Dr. Hanson Oped: Yosemite’s burned areas are alive

Earlier in the week the LA Times featured an oped from Dr. Chad Hanson. I will post the opening paragraph below, but you can read the entire piece on the LA Times website.  The bottom of the LA Times piece has this biographical and contact information: Chad Hanson is a forest and fire ecologist with the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute. He is based in the San Bernardino mountains. http://www.johnmuirproject.org.

Once again, I’d like to respectfully request that if anyone has questions about the content of the oped please contact Dr. Hanson directly.

It was entirely predictable. Even before the ashes have cooled on the 257,000-acre Rim fire in and around Yosemite this year, the timber industry and its allies in Congress were using the fire as an excuse for suspending environmental laws and expanding logging operations on federal land.  (Continue reading….)

56 Comments

  1. “Ecologists agree that the post-fire habitat created by patches of high-intensity fire, known as “snag forest habitat,” is one of the most ecologically important of all forest habitat types, and it supports levels of native biodiversity and wildlife abundance equal to or greater than unburned old-growth forest. Moreover, snag forest habitat is even rarer than old-growth forest, and is more threatened by commercial logging than any other forest type.”

    That is simply untrue… I have a tolerance for “hype” but really… “ecologists agree” that “snag forest habitat” is the most “ecologically important”. This kind of obscures the fact that ecologists don’t really have a definition for “ecologically important” let alone a rating scale.. because ecologists study different things and creatures, and they all think that what they study is important.. otherwise they wouldn’t be studying it.

    Snag forest habitat is ???? rarer than old growth forest? With all the recent fires? We just read in the science op-ed yesterday that we are expected to have more fires in the future.

    If we are going to argue that there is little snag habitat, but other scientists say there will be more fires, then as we have discussed before, the “science community” is not in agreement about future snag habitat.

    “More “threatened by commercial logging” than any other “forest type.” ” This would seem to imply that of course “commercial” logging is bad (noncommercial =good?) and will be more prevalent on burned areas than on unburned areas- so you have to make assumptions about how much burned area in the future and where forest industry will be active. I guess that’s true if you’re talking hazard tree removal and selling the trees. Still..I wonder what people who see what’s happening in the woods observe.

    I don’t think McClintock’s is a good bill or going anywhere, but I don’t think a lack of burned areas or snags is anything to be concerned about.

    • You say you “don’t think a lack of burned areas or snags is anything to be concerned about.”

      Whether there are a certain number of acres burned or snags created each year doesn’t fully answer the question of whether the black-backed woodpecker or other high-intensity fire-created snag-dependent species are imperiled. When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completes its review of the black-backed woodpecker ESA petition, maybe we will have a clearer picture of snag habitat in Oregon and California. The USFWS will also assess the threats of wildfire suppression and salvage logging to future creation of this habitat type, as well as processes that will create more snags. The value of snag habitat for snag-dependent species involves a number of factors, including density, diameter of snags, height, and how the snags were created. The black-backed woodpecker relies on snags created by high-intensity fire, Hanson points out. Most conifer areas do not burn at this intensity, he says. If he’s wrong, the USFWS will say so. There might be snags in a lot of places, but there are more nuanced questions to ask that I hope the USFWS review will fully explore.

      • A couple of things… I think the SD study showed that BBWs also like beetle killed trees fine (Derek cited this study in a previous post). What FWS can tell us is how much BBW’s prefer different kinds of snags. What they can’t tell us is how fire suppression is going to affect snags or how many more fires or salvage logging,, because those all occur in the future and the future is unknown (!).

        What they are going to do is make a series of assumptions about the future. But their assumptions will be no more valid than anyone else’s, yours or mine. And you gotta pick a lane.. either there will be more fires and therefore more habitat..(because the salvage logging, as Larry points out, leaves snags) or not and then you gotta tell the other scientists that they are wrong and there won’t be more fires (and higher intensity seems to go with build up of fuels by fire suppression).

        Many of you know Richard Haynes.. and this reminds me of him asking why biologists don’t use sensitivity analysis on their assumptions. I think that this, as well as having an open public review of what they are (vis a vis projections of BBW habitat) would be very helpful in increasing our understanding.

        • If we’re thinking of the same SD study, I think it said beetles create moderate-value snag habitat. The one I’m thinking of from SD didn’t say BBWs “like beetle killed trees fine.”

          It’s the job of USFWS to make reasonable assumptions. Should we pretend we can’t even begin to guess what might happen in the future, not even a little bit?

          I don’t think it’s as simple as “if there are more fires in the future, there will be more snag habitat, so the bird isn’t in peril.” Hanson pointed out that the intensity of fire matters for BBW. A variety of other factors probably do, too. Perhaps higher intensity goes with fuels build-up, but does that guarantee enough high-intensity acres burned in conifers for BBW for the long run, given their acreage needs? I’m interested to see the USFWS assessment of that, regardless of whether it’s based on assumptions.

          Does salvage logging always leave the distribution and size of snags BBW needs? I don’t know the design criteria of all salvage logging sales.

          • John: I would rephrase that question to say: “Does salvage logging leave the distribution and size of snags that PEOPLE need?”, while understanding that a very tiny percentage of the population even knows what a black backed woodpecker is, and most of those people know there are lots of them everywhere. This is what Derek calls “gaming the system” and Larry is rightfully upset about. If a small fraction of the black backed woodpecker family wants snags in their local area, they should learn to fly. That’s what the hoot owls do. I listened to Hanson speak on this last December in Portland and I came away with the strong impression that he has an agenda and that the woodpecker is just a means to an end — the power to stop logging whenever and wherever he says. And to make a living doing it. Yes, I’m jaded with his type and yes, I think they need to be called out and tethered. They’re gamers, and they don’t care who else gets hurt in the process, just so they get their own way. In my opinion. And experience.

            • Hanson debunks himself with his first sentence!!! I think I thoroughly debunked the rest of his op-ed, as well, as no one has stepped up to defend his view, or attack mine. It is clear that he assumes an awful lot about what was there, and how it burned. Yes, roads into the fire are still closed, so he hasn’t been there, since the fire, and it is obvious that he opposes any Forest Service response to the fire, including planting trees. Bear clover is well known for dominating post-fire landscapes with its fire adaptations and flammability, choking out even manzanita, as well as tree species. Its roots are known to go for many feet into the ground, sucking out any available water. It is the main reason for using herbicides, in many areas of the mid-elevations, where the Rim Fire burned. Chaparral brush is another reason for giving plantations a headstart, then relying on the tree’s shade to slow the growth of that brush. I have already provided pictures, in the past, with stark contrast of private plantations versus unplanted burned Forest Service land. Search this site for the Power Fire, and you can go and see them, showing the severe contrast in how fire recovery works, or doesn’t, in this kind of forest.

              I remind you that I have known these lands since I was in 8th grade, and it is right in my backyard, about an hour away.

          • The study in the BH’s found that, “Nest success of the BBW in beetle killed forests was within range of nest success within post fire forests.” Not “Moderate value” habitat. The study is titled “Nest success of Black Backed Woodpeckers in forests with mountain pine beetle in the Black Hills.” A study done in 2004 found that BBW densities were 32 times higher in MPB killed forests VS. forest wide, and 25X higher in the Jasper burn Vs. forest wide.

            Look John, I know your job description as a lawyer is “to raise the shadow of doubt,” but it’s pretty obvious the BBW does fine in MPB killed forests…at least in the BH’s…and other studies have found BBW in MPB killed areas of the West. Even if it was only 75% or 50% as effective as burned areas…does that mean it’s 0% effective. Especially in light of the ten’s of millions of acres of recent MPB mortality throughout the West. For that matter….isn’t it so that “burned acreage” has gone up considerably in the last 20 years? The Northern Region has kept track of “burned acreage” for the last 50 years….here’s a link to that site: :http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5403648.pdf
            Can you deny, to yourself, that BBW habitat hasn’t increased significantly in the last 10 years?

            Now one can go on about the “ephemeral” nature of burns or MPB epidemics…but how does that explain why the bird managed to survive for 100 years of fire suppression. If it was gonna go extinct…wouldn’t it have done so already?

            You mentioned the other day that you thought this blog was about “Bridging the divide.” If you want to “bridge the divide,” then advocate cutting some trees. Now. How much more timber do you think the USFS should cut? Where and in what circumstances do you think the USFS should cut trees? Do you support litigation on WUI timber sales?…or do you confine your activities to the “home ignition zone”?
            What is do you believe in? Please be long on specific and short on poetic rhetoric. I have respect for people like the Montana Wilderness Association or the Idaho Conservation League. THEY are trying to bridge the divide with action not words. I grow weary of talking for talking’s sake.

            Please don’t mistake my “bluntness” for rudeness. I appreciate your interpretations of the legal intricacies of all this NEPA and ESA law. And I also appreciate the professional civility you bring to this blog. Blunt talk is a necessary part of my profession.

            As a bit of an aside…I see the “usual suspects” are litigating (I should say “objecting” prior to litigating) the Helena NF plan to salvage clearcut MPB killed trees in Helena Mont.’s Cheesman Reservoir municipal watershed. I find it ironic that the timber sale will log a strip adjacent to and around the Reservoir(besides the usual streamside management zone exclusion). It’s the exact same prescription that the Denver Water Board has done around Dillon Reservoir near Breckenridge. Isn’t it ironic….that for decades logging was excluded from even getting within site of a municipal watershed…and now they’re logging practically to the shoreline. In 20 years, there will be a nice “filter zone” of regenerated clearcut to mitigate any wildfire induced erosion. Now…wouldn’t it be great if the municipal watershed of the State capital burned while tied up in litigation (if I keep talking like that I will be a suspect! LOL). It’s only a matter of time before a municipal watershed of a “major city” burns up. Now that ought to ratchet things up a bit.

            • Of course, we do not need, and cannot have BBW’s on each and every acre. Additionally, they are not territorial, so they can nest close to other pairs and share the same habitat(s), including bug-killed trees. If pairs of birds need 300 acres, then the Yosemite portion of the Rim Fire should provide habitat for, at least, 166 pairs of birds, at a minimum, assuming they don’t overlap. Additionally, the American Fire on the Tahoe will pull in some pairs, as well (since they will fly long distances to find burned habitats).

              If salvage efforts do not occur, then it might not be worthwhile to replant trees in an area likely to re-burn, yet again. Brushy areas might have burned clean enough to replant, though. The main Tuolumne River canyon is far too rugged, rocky and steep to replant. Owl and goshawk PACs will have the largest and most desirable timber but, even though the “protected” nesting habitat near the Clavey River has been destroyed by high intensity fire, I doubt that salvage will occur there, due to litigation threats. It is an unfortunate reality that should be changed, IMHO.

              Also, be reminded that Cherry Lake, and Lake Eleanor (Lake Eleanor is inside Yosemite) are part of San Francisco’s water supply, and subject to the impacts of accelerated decomposed granite erosion. Salvage operations can get more twigs and branches on the ground, to catch a remarkable amount of sediment.

            • Hi Derek, I’ve been preoccupied elsewhere the last couple days, so apologies for not responding sooner. I might re-visit some of your questions this week if I have time.

              I was thinking of a recent study by Rota that found beetle kill to be moderate habitat, wildfire to be the most valuable for BBW on the Black Hills. I’ll see if I can track down the study you mentioned above.

              If beetle kill provides moderate value habitat for BBW, there will likely be some BBW in those snags at some point, I’d agree. Whether higher levels of beetle kill and fire in the past ten years (at least in some areas) is enough to keep the BBW from local extirpation down the road, particularly in isolated areas like the Black Hills (mostly surrounded by plains) – well, those are questions I hope the Fish and Wildlife Service thoroughly explores in its review of the listing petition.

              Maybe we have different ideas of “bridging the divide,” because I don’t think advocating for cutting trees is the only way to do that. I recognize the thorny issues that arise with questions about active forest management (or relative lack thereof) in fairly densely populated areas like the Black Hills, where there are communities within the forest boundary, dense stands in many places, and beetle activity. I don’t expect active management to cease and I accept it might produce intended results for certain values in the right circumstances. I also want agencies to follow laws and fully disclose trade-offs.

              You asked me to be long on specific and short on rhetoric but the hour is late, so I may have to get back at you on a couple of your questions. I don’t think there is an arbitrary amount of more timber USFS should cut across all the national forests. There are too many factors to consider, especially tonight. Absent more facts, I don’t know that I’ll be able to answer the WUI sale litigation question – what are the claims exactly, ESA? NEPA, NFMA? I think access to the courts makes our society stronger overall – government accountability and all. I’d say the home ignition zone is a place to start/emphasize and then assess outward into WUI, etc.

              Every citizen group has its own mission, culture, and primary tactics (all of which can evolve over time). The handful I’ve worked/volunteered with certainly do not walk in lock-step. I don’t know much about MWA besides what I’ve gleaned about their positions on the Tester bill on this blog occasionally. I’ll look up their website, and ICL’s too.

              Glad you appreciate my presence on this blog from time to time. I’ll try to keep a thick hide and not presume rudeness going forward, don’t worry.

        • Sharon

          If it is the same Richard Haynes (the second of two USFS Economists out of Portland), he and I were forestry undergrads together at Va. Tech. He is a sharp guy.

          I would contend that the ‘ologists’ did use sensitivity analysis on the original NSO plan but it lead to so much confusion that as the daddy of the NSO implied ‘they, out of desperation, or as a hail Mary pass, just went all in on habitat’. I have seen it referred to elsewhere in links from various discussion threads here on NCFP so it is not uncommon. The key is “having an open public review” by both friend and foe.

  2. “Massive clear-cutting now would inflict significant damage and negate the many ecological benefits that fire brings.” Nobody is proposing to clearcut 400,000 acres! In fact, no one is proposing ANY clearcuts, at all!! I would say that there is, maybe, less than 100,000 acres of timbered lands within the fire that would be considered for salvage, BEFORE establishing dedicated snag patches for the birds. Outside of the Park, there isn’t much land that would be suitable for the birds. Small trees dry out fast, making them unusable by the birds. Inside the Park, there are ample amounts of snags, with more mortality to occur as bark beetles become established in HUGE numbers that will, eventually, fly far outside of the fire perimeter. We’ve seen it before!!

    “Moreover, snag forest habitat is even rarer than old-growth forest, and is more threatened by commercial logging than any other forest type.” Wrong again!! There is NO lack of snags in the Sierra Nevada. He doesn’t say how many snags are needed for how many birds. Do they REALLY need 400 square miles of snags for such a tiny bird. Modern salvage projects set aside snags inside of cutting units, outside of cutting units, outside of salvage projects and in protected areas where logging is not allowed. AGAIN, NO LACK of snags on the landscape!!!!

    “Because of a dramatic loss of snag forest habitat from decades of fire suppression, post-fire clear-cutting and intensive forest “thinning” operations…” Where is his peer reviewed studies that cover the entire Sierra Nevada?? Of course, there isn’t any!!!

    “…may need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act to prevent extinction.” If previous logging and salvage practices didn’t kill off the bird, what makes people think that current practices will cause “extinction”?? Pure blather and ignorance of current realities!

    “Despite many dozens of scientific studies establishing that high-intensity fire patches create perhaps the best wildlife habitat in the forest…” Again, there is no lack of snag patches within Federal wildfires. He lumps in private land salvage practices in with the Feds. Why blast salvage logging when there isn’t even a plan envisioned??

    “… the timber industry, its allies in Congress and the U.S. Forest Service continue to promote aggressive post-fire logging.” Aggressive post-fire logging means getting in there before the wood decays considerably. I fully expect Hanson to file suit, yet again, against reasonable salvage projects.

    “Forest fires currently burn mostly at low and moderate intensity, and the Rim fire is no exception, with only 30% of the conifer forest experiencing high-intensity fire on federal lands.” The Rim Fire IS an exception, as most of what burned is steep, brushy canyons and 40 year old, or less, post-fire plantations. The highest intensities were seen in “protected” old growth wildlife zones. Additionally, high intensities were seen in the thick brushfields that were allowed to “recover on their own”, in between the salvaged and replanted cutting units. This fact also led to higher mortality in the plantations.

    “And even in high-intensity fire areas within forests, the largest conifers often survive and help regenerate new trees.” “Survive” is a relative term. Just because a tree has green needles, that doesn’t mean it is “alive”. If the cambium at ground level is cooked (remember, this is in high intensity areas, where no thinning or fire suppression has occurred), the tree is, basically, “brain dead”. Yes, even partially cooked cambium weakens the trees enough to allow bark beetles come in and successfully kill them, producing even more bark beetles, which overwhelm even unburned green trees. We’ve seen that over and over again, in many other forests.

    “But according to numerous scientific studies, the highest wildlife abundance and species richness are often found in the spots that burned the hottest…” He conveniently doesn’t mention that the areas of the highest burn intensities were within owl and goshawk PACs. Those birds will be gone from this landscape for a VERY….. LONG…. TIME!!!! Again, modern salvage projects do leave all sorts of snag patches where those organisms can live.

    “Can we, as a society, collectively take a breath and consider the new ecological science, or will we once again let fear, ignorance and greedy opportunism dictate forest management?” Nowhere does he mention catastrophic re-burn, even within the hundreds of square miles that were catastrophically re-burned. Can you say “ironic”??? Sure ya can!!!

    My questions are not for Matt or Hanson but, are for our readers, to help them see the bigger picture beyond the slanted views of a “serial litigator” and his “enablers”.

  3. I would also encourage the Forest Service to include the ENTIRE burned area, including inside the Park, in its analysis. If they don’t, I expect that the courts won’t accept the fact that HUGE areas in the Park are providing MORE than ample acres of suitable habitat for snag-dependent organisms. It truly is an important point that shouldn’t be squandered. I would also encourage the Forest Service to take advantage of the possible lower court decision, in favor of the Forest Service, to accelerate the felling of salvage trees before the Ninth Circuit Court becomes involved. Once everything is on the ground, it becomes easier to wrangle a “moot” decision from the courts. I don’t see any problem with this strategy, at all, following the law, as deemed by the lower court.

    • Adding to this strategy, during the lower court proceedings, I would think that an ultra-thorough explanation, covering all the plans and issues, should take weeks to fully cover and explain to the court why the project should proceed. Think of it as a kind of “filibuster” in the lower court, to give timber fallers more time to complete their work. Again, this would be legal and desirable for the Forest Service.

      • Larry, what Forest Service project are you referring to? Did I miss a reference to a particular project in the op-ed or a previous comment? Or did you mean court review of a future U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision on the petition to list the Oregon/California population of the black-backed woodpecker under the ESA? Fish and Wildlife Service will look at habitat and threats on all land ownerships, not just national forest, but private lands, national parks, etc., as well.

        • I am referring to the future salvage efforts inside the Rim Fire, as I am not counting on HR 1526 to pass, exempting it from litigation. It is merely my strategy for getting a lot of work done, before the Ninth Circuit Court can shut it down. Some might call it “dirty tricks” but, as long as it is legal, under the lower court’s potential decision, it doesn’t matter. When Chad Hanson waits for his preferred Judges, that can also be considered “dirty tricks”, as well. I’m hoping that maybe a decision-maker will see my idea, and use it to get as much salvaged, before the Ninth Circuit Court comes into play, maybe even making the appeal “moot”, when all the snags have already been cut, but still not sent to the mill. On a previous salvage project I worked on, Hanson lost in the lower court, but won on appeal, getting a “blank check” from the court to get what he wanted, including leaving hazard trees along roads, and holding already-felled trees as “hostages”. Learning from that experience, this is a strategy to get better results, from my point of view. I’m sure that the Feds have not thought of this idea.

          The BBW will have at least 50,000 perfectly-suitable acres of the nearly 80,000 acres burned within the Rim Fire, all to themselves, in Yosemite National Park. Isn’t that enough for the supposedly few pairs of birds in this part of California?? All those trees will be useless for BBW’s in about 6-8 years. After that, they will have to find a new burned area. Catastrophic re-burns in Yosemite have occurred 20 to 40 years after each old growth wildfire.

  4. Ahh…the “ecosystem can do no harm to itself” argument. If it’s old growth…beautiful, if it burns….beautifull, if it’s clear running water….beautiful, if it’s post burn mass wasting and sediment….beautiful. How can you lose the argument, when you phrase the argument as a win-win every result is positive. Of course…this fire wasn’t “natural”…as in “historically natural” fire regime.

    My only regret is that Hetch-Hetchy wasn’t surrounded by dense forests instead of granite. It would have been best if the beautiful people in San Fran would have been drinking ash flavored water and paying millions for decades to dredge sediment from their reservoir. Much like Denver has after the Hayman fire. Now that would have separated the “natural ecosystem” from the “human ecosystem” nicely.

    As for the black backed woodpecker…yes, lets hope the USFWS discovers that there is more black backed woodpecker now than at any time in the last 100 years. But I’m sure it’ll be based on the “pure science” of “we have to error on the side of caution” to manage everything for the single species tyranny. The BBW petition has nothing to do with the BBW…it has everything to do with “gaming” enviro laws to implement some fanatic ideological fantasy and stop the “non-existent” logging on federal lands. Someone should hack into the radical enviros e-mail and expose the true reason…much like the pathetic poor victims of climategate.

  5. Derek: I agree with your observation this has nothing to do with black-backed woodpeckers — after all, a very common and widespread species — and everything to do with “gaming” the system to achieve other objectives. Sharon’s comments regarding Hanson’s latest irrational rant pretty much exposes where he — and others like him — are actually coming from. The nation already has enough black backed woodpeckers, hoot owls, and murrelets and all of this gaming has caused nothing but misery for way too many families in exchange for benefits to a very few self-selected people. It’s been past time to revisit the ESA since the last century. Things have gotten too far out of hand for far too long.

      • The very first sentence in his piece is, indeed, “irrational”.

        “Timber interests’ push for massive clear-cutting of trees burned in the Rim fire would inflict damage and negate the many ecological benefits that fire brings.”

        Remember, that clearcutting in the Sierra Nevada National Forests has been banned since 1993!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AGAIN, no one is proposing ANY clearcuts, either in Yosemite National Park, or in the Stanislaus National Forest. Either Hanson is lying or he is ignorant. YOU CHOOSE!!!!

        • Bob, You wrote the words “Hanson’s latest irrational rant” above, did you not? I’m simply pointing your words out in the context of comments you made on this site just an hour ago about trying to be more civil, less snarky, etc.

    • There are very few lessons from Yellowstone that apply to the Rim Fire. VERY few lodgepoles were burned in the Rim Fire, if at all, and the “serotinous cone defense” just doesn’t work, unless you want a forest full of intensely-flammable knobcone pines. You don’t have to go far, in Yosemite, to see the results of catastrophic wildfires in Yosemite. What we WILL see is a domination of bear clover and brush, already growing back, that will prevent conifers from returning to the landscape. I have posted pictures of the Meadow Fire, that re-burned within the A-Rock Fire of 1989. It is still a moonscape, with few trees in large areas. Organic matter in the soils were vaporized and seed sources for the native ponderosa pines are widely scattered. I even saw a dead knobcone tree near Foresta that produced no offspring. Most of the Rim Fire is re-burn, and that makes it WAY different than Yellowstone. I’m sure we’ll continuously see parallels to Yellowstone pushed, in the coming months and years but, they cannot be taken seriously.

      • Just to point out… Lodgepole pine is not serotinous everywhere in the west. It can be not serotinous, partially serotinous (within a tree or different trees in a stand) or serotinous. We always thought it depended on historic fire frequency as where lodgepole was a cold soil climax species they didn’t seem as frequent. There is probably a study somewhere. My point is that it can’t be assumed.

  6. Be sure to read the comments at the end of this article: http://discussions.latimes.com/20/lanews/la-me-salvage-20131007/10

    Here’s one example: “Let nature just take its course. We’ve seen that man-made efforts to control these processes only result in worse fires, or ecological destruction. In this case, the best course is to do nothing.”

    Here’s one that seems just a bit out of kilter: “Why is a park being “salvage logged” anyway? That’s public charcoal; pike off.”

    What IS clear is that some of the vocal public continues to be wrong about forestry issues. More education is clearly needed but, it won’t be coming from the LA Times!

    • So, in the context of 13 million people living in the greater LA area these two anonymous comments prove….what exactly? Hell, you or someone else could have written these comments just to try and prove a point Larry.

      Besides, if part of forestry is the social aspect, how can anyone’s opinion about their public land forests be “wrong” anyway? And while Larry only posted the two anonymous comments that proved his point, he could’ve chosen to share these comments with us, also posted at the same article:

      Apollo’slair at 7:26 PM October 6, 2013
      Let the environmentalists have 100% of it all….they can now reap what they have sewn over the last 30 years…Personally I hope it turns into a 100 Billion dollar mess..I hate these environmentalist wack jobs…

      outdoor guy at 7:19 PM October 6, 2013
      The anti management, preservation only lobby have had their way for decades and the results are in. IT DOESN’T WORK.

      But, again, I would ask, “What do these comments prove?” And should we honestly think these two comments prove something, anything about the sentiments of 13 million people living in the LA area?

      For fun, why don’t we post more anonymous, on-line comments here about the federal government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act (ie Obamacare)? I’m sure such comments would prove something….but, again, what exactly remains unclear.

      • EVERY Forest Service related story in the LA Times has an anti-management side to it. Every article also has its partisan comments against the Forest Service. Personally, I can hardly wait to see the paper sold to a publisher that offers more objective reporting. Again, I’m against the extremes coming from both sides, and to some people, that makes me more believable, and hence, more dangerous to partisan politics, from both sides. As a matter of fact, I recently “called out” the Republican claim that there is a billion board feet of salvage timber in the Rim Fire.

        • People use plenty of wood in LA.. interesting how the LA Times portrays this as “wood shouldn’t come from around here, ’cause that’s bad.” I wonder if they would print a story that talked about where their wood does come from?

  7. Larry

    Unfortunately, even if it does come, it probably won’t be allowed to come from foresters or anyone else that knows anything about integrating sound forest management with the rest of the ecosystem based on established science.

  8. Hanson says that only 30% of rim fire burned at high intensity which sounds fine to me if correct. Not so bad, most of it has plenty of live trees left. But is this number correct? It seems way to early to make that number. They can immediately determine “severity” which in this case would be soil scorch which is easy to see from the air. But intensity or mortality is harder to assess so soon after the fire. In Biscuit only 15% was in high severity for soil impacts but it was 45% for high mortality.

    Davis was 5% high severity for soil but 75% for high mortality.

    I have caught hanson out before when he mixed up the terms for Biscuit, and got quoted in the NYT.

    Problem is those bogus numbers kept being repeated with people chortling that only 15% was in high mortality. It was amazing how this total BS kept getting passed around by many. I tried correcting it with no success. People will believe what they want.

    “The gentle giant” they called biscuit. Well, I spent weeks in there and I think it sucked..

    • Somehow, he doesn’t mention that most of the lower intensity spots didn’t have heavy fuels. Indeed, MOST of the Rim Fire, outside of the Park, didn’t burn in mature forests. However, it was the “protected” old growth that burned at the highest of intensities. In another post, I showed pre-fire Google Maps pics of the old growth and the intensity map confirms that it burned at high intensity. Sure, inside the Park, the fire’s intensity was moderated by higher elevation and solid granite. However, I fully expect that bark beetles will finish off the fire’s survivors, just like in the A-Rock/Meadow Fire example, as well as the Biscuit. I do know there are pictures out there that show ample additional snags that died after harvesting was complete. I keep looking for one I saw that was taken from 8 Dollar Road, looking into a cutting unit (which I worked in) along the fire’s edge, showing an incredible amount of “new” snags. Remember, only completely dead trees were harvested outside of the roadside hazard tree zones, in the Biscuit.

      In questioning Hanson’s claims, I am seeing big holes in his “stories”. We NEED to keep challenging his claims and show the scientific world how they are not standing up to standards of scientific realities. His Op-Ed is a PERFECT example of this.

      • In questioning Larry’s claims, I am seeing big holes in his “stories”. We NEED to keep challenging his claims and show the scientific world how they are not standing up to standards of scientific realities. His comments are a PERFECT example of this.

        • Matthew: Larry is not suing the USFS and getting into the NY Times as an expert. Hanson’s influences are far more profound — most of us would think in a negative way. Let’s keep some perspective here. It is Hanson’s claims and stories that are have negative economic and ecological effects on local families, communities, and (most) industries.

          • Bob: Which of Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories are incorrect?

            And which of Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories are, as you claim, having a “negative economic and ecological effects on local families, communities, and (most) industries?”

            Also, what do you mean by “most industries?” Here’s a list of the Top 10 Fastest-Growing US Industries. I struggle to figure out how Hanson’s “claims and stories” negatively impact these industries.

            Here are the Top 50 US Industries with the Largest Employment, as of 2010.

            You also make a claim that you seem to know what “most of us” think. How did you come up with that ability and conduct your research? And by that statement do you mean all the people in America? In California? On this blog? In your social network?

            • Thanks, Matthew: We’ve been through this too many times. I’m not going to make a list of Hanson’s claims for you — they’ve been covered many times on this blog, whether you agree with the comments or not. His legal actions are well known to shut down forest management actions where local people are employed and local industries are affected. Please note the word “local” in my comment. Your Top 50 link supports what I am alluding to. Your Fastest Growing hardly applies and none seem to fit the Top 50 (admittedly, I spent very little time reading these lists). I’m sure people will want to start selling shoes online after considering these possibilities. As Larry, would say: *smirk*

              Finally, I think “most of us” prefer steady employment for ourselves and our neighbors over food stamps. Use any demographic you want. We can’t all be successful online shoe salesmen.

            • Ummmm, why not start with this Op-Ed, and my responses to most of his claims?!?!?!? Why not talk about his kneejerk lawsuits against all salvage projects, where he claims more analysis is needed, regarding the BBW, despite him not having any authority as a wildlife person?? Why not talk about his idea that dead trees along roads are “habitat”, and not hazards??? What about his legal end run around the whole of the Quincy Library Group collaboration?? What about his desire to eliminate ALL timber sales, regardless of public, or private land ownerships???

              There’s plenty there, to start with, eh?

              • Larry, Your comments/questions and (overly) emotional reactions don’t at all help us understand which of Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories you believe are incorrect. Sorry, Larry, but I have a hard time reading between your *smirks*….ALL CAPS….and “?!?!?!?!?!?”

                  • As I already stated Larry, your comments/questions and (overly) emotional reactions don’t at all help us understand which of Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories you believe are incorrect. Sorry, Larry, but I have a hard time reading between your *smirks*….ALL CAPS….and “?!?!?!?!?!?”

                    So, Larry, can you please plainly state here which of Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories you believe are incorrect? And can you please provide us with evidence that supports your claims and stories that Dr. Hanson’s claims and stories are incorrect? Thank you.

                    • “Massive clear-cutting now would inflict significant damage and negate the many ecological benefits that fire brings.” Nobody is proposing to clearcut 400,000 acres! In fact, no one is proposing ANY clearcuts, at all!! I would say that there is, maybe, less than 100,000 acres of timbered lands within the fire that would be considered for salvage, BEFORE establishing dedicated snag patches for the birds. Outside of the Park, there isn’t much land that would be suitable for the birds. Small trees dry out fast, making them unusable by the birds. Inside the Park, there are ample amounts of snags, with more mortality to occur as bark beetles become established in HUGE numbers that will, eventually, fly far outside of the fire perimeter. We’ve seen it before!!

                      “Moreover, snag forest habitat is even rarer than old-growth forest, and is more threatened by commercial logging than any other forest type.” Wrong again!! There is NO lack of snags in the Sierra Nevada. He doesn’t say how many snags are needed for how many birds. Do they REALLY need 400 square miles of snags for such a tiny bird. Modern salvage projects set aside snags inside of cutting units, outside of cutting units, outside of salvage projects and in protected areas where logging is not allowed. AGAIN, NO LACK of snags on the landscape!!!!

                      “Because of a dramatic loss of snag forest habitat from decades of fire suppression, post-fire clear-cutting and intensive forest “thinning” operations…” Where is his peer reviewed studies that cover the entire Sierra Nevada?? Of course, there isn’t any!!!

                      “…may need to be listed under the Endangered Species Act to prevent extinction.” If previous logging and salvage practices didn’t kill off the bird, what makes people think that current practices will cause “extinction”?? Pure blather and ignorance of current realities!

                      “Despite many dozens of scientific studies establishing that high-intensity fire patches create perhaps the best wildlife habitat in the forest…” Again, there is no lack of snag patches within Federal wildfires. He lumps in private land salvage practices in with the Feds. Why blast salvage logging when there isn’t even a plan envisioned??

                      “… the timber industry, its allies in Congress and the U.S. Forest Service continue to promote aggressive post-fire logging.” Aggressive post-fire logging means getting in there before the wood decays considerably. I fully expect Hanson to file suit, yet again, against reasonable salvage projects.

                      “Forest fires currently burn mostly at low and moderate intensity, and the Rim fire is no exception, with only 30% of the conifer forest experiencing high-intensity fire on federal lands.” The Rim Fire IS an exception, as most of what burned is steep, brushy canyons and 40 year old, or less, post-fire plantations. The highest intensities were seen in “protected” old growth wildlife zones. Additionally, high intensities were seen in the thick brushfields that were allowed to “recover on their own”, in between the salvaged and replanted cutting units. This fact also led to higher mortality in the plantations.

                      “And even in high-intensity fire areas within forests, the largest conifers often survive and help regenerate new trees.” “Survive” is a relative term. Just because a tree has green needles, that doesn’t mean it is “alive”. If the cambium at ground level is cooked (remember, this is in high intensity areas, where no thinning or fire suppression has occurred), the tree is, basically, “brain dead”. Yes, even partially cooked cambium weakens the trees enough to allow bark beetles come in and successfully kill them, producing even more bark beetles, which overwhelm even unburned green trees. We’ve seen that over and over again, in many other forests.

                      “But according to numerous scientific studies, the highest wildlife abundance and species richness are often found in the spots that burned the hottest…” He conveniently doesn’t mention that the areas of the highest burn intensities were within owl and goshawk PACs. Those birds will be gone from this landscape for a VERY….. LONG…. TIME!!!! Again, modern salvage projects do leave all sorts of snag patches where those organisms can live.

                      “Can we, as a society, collectively take a breath and consider the new ecological science, or will we once again let fear, ignorance and greedy opportunism dictate forest management?” Nowhere does he mention catastrophic re-burn, even within the hundreds of square miles that were catastrophically re-burned. Can you say “ironic”??? Sure ya can!!!

                      My questions are not for Matt or Hanson but, are for our readers, to help them see the bigger picture beyond the slanted views of a “serial litigator” and his “enablers”.

                      (Just in case you couldn’t find it again)

                    • Here are two suggestions Larry:

                      1) Why don’t you take what you have just written here and submit it to the LA Times for consideration to be run as an oped? I don’t know about the LA Times, but most every editorial page editor I’ve ever worked with loves to do a point/counter-point. Let us know what the editors say.

                      2) Why don’t you take what you have just written here and send it directly to Dr. Hanson? His contact info is clearly listed at the bottom of his LA Times oped.

            • I think since we are talking about forests in would be the forest industry we are talking about.
              I know here in Oregon they are always trying to downplay the importance of the timber industry.
              I think if you included everything that feeds into the timber industry, up stream, and down stream it would be the biggest economic driver in the state.
              But I think it is especially the rural communities of the forested regions that have been devastated by our current federal forests management. These types of “claim and stories” read by our urban citizens makes it seem like everything is ok, that these fires are good, and tree harvesting is bad. When in fact they are not, unless you like your trees dead and your communities broke.
              The Biscuit fire is a perfect example.
              First of all the fire should of never happen but was allowed to explode because of the forests service policies of letting it burn for 3 weeks before doing anything. Resulting in a lost of millions of old growth trees and hundred of thousands of acres of old growth habitat.
              Secondly we spent 200 millions dollars fighting it, and burning up one of most wild and diverse forests in North America. Think how far 200 million could of gone in our local schools.
              Thirdly if we would have any common sense this forest could of supplied jobs for Southwestern Oregon and wood products for our Nation forever and still remained intact.
              So many people I talk with who do not live near this fire think everything is fine, that it only burned some of the understory or those horrible “fiber plantations”, when in reality this fire incinerated old growth forests for months. This is also true of all of the fires I have witnessed here in Oregon.
              So I think people like Dr. Hanson do our forests and the people who live close to these forests great harm by promoting a philosophy that fires are good and tree harvesting is bad.
              By the way, Matthew, I enjoy your comments, I think the exchange of different viewpoints is important.

              • where do you get your info on biscuit. If I recall correctly, there were three ignition points, They got one out right away, another they had to back off on since it was full of fuel from the 88 silver fire and they could not deal with it with a single crew running out of fuel for the saws.
                They had to pull back due to hazard even though it was right below the road,

                The only one they “let go” was way down on baldface creek, which I an understand why they let go. They had fires all over the region and had to prioritize so the baldface one is remote terrain that was but smoldering calmly, was set aside. A mistake yes but understandable.

                The GAO did a full investigation of this charge that they just let it burn and it was dismissed.

                And as for providing wood, little of Biscuit was commercial timberland, most is ultramafic soils with poor production.

    • Hello Greg:

      I just wrote Dr. Hanson and shared your comment with him. Here is his response:

      The 30% high-intensity fire figure is for conifer forest (vegetation mortality, not BAER soil severity)–much of the Rim fire was in foothill chaparral, below the conifer belt.

      And for what ever it’s worth, here’s what Dr. Hanson wrote in his oped:

      “Forest fires currently burn mostly at low and moderate intensity, and the Rim fire is no exception, with only 30% of the conifer forest experiencing high-intensity fire on federal lands.”

      Let me also just repeat that Dr. Hanson’s contact information (website) is clearly listed at the bottom of his LA Times oped. If people have specific questions about what Dr. Hanson has written, or some of the research he’s conducted, why not just contact him and ask him directly? Thanks.

      • Heh heh….. Yet another wrong comment by Hanson!! He STILL doesn’t mention re-burn, confusing that for “foothill chaparral”. Fifty years ago, the areas outside of the river canyon were mature forests. The foothill zone goes from 500 feet to 2500 feet in elevation. Very little of the fire burned below 3000 feet. I live at 3500 feet and there is forest all around, with no foothills species here. The canyon bottom is the lowest elevation in the Rim Fire, going all the way up to 8000 feet, in the park. He also doesn’t mention the brush patches that were allowed to “recover on their own”, between the pine plantations installed after the previous wildfires. Those brush patches show up as moderate fire intensity, due to the thick brush being up to 8 feet tall.

        Yes, the Rim Fire IS, indeed, an exception, due to it being mostly a re-burn, and a lack of heavy fuels.

      • thanks for that. I am surprised that they have the numbers so soon although they will likely change in coming months as their data comes in.

        But arguing over Hanson diverts responsible people from a clear consideration of the actual science. We owe the world so much more.

        I wonder what Franklin would have to say about Hanson’s piece, Although not liked by some on this blog he is hardly the lightening rod that Hansen has turned out. But Franklin has said much the same which came as a surprise to me, and in the company of other respected ecologists.

        Unsalvaged, naturally regenerated post fire lands are rare in parts of the NW. Although heck, we sure have too much of them in the Siskiyou.

        But I have no idea what franklin might think of reburn impacts on the biologically productive snag forests.

        And yes, Larry should write a comment for LA times although we can be sure that with this issue hitting CA in the face, he will have lots of opportunity to publish it elsewhere soon enough.

        Hanson might make the case for a lack of post fire habitat in CA but we got plenty enough in Oregon.

        (BTW, since 2000 federal salvage in the NW has been minimal, only 5000 acres out of the 500,000 burned on Biscuit. Other recent FS fires also saw little salvage in the NW. And those Biscuit units hardly qualified as the kind of heavy salvage seen in earlier years, I might guess that half of the volume was left out there in buffers, down wood and wildlife snags on many units, I offer that many of those Biscuit salvage units will still qualify as rich post fire habitat if only due to the huge buffers)

        • The trend in modern California salvage projects (required by new criteria) is to set aside large chunks of wildfires especially for the BBW. My last project only salvaged 55% of the entire acreage of the fire. Additionally, there were big areas that weren’t included in any cutting unit. Also, snag clumps were left within cutting units, and there were even more snags in the stream buffers, especially as the salvage efforts continued. The bark beetles bloomed, killing significant amounts of survivors. And then, finally, successful litigation “saved” more snags, on the remainder of the project that wasn’t cut.

          The Station Fire wasn’t salvaged, and the Moonlight Fire was successfully litigated, including hazard trees (thanks to Hanson!). Not one salvage project that I worked on didn’t leave wildlife snags. Amounts varied over the years. On the 1992 Cleveland Fire, on the Eldorado, the largest, tallest and straightest snags were left for wildlife. On the 1992 Lone Pine Fire, on the Fremont-Winema, we left more crooked and “soft” snags. (I do have “before and after” pics of that fire, as well.) Certainly, the Biscuit is quite “snag rich”, due to harvesting only completely dead trees. The McNally Fire had very large areas that weren’t in any salvage project.

          Hanson will try and litigate each and every salvage project, using the BBW as his poster child. He seems to have connections in the Ninth Circuit Court, and uses the same “more analysis is needed” strategy to stop the logging. That is why we need to accelerate the NEPA work, so the fallers can get to work, to get as many trees on the ground, as possible, in the small window of time before the appeal court gets involved. He also attacks the salvage marking guidelines but, not so successfully, as the 2004 rules update was required by a previous court decision. Ironically, the new guidelines were quite conservative, and trees that did not meet them (on my last salvage project) in late spring, easily met them by mid-summer.

          Regarding the Rim Fire, I would use the acreage in the Park to satisfy the need for snags, as well as having clumps set aside within the project boundaries. I would bet that people like Hanson would fight the use of National Park snags to be used as mitigation for a Forest Service salvage project. Trees are trees, IMHO.

  9. and ha ha ha. I really can see a salvage program that would have little negative impact but they will have to get in there fast to get the small stems which will not happen.

    I have read carefully and obsessively all the anti salvage lit, some of which was shaky enough that it should have been withdrawn from publication such as one in Bioscience which miscited the details about soil impacts in several studies. I do soils work and once somebody miscites something, they have lost me. I saw too much of this.

    But the Beschta pubs were solid and reliable although some may disagree. And Beschta is a friend of mine who listened carefully when I explained what actually happened on Biscuit which was not so bad at all.

    As Larry says, salvage in Rim fire will surely not be huge clearcuts, if done like parts of Biscuit, i can;t imagine that it will be such a bad thing if enough snags are left, and as larry has pointed out, there will be plenty enough for the BBW. Ground impacts can be minimized in most places but not economically. Old studies of salvage impacts on plants and soils are from areas that saw heavy ground impacts that are not standard BMPs now for the feds. I have probably seen more salvage units than anyone on the planet and things have much improved on FS lands since the 90s.

    But why do it? What is the point? The best salvage uses copters which are insanely expensive.

    I recall from the EIS that about 75% of the purported economic benefits of Biscuit salvage were from the purchase of helicopter fuel.

    I can see the point that some areas might need fuels treatments to forestall reburns but that is expensive and few areas will get that.

    So what are the benefits of salvage? Not much. Why even bother? What kind of prices will the purchasers offer? The FS spent more money on Biscuit salvage than they got back in sales, a huge EIS at a high cost. So why do it when the vast amount of land in Rim fire will see no purported benefits of salvage. ( benefits in dispute of course.)

    Roadside hazard logging can be done responsibly and it will be necessary in places.

    • Also, IMHO, the true success of salvage project should be the utilization of the smallest merchantable trees. Since they are the ones that go bad first, efforts to get in there quick should be emphasized and touted as “Best Available Science”. A big part of the purpose and need for salvage projects is to reduce fuels, especially those “flashy” ones, that can lead to re-burns.

      Again, Hanson also successfully target roadside hazard tree projects. On both the Biscuit and Moonlight Fires, hazard tree projects were excluded from the larger salvage sales. On the Biscuit, that strategy worked well, completing work before other projects started. On the Moonlight Fire, Hanson stopped the hazard tree project, as well as the bigger salvage project. It remains unsalvaged.

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