5 Comments

  1. Ahoy, Ron!

    “Although they still visit sawmills in Quincy and Chester, the classes taught to the 36 students in this year’s summer field camp reflect the radical changes in the program over 100 years. On a recent morning, the topic of instructor Bridget Tracy’s lecture was Sierra Nevada ecology. The first three weeks of the eight-week session are “all about ecology,” including meteorology, aquatic ecology and hydrology, Stephens said.”

    Strange quote, I don’t think meteorology and hydrology ARE actually “ecology” unless there’s been a big change in discipline definitions when I went to school. We did study a great deal of ecology, though, even in 74 (could it be 43 years ago?).

    When Harold Biswell joined the faculty in 1947, he introduced the concept of fire as a management and protection strategy. This was “blasphemy,” said Stephens.

    Biswell’s ideas about using prescribed burning to mimic or reintroduce the natural fire cycle made their way into classes at Meadow Valley decades before they were accepted as management tools. The practices of prescribed burning he recommended are now official federal policy for national parks and forests, and are used by private owners of forests and rangelands.”

    Hmmm… it may be “official federal policy” but folks tell me not a lot is actually going on in the Sierra right now for various reasons.

    Sharon Friedman, Cal Forester, Summer Camp ’74

    • Yep, even though expert Indian burning was quite widespread throughout the Sierra Nevada, the Forest Service just doesn’t do very much prescribed burning, at all. It’s all about liability and the Forest Service is wary of the extreme risks and outcomes. Even when a huge part of the problem is employment rules, it is clear that the government doesn’t know how to fix them. The budget has plenty of money but, it the Forest Service doesn’t spend it wisely. The problems are just insurmountable for the foreseeable future. We are stuck with impossible firestorms, which are not “natural and beneficial”, especially to today’s humans.

  2. Larry your reference to Indian burning is really inappropriate in this day and age. In those bygone years there was no private ownership no government for the Indians to be considering when they torched the woods or the prairies. You cannot compare what they did with today. And I strongly disagree with your premise that the Forest Service budget has plenty of money to do prescribed burning. It is well documented how expensive this high-risk burning is. Your argument is weak and unsubstantiated.

    • I will bet that this year’s budget is one of the highest ever. It’s all about how they choose to spend it. They can pretend that ‘investing’ a hundred million dollars into letting a Wilderness burn is money well spent but, it isn’t. In today’s world, the Southern Region accomplishes much more in burning goals. In California, a Ranger District is lucky if they can do their one 400 acre burning project. The Forest Service could do a LOT more, if they made it a priority, here in California. Most of it is securely tied to doing more thinning, and that just isn’t happening at a pace and scale that will do any good. It is also well documented how expensive wildfires have become. Doing nothing is not the solution.

      I guess this is what Congress wants, eh? A dysfunctional Forest Service that leads to more State control?

      • That’s the question isn’t it? Is suppression alone the best way to manage landscapes that have traditionally burned/are prone to wildfires? I wonder if there is data somewhere on acres (burned in prescription during managed wildfires) and (agency/landowner prescribed burns) by state by ownership..

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