When the locals pay for national forest fuel reduction …

Everybody wins?

“So were Flagstaff officials prescient when they proposed what, at the time, was one of the first municipal partnerships with a national forest to have lands outside city boundaries thinned at city expense?”

“Hindsight is 20-20, but it sure looks that way to us. Armed with a $10 million budget, the Forest Service immediately went to work on an environmental study that mapped the most fireprone timber stands as well as nests of endangered Mexican spotted owls.  Steep slopes most prone to erosion were pegged for less-harmful cable logging, and some stands of old-growth ponderosas were declared off limits. Using collaborative tactics learned from 4FRI, the draft EIS containing a thinning plan was ready in near-record time and drew no lawsuits that would cause delay.”

Could that be because there’s no revenue or profit motive driving more destructive logging practices?

22 Comments

  1. Budgets determine agency behavior. As the story above notes, the FS was awarded by the city a $10 million budget to garden this municipal watershed. That’s motivating.

    PS: Budgets, and their motivational influence on agency behavior, have nothing to do with individual greed.

  2. This effort must be taken in context with the past thinning projects, successful appeals and litigation, fires and subsequent floods. Much has been written on all. Let Google be your guide. I know several people who live nearby who, after fires and floods, adopted the mindset ” USFS can’t thin the forest. Someone has to.”

  3. The other issue is being ignored. There is no infrastructure to support this activity. Where are the logs/chipwood going and will it generate revenue to offset expense.
    Meanwhile another wilderness “WFU” fire has blown up, doubling in size overnight from 6,000 acres to 12,000 acres and is now threatening private land. Incidentally, this was burning in an old burn too dangerous to attack due to snags and is now burning up some of the remaining green habitat. Chetco Bar Fire, originally in the Biscuit fire scar.

    • Just an update, the Chetco Bar Fire was at 22,000 acres as of this morning. Burning thru the RMA of a major salmonoid river, surrounded by steep slopes much of which was claimed to be highly erosive which will end up in the river this winter. When discovered on July 12 the fire was 1/4 acre.

      • The fire started in a very steep section of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. It was not doing much for several weeks and was moving primarily to the north/northwest. There was a fireline prepared to the southwest, where the fire was driven by winds late last week. The fire spotted out ahead of itself for several miles and the fireline could not hold that fire back. I don’t know if you have every worked in that area, but the steep slopes and the brush make escape routes all but impossible for firefighters on the ground. These are generally not “highly erosive” areas like southern California – this area receives 80-120 inches of rain a year.

        • I have worked extensively in that area, in fact through the exact area the fire burned thru AGAIN! Any manager with any actual knowledge of what happens in that area, would know that this is exactly what is likely to happen when you let a July start sit. On day one a bucket ship could have gone in an washed that thing off the hill while a competent crew went in to secure it. I have put line on many fires with 100% slopes and mopped them up. 20 people on a 100×100 area, how many days vs how many millions in lost private lands and personal property, not to mention the suppression cost. Now you have an entire populated area at eminent risk.
          Once again the USFS should be civilly liable and if anyone is hurt at this point add criminally liable.
          Is the Chetco effect a new phenomenon? It’s only a regular occurrence every year.

          • If you read the article and the attachments to other parts of this thread, there is more to it than just the city sharing study and prep costs.
            The Rogue Siskiyou NF has a project going in the Ashland Watershed that is a collaboration with the city of Ashland and several other groups. They have been subsidized with around 8 million and the city has paid in also. If there hadn’t been infrastructure – mills, loggers – able to get the trees harvested and to a mill, the project would have spent millions in prep, studies, and minimal fuels treatments that would have been much less effective at reducing the risk to the watershed. This project on the Ashland Watershed is not an economical project, it’s an exercise in collaboration. Which was why I pointed to the fact that infrastructure is minimal at best in the area being discussed near Flagstaff. And projects that aren’t economical are not replicable on a meaningful scale as is needed across the landscape.

            • This thread is not about “what is needed across the landscape.” It is about what locals deem important enough to pay for. I imagine most would see it as more cost-effective and affordable to pay for protecting their immediate back yards than for treatments “across the landscape.”

              • If only it was the locals paying for the huge subsidies to make these projects happen. If you read through the break down of the project it is shared costs, not the city paying “all” costs. The Ashland Watershed Project also had city money, but millions of dollars of federal tax money also.
                Why should all people pay for a local project? If it’s truly that important, then let the locals actually pay for the entire project. My bet is very few people would agree to these projects without the subsidies. Therefore, if it is to be successful on a larger scale across more watersheds or landscapes, it needs to be economical and repeatable.

                • I guess I agree with your points here, 353, up to a point. But, any additional source of funds does make it more economical, and the Flagstaff example shows that it could be repeatable in other places without wood processing infrastructure. If you make infrastructure a prerequisite, you have to consider the subsidies (including logs/impacts) needed to retain that infrastructure where it wouldn’t otherwise exist. The Flagstaff example seems like a reasonable compromise approach, especially if there is a benefit to the federal land of the fuel treatments paid for by others. The Ashland example sounds like another point on the continuum of how this could work.

                  • Jon what is being missed is that the infrastructure needs to exist in order to reduce mega fires and destruction to private property. The northern Arizona area has seen several mega fires over the past several years with many homes destroyed, since once a fire creates its own environment, it doesn’t just stop at the property line. If you go thru the area around Flagstaff and all the way over to Showlow, all you see is a sea of dense Ponderosa Pine that is ripe to go up in smoke. As we can see from the previous fires there is a high level of high severity burns that do not promote the creation of older habitat, just a bare landscape that end up washing away.
                    The Ashland project is only a point to show how this is not an economically feasible
                    model, even with commercial harvest. The only ones making money, probably nearing a million, is the lead collaborator Lomakasti.
                    Collaboration is good, but success will only be achieved if these projects are repeatable for all communities not just the elite few. Without infrastructure the economics go out the window, and when you have steering groups making millions, with the right words and catch phrases, its only a matter of time before these types of projects get a bad name.

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