Rim Fire Op-Ed by Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen

Yosemite-air2-web

This is where the Rim Fire “ran out of fuel”, in Yosemite National Park. Kibbie Lake is near the northeast flank of the fire, where there will be no firelines. Ironically, I was planning a hike to this area, a few weeks ago. (I shot this picture while flying with a forestry buddy, back in 1990. )

“Fire monsters can only devour landscapes if we feed them fuel. More than a century ago, we began protecting forests from fire. We did not know that lightning and Indian fires kept forests open and immune from monster fires. More recently, we adopted an anti-management philosophy that almost completely bans logging and thinning on public lands, even when it is designed to restore historic forests and prevent monster fires. Now, fallen trees and branches clutter the ground and young trees and brush grow so thick that it is difficult to walk through many forests. It is not surprising that the gentle fires of the past have become the fire monsters of the present.

Even so, we keep feeding fuel to the fire monster while blaming global warming, high winds, drought or any other excuse we can think of that keeps us from taking responsibility for the death and destruction these monsters create. We know the climate is warming just as it has done many times for millions of years. We also know that fires burn hotter when the temperature is high, fuel is dry and winds blow strong. Even so, these conditions only contribute to fire intensity. It is a scientific fact that a fire can’t burn without fuel. The more fuel the bigger the fire, regardless of drought or wind.”………. Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen

This article Here is in the local paper, here in Calaveras County, just an hour away from the Rim Fire.

www.facebook.com/LarryHarrellFotoware

72 Comments

    • Why not address his current Op-Ed piece, instead of “guilt by association”? We have already seen where Dr. Bonnicksen was attacked by LA area scientists not in his field of study. Many scientists are paid to produce agenda-driven studies. Yes, he seems to be a little right of center but, his views on fires and forest fuels seem right on, in my ample post-fire experience and variety of Forest Service jobs. Many other scientists are more than just “a little” left of center, politically. It’s up to us to see if their work passes the “smell test”, whether it came from a donkey or an elephant.

      • Bonnickson makes six references to forest fire as a “monster.” That is pure-and-simple demonizing a natural process, not a way to have a lucid conversation about a complex topic.

        His insistence that fire is driven by fuel while downplaying the often dominant influence of weather and climate also renders his opinions highly suspect.

        • TreeD39

          If you’d ever been really close to a fire when it crowned out, you’d know what a monster looks, feels and sounds like. You’d know the greatest fear that I have ever experienced. Sure fire is a natural process and so was Genghis Khan. That doesn’t make either of them any less of a monster nor does it impact the lucidity of the conversation unless you define lucidity as only that which you and certain other environmentalists define as political correct speech regarding life consuming process from which there is no hope for escape once it ensnares you.

          Re: “His insistence that fire is driven by fuel while downplaying the often dominant influence of weather and climate also renders his opinions highly suspect.”
          –> This is from a post below: “–> I challenge you to dispute the indisputable logic of this statement from the opening post: “It is a scientific fact that a fire can’t burn without fuel. The more fuel the bigger the fire, regardless of drought or wind.”………. Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen” … To refresh your understanding of fires, I refer you to the basic fire triangle which dictates the three minimum things required for a fire: http://www.ehs.okstate.edu/modules/exting/Triangle.htm
          Please note that wind is not a requirement for fire, it is an exacerbating factor.”
          IMHO, all that Bonnicksen is saying is that if you take away any one of the three requirements for a fire (oxygen, fuel, or ignition source), then there is no fire no matter what the weather or climate is.

    • Chapparral:

      Dr. Bonnicksen certainly has NOT “been repudiated by the scientific community,” for whatever reason whatever gossip you may have heard and are repeating. First: who in the hell is “the scientific community?” Certainly many of the scientists that I know and regularly correspond with would not agree with your assertion. And second, what in the hell does “nearly taken to court” mean? I, myself, am among tens of thousands of fellow Americans who actually have been taken to court, for whatever reason. Yet, we are still allowed to vote and check out books at the library. What kind of slam is that by an anonymous poster?

      I agree with Larry. Read his work and base your judgment on that, not cheap gossip. At the same time I highly recommend you read Dr. Bonnicksen’s book “America’s Ancient Forests” before making further judgments on his capabilities. Also, guessing at your interests, I’d recommend reading his work on CO2 emissions from California wildfires and consider his findings — filtered by whatever screen you want to use to remove “personal bias” from the results.

      Who is Chaparralliar, anyway? From your logo and your comments I’d guess a well educated person raised in an urban environment that voted Democrat. Close? (Cultural Anthropology was one of my favorite classes in school). From your weblink I’d guess the Director of The Chapparal Institute. And for someone with such negative public judgements about the work of others, why don’t you use your real name? I have a personal problem “taking much of what [anyone] says seriously” that uses a pseudonym while denigrating others.

      I’m serious about the recommended readings, though. Also the anonymous sniping.

    • Chap- perhaps one of the most valuable perspectives we can share on this blog is an understanding of how scientific disciplines and communities interact. There is no one “scientific community.” There are many disciplines and subdisciplines who use different approaches and have certain generally shared worldviews.

      For example, Dr. Chad Oliver and Dr. Jerry Franklin are both world-renowned vegetation ecologists. Yet Congress invites often one or the other to hearings to express their points of view, which we know to be different on many things. I have great respect for both of their work and their efforts to reach out to applied vegetation ecologists (silviculturists) in the field.

      But anyway about Dr. Bonnicksen.. here is the link to the discussion we had before and the letters from other scientists. So we have at least two “scientific communities” represented.

      http://ncfp.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/the-circle-of-life-fire-logging-climate-style/

    • Chaparralian:

      You are way off base – You’ll find that most of us on this site don’t swallow propaganda. Many of us listen to both sides of the story and have the education and professional experience to recognize BS.

      Re: “Dr. Bonnicksen’s unusual theories of forest structure and stability, expressed many years ago were never widely accepted” from your link.

      –> This is patently false, the items mentioned in the opening post are basic established forest science from well before I began my six years of forestry schooling in 1963 and they have been validated by countless professional practitioners since those days right up to the present.

      Please don’t blindly swallow the unproven theories of the talking heads in the environmental community and the various scientific specialists trying to make a name for themselves by proposing that they can save a minor component of a forest ecosystem without considering any negative impacts on the keystone species or other minor components.

      Environmentalists are attempting to use global warming as a cover up for the failures of their uninformed policies. Global warming is all the more reason for restoring sound forest management to our nations forests.

      Don’t try to validate junk science by name calling against those who have science and experience to support them.

      Re: “Today we have a comprehensive and sophisticated picture of forest structure and fire ecology that has been measured, validated and published by members of the academic community”.

      –> Yes we do and it is called sound forest management subject to Best Management Practices criterion and independent audit. But, then the full scope of sound forest management has largely been removed from our national forests. And that is why total acres burned in our national forests have increased dramatically since annual harvests were reduced by 80% following 1990. Read the original (stab in the dark) and the 2012 (stab in the dark) NSO Recovery Plans and compare it to the results and tell us why these scientist that you revere should be listened to. It doesn’t matter how many references that they list if their theories don’t work.

      What knowledge do you bring to the table that makes you the person to judge between two opposing points of view on this subject and to decide which is the real science?

      • I think it’s called “revisionist history”….and “saying so makes it so”…and “repeating a life often enough makes it the truth.” I think “America’s Ancient Forests” is one of the most enlightening books I own…and I have 800 of them in my library.

  1. Gentlemen, when a man has a record of politicizing science, that is a valid point of discussion. It also raises questions about objectivity, which was to point of my post.

    For example, Bonnicksen said this in his testimony to Congress concerning California shrubland fires in 2003: “Some people believe that horrific brushland fires are wind-driven events. They are wrong. Science and nearly a century of professional experience shows that they are fuel driven events.”

    Really? Beyond the fact that any California firefighter would immediately dispute this, there is no scientific support for such a conclusion. Having been on the fireline line during the 2003 Cedar Fire, I also have a few anecdotal experiences that refute such a perspective. Based on many of the things Bonnicksen says, this statement about southern California appears to be driven by ideology and his support for timber and biomass companies (by which he has been paid to promote their visions). Like many who have narrowed down the world into black and white solutions, Bonnicksen refuses to consider contrary data.

    Regarding his focus on the fire suppression/overstocked forest explanation for big fires, I’m curious how Dr. Bonnicksen would account for the million acre grass fire in Texas, 2006 – one that killed a dozen people.

    Bob, the scientific community in California, the one that specializes in shrubland fire ecology, has indeed dismissed Bonnicksen a very long time ago. We are talking scientists from USGS, the National Park Service, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Pepperdine, Conservation Biology Institute, etc. Urban democrat, really? Explain to me how that quasi ad hominem attack is relevant to this discussion. Regardless, it might be helpful to provide facts to support your opinion as I did with the documents provided by the link. And yes, I am Richard Halsey, the director of the California Chaparral Institute. The link attached to my name hardly qualifies as a serious attempt to be anonymous. Concerning Bonnicksen’s publications, anyone can write a book (including myself). The problem with Bonnicksen’s work is that it mostly consists of opinion pieces, not peer-reviewed literature. His Ph.D. was more a sociological study than anything having to do with forest science.

    Larry, can you please indicate what scientists relevant to this discussion, other than Bonnicksen, are paid in California to produce agenda-driven science?

    Gil, there are a number of variables that have caused the number of acres burned to increase in the West since 1990. One of the dirty little secrets in the fire world is backfires. For example, nearly half of the 270,000 acre Zaca Fire in 2007 was a backfire. Another variable is drought and record low fuel moistures. No peer-reviewed paper that I am familiar with has ever concluded that the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of reduced annual harvests. I would appreciate it if you could provide one. When you refer to junk science, what specific studies are you talking about?

    Using labels like junk science, Democrat, gossip, etc. are not particularly useful in this kind of discussion. Let’s stick with the facts.

        • Seems to me Larry, after observing you on this blog and elsewhere for about 4 years now, that “Chad Hanson” is your answer to about 98% of what you view as problems. If Dr. Hanson decided to take his talents elsewhere, what on Earth would you have to talk or complain about with your Boogie Man?

          Fact is, I’d put $100 on Dr. Hanson mopping the debate room floor with either you, or the esteemed Dr. Bonnicksen. Perhaps this blog should host a debate.

          Chap, thank you so much for sharing some of the rocky history between Dr. Bonnicksen and part of the scientific community in California. I too have shared many of these same critiques/letters on this blog in year’s past.

          • Matthew: If you read up on your history of science you will learn that many (most?) great scientists had a “rocky history” with other members of their scientific communities. That is the norm when creative thinkers are up against the status quo — start making waves and the next thing you know, all the dinghies in the harbor start bobbing up and down yelling about the wake.

            Dissent is at the root of science, not consensus. I’ll see that $100 and double it on Hanson vs. Bonnicksen (with a good moderator).

            • Bob, while it is certainly true what Einstein said, that great minds encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds, just because someone encounters a lot of opposition does not necessarily correlate with him or her being a great scientist.

              Correlation seems to be a problem here.

          • Once we have either converted or marginalized these preservationist, “whatever happens” serial litigators, we can move on with solutions, instead of roadblocks. Hanson’s stated ultimate goal makes him deserving of a spotlight on his methods, his record and his intent. It is hard to take anyone serious who considers dead trees along roads to be “habitat”. Of course, people like Matt always trots out the “slippery slope” strategy, assuming all sorts of corruption from collaborative projects.

            • Larry, The notion that environmentalists can be blamed for large fires due to lawsuits is a red herring and not supported by the evidence. For example, the General Accounting Office examined this issue and found that only 1% of the 1,671 hazardous fuel reduction projects in 2001 had been appealed and none had been litigated. Yes, environmental groups do take the government to court in order to enforce environmental law and to protect endangered landscapes. But their actions are not responsible for fires. In fact, some of the lawsuits, including the one filed by us (California Chaparral Institute) against San Diego County in 2009, forced a local government to consider the most current science in how to best protect life and property from wildfire. Being able to monitor and challenge government action is an essential part of our democracy.

    • Chapparal: For an anonymous person to mock a nationally known scientist for making a well understood point helps explain your anonymity.

      1) Winds across oceans, glaciers, deserts and space do not result in wildfires. An untended fire that is started in the midst of abundant fuels will readily create its own wind. The end. You owe Bonnicksen an apology.

      2) One was a forest fire and one was a grass fire. You are literally grasping at straws here.

      3) Who is this “scientific community in California” (do they have a mailing address?), and how do they go about extricating scientists with whom they disagree? Voting, mob action, press releases? Thank you for identifying yourself, but do other members of your community also get to operate anonymously? And how were you selected to represent their positions? This sounds like a touch of presumptive grandiosity here, and maybe some misrepresentation.

      4) I assumed you were a Democrat because of the political nature of your assertions; I assumed you were raised in a city because of the naivete of some of your statements. I also assumed you were white, but that was obvious (your picture could have been anyone, helping to protect your anonymity). How is this a “quasi ad hominem attack”? There are lots of white Democrats who were raised in cities — but the vast majority do not make anonymous (“actual”) ad hominem attacks on respected scientists in blogs.

      5) Now you are just being delusional. Write a book, then. To say I didn’t reference my statement when I suggested specific readings from Bonnicksen (peer reviewed, by the way, to quell another of your myriad false assertions), is just one more false assertion. You actually need to read some of the man’s work and stop slamming it based on gossip (got a better word?) until you do. That’s my advice, anyway.

      6) This question was for Larry, but I know the answer: ALL scientists are driven by an agenda of one sort or another. Because all scientists are humans. To state that Bonnicksen is “paid in California to produce agenda-driven science” is just plain stupid. No polite words for it. Just stupid. I’d recommend stopping the attacks and gossip until you’ve done some homework.

      • Oddly enough, I keep seeing paid ads for this guy on my Facebook feed. So, I went to his links and saw that he has (at least) 3 pseudonyms, including a complete phony name (Jim Hart). I have to assume that local newspapers are getting tired of his comments about chaparral. It does seem that he is making money out of supporting manzanita and large brush fires. It also seems like he has continued to “cyberstalk” Dr. Bonnicksen, blasting him in every mention. I am sure that his global searching led him to our blog. I have seen him at work, long before I came to this blog, and knew what would happen. His hit-and-run tactics are consistent with the history I have seen of him.

        Hmmmm, I wonder if I posted something else with Dr. Bonnicksen content, would he come back and play with us again?!?

    • Chap

      Re: “a record of politicizing science”
      –> And environmental groups haven’t picked out what supported their political position and ignored what contradicted their point of view?

      Re: ““Some people believe that horrific brushland fires are wind-driven events. They are wrong. Science and nearly a century of professional experience shows that they are fuel driven events.””
      –> Chaparral (brushland) fires are not forest fires since chaparral by definition is not forest cover.
      –> Chaparral is oil rich tinder. It would seem to me that the low height of the brush dictates that it can be nothing but a crown fire. Without the fuel, a fire can’t start and once the fuel is consumed or removed the fire dies. With the fire created wind, the burn is intensified and the extended burn time increases the chances of the fire being abetted by an external wind which would drive the fire harder and make it even harder to stop. So it would seem to me that you are splitting hairs and making a mountain out of a mole hill. I’d have to have the full context of his statements before I could rule on whether or not he slipped up.
      –> I challenge you to dispute the indisputable logic of this statement from the opening post: “It is a scientific fact that a fire can’t burn without fuel. The more fuel the bigger the fire, regardless of drought or wind.”………. Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen” so again, I’m not sure, but I must consider that you are are politicizing science. To refresh your understanding of fires, I refer you to the basic fire triangle which dictates the three minimum things required for a fire: http://www.ehs.okstate.edu/modules/exting/Triangle.htm
      Please note that wind is not a requirement for fire, it is an exacerbating factor.

      Re: “I’m curious how Dr. Bonnicksen would account for the million acre grass fire in Texas, 2006 – one that killed a dozen people.”
      –> Duh! Dry grassland burns and it too creates its own wind which preheats the grass in front of it and, Voila, it ignites because there is lots of fuel in the form of dry tinder.

      Re: “Bob, the scientific community in California, the one that specializes in shrubland fire ecology, has indeed dismissed Bonnicksen a very long time ago”
      –> Please give links with specific quotes and page numbers. The letter that you linked to does not give specifics. It is just the broad opinion of four people without any specifics for us to judge its validity.
      –> I’m not sure of the context of the dismissals and I am not sure of Mr. Bonnicksen’s credentials outside of the field of forestry so I can’t judge the validity of what you say unless, I know the full context of what he said and the full context of what those disputing him said.
      –> This is all pretty much common sense if you understand the principles of combustion so I am very interested in finding out how he could have said anything so foolish that it would get you so riled up.

      Re: “Gil, there are a number of variables that have caused the number of acres burned to increase in the West since 1990. One of the dirty little secrets in the fire world is backfires. For example, nearly half of the 270,000 acre Zaca Fire in 2007 was a backfire”
      –> Backfires were used to fight fires long before 1990. The point is that when you have a well distributed matrix of stands of varying ages and species, you can bring crown fires to the ground more easily and you have less need for backfires. So your point does nothing to refute what I said.

      Re: “Another variable is drought and record low fuel moistures.”
      –> Yup, and that is why sound forest management is even more important in light of global warming. So again, consider that a well distributed matrix of stands of varying ages and species has a greater probability of bringing crown fires to the ground and being more easily extinguished than homogenous stands consisting of thousands of acres. So, again, your point does nothing to refute what I said.

      Re: “No peer-reviewed paper that I am familiar with has ever concluded that the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of reduced annual harvests. I would appreciate it if you could provide one. When you refer to junk science, what specific studies are you talking about?”
      –> I give you every one of your studies that say that ‘global warming and increased stand density caused by logging have increased the severity of fires’
      –> If logging in the form of both final and intermediate harvests decreases stand density, how can it increase stand density? I mean, this is pure logic. Logging is by definition harvesting which by definition is removal of a crop. How can the removal of a crop increase density? If you can show me how this is done, I’m going to patent it and make a couple of zillion dollars. Do you see what kind of mindless babble (junk science) you have been swallowing? Do you see the politicization of false science that you are propagating?

  2. Seems like kind of a tempest in a teapot, after all it’s an op-ed piece, which ranks about the same as a lengthy blog post, it doesn’t need to be peer-reviewed or anything like that. I may not agree with his politics or scientific conclusions, but that’s ok, it’s supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, so I’m willing to listen to his. To me, the term “repudiated” is a very strong one and should be reserved for things like fabrication of data or other egregious violations of scientific conduct (which I don’t see here?), but not for having a different opinion. Like Bob said, all scientists are driven by one agenda or another, and all of us have to get our research funded by somebody or other. Mine’s been funded over the years by USDA, Wheat Commission, Nez Perce Tribe, Mazamas mountaineering club, Potato Commission, EPA, etc. etc. Sometimes that includes some summer salary, but doesn’t mean my research conclusions are up for sale. His book looks kind of interesting, I’d like to read it, and then form my own opinion.

  3. Bob, let’s drop the anonymity accusation. It obviously has no merit. Secondly, the popularity of someone does not make them immune to criticism. In fact, it should make them more subject to scrutiny.

    1/2. Bob, clearly fire needs fuel to burn. The issue is the impact of fire suppression and the direct link you and Bonnicksen make with that and large fires. Let’s stay on topic. And please, instead of addressing me, let’s talk about the data. Can you explain how one million acres burned in Texas with minimal fuels?

    And why should I be apologizing to Bonnicksen? Maybe I erred in asking him a tough question during his talk after he insulted the fire service during the California/Nevada/Hawaii fire conference in 2004. The question I asked? I asked him a question similar to the one I asked Gil above. When he showed a graph of increasing fire size over time and then insisted that it was due to fuel accumulation, I asked him for the evidence of the direct correlation. He provided none. A good scientist would have. He did say, “Read my book,” but it was pretty clear the audience was not particularly impressed. He also glared at me later as we passed each other on the elevator. I think that was a more revealing response.

    3. If you would like to identify the scientists who disagree with Bonnicksen, I suggest you call the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area fire ecologists or the fire ecologists in the Western Region office of USGS. Maybe even better, contact Russ Wilson, the former superintendent to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park who said this about Bonnicksen:

    “Bonnicksen spent only two summers, nearly 30 years ago, collecting data in sequoia forests. The state of scientific and empirical knowledge regarding giant sequoia forests has grown exponentially since Dr. Bonnicksen collected his data. As a result, his ideas, though once in vogue, have been superseded by a more comprehensive and sophisticated picture of forest structure and fire ecology.”

    4. The political nature of my assertions? They appear only to be political because you disagree with them. Let’s make a deal. I won’t label you with a veiled insults about my political affiliation, and you stop doing the same. It is all quite unscientific.

    5. I did write a book Bob. Regarding Bonnicksen’s peer-reviewed papers, please provide the references. And by the way, these do not include proceedings.

    6. Dismissing the “stupid” comment, let’s get back to the facts. Bonnicksen was paid more than $100,000 by the Forest Foundation to promote their vision. If you can find a financial connection between the scientists I’ve suggest above and private industry, please let us know.

    • Chappie: Then why not call yourself Richard instead of some made up name?

      1/2. Easy. It had fuel. Grass fires often only need one or two tons an acre to burn quite well. What does “minimal” mean? (I’m glad you earned a glare from Bonnicksen if, indeed, that’s what he was trying to do.)

      3. That didn’t answer my question and is irrelevant. Are you claiming these guys are members of your “California science community” that ousted (outed?) Bonnicksen?

      4. Thanks for telling me how I think. Your answer is wrong, though. And political scientists might disagree with your position. Why do you think my suspecting someone is a Democrat (based on their politicized statements) is a “veiled insult?” I’m guessing you believe in catastrophic Global Warming, too. Right or wrong? (Or is that just another “quasi ad hominem attack”).

      5. Bonnicksen’s book was peer reviewed, of course. Check out the acknowledgements, among other places. Never heard of your book and you have given me no compelling reason to learn more about it.

      6. Your “facts” don’t dispute my “stupid” statement. To say that a scientist can be bought out for money by a (theoretically well-meaning) Foundation is stupid. Even if true, which is highly doubtful. As Guy has pointed out in another response, we all make a living as scientists by funding provided by others. You are accusing Bonnicksen — as if it were a “fact” — of being an unethical shyster. And being well rewarded for being so. That’s not even a “veiled insult” — more like character assassination.

  4. Guy, it is important to respond to Bonnicksen’s op-eds because they sometimes (it appears increasingly less so now) influence people in positions of power, people who make public policy. And I agree, repudiated is a strong word. But Bonnicksen has a record of making up data, and saying things that are either complete fabrications or stretches of the truth.

    Can anyone indicate where Bonnicksen was a park ranger as he claims in the article? He has also claimed to be the President of the Bay Area Chapter of the Sierra Club. When contacted, the chapter was never able to confirm. And as mentioned earlier, UC California had to send him two cease and desist letters to stop him from claiming an affiliation with UC Davis. He never had one.

    Such false resume claims may not be relevant to discussing science, but they are certainly relevant for one promoting a particular thesis in the political arena.

    • Guy

      Thanks for the link, it is worth quite a bit – There is a lot going on here – It is certainly not black and white on either side – me thinks that chap and certain enviros have conveniently over simplified things and have extrapolated a professional disagreement on one issue into a reason for discrediting Bonnicksen on all issues. As the points below show, the only group that is totally discredited is the environmental group espousing no management.

      Re: from Bonnicksen: “Now extremists are suing to block a plan by the Forest Service to deal with the wildfire crisis in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. This modest plan calls for removing too few trees to offset even the number of new trees that grow each year. To be effective, the plan should remove more trees to halt excess growth and substantially reduce the number of existing trees”
      –> Unless he is lying about the Forest Service / NPS plans, the only difference between him and the NPS is the degree to which thinning needs to occur. He is certainly closer to the NPS than those “extremists … suing to block a plan by the NPS to deal with the wildfire crisis in the Giant Sequoia National Monument”.

      Re: Bonnicksen’s following comment: “I cannot speculate on why some people would rather see huge trees and whole forests killed by fire rather than use 21st century knowledge and tools to prevent the destruction. I just know that anti-management philosophy is no justification for sacrificing national treasures. Let’s use common sense and the best available science to make decisions about our forests. Our nation will lose too much by acting irrationally. Let Forest Service professionals restore the Giant Sequoia National Monument to its former glory. This is not about politics. This is about protecting our national heritage.”
      –> How can you disagree with that? That is exactly what gets my goat also. I have seen these treasures and hate to see them destroyed by ignorance pretending to save them.

      Re: Russel J. Wilson’s comment: “Giant sequoia trees have a close relationship with fire. By studying the fire scars on their growth rings, scientists know that over the last few thousand years sequoias experienced naturally caused fires an average of every five to 20 years. Therefore, a 1,000-year-old specimen could have burned approximately 60 times. To survive, and ultimately thrive, in this fire-prone environment, sequoias develop a thick layer of bark to insulate themselves from heat. Most importantly, fire allows these trees to reproduce by clearing the forest floor, creating sunlit forest gaps, adding nutrients to the soil and opening cones to release seeds.”
      –> No argument with these facts from me. There is no disagreement between Bonnicksen and Wilson as to the need for management. The only difference is on how to accomplish the management. In this case, I am with Mr. Wilson, the local manager, versus an outsider and especially an environmentalist group that was suing to stop any management. Explain to me how you can fault Bonnicksen without finding fault with the suing environmental group? Doesn’t that speak to your willingness to twist facts and be logically inconsistent. What is your opinion? Please tell us what you think needs to happen? Should the NPS be allowed to manage the Giant Sequoia’s with the best science available?

      In conclusion, my only fault with Bonnicksen is that he is guilty of some degree of hubris which closed his mind to supporting the local, professional, on the ground, manager. That is certainly a fault that a lot of people should be able to relate to including those in many environmental groups.

      Chap

      Re: “it is important to respond to Bonnicksen’s op-eds because they sometimes (it appears increasingly less so now) influence people in positions of power, people who make public policy”
      –> As Guy says, ‘this is a tempest in a tea pot’ and, in my opinion, it is one in which you are nit picking as a means to step on others in order to raise yourself up.
      –> I am much more concerned about your hubris filled opinions and the political sway of certain environmental groups than I am of any mistakes on the part of Bonnicksen or his insignificant political sway. His way is far superior to the suing group.
      You and many in the environmental community seem to think that this is a political debate where winning is the only object and anything goes regardless of the consequences. But, you are playing with our future without knowing much about the underlying principles involved in forestry and forest ecosystems. At least he is Professor Emeritus of Forest Science at Texas A&M University. You still haven’t given us any credentials that show that you have any understanding of the basic scientific principles involved in forest ecosystems.

        • If the Giant Sequoias were so good at resisting wildfires, why did the Yosemite National Park folks order up crews to “protect” the Tuolumne and Merced Groves?? Of course, the reason is very simple. Individual groves are at-risk to mega-fires, and I am very sure that the Rim Fire can be considered to be “catastrophic”. Also, I wonder if the fact that the Rim Fire was human caused has any effect, as opposed to a “natural” ignition. IMHO, it really doesn’t matter how it started, as lightning fires are VERY common in this part of the Sierra Nevada.

  5. I know you can blame the environmental community for the lack of timber harvest on our National Forests. ( and I sure they are willing to take credit for it.)
    I think you can blame the policy of “lets reintroduce fire to the forest” on the environmental community also.
    Ever since the northwest forest plan was adopted there has been a push to let the fires burn and to monitor them for “resource benefit”.
    The only benefit I have seen here in Southwestern Oregon is that every year we spend hundreds of millions of dollars we don’t have, letting the fires burn up our remaining old growth forests, when many of these fires could of been put out.
    Today I can see the smoke from the Big Windy fire near the Rogue River here is Southern Oregon. A fire they basically put a large perimeter around and let burn.
    East winds have blown since Thursday and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the fire has exploded.
    I am sure that everyday hundreds of old growth trees are killed by this fire and it has been burning since the end of July.
    (Sometimes I will go and ask if I can buy some of those old growth trees that they have had cut down along the road as fire hazards, which contain some of the most rare and most valuable wood in the world and could be turned into everything from musical instruments and wooden boats to other things of beauty, and I am always told, “No,its not worth our effort to sell them”.)
    This is how we manage our National Forests these days here is Southern Oregon.
    Will the supporters of fire in our forests not be satisfied till it all has burned?

  6. @Gil DeHuff

    Gil, if all Bonnicksen was saying was that you need fuel to burn, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Everyone gets that. The problem is that Bonnicksen denies the role of weather in recent fires. Ignoring contrary data, while unfortunately common, is not a trait a scientist should embrace.

    You say to TreeD39, “I challenge you to dispute the indisputable logic of this statement from the opening post: “It is a scientific fact that a fire can’t burn without fuel. The more fuel the bigger the fire, regardless of drought or wind.”………. Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen”

    Really? The more fuel, the bigger the fire? Please see my reference in a previous comment concerning the 2006 Texas grass fires. A million acre complex is a pretty big fire. Then we have the second largest fire in California, the Cedar Fire. Lots of shrubs. Not a lot of fuel there when compared to a dense forest fire. If there was ever a poster child for a huge wind-driven event, that’s it. What evidence do you have to support the contention that the Cedar Fire was not the product of low fuel moistures and strong winds?

  7. @Gil DeHuff

    Gil, again, please stay on topic and please produce the peer-reviewed papers that support your opinions. You continue to talk about “logic” and replying with “duh” and “yup” as if your viewpoints are self evident. You need the science to back up what you are saying. Up until now, you’ve produced little more than diversions from the topic, such as, talking about environmental groups politicizing science. The topic is Bonnicksen.

    I know chaparral fires are not forest fires. Not sure what point you are trying to make. However, it is clear the point Bonnicksen was erroneously trying to make in his Congressional testimony: the Cedar Fire in 2003 was all about fuels. Wind had little to do with it. Such statements are clearly contrary to the data. The reason for his viewpoint? To promote biomass and logging interests, which we was paid to do.

    Regarding the scientific community’s rejection of Bonnicksen and his work, I provided the names of the agencies, suggested contacts, etc. to follow up on this point. If you are interested, please do the leg work. In case you don’t want to take the time, here’s another source…

    In early 2008, Bonnicksen released a publication through the Forest Foundation that promoted a new angle in their efforts to promote more logging: older forests need to be logged in order to reduce global warming. US Forest Service scientists evaluated his model and found it “greatly inflates the net effect of wildfires”, makes “questionable assumptions”, and cited references that “do not meet the standard that would be expected from a typical peer-reviewed paper.” Here’s a link to the review:
    http://www.californiachaparral.com/images/Bonnicksen_Summary_SGC_Forest_Carbon_260308.doc

    If you want to read Bonnicksen’s Congressional testimony in 2003 so you can make sure you know the full context of his biased statements:
    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-108hhrg90767/html/CHRG-108hhrg90767.htm

    Regarding scientific evidence for your statements, I ask you again to stay on topic to address the following: “No peer-reviewed paper that I am familiar with has ever concluded that the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of reduced annual harvests. I would appreciate it if you could provide one.”

  8. Let’s try something different. Let’s pretend that the Op-Ed’s author was hidden. Does anyone have anything to say about the message?!? I’m sure that no one is saying that other conditions don’t affect wildfires. It is very clear to all that large wildfires are complex and affected by ALL factors. What I think is important that isn’t being covered is the reduction of ignitions and fire intensities within shaded fuelbreaks and thinned stands. One man’s “fragmentation” is another man’s “mosaic” but, when a wildfire levels all, there are very few of those purported “benefits” of wildfires we hear so much about from one side of the issue.

  9. @chaparralian
    Please see my reply above to your reference to the grass fire – What good is a one sided conversation? I discussed the grass fire. I discussed the role of wind. Why are you attacking me when you haven’t even read what I said in response to your question?

    Fuel is something that you don’t understand real well. A huge tree with a relatively small ratio of surface area to total mass is not nearly as combustible as dry prairie grass or dry oil rich tinder in the form of chaparral. Fuel is about surface area not mass. That is why grain dust in a silo is explosive. That is why crown fires are explosive. Explosions cause wind. That is why prairie grass fires are terrifying.
    http://www.campsilos.org/mod1/students/index.shtml
    http://www.campsilos.org/mod2/teachers/r6.shtml

    As I said before, I doubt that Bonnicksen is so foolish as to deny the role of wind and fuel moisture in abetting a fire once it has started. But since you seem hell bent on crucifying him I will look at your links in your post below and see if I see any validity to your charge and then answer your other comments in that post.

  10. @chaparralian

    Re: “please stay on topic and please produce the peer-reviewed papers that support your opinions. You continue to talk about “logic” …” – Please bear with me and I will show you why this is relevant to determining the integrity of Dr. Bonnicksen:
    → There is no time machine that can take us back in time and allow us to set up a statistically sound randomized plot study with plenty of replications to prove either of our points: 1) yours is that logging increases stand density and 2) mine is that logging decreases stand density and only by ceasing logging can stand density increase.
    → So, since there is no time machine, any trail of references that either of us provided could only lead to two possible outcomes. The first outcome would be that the original source came to an opinion based on false logic. The second would be that the opinion was based on sound logic. What is the difference between false logic and sound logic?
    → False logic is contradicted by facts. Sound logic is not contradicted by facts.
    → My logic is based on facts not assumptions. I am not hypothesizing. Consider my earlier reply to you above: “–> … Logging is by definition harvesting which by definition is removal of a crop. How can the removal of a crop increase density? …” ← PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION. IT IS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE VALIDITY OF BONNICKSEN’S STATEMENTS.

    Based on the above, Dr. Bonnicksen’s integrity stands far above your deliberate twisting of facts. It seems to me that your hatred for Bonnicksen is based on his consideration of logging as part of a common sense approach for active management supported by the sale of wood and timber from final and intermediate harvests. Your mantra that logging increases stand density is unequivocally false. You won’t admit this because it completely destroys any case made by certain environmental groups that logging is bad because it increases stand density and therefore is the cause of all of the environmental disasters. Ignoring the facts, allows certain environmental groups to claim that their success in sharply curtailing logging is not significantly responsible for compounding the effect of global warming in terms of increases in catastrophic insect and fire events.

    Here is my continued evaluation of Bonnicksen based on the links that you supplied:

    Re your first link above on Bonnicksen – There isn’t sufficient detail in there for me to make my own decision. http://www.californiachaparral.com/images/Bonnicksen_Summary_SGC_Forest_Carbon_260308.doc

    Re: Your second link – http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-108hhrg90767/html/CHRG-108hhrg90767.htm – I see much to agree with Bonnicksen on and would differ with him only in two places where I believe that he chose his words poorly but then he corrects himself so there is no problem:
    → “We know how to prevent these catastrophic fires and we have a moral obligation to prevent them in the future.”
    —–> Prevention is not possible. Significant reduction in the extent of the fires is possible.
    → “Sadly, the insect infestations and wildfires were predictable and preventable”
    —–> Prevention is not possible. Significant reduction in the extent of the insect infestations and wildfires is possible.
    → But, if we read on, we see that he corrects himself when he says: “There is no doubt that the recommendations in the 1994 and 1995 reports, if implemented when proposed, would have dramatically reduced the death and destruction caused by the horrific fires of 2003”

    FINALLY, I have a major bone to pick with you that completely discredits you in my opinion:
    Re Your contention above that: “The problem is that Bonnicksen denies the role of weather in recent fires”
    → This is flat out false. Read this from his testimony at your second link: “Some people believe that horrific brushland fires are wind-driven events. They are wrong. Science and nearly a century of professional experience shows that they are fuel-driven events. Wind contributes to the intensity of a fire, but no fire can burn without adequate fuel, no matter how strong the wind. Wind, topography, and drought play an important role in fire behavior, but continuous heavy fuels are the fundamental cause for the outbreak of monster fires plaguing the West, especially California.” That is what I said to you in a previous post above. This is literally true and no twisting of words by you can change it.

    How can I trust you after you have deliberately misrepresented your case against Bonnicksen in terms of his stand on fire and the value of harvesting/logging to decrease stand density thereby increasing vigor thereby reducing the probability of catastrophic fire and insect events?

  11. @chaparralian
    Chappie: No one opposes mediocre minds because no one cares. (How much opposition has your book received, for example?). Many have argued that the best test of an idea is the strength of its opposition. You seem to be giving Bonnicksen a lot of personal credibility and strength with your comments. What are you really afraid of? Opposing viewpoints? Flashlights?

  12. Gil, all, the personal nature of the comments here is quite a contrast from the civil, productive commentary I was reading in other contributions to this blog.

    The reason for this appears to be that there’s an emotional connection with Bonnicksen for many of you and that the habit of friendship is leading your responses. Each response here is injected with at least 1 or 2 comments about me. The issue is Bonnicksen and the fact that the fire science community has dismissed him as politically biased. The issue is not about whether or not I am a white democrat, what my screen name means, Chad Hansen, what evironmental groups do, or the merits of suing a government agency that may be violating the law.

    While everyone certainly has a right to an opinion, no one has yet responded with the data to support their contentions. Again,

    – please provide scientific evidence that fires have grown larger because of the change in logging since 1990.

    – provide peer-reviewed literature that supports Bonnicksen’s most promoted point that fuels are the primary driver of large fires.

    – provide peer-reviewed literature that supports the contention that fire suppression is responsible for large shrubland fires in southern California.

    – provide peer-revewed literature that supports the notion that environmental groups and the appeals they make are responsible for an increase in large wildfires.

    – provide any peer-reviewed literature by Bonnicksen with actual field data that supports his fuel-centric viewpoint on the cause and size of wildfires.

    – please offer conclusions based on peer-reviewed research contrary to those of the US Forest Service’s rejection of Bonnicksen’s climate change position, the rejection of Bonnicksen’s proposals by Sequoia/King’s Canyon NP Superintendent Wilson, our rejection of Bonnicksen’s testimony to Congress claiming the Cedar Fire was not a wind-driven event, that fires were smaller in the past, and that native shrublands are resilient to frequent fire.

    Finally, actually read the material on the webpage below and the documents provided and please address any errors or unsupportable conclusions you find there.

    http://www.californiachaparral.org/aindustryadvocate.html

  13. @chaparralian
    Dear Chap-

    I’m going to take a break from WordPress, widgets and plug-ins and make a comment in this.. although I have not been following all the back and forth.

    You said:

    The issue is Bonnicksen and the fact that the fire science community has dismissed him as politically biased.

    Chap.. there is no one “fire science community” and they don’t reach agreement on “whom to dismiss”. I think I’ve told the story here about a Region 6 Biodiversity Conference in which Jerry Franklin was speaking.. he said something about what “geneticists think” and a bunch of us went up to him afterward and said “we don’t think that.” He said something along the lines of “well I spoke with geneticist X and she/he said…. how am I supposed to know about the diversity of thought?”

    Indeed that was a very thought-provoking and astute question. There is no group that sits and determines what is OK and what is not OK to think. “Fire science” has folks like fire behavior modelers, silviculturists like Russ Graham, historic vegetation ecologists who like to chime in..

    In a previous post I shared the existence of two letters and compared their credentials.
    http://forestpolicypub.com/2012/01/01/the-circle-of-life-fire-logging-climate-style/

    There are many scientists who many of us might claim are “politically biased”. That’s why it’s important to stick to the facts. The fact is that removing certain kinds of fuels changes fire behavior. We are unlikely to ever parse out what might have happened 1) without fire suppression, 2) without communities in the Sierra, 3) without climate change (anthro or not) 4) with more thinning and fuel projects. The fact is that (given what scientists know) and (given their biases and self-interest in promoting their own agendas and research projects) they are likely to come up with different conclusions.

    There is a big difference, in my mind, between “places you can sell products of fuels treatments” and other places. In fact, different kinds of stands and species in different areas burn differently.
    The chaparral is not a grassland, and the western slope of the Sierra is not the San Jacintos.
    Here is the way I look at it:

    1. Given that fuel treatments are helpful to protect communities and create defensible spots for suppression, why not sell the stuff where you can? (WUI only, sell trees)

    OR

    2. Should places create fuelbreaks and resilient (to climate change) mixes of age classes and species through design? How should this get paid for? (Design landscapes, sell trees)

    Now, I heard in one of the interviews (I think it was Pyne?) saying we need to intervene on landscape scales..

    To me 1 vs. 2 are the big questions and I don’t see why selling trees is even an issue.

    Like others, I agree that getting serious about requiring homeowners to do work is critical and is a given whether you pick 1 or 2.

  14. The examples of the A-Rock and Meadow Fires offers glimpses at the future of unmanaged forests. This example includes lack of logging, a high frequency of natural ignitions, and excessive fire devastation. Yes, this area went from majestic old growth, to recovering forest, to barren brushfields, in just 24 years. This example cannot exclude some issues, like “climate change”.

    Another observation of mine is that the Yosemite Superintendent ordered up crews to “protect” the Sequoia groves in the path of the fire. He obviously felt that those groves were in danger, and not that their “natural fire adaptations” would save them. Would a carpet of tiny giant sequoias replace the grandeur of huge live specimens? Not in anyone living’s lifetime. Yes, there IS a limit to the tree’s resilience to wildfires.

    Also, we can be very sure that many giant sequoias have died in the Rim Fire. There are MANY trees planted in the Cherry Lake area of the Stanislaus NF, that are probably dead now. Such are the spoils of catastrophic wildfires. Vast pine plantations were also torched, losing 40 years of forest recovery, from the Granite Fire of 1971.

    I also think that some people will think differently about this fire, due to it being human-caused. They will talk more about the destruction, than about pre-fire conditions. I’m pretty sure that if it was lightning-caused, there would be more talk about “natural and beneficial” things. I also wonder if the fire was more aggressively attacked, due to it being human-caused.

  15. @chaparralian
    Chaposaurian: Sorry, dude, but you were the one that came up with the “cute screen name,” not me. And it was your “personal jabs and unfounded assumptions instead of data” regarding Tom Bonnicksen that sidetracked this discussion in the first place, not my comments.

    I am not the only one that admonished you to read Bonnicksen and comment on THAT, instead of repeating gossip and rationalizing your bias. What — exactly — do you think about the post? Why not try reading Bonnicksen’s Ancient Forests instead of vilifying the man first and drawing upon your imaginary “communities” to back you up?

    To say that other commenters are supporting Bonnicksen “because of an emotional response” is both arrogant and insulting. Yes, most of us try to be civil most of the time on this blog, but you initiated this discussion by mocking the work of others and repeating cheap gossip about them (without even bothering to read the work in question!), which is uncivil in itself. What kind of responses would you expect? (By the way, I’m changing my name to Forestorian and you are welcome to make any kind of jokes you like about it.)

  16. @stfriedman

    Thank you for your rational post. You are absolutely correct. Fuel treatments, strategically placed, play an important role in modifying fire behavior. How we fund these things is a pretty complicated issue mainly because people seem to think it is always someone else’s responsibility… mainly the government’s. Our position is that the USFS should get out of the WUI treatment business and start using their money to actually mananage their vast landscapes. Allow (require) the local community to organize and pay for the WUI treatments, with USFS supervision. That will also cause developers to think twice about building in fire corridors since they’ll have to pay for the fire mitigation… forever.

    Regarding the scientific community. I erred in making such a sweeping statement. It has been difficult to continually respond to folks like Bob and Gil who refuse to engage in a scientifically based discussion.

    What I meant to say, was that the southern California chaparral fire science community has dismissed Bonnicksen. How do I know? Well, I’ve worked with pretty much everyone in this little group and all of us have had some kind of unfortunate interaction with Bonnicksen that has caused us to question his objectivity and his motives. I’m not going to make a list of all the fire scientists out here, but it’s a significant group. It includes folks outside the area too, from Australia, UC Berkeley and Missoula. We even have a Texan who sees Bonnicksen as hopelessly biased. This dismissal of Bonnicksen didn’t come from just some guy who came up to one of us during a presentation.

    Anyway, speaking of Jerry, you might want to ask him what his perspective is on Bonnicksen’s work.

    • I’m not saying that Bonnicksen does not have biases. I am saying that everyone has biases. Biases for their particular discipline, and their particular approach to a problem, and policy biases. No one is “objective” and everyone has “motives.” It reminds me of the old days when I used to review research proposals that said something like “unless you give me $500 K for my research, ecosystems will unravel.” Do they really believe this? Is it just marketing hype? Can they tell the difference? Do they say it enough without it being questioned (because who gets paid to question?) that they start to believe it?

      Given that everyone has motives and isn’t objective, making that claim (they are not objective and have dubious motives) about others is not particularly helpful. If others find their behavior to be annoying (let’s just say I think there’s plenty of that around)- well they can’t exactly be “voted off the island.”

      And I would not ask Jerry what he things about Tom any more than I would ask him what he thinks about Chad or vice versa.. the point is that scientists are just people, not priests, and we should directly investigate their claims and how they approached the problem. What concerns me sometimes (not with you particularly, Chap) are people who treat scientists as oracles..your temple, my temple, and not as flawed human individuals with biases and motives that have investigated things empirically and might have useful observations to make based on those studies. Their observations, though, can be questioned by anyone as to their approach, findings and relevance to policy.

      A while back I had a post called “Eight Step to Vet Scientific Information for Policy Fitness” about what info I thought should be used in policy. It’s a pretty high bar.

  17. @larryharrellfotoware

    Larry, the Rim Fire was caused by a hunter’s fire.

    Also, one of the major factors in the initial spread of the Rim Fire was the incredibly trashy condition of the tree plantations that were established after the 1987 fire… after the landscape had been sprayed the countless pounds of herbicide and much of the ground tilled. Improper forestry, along with extreme weather conditions, were the main culprits in causing this monster, to use Bonnicksen’s phrase.

  18. @Gil DeHuff

    Gil, you asked me to answer this question:
    Logging is by definition harvesting which by definition is removal of a crop. How can the removal of a crop increase density? …” ← PLEASE ANSWER THIS QUESTION. IT IS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE VALIDITY OF BONNICKSEN’S STATEMENTS.

    I don’t quite understand why you are asking me this. I believe my original challenge was if anyone here could support the notion that the change in forest harvesting after 1990 was directly correlated to the increase in fire size and number since 1990. Thus far, no one has.

    What we may think will happen to fire in a logged or unlogged forest is not necessarily the same as what will happen. However, we do know that the increase in fine and medium fuels after logging does create a fire issue. Please see the following paper for the details on logging and fuel buildup after stand-replacing fires:
    http://www.werc.usgs.gov/ProductDetails.aspx?ID=4156

  19. @chaparralian
    Now, it is very clear that you know nothing about the fire. Yes, it was human caused but, does it REALLY matter HOW it started, after the fact? It started WELL away from the area that burned in 1987. WHERE is YOUR data backing up your opinion about “trashy” conditions in plantations. In those areas burned in 1987, if they were left to “recover” on their own, it would be solid brush and bear clover, even these many years later. If you are not familiar with bear clover, it is very flammable and will dominate sites cleared of trees, whether “naturally”, or not. Truly, there is not much that could have been done in the canyon. The canyon is rugged, steep and brushy. The best thing to do is try to confined any wildfires to the canyon, itself.

    The fire also re-burned tens of thousands of acres. Many of those acres were overloaded with fuels left over from both the wildfires AND the bark beetles that spewed from the 175,000 acre 1987 Complex fires. Indians managed these lands for thousands of years, growing majestic cathedral-like forests. Why can’t we?!?!

  20. @larryharrellfotoware

    Here we go again Larry. Yet another descent into the realm of Rush Limbaugh. When you can address me respectfully, then we can have a discussion. Also, for the umtenth time, please provide some peer-review papers to support your opinions.

    The map link you provided does not show the historical perimeters in a way that can be properly analyzed. Try this one. It also provides a number of photos:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151904809031018.1073741831.114672246017&type=1&l=72a175928f

  21. @larryharrellfotoware

    PS Larry. We can’t manage the land like the Native Americans for several reasons:

    1. Loggers clearcut nearly all the ancient forests, so other than the few groves protected by the so-called tree huggers most of the folks on this thread seem to despise, those cathedral-like forests are long gone.

    2. With millions of people on the landscape, lighting thousands of fires, and thousands of people with homes within and close to wildland areas, what the Native Americans did is now impossible to replicate.

    3. The succession process has been dramatically changed thanks to the logging and ranching industries, and the flora has radically changed. Non-native weeds are a major problem that Native Americans didn’t have to deal with.

    4. We really don’t have much evidence concerning how much or to what extent Native Americans burned.

  22. @Sharon

    Sharon, I concur. The bias issue is something everyone must guard against, especially scientists. I wrote a paper about a brilliant man who understood this, but even he forgot the lessons he taught his students. I think once someone is recognized for a particular position or paradigm, it’s a curse.

    If you want, you can read the whole story here. It’s a combination of history and an analysis of science.
    http://www.californiachaparral.org/images/Torry_Bot_Halsey_Allelopathy.pdf

  23. @chaparralian

    1) Re: “Finally, actually read the material on the webpage below and the documents provided and please address any errors or unsupportable conclusions you find there.
    http://www.californiachaparral.org/aindustryadvocate.html
    → I read it before and told you that you misrepresented Bonnicksen. Your bias has been exposed in comment #34. I agree more with him than I do with you. Professor’s get paid by industry and environmental and other groups all of the time. Ideas must stand on their own.

    2) Re: “please offer conclusions … the rejection of Bonnicksen’s proposals by Sequoia/King’s Canyon NP Superintendent Wilson,”
    → Apparently you didn’t read my comment #26

    3) Re: “While everyone certainly has a right to an opinion, no one has yet responded with the data to support their contentions. Again,
    – please provide scientific evidence …”
    → I have supplied facts. Facts are data. What good would peer reviewed studies do? You would just claim that the studies and reviewers were industry lackeys or scientists of ill repute. I have no ax to grind. You have shown that you do. I don’t get paid by anybody. Presumably, you get paid by an environmental group. If Bonnickson is a lackey for industry then you must be a lackey for an environmentalist group.

    4) Now let’s get to the heart of the issue on which I find fault with all environmental groups who claim that ‘past logging practices along with global warming are the cause of the current catastrophic fires and beetle attacks’.
    Re: “fires have grown larger because of the change in logging since 1990”
    Re: “environmental groups and the appeals they make are responsible for an increase in large wildfires”
    a) When you go to a logging job, does stand density increase or decrease as they cut trees down and load them on trucks? Answer: The density goes down. The supporting data can be collected by anyone with eyeballs. No peer reviewed study needed.
    b) If the sound forest management practice of area/volume regulation had been allowed to continue following 1991, as soon as a stand reached an upper bound for stand density, the stand would be entered again and the density would be reduced again to a lower bound. This process would be repeated as often as necessary. Under that forest management, it is impossible for the stand density to get above acceptable levels unless the interventions are stopped. – fact/data plain and simple. No peer reviewed study needed.
    c) When harvest levels were reduced by 80% following 1990, step “b)” was substantially removed and there was no longer a check on stand density so density increased above acceptable levels where competition between trees reduced stand vigor and increased susceptibility to drought, beetles, and fires. Basic plant physiology, basic forest science. Buy a book, get a degree in forestry if you don’t believe me. No peer reviewed study needed. The corroborating evidence is here: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/07/22/fighting-back-fire-from-the-denver-post/ see comment (#1) .
    d) With Global Warming the need for steps “a)” and “b)” is even greater in order to keep vigor as high as possible.

    5) Your McGinnis, T.W. article only speaks to one time logging jobs post uncontrolled fires. It does not speak to an ongoing program of sound forest management on unburned soils as described in #4 above which would include proper initial spacing. You’d need to get real specific as to what you think this proves before I could comment on it further.

    Accept the facts or call me a communist pinko, industrial flunky or whatever – I don’t care.

  24. @chaparralian
    My personal on-the-ground experience supports MY opinions. Have you ever been in a Stanislaus NF clearcut? I have personal experience in this specific area, spanning FIVE decades. I have seen wildfires reducing old growth over those years, with very little “recruitment”, as fires continue to rage. Sometime, this fall, if I am allowed, I will venture into the burned area to take pictures of specific differing treatments, and how they “weathered” the firestorm.

    You must have an awfully thin skin to glean an insult out of my postings. I was merely pointing out that your “analysis” of the fire is wrong on some very basic levels. However, I DO detect your own blatant insults. You are simply another example of someone who wants it their way, or no way. Of course, I am a proud supporter of site-specific scientific management. Any respect I had for you is now lost. Maybe you should stick to preserving brush, instead of pretending you know about wildfires and forest management. You repeatedly ignore the original posting by Dr. Bonnicksen, admonishing people that “there is nothing to see here…. move along, move along”. Frankly, you look like a kid sticking fingers in his ears, shouting “lalalalalala, I don’t hear youuuuu, lalalalalalalalalalalalalala”.

  25. @chaparralian
    ” I believe my original challenge was if anyone here could support the notion that the change in forest harvesting after 1990 was directly correlated to the increase in fire size and number since 1990. Thus far, no one has.”
    But I think you would have to admit that the fire policies of the US Forests Service since the Northwest Forest plan can be directly correlated to the increase in acres burned.

  26. @larryharrellfotoware

    Larry, your on the ground experience, while valuable, is anecdotal and subject to biases. This is why science is so valuable. It looks at all the data, not just the data we collect personally and filter through our own preconceived notions. Sailors strongly felt the earth was flat based on decades of experience too.

    Regarding the rest of your post, please refer to the recommended comment considerations on this blog, especially the following:
    The third gatekeeper asks, “Is it kind?”

    I believe you are having a difficult time with this point.

    • But Chap, “science” does not look at “all the data.”. It looks at some of the data through lenses determined by discipline, funding and worldview. Funding is determined by agitation of science groups who have their own agendas.

      Simple example. When I lived in central Oregon, the main university and FS facility was at Corvallis. There were many many studies on the wet west side. Much fewer on our side. We did have the Bend Silviculture Lab, but not much else.

      Another time when I worked with the FS, fire research was moved to Missoula (at least that’s what I remember). Do you think the South gets as much attention as when the there was a Fire Lab in Macon?

      Funding USGS, NSF, NIFA and the FS to do what amounts to the same kind of research leads to random agencies doing random things in random places. Not exactly a disciplined approach to obtaining “all the data.”

  27. “Regarding scientific evidence…address the following: “No peer-reviewed paper that I am familiar with has ever concluded that the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of reduced annual harvests. I would appreciate it if you could provide one.”

    That’s a valid request, I for one would enjoy seeing those papers, and/or ones indicating different causes (I suspect there are a number of interacting causes, would be interesting to see how they rank in priority and how they interact). Is the “increase in acres burned since 1990” (I assume that means annually?) a given? Maybe I missed the citation for that, would be interested in the actual numbers. Are there any figures comparing FS lands with private lands, in that regard? Realizing that adjoining land ownership patterns complicate things. The phrase “correlates with” keeps coming up, but that’s pretty much meaningless, any increase over time correlates with any number of things (population of U.S., houses built in the WUI, my age, etc.). Similarly, personal observations are interesting but tend to be limited in scope, the term that scientists often use for those is “anecdotal”. It would be nice, for those of us whose conclusions aren’t set in stone one way or the other, to see more references to credible studies (and less name-calling would be a bonus). It isn’t enough to say “it’s a fact, and that’s just the way it is”, at least not for the skeptics in the house. Best, -gk

  28. Chapster: I was pretty much through responding to you and your “peer reviewed” misdirections (you still don’t seem to have actually read any Bonnicksen — peer reviewed or otherwise — much less respond to the original posts and questions sent your way), but your Indian burning responses happen to focus on my own PhD research. I think I can provide some better answers to your assertions:

    1. This is nonsense. Most of the “ancient forests” you are apparently talking about were my age or younger (railroad ties) to a few hundred years old. Most of these trees began growing after Europeans and Africans arrived in North America in the early 1500s and began decimating Indian communities with new diseases. The vast majority of these trees began growing as understories to older trees, and those that had invaded truly “ancient” prairie lands, savannahs, berry patches and manzanita fields. Read Bonnicksen on this for some better — peer reviewed — insights.

    2. Nope. Another wide miss. Prescribed burning can be done on a vacant lot, just like many Indians did with their tobacco crops. Same with pruning, harvesting, tilling, and other Indian practices. Kat Anderson’s Tending the Wild. Peer reviewed.

    3. There is no “succession” process. That’s a pretty racist notion that has Indian incompetency at its root. Try and explain how “succession” works in an ancient huckleberry patch, wokas pond, oak savanna, camas field, etc. Most conifers grow in age classes FOLLOWING major disturbance events (windstorms, bugs, diseases, wildfires, logging, etc.). They are either seedlings, saplings, mature, or old — but there is no “classic” text book succession. I’d start with Ben Stout’s book on Hugh Raup’s writings for this lesson. Might not be peer reviewed to your standards, but the work of two highly knowledgeable, highly educated, and very wise men. Who have peer reviewed the works of many (many) others.

    4. Pure Bullsh*t! All that comment means is you haven’t done any reading. Not surprising, given your past comments. You could start with my dissertation on this — it has a pretty good list of references. Also peer reviewed (by my committee and many others).

    So, not only are you way off base in your beliefs — they aren’t even based on scientific evidence because you haven’t bothered to do a literature review.

    Must be great having all the answers. I’d be careful though when making bald statements regarding other people’s disciplines, particularly when it becomes obvious you don’t know what you are talking about.

  29. @Sharon

    Sharon, when I’m talking about all the data, I am talking about a full data set that would allow one to either reject or accept a hypothesis. In context of the discussion here, this would mean looking at ALL the fires in ALL the forests that have had fires since the harvesting change in 1990. This would mean you wouldn’t just look at a couple large fires and claim they are directly correlated to the 1990 change because they happened after 1990.

  30. @chaparralian
    When you associate me with “Rush Limbaugh”, without any reason, that is a very large and ugly insult, to me. Nothing I have said can be linked to him, and I have never voted for a Republican Presidential candidate. YOU are the one who is not being kind. I was merely, as Matt often says, “responding in kind”.

    Since there is no comprehensive study that accounts for all impacts from all sources, we MUST sometimes rely on experience. Indeed, ancient sailors missed out on new lands and profitable ventures, because they feared they would fall off the edge of the world. Anti-management people fear the ecosystem will be “destroyed” if we intervene. You ramble about clearcuts, herbicides and plantations but, those have been banned in the Sierra Nevada since 1993. It’s a non-issue in green forests on public lands. For wildfire recovery, on the Stanislaus NF, herbicides are used more to combat bearclover, and not necessarily for brush. Bearclover is deep-rooted, pungent with flammable oils, and comes back quickly from wildfires. Are we to abandon the re-establishment of forests, where old growth once dominated? One of the links you supplied says that it could take “a century, or more” for forests to come back, without man’s intervention. Remember, that the Groveland Ranger District used to have some of the largest individual sugar pines in the world, before the 1987 fires wiped them out.

    When “science” uses 80’s-era logging in studies against active public forest management, the study has extremely limited value. Other studies exclude certain essential and very visible issues, pretending they do not exist. Those studies are also of limited values. You cannot do a study that assumes no modern human impacts. Why would we need such studies which knowingly exclude such important impacts?

  31. How is this for a change of pace – straight from Tehran, Iran – If anyone should know about fighting fires, it would be the people of Tehran

    http://tehrantimes.com/science/110583-incredible-technology-how-to-fight-wildfires
    – Faster summary https://www.forestryconnect.com/newsletter/incredible-technology-how-to-fight-wildfires?utm_source=Copy+of+Copy+of+39th+edition+newsletter&utm_campaign=39th+edition+newsletter&utm_medium=email

    Iran knows that we used predator drones on the RIM Fire 🙂 🙂 The question is are the drones theirs or ours? 🙂 🙂

    NOTE THIS AMAZING NEWS THAT SUPPORTS Bonnicksen:
    “”We don’t want the fire to come out of that area, and the only way to do that is to remove any fuel,” Hutchinson told LiveScience. … Julie Hutchinson, battalion chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection” Hmm! maybe there is something to that fire triangle that I discussed earlier.

  32. @chaparralian

    @Guy Knudsen

    Please explain to me how it is possible to go back in time prior to 1990 and set up a randomized plot study with plenty of replications to document either of these two statements below. Prior to the post 1990 sea change, there was no inkling of the need for and therefore no justification for setting up such a study. Why should anyone waste any time looking for such an un-confounded study:

    1) ‘the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of reduced annual harvests.’ – which is the contention of myself, Bonnicksen and many other professional foresters as can be found on the NCFP blog, on the SAF Linked-in site and on the Forest Management and Wood Sourcing Linked-in site. So there are a considerable number of us who agree (peer reviewed) that this statement is based on sound logic stemming from the observable facts and forestry textbooks. In addition, there are no facts to refute it.

    2) ‘the increase in acres burned since 1990 is the result of past logging practices.’ – which is the contention of the environmental community. There are no facts to support this contention and the human eye can observe the error of the statement by a simple visit to any logging job. Only by ceasing logging reentry when stand density reaches an upper limit target, can stand density be increased to an unacceptable level. So please refute my refutation of the unfounded position of the environmental community.

    If my logic and supporting facts are unacceptable then the contention of the environmental community should be even more unacceptable to both of you.

    Re Guy’s question: “Is the “increase in acres burned since 1990″ (I assume that means annually?) a given?” Your memory has failed you as you and I have had multiple exchanges regarding this reference and your question about correlation at: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/08/17/fire-acreage-in-2013-question/
    – YES IT IS A FACT, as explained and linked to above numerous times, Please see the graphs and my analysis in comment #1 at: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/07/22/fighting-back-fire-from-the-denver-post/
    → → Please note that ignitions did not change significantly over the time period, only the acres burned changed significantly – Acres burned were going down significantly prior to around ’90-93 and acres burned increased significantly following that point in time. ← ← .

    Guy is correct in saying: “I suspect there are a number of interacting causes, would be interesting to see how they rank in priority and how they interact”
    – Most definitely as I have stated continuously here and elsewhere.
    – Global Warming has got to be very high on the list but global warming just makes the need for an ongoing forest management program of repeated logging entries into each stand, as stand density approaches a maximum desired level, even more important.

  33. @chaparralian
    “1. Loggers clearcut nearly all the ancient forests, so other than the few groves protected by the so-called tree huggers most of the folks on this thread seem to despise, those cathedral-like forests are long gone.”

    There is old growth, in timbered areas, here in the Sierra Nevada, nearly everywhere you look, on Forest Service lands. Again, a reminder, there has been ZERO clearcutting in Sierra Nevada National Forests since 1993. Additionally, cutting trees above 30″ dbh has been banned since then, as well. It wasn’t the “tree huggers” who voluntarily set aside all sorts of owl habitat, in old growth stands. It was the Forest Service, doing what was right!

    “2. With millions of people on the landscape, lighting thousands of fires, and thousands of people with homes within and close to wildland areas, what the Native Americans did is now impossible to replicate.”

    Agreed, but we can either mitigate fires in a wide variety of ways, or we can welcome “whatever happens” (which is currently happening in Boulder!), by doing nothing. The Indians knew that mitigation was necessary, and they had thousands of years to learn how. In fact, the bearclover helped them to accomplish so much, with consistent and controlled impacts. Many current mountain residents safely burn-off their properties every few years. Yes, bearclover is adapted to frequent fire, and could be quite valuable in the future as an effective way to limit unwanted vegetation. Also, those stands of old growth ponderosa, with very little understory, and a thick carpet of bearclover makes for an almost idyllic scene.

    “3. The succession process has been dramatically changed thanks to the logging and ranching industries, and the flora has radically changed. Non-native weeds are a major problem that Native Americans didn’t have to deal with.”

    Succession doesn’t always happen the way you might think. It is VERY common for stands to veer off the classic kind of “natural succession” they teach in school. Re-burns, whether human-caused, or not, guarantee that. With more humans in the mountains, we’ll have more accidental (and non-accidental) human ignitions. It’s a fact of this modern world. There simply is no way to return forests to “pre-human” conditions, as some seem to want.

    “4. We really don’t have much evidence concerning how much or to what extent Native Americans burned.”

    Wherever you see old growth ponderosa pines, that is where Indians did their expert “landscaping”. Their practices encouraged certain types of plants and trees to grow in their home areas. If you light off the bearclover on a perfect day for burning, the fire will burn fast and cool, doing exactly what the humans wanted. I think that Bob has something to say about your statement!

    I say that we CAN manage resilience back into our Sierra Nevada forests. Certainly, there will be no lack of brushy areas in the future of these mountains. The Rim Fire shows that, eh?

  34. Amazing. Despite all of the grandstanding here, no one has yet produced a peer reviewed paper of all the scientific work Bonnicksen is supposed to have done on fire. No one has produced evidence for the supposed clear connection between the claim of increased fires and the change in logging in 1990. And no one has been willing to acknowledge that foresters have made mistakes in the past in terms of improper land management decisions.

    Then we have folks implying that they don’t need no stinking science cuz of decades of experience… all laced with comments about the person who is talking rather than a discussion focused on the issue.

    This may be why it is taking so long for the forestry profession to implement important changes and learn to think more ecologically instead of focusing on how many board feet a tree will deliever.

    This is what Kuhn meant when he said it takes a generation or two to make changes in paradigms.

  35. @larryharrellfotoware

    Larry, “responding in kind.” Yes, that appears to be the problem on this thread. If someone says something that another person feels is out of line, the adult response is to maintain civility and help defuse the situation with a clear explanation about why the comment was inappropriate (not why the person is an idiot) in order to maintain a productive discussion. Attacking in kind guarantees the discussion will degenerate into a shouting match where no one listens. Unfortunately, that has happened here even though all of us have important contributions to offer… contributions that are lost due to the vitriol.

    This place seemed so different at first. Sorry to see this.

  36. @chaparralian

    A) “This place seemed so different at first. Sorry to see this.”
    → Yes, and the only thing that changed is that you joined the group and began a diatribe character assassination against a well respected but imperfect man who, along with many others, disagrees with your mantras.

    B) You started the food fight by making directly false statements about Bonnicksen including:

    – “Dr. Bonnicksen has been repudiated by the scientific community for manipulating data to conform to his opinions”
    → your reference showed a difference of opinion between two groups of scientists. It did not document any “manipulating data”
    → You manipulate data by ignoring the quote that I gave previously ““We don’t want the fire to come out of that area, and the only way to do that is to remove any fuel,” Hutchinson told LiveScience. … Julie Hutchinson, battalion chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection””

    – “Dr. Bonnicksen’s unusual theories of forest structure and stability, expressed many years ago were never widely accepted”
    –> This is patently false, the items mentioned in the opening post are basic established forest science from well before I began my six years of forestry schooling in 1963 and they have been validated by countless professional practitioners since those days right up to the present.

    – “The problem is that Bonnicksen denies the role of weather in recent fires”
    → Read my quote in a previous post above from his testimony at your link and then tell me that your statement isn’t a falsehood.

    No wonder people joined the food fight.

    C) Now let’s discuss Science:

    1) Once certain basic scientific principles (like gravity; countless thinning and final harvest studies that document that every time that trees are cut, stand density decreases; the fire triangle and etc.) have been established, there is no need to do another peer reviewed study to find out that: people who jump out of planes buck naked with nothing attached to their body are going to have a statistically higher probability of getting to the ground quicker than a person who jumps out of the same plane at the same time with a parachute attached (naked or not). 🙂

    2) Scientific theories only become scientific fact/principles when they are documented by scientifically sound replicated, random plot studies with untreated plots as controls. In your group of scientists versus Bonnicksen we have two opposing theories drawn from imperfect models which, when the end of their prognostication time horizon comes, will probably both be proven wrong. Do we want to start a contest and see how many scientific theories have been proven wrong?

    3) Once an unexpected global sea change occurs, it is impossible to go back in time and establish a scientifically sound replicated, random plot study with untreated plots as controls.

    Here are a few easily found studies out of thousands that verify that cutting down trees reduces stand density:
    http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/28272
    http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/rp/rp_nrs20.pdf
    http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/36790

  37. @chaparralian

    Re: “no one has been willing to acknowledge that foresters have made mistakes in the past in terms of improper land management decisions.”

    –> Where did that come from, I certainly didn’t see it before your post #66 above.

    –> Obviously you haven’t read much of what I’ve said. Foresters are just like environmentalists, physicists, doctors and everyone else. We all make mistakes. Anyone that claims that they have never made a mistake in managing a forest has never managed a forest. As I’ve said before forestry doesn’t go on in a sterile controlled manufacturing environment. Foresters deal in probabilities in everything that they do. Sometimes you misjudge the fuel conditions or the weather turns differently than the weather forecast and a control burn gets out of hand.

    Just like in a manufacturing plant, CPI (Continuous Process Improvement) is critical to doing what is right for the world. Many mistakes of the past were the result of pure greed i.e. the Monongahela. Some were the result of people not thinking things out. Some were the result of forest science not being as far along as they are now. Some were totally unforeseeable.

    The point is that we learn from our mistakes. We now have BMPs (Best Management Practices) and independent audits that include validating that environmental and cultural heritage concerns were properly addressed. Timberlands enterprises that I was part of went beyond what the EPA or the USFWS required for HCPs (Habitat Conservation Plans) and even provided expertise that went against what the USFWS recommended and after agreeing to trials, the USFWS ended up agreeing that we had more to offer than they did. Real foresters are environmentalists but, real foresters recognize that tradeoffs have to be made. I have seen Red Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) stands on USFWS lands that were much more poorly managed than the RCW stands on my employer’s stands.

    You paint with a very broad brush and maybe you will never trust anything that I have to say but it will be your loss until you admit that you and the environmental community have also made some very serious mistakes. Only then will we be able to find a common ground to start to work together to make this a better world than either group could make by excluding the other.

  38. @Gil DeHuff

    Gil, I’ll just make a final post here.

    I like the last thing you wrote about finding common ground in order to make the world a better place. I think it’s a fair assumption that we both want that, which is why we spend so much time trying to communicate our ideas.

    For me, the issue here is not my post expressing an opinion held by a number of scientists about Bonnicksen’s work. The issue is how the various participants on this blog communicated their disagreements to that post. Many of the responses appeared to be emotionally based and laced with sarcastic, personal references. Such behavior seems to be a common disease on the internet. Many speak in ways online that they never would in person.

    I’ve found that if someone says something negative about an individual I respect, the one thing I try to avoid is personally attacking the speaker because it only reaffirms the negative opinions they hold. If my intent is to find common ground, it is quite irrelevant whether or not the person is a white, urban democrat, delusional, or has a name that can be ridiculed – some of the missiles tossed at me here. Otherwise, whatever excellent points may be communicated during the discussion get lost because they are intermixed with hostility. It becomes worse when there is a dog pile and the principled folks don’t step in and say, “That’s enough, everyone.” I believe that is what happened here.

    One of the lessons I have taken away from friends of faith is the conversation about how many times one should forgive a person. Up to seven times? The answer back was not seven but seventy-seven. Maybe you know if it. I don’t want to go back and discuss the merits of the original post I wrote. Obviously we have different opinions about its merits. But I hope everyone, including myself, comes away from this interaction a bit more forgiving and a lot more generous when engaging in future online conversations. And they consider their ultimate goal. Because what happened here was not productive.

    I’m sorry Gil if what I said offended you in anyway.

    Best,
    Rick

  39. @chaparralian

    Likewise, I am sorry that we all offended easily and are so easily offended.

    I am not sorry about the passion that we share for making this a better world and I hope that we can build on that one thing that we share in common. If we can trust/respect each other because we have sensed the genuine passion of each other for the same thing then what happened here was productive.

    I offer the following as an opportunity to expand the common ground between us:
    –> Those who believe in the Lord God almighty must remember that His word tells us that we are to be the stewards/husbands of nature. I see the evidence of His truth when my forestry education, training, and experience show me that the withdrawal of mankind from the role of forest steward has turned our forests from imperfectly managed forests to even less perfect forests managed by catastrophe. That is where I come from.

    – We all agree that we want the best for our world.
    – We disagree on what that good looks like.
    – Even if we were to agree on what that good looks like, we would still disagree on how to bring about that good.
    – It would be naive to think that we could find common ground without discussing our differences.
    – However, explaining why we disagree will lead to some moments of human weakness.
    – However, explaining why we disagree will lead to some moments of discovery of new commonalities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *