Planning for fire

A pretty good layman’s overview of the issues in “the war against wildfire.”

I’m interested how planning can help, including for both regulation and restoration.  On the latter, this comment on the Nature Conservancy suggests a realistic approach:   “the Nature Conservancy and its partners are looking at a lot of different factors that will help them determine which 15 percent (at most) they’ll actually try to restore. The key, he says, will be choosing the land strategically.”  I wonder what weight is given to the factors of effectiveness vs. ecological implications vs. cost-recovery.  And I think the Forest Service ought to be having a discussion of these strategic considerations in a public forum when it revises its forest plans.  I’ve often gotten the impression that the agency intends to restore everything everywhere without the budget to do so, so it puts a priority on cost-recovery.

8 Comments

  1. From SAF perhaps it would be, but not from Crosscut.
    The model of temporary placement means that foresters and loggers would be community transients, gypsies on short-term projects.
    The fact is, the national forests can and should be managed on long-term sustained yield, not on money losing nibble and pick projects.
    The biomass and junkwood markets are fine and dandy IF you can make them pencil out. But it is the height of insanity to ignore fiscal practicality and expect perpetual transfer payments based on the objections of those who don’t understand the need to match amorphous concepts of “sustainability” with real world fiscal sustainability.

  2. To me, it is the “War on Drought”. Obviously, we are losing that war but, that doesn’t mean we can’t win some battles. Also, “restore” is a loaded word. I contend that we are already using “passive restoration” on more than 15% of our National Forest lands. The goal of passive restoration seems to be “whatever happens”. You cannot have a human-less forest, with all these humans around. You can’t have free-range wildfires with all those towns around. Can’t we all just eliminate the fantasy of widespread unstewardship? Otherwise, why bother with the three “C-words”?

  3. Dave – I think you make an interesting point that had me thinking of loggers as being sort of like spotted owls, where habitat is becoming fragmented to the point where territories are so large that individuals can no longer support themselves. But the fact is that national forests can legally be managed for sustained yield at levels and frequencies that amount to “nibble and pick” if that’s what the owners want. (And if the economics pencil out.)

    Larry – I assume the active restoration on the 15% would be designed to reduce “whatever happens” to some degree on the 85% that’s passively managed.

    • I’d bet that most National Forests have that 15% just in their stream buffers, alone. So, if you add all the other “protected areas”, including Wilderness Areas, wildlife PACs, Archaeological sites, Research Natural Areas, etc, that percentage rises. Then you can add on all the areas that don’t need commercial management, as well as uneconomical areas, too. Then, there are the “contested” areas, where lawsuits are won and lost. Most of the Rim Fire and much of the King Fire “happened” in passively-managed lands. I’m sure that led to the intense fire behavior, and large rate of spread.

      Than again, some people think that these fires have “restored” lands, too. *eyeroll*

  4. The FNF is already well below 15 percent under management. 2 million acres, one million wilderness, about 350,000 acres unrestricted (in theory, but the reality is pathetic). I’ve got a fire map from 1994 on that is about a third blots from big fires across all regimes.
    There needs to be enough volume to pay for iron, and there isn’t. Past month I spent some time sussing out a private parcel, trying to figure out a way to efficiently muck the place out, there’s nothing commercial on it unless someone wants cottonwood flooring for sissy horses. Best thing would be a couple of self-loader loads of the big CWs, some intermediate spruce, and a whacking pile of brush, brush and more brush. Best thing to do is a mini-crawler with a brush grapple, but nobody local HAS a brush grapple.

    • I’ve seen some bobcat-style machines that are very efficient and nimble… with a good operator. Another tool in the toolbox that might get used a lot more. Of course, you’d want to charge more than they cost to run, being it is a specialty service. WUI treatments gotta be getting lucrative.

  5. I guess southern Oregon is different in that we still have lots of loggers and lots of resource. Now if we could learn to manage both on sustained yield bases,,,. Our National forest are full of high value timber that could pay for any projects the FS or BLM wanted to do, if they had to will to sell some larger trees and if they don’t burn up first.
    I remember thinking when the NW forest plan went into effect that it was ok because it was like a giant warehouse of timber that someday we would be able to harvest in a responsible manner, then they burned the warehouse down with the Biscuit.
    They are some good articles coming out about how some of the managed forest lands have faired better than the unmanaged forests in this summers fires.

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