46 thoughts on “Forest Restoration, Problems and Opportunities by Bob Zybach.”

  1. [J]ust more politicized pseudo-science with an agenda; with great photos and formatting.

    From Bob Zybach (2/7/2010), commenting on Chad Hansen’s work on “The Myth of Catastrophic Wildfire,” as daylighted by Matthew Koehler at New West, 2/3/2010.

    I’ll be interested to see what others say about Bob’s work: I will say that it has great photos and formatting.

    • I would say that it appears Bob has drank the Kool-Aid and trying to convince others to do so as well! Must be a collaborator!

      I think the content is appropriate, given the audience of the OF&W Journal.

      Bob, maybe given the audience you could frame the “restoration” benefits another way? Rather than trying to conviince folks of the need to restore the forests to some mythical historic conditions you may get more buy in if you explained “what’s in it for me” in other terms? The story sort of impllies benefits to elk, at least through photos of a restored “prairie” (by the way, not sure I’d really be highlighting bracken fern release). Here’s some more info that will help support that:


      Or, rather than serving up the same canned jobs, fuels, catastrophic fire reduction, restoration rhetoric one could go as far as to say we want to log cause wood is good. And we want to log in a place and manner that minimizes environmental damange AND can benefit habitat:

      “Many studies support the concept that timber harvest is beneficial to forage production for elk and other wild ungulates (Hershey and Leege 1976, Leege 1976, Lyon 1976, Schroer et al. 1993, Unsworth et al. 1998).”

      I grow weary of the term “Restoration”….it may be the way of the future and make folks feel warm and fuzzy but we need to learn to speak the truth about what it is we are trying to accomplish, not just paint it with the one size fits all brush of “restoration”

      • The key is that such projects offer a value that passive restoration rarely brings, to the dry forests of the west. Resilience!! Indians knew that spring water was enhanced, after a big, man-initiated burn. They knew when it was a good time to do these, too. Today’s man can also use the centuries of wisdom, planning projects which closer mimic their expert activities. Doing nothing rarely mimics anything good, with catastrophic impacts. Today’s project should reduce tree densities and restore species compositions. Doing nothing does poor job at the kind of reductions in tree densities we want, and actually eliminates some species (plant AND wildlife) from lands for maybe decades. Enhancing and expanding the ranges of fire-adapted trees like lodgepoles and knobcone pines only bring more flammable forests in, where majestic long-lived forests used to be.

      • JZ says,

        [R]ather than serving up the same canned jobs, fuels, catastrophic fire reduction, restoration rhetoric one could go as far as to say we want to log cause wood is good. And we want to log in a place and manner that minimizes environmental damage AND can benefit habitat. … [W]e need to learn to speak the truth about what it is we are trying to accomplish, not just paint it with the one size fits all brush of “restoration”

        I agree. Such ‘framing’ would be refreshing!

      • JZ:

        Thank you — I agree that the topic is appropriate for audience — which is mostly rural taxpayers in logging and ranching communities. However, I take exception to your goofy definition of “restoration” as some kind of shyster trick. Also, your ignorant reference to “mythical historic conditions” — as if you have an inkling as to what they were. Your comments show you’re just blowing off steam and pretending to be familiar with the topic at hand and to have an awareness as to my motives and as to the thinking abilities of the audience I am writing for. All of which appear to be untrue.

        And, I am sorry that you (whoever you are, being anonymous) have become “weary” in regards to “restoration,” but many of us have not. It’s an important planning consideration for one thing (the focus of this blog) and, in my own case, something I have studied and practiced my entire adult career. That is why I assumed you were just being ignorant with some of your comments, rather than being arrogant or insulting as it first appears.

        In the future, you may want to reconsider commenting on topics of which you are “weary” or on which you otherwise have limited knowledge.

        • Hey Bob,

          Thanks for calling me to the carpet. I have no problem being called ignorant or arrogant in the same sentence. Not the first time Mea culpa on both accounts, probably. I’m hotheaded and don’t possess any acronyms behind my name.

          As far as annonimity…an unfortunate necessity in my job. I’m a stranger in a strange land here. “Outside the box” thinking isn’t necessarily rewarded or encouraged in the culture I deal with (you figure it out – if you haven’t already), which leads to my being “weary”, but I’ll press on and will continue to comment. Sorry if that that offends those that would sit around and pontificate on the merits of “restoration”, but that’s what happens at the ground level.

          Congressional efforts have give us “tools” by which to proceed and “frame” the “need” (by the way, sorry for the overuse of ” ” “) for restoring forests to some condition which we try to have an “inkling” of what they were. The science is all over the board. For those of us who are responsible for implementing these grand restoration strategies it’s like being given an orange and some red paint and being asked to sell an apple. All the educated folk who have to frame the sales pitch say, “WTF?” why can’t we just sell the apple? The groups that are trying to buy the product ask, “WTF?” Why not just sell me the apple? In my ignorant/arrogant adult carreer I have seen that there are a lot of heavily criticised “big green” groups that need to sell an orange painted red to their constituents…..As far as my “limited knowledge” I deal with it daily and help them paint. Back a you.

          Shyster trick or sales pitch…whatever is needed to get the job done on the ground…..That’s the end goal for me – to satisfy the local logging an ranching communities that I have lived in and been a part of my whole life….where it really makes a difference, not in some far removed corporate office with constituents to please to keep the funds coming. I wish we could just say what I said above…..we want to log, cause wood is good and we want to do it in a fashion that minimizes….blah, blah, blah…

          I don’t think this is too much to ask from collaborative efforts aimed at restoration….all in the framing. Sorry if you took me the wrong way or I came off arrogant/ignorant….I was taught long ago that the key to persuasion is to to help folks understand “what’s in it for me?”…I thought your story really lent well to the elk info I linked. Restoration may be broadly and insufficiently defined, but there was one local example to draw from.

          • Jimbob: The ignorant part of what I was referring to was the “mythical historic conditions” remark, which I probably took too seriously, given my 40+ years of studying past conditions — and then documenting my findings.

            The arrogance part could have been just a misunderstanding. I interpreted your remarks to say that, having just drank the Kool-Aid, I was now trying to support logging by subterfuge — calling it “restoration.” That would imply that I wasn’t a very forthright person, and the people I was trying to mislead were even denser than I am. That’s why the elk link kind of confused me.

            Having a PhD in the study of catastrophic wildfires described as “rhetoric” didn’t help. I’m guessing we’re both pretty much on the same side of this equation, despite communications mishaps — we both want to see our forest managed to the benefit of all, and with a particular focus on local families and businesses who are needed to do the work.

            • Sorry, Unfortunately I messed around with this whole gravatar thing on a different blog…I’m JZ…

              No worries Bob…I think we’re on the same side…just trying to pass along to you and others that what may be easy to agree upon socially (through collaborative efforts or any other socially acceptable means) doesn’t necessarily translate to the ground very easliy.

              As far as the Kool-Aid…I deal it out every day. Wish I did’t have to, but that’s the reality of the tools we’ve been given to frame our “need” for action….apologies to all, but I agree with the critics on this one….we need to just spell out our intentions ( we wanna log cause wood is good and we can do it in a manner that minimizes impacts and improves habitats and blah, blah, blah) and disagree from there.

              Sorry Bob if I came off challenging, but I’m looking for some leadership here beyond what Matt and his ilk are willing to provide. Despite all the feel good and widely (collaboratively) agreed upon restoration rhetoric (no offense to your carreer), we’ll still be challenged….please help there!?!

              Bob, I too think we are on the same side of the equation…I want HELP framing things better than the canned tools we’ve been given…BTW, I have a hands-on career in fire mgmt, fire ecology and forestry…Hopefully we don’t need to get into a piss***** match since we’re on the same side.

              The subterfuge of “restoration” is what I have a hard time selling….not because of the merits, but rather the framing…it just seems disingenuous. I can/have/continue to sit in and lead a room full of experts who know what needs to be done across a large landscape but spend more time figuring out how to “package” the proposal as “restoration” (given our current tools such as CFLRA) rather that in terms than just good, sound, environmentally responsible forest management???. Is this what the great minds of restoration want to see from the folks who implement their strategies???

              • JZ Jimbob: Here is where I think we have agreement. You say: “Despite all the feel good and widely (collaboratively) agreed upon restoration rhetoric,” which my article pointedly disagrees with. I don’t think collaboration is desirable — or even possible — among groups with diametrically opposed ideals and perspectives and, two, I have an intense distrust of the so-called “feel good” definitions used by the current crop of ologists and their “ecosystem services” politics.

                The problem isn’t how to “package the proposal” so much as it is being dishonest with one another and not clearly stating (or even understanding) our own motives and objectives. I want to restore people and fire (NOT “wildfire”) to our forests; that requires — and should celebrate — logging and loggers, too. But also huckleberry pickers, campers, hikers, elk hunters, photographers, treeplanters, students, scientists, roadbuilders, surveyors, spiritualists, painters, yodelers, brush pickers, camas diggers, prescribed burners, tree climbers and their friends, families, and co-workers.

    • Jeez, Dave: Dredging up a two-year old blog discussion is kind of like bringing a 32-year old poodle to someone’s house. It’s probably interesting, but what is it doing here, in the living room? That was more than 25 months ago, probably 500 or 1000 blog posts by me ago, and is listed for a minor magazine over 1,000 miles from my home and to which I have never subscribed or even seen a printed copy that I can recall.

      I haven’t had the time to review what was written, but I’m assuming that I was pretty negative in that the title includes “myth of catastrophic wildfire” and that the title of my PhD thesis included the phrase “catastrophic wildfires,” and then reported on them as if they actually took place.

      Once I get a chance to read it, I may have another response — but maybe the place to put it would be at the New West blog site instead of here, or just send you a personal email.

      In the interim, if you haven’t already, I’d be very interested in having you read the linked article and tell me your thoughts on the “four principles” of forest restoration I list in the summary.

      Bob Z.

      • Jeez, Bob, seems to me that if you’re going to cast the stone at Dr. Hanson and his research that you shouldn’t go play the ‘victim card’ when someone uses your very own words to comment about your research. Agreed?

        Also, while NewWest.net is defunct, for the 5 + years it was up, it was easily one of the premier blogs dealing with western US issues. NewWest did produce a few issues of a glossy magazine, but that never took off. They were far more know for their on-line blog – and lively comments section – then anything in print.

        But then, you probably already knew that, Bob, since I recall you being a somewhat frequent commenter on that site.

        After all, how could I forget this exchange with you and Mike Dubrasich back in August 2006 to a guest column I posted, titled, “Lawsuits Sometimes Necessary While Working on Forest Solutions.”


        Yeah, I have a pretty good memory….

        • Jeez Matt: More like (way) too much time on your hands. Sounds more like some kind of personal resentment problem than a memory ability. I’m guessing that I was pretty outspoken regarding the “need” for “necessary” lawsuits, too. That would be consistent. And how is teasing someone the same thing as playing a “victim card?” I’m not sure how that works, and certainly don’t perceive myself as a victim in any way.

          And what were my “very own” words from a defunct blog (I thought it was a magazine) that Dr. Hansen used? If I knew what they were, then maybe I can “agree.”

          And what has Mike Dubrasich got to do with this?

          (How about the “four principles” in the Conclusion section. Agreed?)

        • It is well known that Hanson’s real goal is to end ALL timber cutting, on ALL lands, including private lands. Yes, he wants to expand the habitat of the blackbacked woodpecker, and has gone public saying that. He has decided that his end justifies his means, including lawsuits against cutting dead trees along roads. Again, there are more dead trees than at ANY time in recorded history, and probably even more than pre-European times. Yes, he profits from fighting against harvesting SOME of the dead trees in our forests, as well as fighting against Clinton-era collaboration. The Plumas NF has suffered greatly from Hanson’s lawsuits, and has been plagued by wildfires for the last 10 years.

          • Larry, Can you please provide evidence to back up your supposed “well known” claim that Dr. Hanson’s real goal is to end all timber cutting on private lands? Thanks.

          • Larry says,

            Hanson’s real goal is to end ALL timber cutting, on ALL lands, including private lands

            I suspect that is not Hansen’s goal. But he may want to end commercial timber harvest on national forests and maybe other public lands. So what? I guess that it provides useful information about who he is and where he gets his sustenance. And it gives people who disagree with that goal a warning to try hard to disentangle claims of science relative to advocacy. Beyond that? Why might we care? John Muir so advocated long ago, and he is widely viewed as a hero, including by my old forestry professor, who helped me gain appreciation for the philosophy of science, and who suggests that the world needs more John Muir Naturalists.

            Larry says,

            The Plumas NF has suffered greatly from Hanson’s lawsuits, and has been plagued by wildfires for the last 10 years.

            I suspect that you have compiled a list of all these “sufferings,” and will share a hyperlink with us. As to “…has been plagued with wildfires the last 10 years.” What Western National Forest (or Region) has not been so plagued. Global warming? Just a “dry spell”? or Chad Hansen’s fault?

          • Come to think of it Larry, you’re whole diatribe requires verification to be taken seriously. So, please provide evidence for these claims you have made also:

            • “there are more dead trees than at ANY time in recorded history, and probably even more than pre-European times.” Do you have some research or studies that verify this?

            • “The Plumas NF has suffered greatly from Hanson’s lawsuits, and has been plagued by wildfires for the last 10 years.”

            Specifically, Larry, what’s the total acres of the Plumnas NF? How many acres burned during the past ten years? Based on your claim, Larry, that the wildfires are Dr. Hanson’s fault, I can only assume that the acres and areas that burned in the last ten years can be easily over-laid with the boundaries of timber sales that Hanson litigated, right? Besides some wildfires in a fire-dependent ecosystem, how else has Dr. Hanson’s lawsuits caused the Plumas NF to “suffer greatly” in an ecological sense? And, of course, for all of this, I’d like to see some verified science, research or studies.

            I, for one, am getting might darn sick of some of your absolutist statements (and constant screaming about Dr. Hanson) repated here that appear to have no real apparent grounding or basis in reality.

            • Matt: I’d like to jump in here and discuss one of the points you make. You ask Larry for “evidence” that “there are more dead trees than at ANY time in recorded history and probably even more than pre-European times.” You then ask him for studies or research on these claims.

              First, the best evidence that exists is the rapidly increasing numbers of dead trees littering millions of acres throughout North America — the beetle kill in Canada, Colorado, Idaho, and eastern Oregon and the fire-kill in Arizona, Texas, California, and Nevada are good starting points for considering this condition.

              Second, I have spent a goodly portion of my own career studying and researching dead tree counts, albeit most of that work has been done in the Pacific Northwest. My PhD studies, for example, focused on the “Great Fires” of the Oregon Coast Range from 1849 to 1951 and including the very beginnings of recorded history in this region (ca. 1770s), and included the widespread 1902 and 1910 fire years.

              Ironically, this is one of the few areas that likely contains fewer dead trees now than at other times in the historical past. Not so with the western Cascades, SW Oregon, northern California, eastern Oregon, and Texas, Canada, and most of the other places mentioned.

              We are witnessing a record amount of documented (“historical”) dead trees in North America that features a significant increase in both acres and numbers during the past 20 years. Other people that have researched and studied — and documented — this phenomenon include Bonnicksen, Kay, Covington, Pyne, Lewis, Anderson, Williams, and Stewart.

              Certainly you must have encountered some of this work during the course of writing your own book on this topic?

              • While Dr. Zybach’s observations carry more weight, it is a historical fact that there were fewer trees during the pre-European times, so it would be logical that there were also less snags, as well. I would also go further, saying that the lodgepole stands were more confined, by the Indian’s fires, than they are today.

                I did read an article in a smaller northern California newspaper site, interviewing Hanson about his push to get the blackbacked woodpecker on the California State Endangered Species List. Hanson talked about the woodpeckers using snags in green forests, as well as in dead stands. Hanson is pushing for an end to salvage logging statewide, and would also like to see an end to commercial logging everywhere in California. Here are some basics of his thinking:

                “There is far less fire now in western U.S. forests than there was historically.”

                It depends on how you frame it. Is it “natural” fire? Does it include or exclude current and historic human fires? I can concede this observation.

                “Current fires are burning mostly at low intensities, and fires are not getting more intense, contrary to many assumptions about the effects of climate change.”

                Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona all have had record-setting wildfires in the last ten years. All states have lost critical endangered species habitats. No one is predicting a downturn in these trends.

                “Contrary to popular assumptions, high-intensity fire (commonly mislabeled as “catastrophic wildfire”) is a natural and necessary part of western U.S. forest ecosystems, and there is less high-intensity fire now than there was historically, due to fire suppression.”

                When the high-intensity patches correspond with owl and goshawks habitats, can we continue to welcome high-intensity fire into their critical nesting habitats, when their rarity is THE exact reason why the birds are listed?

                “Patches of high-intensity fire (where most or all trees are killed) support among the highest levels of wildlife diversity of any forest type in the western U.S., and many wildlife species
                depend upon such habitat. Post-fire logging and ongoing fire suppression policies are threatening these species.”

                Again, there is NO shortage of snag habitats in the west. 33,000 square miles of dead forests aren’t enough?!?!?

                “Conifer forests naturally regenerate vigorously after high-intensity fire.”

                Lodgepoles, yes, Ponderosas, no!

                “Our forests are functioning as carbon sinks (net sequestration) where logging has been reduced or halted, and wildland fire helps maintain high productivity and carbon storage.”

                And, when those patches burn, they release up to 300 tons per acre! This includes the more potent GHG’s that are produced when wood rots.

                “Even large, intense fires consume less than 3% of the biomass in live trees, and carbon emissions from forest fires is only tiny fraction of the amount resulting from fossil fuel
                consumption (even these emissions are balanced by carbon uptake from forest growth and regeneration).”

                The 2007 wildfires of northern California produced the equivalent of 3 million automobiles running all year long. He also doesn’t want to talk about the more potent GHG’s coming from dead forests, until the inevitable re-burn ships the rest of the carbon up, into the upper atmosphere, where plants cannot re-sequester it.

                “Thinning” operations for lumber or biofuels do not increase carbon storage but, rather, reduce it, and thinning designed to curb fires further threatens imperiled wildlife species that
                depend upon post-fire habitat.”

                The benefits of site-specific, well-designed thinning projects are quite evident, with large, long-lived forests supporting wildlife better than a dead forest does. When Indians did widespread burning, there were much fewer snags, and wildfire intensities were radically reduced. There is NO lack of snag habitat in the reality of today’s forests.

                “The only effective way to protect homes from wildland fire is to use non-combustible roofing and other materials, and reduce brush within 100-200 feet of structures.”

                Ask the people who lost their homes in the Angora Fire, and many other ones, where homes were lost. When 200 flames are allowed within a quarter mile of homes, disaster and heroics will ensue. I’m sure we will be seeing more homes and lives lost during this already deadly fire season. All too often, it is the victim who is blamed for wildfire tragedies. Hanson, clearly, doesn’t care about rural residents, even though he lives in one of the worst hazardous areas around. There is plenty of fuels, and there will be plenty of heat, this summer. Then there’s that “inconvenient truth” that humans will cause wildfires where they shouldn’t “naturally” occur, burning up “preserved” fuels, and harming people. Hanson will continue his war against logging, until laws are changed. As this battle goes, so will the rest of the collaboratory efforts across the country. How it fails on the Plumas, will guide its changes, nationwide.

  2. Good story Bob. But I agree with Dave that the citizens of the Wallow Fire celebrate Chad Hansens work on “the myth of catastrophic fire”. That just demonstrates the disconnect the deep ecologists have with real people.

    Restoration is the way of the future. But I think places like Arizona are demonstrating that only the capitalist pig timber industry is capable of doing the restoration. Instead of appeasing the CBD to allow logging on 50,000 acres/year, the establishment might start finding they have to appease the timber industry to actually get it done.

    • Derek says,

      I agree with Dave that the citizens of the Wallow Fire celebrate Chad Hansens work on “the myth of catastrophic fire”. That just demonstrates the disconnect the deep ecologists have with real people.

      Sorry, but I’m puzzled over what you thought I said, that you “agree with.” My point was merely to point to the New West post, and related commentary as an anchor for further discussion of this particular post. And to softly suggest to Bob Zybach that he might receive (perhaps has already received elsewhere) the same treatment for his work that he dishes out to Hansen for his work.

      As to the “disconnect that deep ecologists have with real people,” all I can say is that I thought people who advocated for “deep ecology” are real people. What other kinds of ‘people’ are there?

      Here is a little link to a thing I put out on my Eco-Watch network back in 1993 that may shed some light on what things the “deep ecology” movement advocated for back then: Overpopulation and Deep Ecology, Bill Devall, Eco-Watch, 5/14/1993.

      A snip:

      In practice, deep ecology encourages articulation of ecosophy. Earth wisdom or the wisdom of the soil. Wisdom comes from intellectual theories but also from life practice. We all know the difference between a merely well-educated person and a wise person.

      … [G]iven the unjustified assertions made by some people about the deep ecology kind of perspective, I want to make it clear that there is nothing in deep ecology which is misanthropic or racist or gender biased. Nor does the deep, long-range ecology movement demand that supporters be followers of any guru or any philosophical or religious position. …

      Historical and cultural analyses are important in assessing our current situation and making changes in culture and society, but such analyses are separate from the type of argumentation used. [Arne] Naess has been interested primarily in types of argumentation and dialogue which encourage people to move to more mature ecosophical positions and not in social and historical analysis. The deep, long-range ecology movement, a cumbersome term, can have people with many different perspectives but who share the insights, intuitions and general principles of deep ecology and who work together recognizing, assome Buddhists say, that “no one is saved until we are all saved.” …

      The Eco-Watch article includes 8 principles that form “a platform” for the deep ecology movement. Here are four of them, just for fun:

      4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.
      5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
      6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
      7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.

      • I was just being sarcastic Dave. You know that. A cynic is sarcastic. I don’t have a problem with Hansen’s wildfires burning in National parks, wilderness areas, or roadless. I celebrate it. I think the public needs to see what the public saw one hundred years ago. I think they need to see the alternative to 100 years of fire suppresion. I don’t think wildfires are bad for the ecosystem they are a part of. The ecosystem cannot harm itself. I’ve often said the question should be rephrased to ask“if nature can recover from a wildfire-certainly it can recover from logging”(the only real difference between the two is snags-and I’m not aware of snag dependent species that are threatened).

        I agree with the deep ecologists who want wildfire to be returned (to certain areas). I will celebrate when a couple “Yellowstone like” fires are eventually overlaid over the vast forests of Colorado. I agree we should have wilderness areas. You wouldn’t have heard me say both of those 20 years ago. Where our ideology diverges is they want it to be returned to previously roaded and previously logged forests. You know: the places where 90% of the locals go to hunt and recreate(unless you live in Bozeman or Aspen). The Wallow fire wasn’t in a wilderness area, it was in a logged and roaded forest. Nobody was backpacking in what burned.

        So there is my compromise. So what is your compromise Dave? I will state the obvious here in that I haven’t found one “zone of agreement” on this blog (I don’t count thinning small diameter trees 200′ from homes). I haven’t heard one compromise offered up by you, Mathew, David, or Tree, ect. ect. Where should there be logging on national forests? Please be specific. Are there places that you think wildfires shouldn’t be allowed to burn “naturally”? Please be specific. I guess it boils down to lines on a map.

        I guess what this blog has really demonstrated is that there is no compromise. A noble idea, but a useless endeavor. We’re certainly not going to change each others minds so I guess it exists so we can compete to win the hearts and minds of those who might be reading it. Somebody besides us is reading it aren’t they?

        • Thanks Derek,

          Somehow we need to figure out how to better frame sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek, and other human forms of ‘humans messing with humans’ on blogs. The other day I heard one fairly famous blogger (on NPR as I recall) saying that only one person actually “got” an April fool’s joke on their blog. Others were quite nasty in their remarks. That immediately reminded me that I didn’t recognize Larry’s April fool’s joke here–and it was a very good one. Or maybe it’s just me, jumping to too many conclusions. And I didn’t even begin to get your attempt at sarcasm. Neither did Sharon begin to get a recent attempt of mine at “dark humor.” So it goes.

          First to “compromise.” I agree. We seldom find means to compromise. Still, I don’t think it a compromise for me to advocate for logging. As Andy Stahl and I have talked on several occasions, we both actually like watching “logging shows.” I even worked for Weyerhauser for a brief time, looking into various means to keep track of timber, as growing stock for logging. I would likely have taken a permanent position there had the economy been in better shape 30 years ago. Andy worked for Associated Oregon Loggers for a brief time. I don’t have a problem with logging in the urban-forest interface, although I do have problems with zoning laws that allow people to live there, subsidized by the rest of us re: fire protection. I don’t have a problem with logging, if/when it is stated as a primary goal, and when logging pays its way out of the woods–provided that “other values” don’t somehow trump the social value of logging. And there it gets tricky, particularly when the Forest Service resorts to so many side-shows to try to trot out logging projects masqueraded as something else. And I don’t believe I’d have a problem with logging if/when it was properly vetted in a context-relevant way.

          So when push comes to shove, where/when would I be OK with logging? I don’t know. But I suspect that there are places and times for such, maybe more than either you or I might suspect from me. The main reason I haven’t offered anything up, is that I have a fundamental disagreement with the process by which the Forest Service goes about vetting projects relative to plans and programs–as I’ve noted on numerous occasions here.

          A point of disagreement: You say, “I’ve often said the question should be rephrased to ask “if nature can recover from a wildfire-certainly it can recover from logging” (the only real difference between the two is snags-and I’m not aware of snag dependent species that are threatened).” I have a good friend, a forester, who believes, as I do, that there is a difference between wildfire and logging, particularly as to reforestation.

          I’m not sure if you ever saw the FS’s Wyoming Report (right name?, early 1970s) on reforestation efforts in lodgepole pine on the Bridger-Teton NF. The FS spent a bundle of money on failed attempts to reforest after logging. After a fire, by contrast, there is little chance that reforestation will not happen due to the “serotiny” of the cones, and the shading by the snags. The question that haunted me, particularly as we were preparing the first forest plan for the B-T, was, “Why in hell were we logging the lodgepole.” What sense did it make?

          Similar questions about logging were the reason I questioned timbering in all the Intermountain Region—then and now. The Forest Service answer, of course, was that the “decadent old growth” needed to be replaced with “thrifty young stands,” which was the main point behind David Clary’s Timber and the Forest Service wherein he rightfully challenged the Forest Service’s religious zealotry toward timbering. Another reason for my questioning was the pressure that Louisiana Pacific was applying for continued or increased logging due to their industrial-scale mill in Dubois, WY. But why was that mill there in the first place? I dunno, but I’m suspicious that it was the Forest Service, not the industry that led to its presence. As to the Northwest and Alaska, I had trouble with massive clearcuts, and associated soil erosion, not to mention wildlife and aesthetics. So too in the Sierra-Nevada in California.

          As to your last point, “I guess what this blog has really demonstrated is that there is no compromise. A noble idea, but a useless endeavor.” All I can say is that I’ve had similar feelings lately. What I don’t get, and could never “get” in twenty years of blogging, is why more people won’t participate. If we had more, somehow people might have more incentives to both be nice and to find means to cooperate, if not to compromise.

          • I appreciate your civility Dave.I’m still waiting for compromise from Mathew, Tree, and David?

            Just another question DAve:Considering that timber harvest on Nat. Forests has dropped by 80%(which makes you the new establishment in my book-my evil twins sarcasm again), do you think there’s room for timber harvest to increase? How much? 30% of 1980’s? 40%?

            This is a bit of an aside, but I’ve spent the morning reading the “new draft Kootenai forest plan”. The Kootenai is now cutting 25% of the 80’s. The plan wants to continue that. Here’s some quick highlights(my editor says don’t loose readers by rambling-and your grammer is like a ten year old!): the old 1987 plan had 60% as “suitable for logging”. The new plan has 30%.The Kootenai is in a “grizzly bear recovery zone with approx 40 Grizzley bears. So on top of 30% of the forest that was already “roadless”, another 30% of previously roaded and logged forest has now been given to 40 Grizzly bears. If that 30% that was still suitable in the 87 plan, the ASQ would double timber harvest by 70MMBF. 70MMBF creates about 1000 jobs. So 1000 jobs got sacrificed for 40 grizzly bears.In the 80’s, Lincoln County had the highest per capita income in Montana, today it is one of the poorest counties in Montana. And you wonder why the locals hate you.

            • Derek, Apparently you didn’t appreciate civility too much a few days ago when you posted on the Missoulian site, under your anonymous “logger” handle and asked the Missoula woman (you called her “chick”) who received a violently-phrased death threat over the trapped wolf photo to publish her home address and phone number.

              As far as “compromise”…myself and my organization were heavily involved in the campaign to support the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act back in the late 90s/early 2000s – a bill that would have ended the federal timber sale program – and today, our organization’s restoration coordinator serves as the co-chair of the Lolo Restoration Committee’s Westside Working Group and we haven’t filed a lawsuit or appeal of a timber sale in 3 years. Thanks.

              • I don’t care about being civil Mathew.I’m just pointing out that I have never heard any compromise from you-nor do I expect to ever here any. Good day sir.

                • Hmmm…the guy who wrote “I appreciate your civility Dave” this afternoon, a few hours later writes, “I don’t care about being civil Mathew.”

                  Derek, I have pointed out examples of where our organization has compromised. The examples are in the real world, not some blog post. Take em or leave ’em, I could care less, Logger, er, Derek. Good day sir.

                • By the way Derek, using the Missoulian’s comment page to anonymously refer to a woman who just received a very real death threat (Missoula Police and FBI investigating) as a “chick” and then asking her to post her address and phone number is like, so, gentleman-like, think?

                  • Jeez, Matt: Can’t we just stick to posts on this blog? “Outing” anonymous posters on other blogs and doing “gotcha” links to other discussions shouldn’t be part of this dialog, should it?

                    That being said, I have also been disenchanted with the cowardly nitwits who make ad hominen attacks on others in these groups, and hide behind a pseudonym when they do it. I’m not sure this is the best group for doing that type of thing (still have to check out the links of mine you posted), but I’d suggest a few considerations here:

                    1) If you are going to publicly attack or discredit someone, please have the courtesy and conviction to properly identify yourself first;

                    2) If someone wants to use a pseudonym, there is no compelling need to tattle on them — let them discredit themselves, based on their own unsigned postings;

                    3) If you are going to link to other blogs in order to make some point or another, it is probably better to link to current blogs rather than inactive blogs (which could have been edited and posted by anyone), or outdated blog postings that are weeks or months old and have the same limitations.

                    Blogs aren’t journals or even newspapers — they are topical discussion groups. Citing them as valid documents is probably a poor idea.

            • Considering that timber harvest on Nat. Forests has dropped by 80%(which makes you the new establishment in my book-my evil twins sarcasm again), do you think there’s room for timber harvest to increase? How much? 30% of 1980′s? 40%?

              I don’t know. The answer depends on how well the Forest Service, and the timber industry, and the “let’s make the forests fire-resistant” crowd, make their case for upping the harvest. It also depends on how well wildlife advocates, including conservation biologists among others, make their case for either situationally disallowing logging, else allowing logging with significant “standards” that will keep the harvest below where it was in the 80s. And there are other concerns, like water pollution, soil loss, etc. Then there is the ever-present wilderness advocacy. And so on.

              So the answer to your question depends on specialists and special interest groups making their cases, depends on politics, depends on policy, and program calls by the Forest Service, depends a wee bit on forest planning, maybe (and here I’m being a bit sarcastic, given my long-standing diatribe against the type planning the FS does), and depends on fitting project planning into larger-scale management endeavors.

              I don’t see timber harvest on the national forests reaching the high points of the 1980s anytime soon. And remember that the harvests reached their high point very rapidly, moving from about 2 billion BF/year in 1950 to about 11 billion BF in 1975. But the fire-lobby might make my prognostications seem silly sometime in the future. Who knows. Let the process games continue!

              PS. As long as we are bantering about the unanswerable, what do you think a reasonable harvest level from the national forests? And how would you advise setting one?

              • I undertand your reluctance to endorse any timber harvest increase. Of course I’m trying to trap you. I think timber harvest should at least be doubled. But then, to be honest, I don’t have a problem with what they were doing in the 80’s. I don’t care about the grizzly bear, but I do care about manageing our national forests as national parks without local support. I would hate to be the Forest supervisor trying to peddle this Kootenai plan to the public.It’s been obvious for two decades that our local forests have been managed for those far away. If you have local support-then I’m all for it-but don’t expect the feds to pay whatever price to clear your roads and WUI(ie Colorado).

                That said, I agree that it will be fun to see the process games continue.I think the next five years is going to be exiting times in forestry. I’m intrigued by the coming “timber famine” from Canada (of course, if you want to make money in the stock market-buy whatever I tell you to sell). “pink slime” shows us that the public doesn’t care about the science, public opinion is really driven by simple “images”, and defending dead forests is a tough image to sell.

        • Derek- I don’t know if hope for compromise, for peace, is fundamentally a spiritual thing, or just about our different brain chemistry and all the other things going on that affect that from day to day. I know sometimes it’s hard to keep slogging, and the light ahead looks pretty dim.

          It reminds me of one of my favorites here.

      • “4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of human population. The flourishing of non-human life requires such a decrease.”

        Good luck getting the “breeding religions” to reduce their own breeding! We need decisions based in this reality.

        “5. Present human interference with the non-human world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.”

        There is no “non-human world” anymore. We, again, need to stick to the present realities. Some changes can be made but, the barriers to controlling human behaviors are MUCH more troublesome than barriers to excellent forest stewardship.

        “6. Policies must therefore be changed. The changes in policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.”

        With man’s unavoidable impacts on ALL of the world’s forests, we MUST intervene, and act to save the parts of the forests at highest risk. Believing in “passive restoration” ignores man’s impacts on global forests, and doing nothing is not a viable solution.

        7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.”

        Again, the social change will be a lot more difficult than accepting good forest stewardship, and active, hands-on forest restoration.

        It’s all good and wise to reduce our footprint upon the land but, doing nothing while forests suffer is not a valid solution for our western forests.

        • With man’s unavoidable impacts on ALL of the world’s forests, we MUST intervene, and act to save the parts of the forests at highest risk

          The ‘it’s an emergency’ mentality is on both sides of this debate. Forest ‘triage’ folks are in your ‘let’s stop the “Catastrophic Fires” camp, and also in the Conservation Biology camp, arguing that with human-induced global warming we are likely to have to help Mother Nature by transplanting at minimum seed trees since ‘natural movement’ of trees to places where they might thrive may prove too slow. And just yesterday I heard Mayor Bloomberg is working on a plan to plant a million trees in NY City. Bloomberg himself a proponent of the idea that we’d better soon admit that global warming is real, and I suspect but haven’t yet fact-checked that it’s been caused by us.

          Even though we are “in it for the long run” and need to learn from “adaptive management experiments” we will no doubt need to do some triage, unless we are just making up the global warming stuff. Still, questions remain as to: where, when, how much, and what to do.

          So at least we are beginning to WAKE UP. Now if only we can get more of the major religions of the world to seek the bandwagon of ‘each of us doing our part’ re: the sleeping giant, The Human Population Time Bomb. See, e.g. Eco-Watch, 1992 Archive, more in the 1990 and 1993 archives. My goal, then and now: simply to see if we can talk about it.

  3. As more pieces of the pie come into place, including education, the logic points more and more at site-specific science, guiding active restoration projects. The external benefits outweigh the short term impacts, and mitigation does, indeed, work. However, as Derek says, the timber industry doesn’t work for free, and their prices for doing the work are continuing to spiral upwards. This is just a dose of reality here. How many more millions of acres of forest can we continue to afford to lose every year? Where can we sacrifice more critical habitat? Where can we lose irreplaceable cultural sites? I guess THAT is up to the “deep ecology” litigious folks, eh? When will they stop “moving the goalposts”?

  4. Nice article Bob. It’s obviously advocating active restoration. I like the fact that there isn’t any science citations, just mostly common sense. I think one of the big problems with restoration is that is not defined well and the term means different things to different folks. My vision of what restoration should be is likely different from other folks.

    The large landscape level restoration project I am involved with has emphasis on thinning to emphasize large trees. This is OK but tends to downplay the lack of seedlings stages that were historically greater than today. I think part of this is a bias against precieved regeneration areas as synonomous with clearcuts, and the enviro groups in the local coalition generally was against regeneration treatments. This may be OK for this go-around but it left lots of dense stands prone to stand replacing fire, and a lack of serial species (larch, ponderosa, and dougfir in my area) in the younger age classes. A lot of our forest is in the mixed severity fire regime primarily grand fir habitat types, where fires were often patchy leaving a few legacy older trees similar to a seed tree type prescription.

  5. First, Sharon thank you very much for posting this article. I was hoping to get some provocative and thoughtful feedback on its content and have not been disappointed! It is going out to 10,000 people over the next few days, and this will give me a good opportunity to reconsider some of my assertions, my methods for expressing them, and to be better prepared for certain types of responses.

    This was written for a general audience, although it is based on scientific evidence and personal research and this is as close to “peer review” as it is likely to get. Thank Gore for blogs!

    Second, thanks to all of you who have expressed an opinion about the contents — I very much, and sincerely, appreciate your time and thoughts. I will now wade into some of this stuff and try to make a few key responses to (hopefully) encourage further thought and discussion on these topics of common interest — if not on this article in particular.

  6. Bob Zybach concluded his article:

    … Forest restoration projects should be conducted on a landscape-scale basis in order to be effective biologically, aesthetically, and economically. Project boundaries should include sufficient commercial materials to treat the project area and show a profit. Profitable and beneficial actions are sustainable on a long-term basis, as we have learned from more than 10,000 years of forest history in this region. The actions needed to restore our forests to earlier, more desirable conditions would create thousands of jobs for decades, jobs to make the best use of our resources, protect our old-growth and its wildlife, and greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of wildfire when they did take place. …

    In comment #5 above, Bob asked for comment on his “four things that must be in place for forest restoration projects to be successful on a long-term basis:”

    1) Areas slated for restoration should include sufficiently broad boundaries and specifications to allow projects to be profitable;
    2) Restoration projects should be landscape-scale (25,000 to 250,000 acres) in size in order to be economically efficient and biologically effective over time;
    3) Local residents and businesses should be in strong support of restoration projects, and be given access to all information that develops during the process;
    4) Local project managers should be knowledgeable and capable of communicating scientific, technical, and political aspects of a project to local citizens. and recreational values associated with Oregon’s forests.

    So here goes: First, I suspect that given the concern over “Secure Rural Schools” funding in Oregon, along side national debt concerns, the topic of “profitability” would rank number one out of four in at least some people’s minds. But others of us are not convinced that the worth of our nations forest ought to be reduced to dollars. Or that it should serve as a “lead-off argument. Second, the idea of “restoration” is worthwhile only when subjected to the test Bob outlines in 4). That is, advocates for “restoration” need to be make their case to both ‘local citizens’ and “national and international interest groups’ that the idea of ‘restoration,’ and specific principles and practices are both sound, and politically and socially acceptable on national forests and other public lands. I don’t believe that this has yet been thoroughly vetted: Too much cheer leading, too little critical thinking in public fora. Third, the idea of looking at “landscape scale” is a useful concept, that has stood the test of public deliberative review. That is, for ecologically oriented management to be effective, we must look up a scale both for context and for management. (See, e.g. Supply-Side Sustainability, T.F.H. Allen, Joseph A.Tainter, and Thomas W. Hoekstra). Too often this principle is ignored. Fourth, public engagement is useful, both at the project level, and as I emphasize continually, in program and policy development. (Note: This is not a criticism of Bob’s four points, but rather of Government arrogance generally, and Forest Service arrogance specifically in development of their policy).

    • Thank you, Dave: Good comments and very much appreciated. It is not the Secure Rural Schools funding (most of the rural folks I work with don’t like this program and consider it “welfare”), or even the idea of “profit,” so much as designing projects that aren’t dependent on taxpayer subsidies and that include the entire list of “multiple uses” and benefits. Between logs, chips, firewood, veneers, game, berries, greens, freshwater, clean air, and recreational and spiritual experiences, restoration as I view it is a revitalization process that should (and can) be realized entirely by the use of local resources, including people. I think you’re right that this needs to be reworded, or set lower on the food chain.

    • I should note that in my haste to reply, I forgot to mention that I was quite impressed some years ago when the NF Forest Plan included “adaptive management areas,” cast up as experiments with big “control areas” in the design. I liked that. It gave us a frame from which to begin to evaluate the effects of our management over time. We are in this for the very long term, and we need to evaluate what we do in order to not repeat big mistakes, e.g. Nancy Langston’s Forest Dreams, Forest Nightmares.

      Unfortunately, the NW Forest Plan got highjacked by politics. It was also the product of politics. (I once mentioned to Dale Bosworth, when Regional Forester in Ogden, UT that the problem with the NW Forest Plan was that the problem was bigger than the FS and BLM. It should have been drawn up as a very large-scale all-lands landscape management plan, and “scoped” accordingly. ) Besides, I got the impression the the “can do” Forest Service wanted nothing to do with “experiments,” and didn’t want much to do with Mike Dombeck or Tom Tuchmann either. And I don’t think that Mark Rey, like pretty much all of the Bush II administration, was too pleased with anything laid down in the Clinton era. Given the ABC (anything but Clinton) attitude that was in vogue back then on the Republican side of the increasingly-wide political divide, I don’t think that Rey and Co. wanted much beyond to make sure that the NW Forest Plan would fail. But maybe the plan deserved to die. I don’t know. I only watch from afar–Utah

      In any case, I do think that the idea of using adaptive management experiments to begin to sell the idea of “ecological restoration” makes sense. A means to avoid the label: cheer leaders, and more!


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