Biscuit Fire Photos from Foto

Our previous discussion here, which started out as a post on how the 2001 Roadless Rule does allow utility and hydro corridors, transmogrified into discussing salvage on the Biscuit Fire in SW Oregon. But the comment format didn’t do justice to Foto’s photos, so here they are.

13 thoughts on “Biscuit Fire Photos from Foto”

  1. First photo: Does anyone think that this Let-Burn wildfire was “natural and beneficial”? What do you think would happen if this old growth stand was left to “recover” on its own? Re-burn is probable if this doesn’t get salvaged. Yes, we left ample snags, as per the project documents. Our crew made it a priority to scatter the snags as even as possible throughout the unit. This was not an LSR unit.

    Second photo: The stand of trees in the middle of the picture USED TO BE an owl nesting site. Of course, even though it is all dead, we couldn’t salvage anything there, in the Flat Top area.

    Third photo: Another view of the Flat top area, where mortality was extreme, including rare Brewer’s Spruce. Notice how that even without thick surface fuels, the fire raged into the crowns and killed everything.

    Just because a disaster is “natural”, that doesn’t mean it is desirable. I certainly would have done many things different on the Biscuit. I worked on one unit that was so steep that, in some places, I couldn’t see what was underneath me. One crewmember measured 120% slope, in one spot. Many of the cutting unit were designated by maps alone. Also, a big issue to me was the Forest’s decision to paint leave tree unit boundaries with a helicopter. Such unit boundaries HAVE to be solid and leave no doubt where the boundary is. A leave tree mark means that any unmarked tree that is dead is available to be cut. Boundaries have to be bombproof, in those situations.

  2. Wow! Looks like the Wind River Mts. in Wyo where I spent most of Oct. last year camping and hunting elk. One difference: where I was hunting disallowed the roads that are evident in photo three.

    We’ve had several burns in and around our Wind River elk camp during the last 30 years. The first one burned right down to the Sweetwater River, just across the river (stream, really) from our base camp. Our hunters, mostly Wyo and Montana natives, including the then Commissioner of the Wyoming Game and Fish, were horrified.

    About two years later, though, all were marveling at the abundance of forage for Moose, Elk, and Deer in the burn area. And they were marveling at the fact that there was more game than before. That “marveling” continues to this day — several burns later — although most of the original hunters are no longer with us. The only problems for hunters (also hikers, and wildlife enthusiasts generally) is that when the standing timber falls (and jackstraws) it become nearly impossible to get through some of the burn-areas. The elk and Moose don’t mind though — “hiding cover.”

    Oh, that’s not the “only problem.” Last fall, I followed wolf tracks into the Bridger Wilderness Area just northeast of our base camp. There is now some grumbling about the wolves and possible decimation of the wildlife. I suspect that grumbling too will cease in a few years.

    BTW, the forest doesn’t mind either (assuming forests are sentient — not a commonly held assumption). Stand and forest replacement fires are a fact of Nature. Remember the 1988 Yellowstone Park fires? Usually (almost always?) forest replacement fires leave a useful vegetation mosaic on the landscape and in related ecosystems. That ecosystem mosaic proves a good foundation for future forests. Oh, about those roads in the above pictures? I hope that the soils there are good and stable!

    PS. I don’t mind logging — I worked a summer for Weyerhauser, in their corporate offices comparing timber management systems, public and private. I actually enjoy “logging shows.” But I do mind when logging is not done in a responsible manner. Not that the logging on this site is irresponsible, but the Pacific Northwest is full of examples where irresponsibility prevailed, and prevails to this day.

    Finally, re-burns “happen” on newly established forest plantations, as we used to call them at Weyerhauser. Any fire ecologists want to shed more light on Fotoware’s continued assertion that “Re-burn is probable if this doesn’t get salvaged.”

    • I once flew over the Wind River Range in May and was impressed at how wonderful and rugged the area was. Truly deserving of Wilderness status!

      Comparing the Biscuit to the Yellowstone fires, the differences stand out. Lodgepoles are “designed” to burn and regenerate. Mixed conifer forests in Oregon are more varied in their responses to fires. It is well known that large parts of Oregon, including the Coast Ranges, were managed by Indian burning. A large part of the Biscuit re-burned unsalvaged parts of the 1987 Silver Fire. The salvaged part of the Silver Fire burned less intensely, with a better mosaic effect than what I’m showing in the pictures.

      Now, the roads you see in picture #2 and #3 seemed to be ill-advised. You can’t see it but, that lower road was “shoe-horned” into that spot, with “switchbacks from hell”. Additionally, I walked the area below the upper road, marking leave trees, and trying to stay upright on the steep slopes and loose rock. I am not defending clearcutting and high-grading, as has happened in the past, but I do advocate restoration projects that fit the ground. Are you saying that today’s projects under the NWFP are “irresponsible”? (For example, the 150 acre Trapper project on the Willamette NF.)

      There are PLENTY of unsalvaged areas set aside for “nature” to re-burn. My last salvage project excluded half of the burned areas. The Biscuit still has vast areas where no salvage was implemented. The Biscuit and Yosemite re-burn examples I have offered show how bad re-burns can be.

      Regarding “newly established forest plantations”, just 100 yards away from picture #1 was an overstocked plantation that didn’t burn. I agree that unmanaged plantations are often at risk to incineration. All too often, Timber Stand Improvement projects for plantations are left on the shelf too long.

    • I’d like to second what Dave has said here RE: recently burned forests and wildlife such as elk, deer and moose. I always find it rather interesting when some people claim that recently burned forests are void of big game. Me and my hunting buddies specifically search out recovering burned forests, because we feel it’s the best place to hunt successfully. We’ve had great success hunting those 2000 Bitterroot fire areas and also those 2003 and 2007 fire areas around Missoula.

      • Matthew- I think it depends on 1) the intensity of the burn, 2) years since recovery, 3) growing conditions for the recovering plant cover (wet and warm is better, cold and dry goes slower).

      • Yes, I understand that burn intensity, years since recovery and growing conditions are factors. I’m sure we all spend plenty of time in forests and wildlands and that we’re all careful observers of the natural world. Hence our interest in these issues. I will say, that based on my observations and hunting experience, some of the best big game forage seems to be found in stand replacing, high intensity burns 3 to 10 years after the fire…at least in the forests/mountains around here.

  3. More info about the Biscuit Fire, and the proposed post-fire logging project, can be found here:

    Suffice to say, the photos and words being provided in this forum by Larry /Fotoware don’t even come close to telling the entire story.

    For example, while referred to repeatedly as catastrophic, devastating and unnatural, the reality is that 84% of the Biscuit fire area was either unburned, or burned at low to moderate intensity.

    “We don’t anticipate any (long term) adverse effects out there on the fish and wildlife and flora. There is a lot of unburned area, and there’s a lot that burned at a very low intensity. This is by no means 500,000 acres that has been wiped out.”
    – Greg Clevenger, resource staff officer for the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forest

  4. “Of the three federally listed species, the spotted owl was the most severely impacted by the fire. Twenty-three of the 40 “functional home ranges” (containing at least 40% suitable home range habitat) of the spotted owl within the area were transformed to “nonfunctional” habitat in the fire; an estimated 75,000 to 80,000 acres of nesting habitat were rendered unsuitable (Forest Service 2003). The Forest Service also estimates that dispersal habitat for the spotted owl was
    reduced, connections of dispersal habitats with “functional home range habitats” were severely disrupted, and east-west dispersal corridors remain only in limited areas within the fire perimeter.”

    That seems quite significant to me, since letting fires consume ESA habitat could be construed as “illegal”, under the ESA. Another quote:

    “Only 15.7%, about 78,500 acres, burned at high intensity,
    leavin little but ash and charcoal behind, and 22.6%, about 113,000 acres,
    burned at moderate intensity, where underbrush and most trees where
    killed, but their leaves or needles remained intact.”

    190,000 acres of dead forests seems a bit significant to me, especially since it is important forest just 15-35 miles from the ocean. Here’s another comment:

    “What has happened to spotted owl habitat in dry forests during this period? Exactly what was predicted: significant loss of owl habitat due to wildfire. Let me quote from a paper I published in 2002 (Agee 2002): “Consider, for example, the celebrated case of the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis). In 1994, the U.S. Forest Service was looking for a way to provide habitat for owls and other old-growth dependent species in the dry forests of the eastern Cascade Range
    of Washington State. They proposed setting aside large blocks of forest for which there would be only minimal management intervention. I was asked [as the former consultant to the 1992 plan] if such a passive approach was likely to work over a century-long planning horizon. My response was, “no”. I argued that each reserve would be at risk, and fires would perhaps take 100,000 acres at a time. Over a century, if this occurred only once every five years, up to half of these proposed reserves would be burned over – 2 million acres out of about 3-4 million forested
    acres in that region. None would regain any old-growth character in that time. Pointing to a place on the map with high lightning frequency, I indicated that it would be a likely place for one of the next large fires. Three weeks later, in that same vicinity, the 200,000 Wenatchee Fire
    destroyed most old-growth and late-successional structures in the area. Passive management wasa dismal failure.”

    At the time, no fires exceeding 100,000 acres had occurred anywhere in or near the range of the spotted owl. Since 1994, we have experienced the Tyee Fire (120,000 acres), the Biscuit Fire (500,000 acres), the Bar Complex (100,000 acres), the Megram/Onion Complex (125,000 acres) and (just outside of the range of the owl), the Tripod Complex (175,000 acres).”

    And Matt, you’re just being an ASS when you KNOW that using my real name could affect my entire future. When you wish harm on another human being, you lower yourself to the dregs of the sewer. You simply wish to drive all other viewpoints away, bestowing your own slanted views upon people seeking scientific truth.

    (Sharon, could you again remove my last name from Matt’s posting, please?)

  5. Good to see that Sharon is censoring my comments here when I use people’s real names. I guess this is Mr. Rodger’s land of make-believe, eh? Larry (last name removed by Jim Fenwood), if you stop and think about it, your own ridiculous comments affect your future far more than your real name.

  6. Foto: You know, it’s kinda funny and ironic that you are making such a big deal about me using your real name. You know why? Because you are regularly using your real name to post these same type of criticisms about the Forest Service’s planning rule, wildland fire use policy, lawsuits of timber sale, etc on the USDA-Forest Service’s very own Facebook page.

    Plus, under your real name you have established a very open and public facebook page titled “Please Don’t Let Our Forests Burn Catastrophically” that anyone in the world can view and anyone in the world can join and become a member of. Here’s the link to that:

    As anyone can see, under your real name on this facebook page you yourself actually direct people to this very NCFP website so they can check out your Biscuit Fire photos.

    So, Foto, while you blast me as supposedly being “violent” for simply using your real name…and while you write that I “know that using [your] real name could affect [your] entire future”….it’s kinda ironic that you yourself have very publicly (using your real name) directed people to check out your Biscuit Fire photos posted on this very site, but anonymously. Furthermore, you did all this on Saturday, a full day before I even used your real name here.

    Given these facts, methinks Foto is feigning outrage here. The truth is that at this site, and other sites like, Foto has made it a regular practice to hide in anonymity and say some completely untrue things about those of us who work for non-profit conservation organizations, our intentions and our vision for federal forest management. When people in our line of work regularly get harassed or receive threatening phone calls, emails, etc I’m not going to sit back and let a site, initiated by the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation and Forest Service, become yet another place when anonymous posters can anonymously stir the pot against environmentalists. Thanks.

    • So very, VERY childish, Matt! You are the one who is overreacting to my anonymous name. You are the one who is flinging the childish “Liar, Liar” thingy. You are the one who is using stalker methods. You are the one whining about a barely-linked blog to the U of M. Hey, WordPress is totally disconnected and unrelated to any University. You are the one flinging insults and namecalling. You only do this to irritate me, hoping I will stop posting. Nice fascist manuever, bud.

      Finally, what is the big deal about me posting anonymously? I’ve already stated my reason for keeping my real name out of this blog. Is that reason a worthy one? I certainly think it is, and I don’t care if you don’t think it is. You obviously see me as a threat in influencing how people think about forest management. Just HOW FAR will you go to try and shut me up. No one else seems to have a problem with my anonymous postings, although they may disagree with what I am posting. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with my opinions but, I DO NOT LIE! I tell it like I see it. I present photos which display concepts and educate people. I use my 20+ years of experience in forestry, owl and goshawk surveys. I have ZERO connections to the timber industry.

      I have NEVER sent you an e-mail, harrassed you personally, called you on the phone or stalked you on the Internet. However, I do thank you for the free advertising in my quest to stop forest destruction through catastrophic wildfires. I consider myself to be a “true environmentalist”, advocating the restoration to healthy managed public forests, with robust wildlife, clean water, clean air and resiliency.

      Finally, it seems to me that the forest management discussion needs to have the pot stirred. If you look in the comments on forestry articles of major publications, you’ll see vast amounts of anonymous posters claiming things like, “the Forest Service is clearcutting Roadless old growth and sending the raw logs to the Far East”. I also see the same thing on the other side of the issue, where people want to log it, drill it and use it. My goal is to bring the extremists back to the middle.

    • 22 words do not expunge the ample evidence that a mere three pictures bring. I didn’t bother adding up the word count of my comments in this thread. Doesn’t ANYONE think that the Forest Service would have salvaged more than 4% of the Biscuit Fire if they were only after timber volume? Since the projects survived the court battles, what actual “damage” has occurred in the Biscuit salvage areas? (Other than the accidental encroachment near Babyfoot Lake! I didn’t work on that part of the projects. Remember, only dead trees were cut!)

      (Also, where is Matt’s outrage over treec123 using an alias to post here?)


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