Democrats Comment Against Forest Thinning

Here is an early July LA Times article that, apparently, says that only Republicans are seeking to thin our forests, as we watch our forests burn. Clearly, this is a tactic to rile up their mostly Democratic readers.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-gop-fire-hearings-20130703,0,2185679.story

Cole-creek-logs-web

Yes, it did rile them up, as evidenced by the wild comments. Here are a few examples:

As a logger in Susanville, California said at a Forest Service public comment session (1997), “But Trees are Dying in the Fiorest”!!!! (and therefore NOT making a profit for him).

My response, People are dying in the streets, so what is YOUR point.

The aLand Raping Logger coundn’t answer, because the only thing he cared about was turning a PUBLIC RESOURCE into his own private profit.

Dead trees in a dorest serve as nesting sites for birds and other animals and eventually fall to rot, providing food foe grub eating bears, light spaces for juvenile trees to start and replenishing the forest soil, for the next generation of trees.

When a person dies, what good do they do the Planet?

This commenter doesn’t realize that clearcuts have been banned in the Sierra Nevada for over 20 years.

The logging companies will only clear cut…not select cut, making for the ugliest scars and worse…ecological destruction of forest habitats.  This is not a good idea.  The problem is not the density of trees…it’s the residential areas built near thick forests.  Bad planning is a result of homes destroyed in forest fires.

Ummm, I think it is the wildfires that are causing “deforestation”, bud!

Is that what the GOP is calling deforestation for profit these days, as they bend over for their lumbering lobbyists?

Was this supposed excessive harvesting done in THIS millennium??!?

They have a point, but the GOP has a history of letting “thinning” evolve into excessive “harvesting” by lumber companies.

This person is in denial about current forest management practices that have eliminated high-grading AND clearcutting, while reducing fuels in the form of trees in the 10″-18″ dbh size class. The last 20 years of active management has not resulted in adverse effects. On the other hand, wildfires lead to MORE insects, as they kill the fire-adapted pines, through a combination of cambium kill and bark beetle blooms.

Much of the GOP have forest management/preservation for the past 40 years. While some may see forests as natural resources to be preserved and cherished, others see them as purely economic resources to be exploited. Timber interests in California have utilized the same pretext to no avail. Note that thinning the forests would have little effect in preventing or curtailing wild fires. Let nature take its course becasue fires are a natural occurance; and are necessary for killing insects, spreading new seeds and burning away dead wood.

Really, though, THIS is a big part of what we are up against. Loud-mouthed partisan politics, not based in fact, is harming our ability to do what is right for the “greatest good”. Shouldn’t we be “thinking globally and acting locally”, regarding forests? Is this mindset fitting into “If you are not part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem”?? It looks like commenters will say ANYTHING to bash the GOP, even if it is hyperbole and rhetoric. Sadly, this ignorance of forest facts continues to have a harmful and hazardous effect on our forests.

32 Comments

  1. My favorite part of the article is putting quote marks around “beetle-killed” timber. Pretty sure you wouldn’t see that in the Denver Post; the “L.A. Times” has a unique perspective ;).

  2. It is bizarre — and revealing — that this is an obvious partisan issue. Same with Global Warming: Republican “deniers” vs. Democrat prophets. All somehow claiming a “scientific” basis for their claims of biblical catastrophe or wasted profits. Thanks for printing these responses, Larry — I wouldn’t have been able to stomach reading through them (with or w/o spell check) in their original context, or without your commentary, to keep them in perspective.

    I’m pretty sure the GOP will say anything to bash the Democrats, too, but management of our nation’s resources should be based a lot more on applied science and common sense than this kind of idiocy (“how things currently operate”). Why I haven’t bothered to vote in a very long time.

  3. I’m more familiar with deforestation in Oregon than in California, but I have seen a bunch of recent clearcuts in northern California at the southern tip of the Cascades range, just south of Mt. Shasta.

    And it was Senator Diane Frankenstein and Clinton / Gore who screwed up the protection of the Headwaters redwood forest, who are all Democrats. The bill that passed the House in 1994 protected several groves, a lot of buffer forest (second growth and clearcuts) and had money for hiring unemployed loggers to reforest the Maxxam clearcuts. Senator Frankenstein (what she should be called) blocked it, the Democrats then lost control of Congress and Clinton / Gore only acted in 1996, when Nader was running against them. Clinton / Gore / Frankenstein then gave Mr. Hurwitz more money for Headwaters than he paid for the entire Pacific Lumber Company, their mill town and all of their timber holdings, among other outrageousness. Only a small buffer was included in the nature preserve, some of the old growth was not included and no money for restoration.

    Here in Oregon there’s no substantial difference between Democrats pushing to privatize BLM federal forests and Republicans pushing to privatize those forests. The rhetoric is a little different but not the policy.

    ——-

    The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.
    — Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in our Time
    (one of Bill Clinton’s teachers)

    • I do have to qualify my statement about clearcuts in the Sierra Nevada. Under the Sierra Nevada Framework, clearcuts on Forest Service lands are banned. Additionally, trees over 29.9″ dbh cannot be cut, except for safety. Sierra Pacific Industries does continue to operate as they always have. Feinstein has a long history of “waffling”, especially with the Quincy Library Group. However, Boxer, has a long history of toeing the Party line, opposing all kinds of forestry.

      There is also some flexibility in “regeneration cuts”, up to five acres. These are places where there aren’t any viable trees left, due to mortality. Such patch cuts are promptly replanted. Also, there is a new “gaps and clumps” strategy, where natural gaps (up to 200×200 feet) are enhanced. Eco-groups support this strategy.

    • Mark- are these clearcuts on Forest Service land? If so, we should be able to examine their reasons for so doing and see if we agree with them.

      Can you give us some more geographical information?

      Also, what exactly do you mean by “privatize?” I didn’t know that that was on the table for O&C lands..?

      • Yes, the clearcuts are on US Forest Service mangled lands. Some are in the canyon due south from Mt. Shasta, clearcuts are visible on either side of I-5. I’ve watched more and more cuts over the past few years. I assume the reasons for so doing are that there are trees that are still vertical.

        As for the O&C BLM mangled lands, they are definitely slated for privatization, not mere timber sales. Dr. Kitzhaber, DeFazio and the rest of the clearcut loving Democrats are pushing this. The eco-groups aren’t happy with it but I don’t see them retracting their numerous endorsements of these politicians.

  4. As predicted, a tragic fire (Yarnell) that raced through open country containing grass and chaparral, and appears to not even have burned within a national forest, is being used by the GOP as an excuse to increase logging (and streamline environmental laws) in our national forests. Same exact thing happened in fall of 2003 when the southern Cali fires burning in grass and chaparral were used as an excuse to pass the so-called “Healthy Forest Restoration Act.” Question: If we chip away at these environmental laws and regulations every year what will be left in a decade or two?

    Opening of the LA Times article:

    Congressional Republicans, who have long tangled with Democrats and environmentalists over how aggressively to remove trees and other vegetation from national forests, will renew their push for stepped-up thinning after the deaths of 19 firefighters in Yarnell, Ariz.

    • Sigh… I guess we will have to get into partisan questions here…but at least we can do it with a respectful spirit.

      Can you give some examples of how the R’s are “chipping away”? Because I didn’t think they were in control of any branches of the federal government in the last couple of years, except now the House and the Senate is still controlled by D’s.

      As to the judiciary, it would be hard to say that it is controlled by R’s. Perhaps you can make that case?

      • Where was my spirit disrespectful Sharon? And honestly, you have no knowledge of any streamlining done over the past 15 years on these forest management issues? To be fair, Dems – especially in the west – have also been part of the streamlining parade.

        • My comment was not negative about you, Matthew, it was positive about us. What I meant was:

          1) In many, if not most, situations that I see on blogs, discussion of partisan politics is very disrespectful, if not vitriolic and downright nasty

          2) We, on the other hand, now have a track record of being able to discuss things fairly respectfully (we still have a ways to go with some people at some times). Therefore:

          We can try discussing these things now, and see if we can do what most people would think is impossible.

          Because, on this blog, I think we can do it with a respectful spirit.

    • At the same time, some Democrats seek to “preserve fire dangers”, by limiting thinning to areas within a half mile of communities. Just HOW MANY houses were burned by fires ignited more than a half mile away?!?!

      In 2003, southern California National Forests were loaded with tens of millions of dead trees, needing management that had been missing for many years.

      Here in California, a bipartisan bill in the legislature seeks to make thinning projects on private lands easier to economically accomplish.

      http://www.uniondemocrat.com/News/Local-News/Bigelow-bill-aims-to-reduce-fire-threat

      Here is one Democrat who also seeks to do sensible thinning projects:

      http://www.azhousedemocrats.com/2013/07/larkins-statement-on-yarnell-hill-fire.html

      What is clear is that the “whatever happens” strategy will continue to put people in danger. We cannot, and will not, accept strategies and tactics that allow “free range fires”. The Yarnell Hill tragedy is the result of human error, and forest management policies that reduce fuels should not be impacted by political finger-pointing. Neither side should be using the incident for their own agendas.

        • I had heard that funds were diverted from the Prescott NF, to the San Bernardino NF, in the early 2000’s. I’ll bet that they weren’t very happy about THAT! Flying thinned brush out of the WUI cannot be very cost-effective. They did thin out trees, too. At least they did “something”, rather than nothing.

  5. I moved from Califoria to the forests of the White Mountains of Arizona. Only the Apache log for their own tribal needs. We THIN forests overgrown with highly flamable Gamble Oak and various Junipers. Our decades (THINK CALIFORNIA) over zealous fighting of natural lightning fires (which did mother natures thinning) allowed the overgrowth. Now when we have a fire its often xtra hot burning even the tops of the Ponerosa and Douglas pines KILLING the forest. Same as srip logging. Thanks my warm and fuzzy eco idiots. You are as bad as your Corporate logging bed mates.

    • Mountain Billy, welcome to our blog! You’ll notice that we try not to have disrespectful speech here. We try to be a place where people look to understand each others point of view and seek mutual solutions. What do think the solution is in the White Mountains?

  6. As I have noted before, a while back, national politics between these two parties has twisted and screwed and ruined a once largely apolitical federal agency…the USFS.
    Before Reagan, there was meddling around the fringes by Congress people and local pols, but it never became as focused and organized until after the 1980 election. I watched it with dismay here in Region One as we struggled to put together the first forest plans with increasingly negative feedback down the food-chain from Ronny’s hacks who had taken over the USDA and USFS.
    It has only gotten worse over the years, because once the no-politics barrier was smashed by the GOP in 1980, even the Democrats started fiddling around with forest management policy at a level beyond their competence.
    One last observation…”look for the money”. That is how they all exert their control these days. Limit budgets, limit full-time competent staff, or pidgeon-hole funds so it can only go where you want it to go, and thereby constrict flexible management.

    • Ed: I think you are mostly right, but if I were to select a time in which the USFS became politicized, I would pick the political appointment of Jack Ward Thomas to be Chief of the Forest Service by Bill Clinton. Read Thomas’ Journals for a clearer idea of how this came about, and Jack Ward’s opinions of Republicans (and DeFazio!) at that time. I was surprised at both the depth of politics involved in forming (and implementing) the Clinton Plan for NW Forests — and in Thomas’ candid assessment of that process. Them vs. Us, and USFS tradition in appointing Chiefs brought to an abrupt halt. Nothing much good has come of that result ever since.

  7. I think this discussion could be helped by consideration of different annoying things parties do.

    Examples:
    Icalling Rangers about projects near their buddies houses…
    selecting policy choices that you disagree with
    not letting people talk to the press

    I think it would be helpful to the next Administration to know what kinds of
    “political” activities especially annoy citizens.

    I’m not so sure it started with JWT so much, as that Administration did annoying things. Again, I think we need to focus on the annoying things.

    • I do know that we can blame the 70’s for the “cornfield method” of “crop rotations”. Reagan solidified that mindset. Clinton went from the Salvage Rider, to “Roadless/Unroaded” Areas. Both Bush and Obama have had troubles changing the status quo, doing annoying things. I think it would be valuable if we could just forgive the “eco-sins” of the past, in order to move forward towards a more desirable and achievable set of goals. which fit the land, and all that reside in it. Maybe we need a “Forest Czar”, or a panel of “Forest Gods”, who have the power to alter laws, for the greater good of our public forests? Of course, those should not be political appointees. I would “vote” for Pyne and Covington but, there would also need to be “Ologists”, for their scientific points of view.

  8. The past 30+years (in my view, from 1980 onward) has sadly set a daunting, undesirable management trend that can’t be ignored. We need another Teddy and Gifford, but I don’t see anyone in the starting blocks that meet this standard. Expecting nothing much from Bush or Bush, and disappointed with the current POTUS, who seems to be too distracted by world events and economic woes to worry much about forest management.

    And his administrative “leaders” in the USDA are flops…for us anyhow.
    I have no answers or suggestions other than HANDS OFF…LEAVE THE USFS ALONE and let the foresters and biologists and other professionals try to do what is right!
    I say “try” because there is no clear, shining light of science to resolve some of our most pressing issues.

    All of us on this blogsite think we have the answers, but I doubt we could do better if we were given the reins…with the same budgets and personnel restrictions the current guys have to live with.
    Tough times.

    • I think you are right, Ed. But I also think that all of us on this blogsite realize that the real problems are those very restrictions — not the existing personnel (necessarily). Now, how do we improve leadership (politics?), budgets (politics?), and regulatory restrictions (more politics?) — and are those the real problems at hand? I think those are some of the very concerns we all share. Certainly there must be a better way. I know I sure don’t have the answer to that one.

    • The current Forest Service hires inexperienced people to mark timber. Should we be leaving THAT alone?!? The Forest Service talks about “losing institutional knowledge”, yet does nothing to retain that. One doesn’t need ANY experience in controlling loggers to become a Timber Sale Administrator. All one needs to do is qualify for a GS-8. The Forest Service uses temporary employees to do timber work. They are finally seeing that brand new inexperienced employees can work more than the 1039 hour limit, in the name of “training”. On-the-job training, that is. Just how many of them do “adequate” work?

      “Federal McForestry” will dominate the future of Forest Service timber management, as increases in permanent Federal hiring are less preferable than poor quality timber work. I tend to think that I could make a better living doing “ground-truthing”, instead of working for the Forest Service again. (I am sure I could do THAT job better than current folks.)

      I sure wouldn’t recommend the Forest Service to a young person without a degree. I really doubt that the Forest Service could even find an experienced crew, for each Ranger District, to do timber work, under the current hiring strategy. They will always have to hire “warm bodies” off the street, just to make it through the season.

      • Our district ranger, Powers, Oregon, lives in Eugene, Oregon, over 3 hours away. How could she really be concern with our community or forest. These are jobs we need here in our communities, not outsourced to someone in the city. Anymore if you have been around two years in one area you are an old timer. We have people making decisions on our timber sale that have never even been to the forest the are making decisions about. Most of the people who really knew the forest have retired or are about too. Seems like the FS is now all politics and promotions.

        • I did get a chance to meet “Dude”. I wished I was able to work with him, as he seemed to really know so much about the area. Yes, I can see how some people wouldn’t want to live in Powers but, there ARE closer spots than Eugene that most people would find acceptable. I do agree that a District Ranger should be a local resident (within an hour’s drive). Bandon and Coos Bay would fit that criteria.

          • Larry: When I was younger, if someone wanted to be District Ranger in Powers, then they probably wanted to live in Powers, too — if they didn’t already. And for the same reasons. I think that was one major reason the USFS was so much more efficient and respected during those times — they (and their families) were actual accountable members of the community, not transitional bureaucrat commuters dealing with court proceedings and committee meetings. One rarely sees USFS vehicles or personnel in our forests these days, and there’s not much reason for them to be out there, unless something is on fire.

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