed fire in the area around the Gunflint Corridor. This allowed the land
management staff to get a quick jump on the work that needed to be done. The National Forest staff made a conscious effort not to short-circuit any of the regular public involvement procedures. They held tours. They conducted pubic meetings. And, they established a monitoring board to oversee the fuel reduction efforts. But, most importantly, they got to work.

Here’s a description of how it worked and the results in the Cavity Lake Fire in Advances in Fire Practice.
Here’s the a fuel treatment effectiveness report.

Here’s a couple of possible observations of why things worked so well:

(1) Alignment among federal agencies (and state and local)
(2) Sense of urgency
(3) Budget
(4)”Leadership” (this is in quotes because it’s a bit fuzzy wuzzy for me, would like to understand more about what this means and how it plays out).
(5) Focus (a bit like fire suppression, a clear sense of priorities)

I’d be very interested to hear from people who participated in this project and their views.