Wildfire: Study questions U.S. policy of forest ‘restoration’

Please consider this article from E&E a companion to this February 10th post on this blog. – mk

WILDFIRE: Study questions U.S. policy of forest ‘restoration’
By Phil Taylor, E&E reporter, 2/14/14

Western forests today experience fewer high-severity wildfires than they did more than a century ago, depriving some fire-dependent species and stifling biodiversity, according to a new study.

The study challenges conventional wisdom held by politicians and the Forest Service that the West is experiencing an unnatural burst in uncharacteristic wildfires as a result of a century of wildfire suppression.

In fact, some Western forests are experiencing a “deficit” in high-intensity blazes and in some cases should be encouraged to burn, said the study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE.

It questioned the government’s policy of mechanically thinning, or “restoring,” backcountry areas to ensure fires stay low to the ground and create “park-like” conditions. Thinning to reduce high-severity wildfire can reduce habitat for the imperiled black-backed woodpecker, often requires new roads and can introduce invasive species into the forest, the study authors said.

It’s bound to spark some controversy considering high-severity wildfires threaten lives and property and drain billions of dollars in taxpayer money each year. Moreover, aggressive forest thinning and restoration policies are politically popular because they create rural jobs and seek to mitigate wildfire threats to communities.

“Given societal aversion to wildfires, the threat to human assets from wildfires, and anticipated effects of climate change on future wildfires, many will question the wisdom of incorporating historical mixed-severity fire into management goals,” the study said. “However, a major challenge lies with the transfer of information needed to move the public and decision-makers from the current perspective that the effects of contemporary mixed-severity fire events are unnatural, harmful, inappropriate and more extensive due to fire exclusion — to embrace a different paradigm.”

The study was funded by Environment Now, a nonprofit foundation in California whose goals include “preserving and restoring coastal, freshwater and forest ecosystems.”

It was independently conducted by 11 scientists from several Western universities, the Canadian Forest Service, the Earth Island Institute and Geos Institute.

The study used U.S. Forest Service data and other published sources to explore the historical prevalence of “mixed-severity fire regimes” in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests in western North America and to try to determine whether mixed-severity fire patterns in those forests had changed as a result of the past century of fire suppression.

On the latter question, it concluded that the past century of fire suppression has not “greatly increased the prevalence of severe fire,” even though fuel levels in Western forests are believed to be much higher.

Since 1930, the rate of young forest establishment fell by a factor of four in the Sierra Nevada and Southwest, by a factor of three in the Klamath, and by half in the eastern Cascades and central and northern Rockies, it said.

The study recommends the government focus its fire mitigation work adjacent to homes in the wildland-urban interface instead of in the backcountry, where managed wildland fires could promote ecological benefits.

“The need for forest ‘restoration’ designed to reduce variation in fire behavior may be much less extensive than implied by many current forest management plans or promoted by recent legislation,” the study said. “Incorporating mixed-severity fire into management goals, and adapting human communities to fire by focusing fire risk reduction activities adjacent to homes, may help maintain characteristic biodiversity, expand opportunities to manage fire for ecological benefits, reduce management costs, and protect human communities.”

But other scientists and policymakers have argued that the societal benefits of taming mega-fires often trump whatever ecological benefits they may produce. In addition, climate change is expected to intensify droughts that create dangerously dry fuel conditions. Fire seasons are more than two months longer than in the 1970s, the Forest Service has said. (Editor’s note: using 1970s as the starting point is disingenuous–the 1950s-1980s were cooler and moister)

A study commissioned by the Interior Department and led by Northern Arizona University last spring found that although hazardous fuels treatments near communities can reduce wildfire risks to homes and people, backcountry fuels treatments are important to prevent mega-fires that can scorch watersheds and drain federal wildfire budgets (E&ENews PM, May 28, 2013).

While fire in the backcountry can be beneficial if it stays low to the ground, landscape-scale “crown” fires can damage watersheds, tarnish viewsheds and threaten communities, NAU’s Diane Vosick, one of the study authors, said last spring.

“In order to get ahead of the cost of large and severe fire, more treatments will be needed outside the wildland-urban interface,” Vosick told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June.

The Forest Service and Interior Department also face political pressure to restore backcountry areas.

In December 2011, Congress inserted language in its appropriations report ordering both agencies to halt policies that direct most hazardous fuels funding to the wildland-urban interface, spending it instead on the “highest priority projects in the highest priority areas.”

For now, “restoration” across the National Forest System remains popular policy in Congress and in Western states.

According to the Forest Service, the states of Florida, Georgia, Utah, California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado have all experienced their largest or most destructive wildfire in just the last several years. Wildfires burn twice as many acres annually compared with the 1970s, and the number of wildfires annually that cover more than 10,000 acres has increased sevenfold.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week told Congress there are nearly two dozen landscape-scale collaborative forest restoration projects underway that seek to “re-establish natural fire regimes and reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire.”

“Our findings are sure to be controversial as each year federal agencies spend billions of dollars in fuel reduction costs in the backcountry based on the assumption that we have more high-severity fire now than we did historically,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute, one of the study’s authors. “Fuel treatments are best targeted immediately adjacent to where people live, given that the increasing costs of suppressing fires is not ecologically justifiable and may, in fact, produce artificially manipulated landscapes that need more fire to remain healthy and productive.”

31 Comments

  1. Matthew, that last statement is not accurate. That’s what I call “sleight of science” in which folks make inaccurate statements about policies then argue that science is the reason for it and they know more about science.

    In my opinion, the Chief would help if he said ” we are going to use information from the past to manage forests to be more resilient to climate change and enable use to manage wildfires to protect communities.”
    Still
    “Our findings are sure to be controversial as each year federal agencies spend billions of dollars in fuel reduction costs in the backcountry based on the assumption that we have more high-severity fire now than we did historically”
    For one thing, I don’t think anyone knows how much federal agencies spend on fuel reduction costs in the “backcountry”.
    The second thing is that Finney and others have examined strategic placement of landscape scale fuel reduction treatments that may well be in the backcountry but contribute to suppression and community protection.
    Third, as I keep saying, under climate change the past is not prologue so, and there is the natural fallacy as we’ve discussed.
    Also, as I’ve said before I wish the Chief were more nuanced about using the “restoration” concept in their discussions (I argued that even when I was in the FS), but without the People’s Database we don’t know:
    1) how much fuels treatment there is in the “backcountry” (and I bet given our discussion of Colt Summit, we don’t agree on what the “backcountry” is.)
    2) whether these projects are SPLATs or just plain “restoration.”
    3) In the SW, restoration just happens to reduce fuels and remove small trees that may stress large trees (that we were just arguing were “good” in our Oregon discussion), so it happens that resilience, fuels reduction and “restoration” may be fundamentally the same thing.

      • Hello Sharon and others:

        You may like to know that I took the step of directly contacting Dr. DellaSala regarding the quote: “Our findings are sure to be controversial as each year federal agencies spend billions of dollars in fuel reduction costs in the backcountry based on the assumption that we have more high-severity fire now than we did historically.”

        Dr. DellaSala wrote back and confirmed that it should have been “wildfire suppression costs” not “fuel reduction costs.”

        Therefore, I’m not sure that your allegation of “sleight of science” applies in this case. Thanks.

  2. “….imperiled black backed woodpecker.” Please do show us a map of exactly where those forests are that if not burned, “imperil” the black backed woodpecker. The biology I have read says BBWs use “old growth” forests with a constant supply of dead or rotting trees in which to nest and forage in the interims between fire events. And then the other question would be is there a size of fire that would lead to the BBW not being “imperiled?” And if so, how many fires of size does it take to remove all trees of all ages, thus providing zero habitat for BBWs?

    I look at the maps of BBW habitat across North America and they show that maybe as much as 90% of it is in Canada, and the Sierra Nevadas are almost vestigial, will ‘o the wisp habitat, on the far southern reaches of its range, constrained by geography and plate tectonics. The Black Hills in S.Dak are isolated by prairie on all sides. And the east side of the Cascades are also a very small segment, and not without many recent large acreage fires, stand removal fires, in 300 year old and older forests.

    I remember elk hunting north of Burns, Oregon, in the Malheur NF, and I was seeing several goshawks a day. No matter where I dove into holes in my efforts to get far from roads and people, I was seeing goshawks. We went into town to get groceries, and I stopped at the joint ranger station (one from the Ochoco and the other Malheur), and asked if the biologist knew that there were significant goshawk numbers out there at the time. And the lady behind the front desk leans back and hollers through a doorway “Ed! (or some male name). Your goshawks are back.” I never asked for or got an explanation of “your goshawks), and I haven’t been back to the entirety of the hunt area. It was subsequently destroyed in the stand removal Egley Fire of well over 100,000 acres. A lot of it was lost to poor backfire decisions from an incident commander from Tennessee or somewhere in the SE. I wonder if it is still winter habitat for goshawks from other forests, and if there was a significant rise in BBW numbers. The “burn victim” was never “mugged.” The “forest” is now mostly ceonothus and leaf litter from annuals, plus the detritus from dead trees and windfall snags. Very hard to walk through, and hard to see much. The only green is a private piece where the landowner salvaged, burned piles, planted grass, and put cows on it pulse grazing. He has a full recovery years ahead of the USFS, and a smile on his face as he gets to watch it restore itself until he is long gone. The BLM has done work on adjacent lands because they have seen his success. The USFS sits in meetings with potential litigants and discusses heady topics.

    Show me the areas where BBWs are imperiled. Or can they be, ever, if there is old growth and new growth, not matter the origin? It all burns the same.

  3. Does “studies synthesis” equal “cherrypicking”? In this case, I’m sure that it does! It needs to be about site-specific restoration, and not about blanket treatments. Again, we should not be restoring cholera, despite its increased occurrences in the past. Same for polio. Same for bark beetles. Why should we be “protecting” prime bark beetle habitats? Why do we want to have BBW’s on every burned acre (when it clearly is impossible!)? I’d think it would be much better and easier to require private salvage logging to leave some snag habitats, instead of insisting on mega-redundant acreages for very limited amounts of birds. Again, the portion of the Rim Fire within Yosemite National Park serves as six years of habitat for each and every BBW in all of California. However, people like Chad Hanson and DellaSala don’t want ANY salvage logging, preferring “whatever happens”. This bias is well known and, to me, it taints this study, even before reading it.

  4. “It needs to be about site-specific restoration, and not about blanket treatments.”

    That might be a statement that would actually get a lot of agreement here. I’d add that it would be good if the area-specific analysis could clarify (and honestly disclose) if a landscape needs ‘restoration’ for ecological integrity (as required by NFMA planning regulations), and/or a ‘fireproofing’ regime to protect private assets, culture or lives. Seems like a key strategic planning decision to me.

    • “Blanket treatments” also includes doing nothing, as the serial litigators, prefer. “Doing nothing” in the guise of “restoration” is also a problem, from my point of view. Any form of restoration should include “resilience”, species compositions, forest structure, and tree densities that match annual precipitation. Unfortunately, the people in favor of “passive restoration” don’t want to talk about those essential restoration principles.

  5. John Thomas Jr. made a good comment about the USFS sitting in meetings with litigants and discussing heady topics….this is so true. The USFS can’t do much of anything any more. The level of analysis paralysis, time and valuable funds locked up in litigation is a huge drain on the agency. If only they could do the work they want and need to do. hopefully some of the new legislation coming out of congress will help limit frivolous litigation as it will make people think be fore they litigate because Uncle Sam will not have to be pay legal fees for environmental groups.

  6. Jon:

    Seriously, what the heck is “ecological integrity?” And, assuming you can define it, how would it be measured? More binary “wet forest/dry forest” jabberwocky (i.e., simple “good integrity/bad integrity” determinations), or something that can actually be calibrated and monitored over time?

    We are definitely in agreement on the “site specific” and landscape-scale parameters., though. Just not the Lewis Carroll terminology.

  7. There is an answer that will be used in court (36 CFR 219.19). “Ecological integrity. The quality or condition of an ecosystem when its dominant ecological characteristics (for example, composition, structure, function, connectivity, and species composition and diversity) occur within the natural range of variation and can withstand and recover from most perturbations imposed by natural environmental dynamics or human influence.” Sounds a little like what Larry said. So you just pick some ecological characteristics and figure out what their ‘natural range of variation is.’ Easy. Except NRV isn’t necessarily the same as ‘historic’ (whatever that is).

    The Forest Service actually replaced the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘healthy’ with ‘integrity’ between the draft and final regulations because: “Ecosystem integrity is a more scientifically supported term, has established metrics for measurement, and is used by both the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.” And don’t forget that ‘ecological sustainability’ is “the capability of ecosystems to maintain ecological integrity.”

    So I don’t think we should get hung up on the words, but instead should get hung up on the appropriate things to measure and what their ‘natural range is.’ Maybe the BLM and NPS have it figured out already.

  8. Here are my concerns with the statements in the opening post of this thread:

    Re: “Western forests today experience fewer high-severity wildfires than they did more than a century ago, depriving some fire-dependent species and stifling biodiversity, according to a new study.” AND “it concluded that the past century of fire suppression has not “greatly increased the prevalence of severe fire,” even though fuel levels in Western forests are believed to be much higher.”
    –> Of course it does, because over all but the last 20 years of the last 100 years, the forests were increasingly managed in such a way that stand density was more properly controlled. However, if you only look at the last 20 years when stand density was allowed to exceed appropriate levels because of the 80% reduction in National Forest harvest levels, you will quickly see that the total wildfire acres burned has increased exponentially as can be seen here: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/07/22/fighting-back-fire-from-the-denver-post/ and here: http://www.orww.org/Awards/2013/SAF/Wayne_Giesy/Giesy_Plan/Giesy_Plan_20080801-5-10.jpg . This appears to be a case of burying the bad numbers in the good numbers.

    Re: “Thinning to reduce high-severity wildfire can reduce habitat for the imperiled black-backed woodpecker”
    –> What make the BBW more important than the endangered Pacific Fisher? Why only the focus on one species and not on several species negatively impacted? Isn’t that disingenuous?

    Re: “Since 1930, the rate of young forest establishment fell by a factor of four in the Sierra Nevada and Southwest, by a factor of three in the Klamath, and by half in the eastern Cascades and central and northern Rockies”
    –> Brilliant deduction, did it ever occur to the authors that if you reduce harvest levels by 80% and don’t make regeneration cuts and if you go to great lengths to protect old forests and you don’t replant burns, you can’t establish new, young forests because you have to cut or burn the old ones down to do so? Again, if you isolate the last twenty years, I think that you’ll find that the current era of protectionism and removal of sound forest management from our National Forests is when establishment of new forests ceased rather than during the entire period since 1930.

    Even one of the studies authors implicitly refutes the whole premise of the study when he says: “While fire in the backcountry can be beneficial if it stays low to the ground, landscape-scale “crown” fires can damage watersheds, tarnish viewsheds and threaten communities, NAU’s Diane Vosick, one of the study authors, said last spring. “In order to get ahead of the cost of large and severe fire, more treatments will be needed outside the wildland-urban interface,””
    –> What he is saying is that until stand densities are more appropriately controlled, there is no hope of reducing crown fires and their negative impact on the environment.

    Re: “According to the Forest Service, the states of Florida, Georgia, Utah, California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado have all experienced their largest or most destructive wildfire in just the last several years. Wildfires burn twice as many acres annually compared with the 1970s, and the number of wildfires annually that cover more than 10,000 acres has increased sevenfold.”
    –> My understanding is that in the case of Georgia and Florida, controlled burns were down and still are down because of the fear of the legal consequences of an unexpected temperature inversion. In spite of using the best weather science and approval of specific burn plans by the state, there were several big cases in the ’80s where unexpected inversions caused the loss of life on highways throughout the south. So this is a situation where societal considerations have had a significant impact on forestry operations. An acquaintance from high school was living in the recent huge Texas burn area that destroyed so many homes including hers. From what she describes it was a catastrophe in the WUI that was just waiting to happen (dense stands of big trees with lots of ladder fuels adjacent to a developed community with houses interspersed in big trees and lots of pine straw and plantings right up to the houses). It was another prime example of why viewsheds and other aesthetics should not be the primary dictator of forest policy.

    • And, yes, more than 90% of all Forest Service prescribed burns happen in the South. And, yes, there are good reasons why so few acres are treated with fire, in the west. It’s all about liability and fuels, with the Forest Service worrying about keeping fires contained. It’s no wonder that Let-Burn wildfires are so popular with the Feds, as their liability drops to zero as the acreages go up, up and up, and costs go up, up and up. The fire folks cannot safely torch off forests that are choked with fuels. Instead, some people want to say that these man-made firestorms are “natural and beneficial”, wrongly comparing them to Indian burning.

      • Larry:

        I don’t think too many people are “wrongly comparing” Let-It-Burn fires and so-called “natural fire regimes” to documented Indian burning practices so much as they aren’t making a comparison at all. That is, they are ignorant and oblivious to the resource management actions of pre-white people in North America and thus incapable of comparing them to anything. The part that concerns me most is that many of these people appear to choose to remain ignorant on purpose, simply because it contradicts their theories and might adversely affect their livelihoods. This borders on the unethical, from my perspective, when it comes to members of the science community dependent on taxpayer dollars for their income. One more glaring indication of the need to begin transparently and independently reviewing the qualifications, findings (“methodology”) and assertions of our nation’s self-anointed BAS (“Best Available Science”) practitioners.

  9. Bob – I’ve been meaning to ask you to relieve my ignorance on one point that you seem to know something about. What is the basis for distinguishing fires started by native Americans from those started by lightning, and how do we know that a fire regime without that human intervention would have been much different from the one that was human-caused? Thanks.

    But I also have to say that your suggestion of ‘science police’ (something beyond peer review that already addresses findings and assertions) makes me a little nervous. How would we decide who is qualified to judge qualifications?

    • Unfortunately, some of today’s peer review is more about peers, and less about reviews. It wasn’t surprising that some scientists wanted “blind” peer review, so they could spread their feel-good reviews around to all their friends, without having to put their names on it. Full transparency demands that if you say it, you have to put your name on it.

      Here in the Sierra Nevada, the Indians here were experts at knowing when and where to burn, and when not to. They were quite effective, using bearclover as a tool to carry cool, rapidly-moving fires that clear out brush and understory fuels. Lightning happens a lot in this part of the Sierra Nevada, helping Indians to manage their lands, for their human needs. Without that management, we’ve seen multiple large fires destroying old growth forests.

      Yes, these comparisons aren’t all that important, with today’s nearly unavoidable human impacts. Some people continue to want a pre-human landscape, pretending that all we have to do is leave it alone. There are many examples here, of how doing nothing was the wrong thing to do. Patches of land that burned 40 years ago, left to “recover on their own”, burned again in the Rim Fire at higher intensity than the post-salvage plantations.

      Certainly, scientists are human beings, subject to the same flaws as other humans. There needs to be a board of varied scientists, whose integrity and objectivity are beyond suspicion. My question is how would such a board be selected?

    • Thanks Jon:

      The reason for separating human-caused fires from wildfires caused by lightning is very basic: with one approach you get entirely different vegetation patterns and animal populations than with the other. This, of course, creates two entirely different patterns of wildlife habitat and of forest fuels. Historical research shows us that the vast majority of landscape-scale vegetation patterns in the US have human-caused fires as their origin. These patterns go back thousands of years and include virtually all of the native plants and animals in their designs.

      There are lots of reasons for this — and lots of reasons they are routinely ignored (separate discussion) — but these are the two principal ones:

      1) People everywhere use fire almost every day, and they use it systematically for heat, light, cooking, field clearing, warfare, transportation, etc. That means fuel has to be constantly gathered and stored, typically creating nearly fuel-free trails and campgrounds along ridgelines and streamsides and other common travel corridors wherever people live or visit. Lightning, on the other hand, is typically a seasonal event limited to predictable “corridors” of strikes; i.e., “lightning alleys.” Completely different patterns of ignition timings and locations: one is daily, widespread, and systematic; the other is seasonal, geographically restricted, and unpredictable.

      2) People use fire for specific purposes; lightning is random and serves no identifiable purpose (except those that may be assigned by people). People systematically gather fuels and store them in specific locations to use as needed. During most of history and in most areas today, dried wood is the fuel of choice. Elk hunters know what quickly happens to available dead wood within walking distance of camp. It disappears, and the landscape (including precontact ridgelines and riparian trails) soon has largely “fuel-free zones” in areas sometimes referred to as “natural firebreaks.” Further, people use broadcast burning to favor the plants and animals they value most: this is the historical basis for most grasslands, savannahs, berry fields, brakes, balds, meadows, and prairies. Lightning could care less, and as a result, leaving the landscape to “nature” seems to mostly result in unsightly brushfields over time, as Larry keeps pointing out.

      Summary: daily, widespread, and purposeful use of fire results in entirely different patterns of fuels, vegetation, and wildlife habitat than do seasonal, geographically restricted, and nearly random lightning strikes. Big difference, especially for people and their favored wild and domesticated plant and animal populations.

      So far as your “science police” take on my “independent peer review” suggestions, that is also a topic for another time. Here is an earlier discussion on this blog on that topic: http://forestpolicypub.com/2012/11/09/eight-steps-to-vet-scientific-information-for-policy-fitness/

      • That’s helpful because it points out the importance of locations and patterns to any strategy of using pre-European conditions as a future management template. Locations of native-set fires (meadows, etc.) seem to be areas that we may have thought of as ‘naturally’ non-forested. Native burning sometimes sounded more like an argument for active management of forested areas on a much larger scale. And the argument for fuel breaks actually focuses on riparian areas and ridgetops. Interesting. Thanks.

        • Here in the Sierra Nevada, plant communities including ponderosa pine and bearclover, which are widespread at the mid-elevations, exist because of Indian burning. Both of those plants are the epitome of “fire-adapted plants”. Lightning fires were not significant because of the lack of ground fuels and ladder fuels. Tree rings show that fires burned about every 15-20 years, and that included Indian burning. Now, we’re seeing a choked understory, and the gaps that clearcutting caused have all grown up in the last 20 years of banned clearcutting and highgrading. Those gaps used to help keep fires smaller but, the bans were things we needed to do. Today, the Forest Service is using a “clumps and gaps” strategy to provide more forest structural diversity. Also, around here, riparian areas are out of bounds. Most places have mandated stream buffers, for different stream classes. Shaded fuelbreaks are a necessity here, too. With the ban on cutting trees over 30″ dbh, they HAVE to be shaded.

        • Thanks, Jon:

          Those were the key points I was trying to make, and some of the key findings of my research in regards to firebreaks, critical habitat, research methodology, and forest wildfire fuel patterns.

          My discipline is historical ecology, which is basically a multi-disciplinary combination of documented first hand (“my own”) observation and archival research using Excel database files to help organize and analyze research findings and conclusions
          .

  10. Bob Z should jump in pretty soon, but Jon, you need to get your head around the fact that Indians had a pretty good incentive to burn: Winter. It was profoundly necessary for them to burn, to make hunting easier (calories); to clear out ambush points (war); to jazz up the berry crops (calories). Furthermore, because they didn’t have grain elevators, refrigeration or all that, they had to burn “correctly” because a mistake would ruin their territory and force them into the ground of another clan or band or tribe — a very risky and stupid thing to do.
    As for the “study” — anything that has Dominick and the Browerites in it, is automatically flawed.

  11. None have commented specifically on the statement about the very low rate of “young forest establishment” since 1930. And named some mathematical “factors” from some sort of Richter scale for the absent “young forest establishment.” So how does that equate with logging, clear cutting, and reforestation? I could presume, reading those numbers, that logging had no effect on “young forest establishment.” Further, I could presume that planting after harvest was not needed, if only because of the deficit of “young forest establishment,” a stage which I would think comes in time when there are no longer trees present, having been removed by whatever means. I assume the authors are saying that inevitably any area will fill with trees if left undisturbed over time, and fire provides the mechanism to reduce forests to treelessness as a needed process for species diversity. If the same land use transformation takes place in logging, however, that is a horrific result, as Matt would tell us. And so, I must conclude that all of forest planning issues are actually about controlling human activity, actions, with various forest conditions being surrogates for the need for more police power to regulate the ignorant masses.

    Since humans have been on this landscape longer than trees have occupied much of the surface area, and have evolved socially and politically with forests and fires, natural or set, I am assuming for my mind, that trees exist because humans have let them. Or at the least, it has been until only the last 150 years that humans have had the technology and fire setters or more to the point, authorities to prevent fires from being set, to actually burn more of them that might grow back, or not. Then I read that we have this huge deficit of young age trees because we haven’t burned or allowed large enough burns, for 3/4 of a century. All the while little if any tree removal has been allowed on Public Domain, and if it were legally possible, on all private land as well.

    It will take a much more pragmatic approach to forest landscape management to turn the ship of state to not fighting fires except near a house. All we see in studies like these is subjective goals like “species diversity” and “natural resiliency”, but never any economic studies of how burning the Public Domain impacts economies and watersheds, lifestyles and cultures, the very meaning of life for all who are impacted locally and at a distance. Sort of like making the atomic bomb. First it was a concept, and then a reality. Now it is operational, like a forest plan, and what, exactly do we do with it? The potential for damage is so much greater than the potential for good. I would like to see that in forest planning. Economic studies. Studies of job loss and relocation. Rural economies are in the tank, and only a few select billion dollar private timberland owners have profited by the cessation of public land resources entering the stream of commerce and job creation. Millions have had truncated working careers for their result after “saving” the forests that we evidently have not allowed to be removed by fire enough be factors of 4, 3, and whatever.

    I think papers like this are served to the public to underpin specific land use goals for a particular result. Cherry picking, as it were.

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