15 thoughts on “Wuerthner: Green Trees, Sprawl, Metal Roofs and Flaming Subdivisions”

  1. However, the Angora Fire is a prime example of how unmitigated intense fuels buildups were bordering the private property. The late 80’s and early 90’s had the Tahoe Basin behind the curve on mitigating the massive die-off. Even today, those dead trees are still there. Just because they are now out of view, that doesn’t mean the problem has went away. Those fuels will burn before they rot. In this case, little can be economically done. No one will stand for accelerated commercial logging to cover fuels costs.

    Hmmmmmmm, maybe we should have mega fire taxes on all those Tahoe-owning liberal California elites? Or should we let “the Jewel of the Sierra Nevada” burn? Yep, some Americans don’t care about fire insurance rates.

    It isn’t even July, and this year is looking to be another chapter in historic wildfire lore. Congress will be moved to write inadequate responses to quell voter’s outcry. Will the wildfires become part of the Presidential Election? Probably so! (Let’s hope so!)

  2. Nobody cares about Wuerthner. The only thing that matters is half a million people in Colorado Springs are wonderin why the USFS didn’t do more WUI thinning. With any luck, there might be some “green islands” from previous thinnings(if ANY were done). With a lot of luck, the media/enviro establishment might stumble onto one and know what it is and show the people either what might have been, or what still could be. Doubtfull.

    Why do I have a feeling that there will someday be a “Front Range 4FRI”? Maybe the failed OSB guy from Flagstaff could pitch his plan in Colorado. Of course, he’ll need a “mega EIS” to guarentee a long term supply of “unlitigatable” timber.

    Fires are gonna be the forestry buzz phrase for the next decade. And those who defend dead forests aren’t going to be too popular.So keep it up!

    • Note that the link to Amazon’s page on Wuerthner’s coffee table book (“expensive to mail”) on Wildfire is selling used copies for $1.18. After following that link first, I decided to forgo the Counterpunch.org link, too (I actually bought the book at market price and skimmed it when it first came out). I think Derek is right, or close, when he states “Nobody cares about Wuerthner.” Not sure who the “nobodies” might be; he does seem to have a few followers, but apparently no one with any influence, thank Gore.

  3. Nasty, nasty. I thought this blog was mature enough to avoid these middle school jibes.
    Why don’t we stay with opinions or observations, and lay off the personal stuff

    • Ed: You are anonymous. Hardly a source of blog etiquette; particularly anything dealing with so-called “Nasty, nasty . . . personal stuff” — by pointedly not having any personality on your own part, and by your own choice. The point is to “consider the source” of the information before spending much time on it; also what information might be supportive and/or more relevant. Wuerthner is relatively well known for his views, and signs his own work and posts. Same with Matt Koehler, Andy Stahl, Larry Harrell, and me. Since you are unknown (but apparently above middle school age), i have no idea who “we” are. Most of us who post here use our real names, or are otherwise publicly known. Who are you?

    • I agree with Ed… there is a question of “why do people keep quoting him”.. what I call the Rolodex question- from the media perspective.

      But I edited a book once and it’s probably below $1.18, in fact, like service contracts, people may be paying to have my book removed.

      Anyway, I think all of us say things that need to be questioned at the risk of further inflaming people who don’t like my quotes, in my spiritual tradition we say “hate the sin, not the sinner.” We could reframe that to be “question the idea not the idea-espouser.”

      And the fact that others fall into doing it, does not make it OK for anyone to do it. That way lies a downhill slide to joint perdition.

      Sorry for the preachiness, but it is Sunday…

      • Sharon: Your book (I have similar stories) wasn’t featured as the First Link in this post. Wuerthner’s book was. How does following a posted link and then reporting back on it constitute a “Nasty, nasty . . . personal stuff” response, or even a “middle school jibe?” I think if “Ed” is going to call names and make belittling judgments about real people, he should have enough juevos (“spine”) to say who he is. Isn’t there some kind of “perdition” ruling on that kind of behavior, too?

  4. Wuerthner is very fond of saying things like “logging roads may cause invasive weeds to take hold”. Yes, one could also say, “kayaking may cause invasive weeds to take hold”, and that would also have some truth to it. It seems like whenever anyone talks about logging impacts, they will use the worst form of logging to gain their numbers, facts and figures.

    And, one could also say that merely beefing up home security could make the Police unnecessary, and unneeded.

  5. OK Ed, here’s an opinion:
    George Wuerthner is a Charlatan. He does seem to have a following though. Many of whom, I would venture to guess are sporting bumper stickers like “Free Tibet” and “Kill your Television”.

    I, too, have a copy of his book. The content is about what you’d expect given the title. Anecdotes, carefully selected examples, broad generalizations (fraught with footnotes that try to inextricably link you back to some sort of science), all that advocate for “no action” and how horrible logging is. The size of the book alone relegates it to the “coffee table” status and not as any sort of credible or useful instructional material. Too bad. Nice pictures though.

    Over at counterpunch, with regard to the Waldo Fire he writes:
    “If you look at these series of photos, you will note that it was home ignition that contributed to the loss of all the homes in this fire–not the fire itself. The fire never spread into this subdivision. Rather one home would ignite, and then burn down its neighbor in a domino fashion.”

    “Home ignition… and not the fire itself”….what the heck does that mean? The first home self-combusted and then all the others followed? Are there two different kinds of fire?
    “The fire never spread into the subdivision”….really? How did the homes ignite in the first place? Where did it come from? Self-combustion? Or did this 17,000 acre fire spread OUT of the subdivisions?

    Because I understand fire I can take a leap and kinda figure out the point he is trying to make. He loses credibility with his tone though. You gotta wonder if he understands (or even reads) what he is writing about.

    He seems to be arguing for some sort of national or local building covenants that dictate where and how private landowners can build. There’s a good idea. I’m sure the Supreme Court would uphold such laws/restrictions as Constitutional, given their recent ruling.

    Regarding the home combustion he writes:
    “I’ve seen this all over the West–the Cierra Grande Fire at Los Alamos, a number of fires I’ve visited in such as the South Tahoe area and in southern California, and other places.”

    I wonder if, in his travels (as an ecologist [and former hunting guide]) he’s taken the opportunity to observe the stand conditions (burned and unburned) adjacent to the burned homes and reflect on what other factors might have contributed to the fire. He certainly doesn’t write about it. I wonder why.

    Why not just call a spade a spade, as callous as it may seem, and say the home loss was a result of the homeowner’s poor choice of building location and material? Cohen’s research support’s that in Andy’s link above. But that doesn’t explain how a fire can move so far so fast off NFS lands and into the private lands. Sure, some of us might agree that climate plays a part, but you must also acknowledge that carefully designed treatments can lessen the risk. At least George isn’t blaming the fire on ecological imbalance caused by the lack of wolves……yet.

    So here’s a suggestion for George and any of his followers. Check out some credible science by credible “ecologists”:

    Effectiveness of Pre-Fire Fuel Treatments: (Joint Fire Science Program)


    “Our results indicate that fuel treatments such as prescribed burning and/or mechanical thinning may alter fuel properties to reduce fire hazards. Treatment of surface fuels appears to be of primary importance for reducing the intensity and severity of subsequent wildfire…. Fuel treatments that slow or reduce the flaming intensity of an oncoming flaming front can buffer a community or valued resource. In other instances a treatment may increase management options, such as facilitating wildfire suppression by providing safe access and egress for firefighters, as well as possible counter-firing opportunities. Fuel treatments may also help restore fire to its historic regime, either by restoring fuel profiles that facilitate safe management ignitions or by buffering the border between values-at-risk and extensively managed areas where natural ignitions are allowed to play themselves out.”

    Fuel treatments, fire suppression, and their interaction with wildfire and its impacts: the Warm Lake experience during the Cascade Complex of wildfires in central Idaho, 2007


    “Not only did the presence of the fuel treatments directly impact the survivability of the many structures located within the basin, but they also influenced fire suppression strategies…”


    “Crown fires are dependent on the sequence of available fuels starting from the ground surface to the canopy. Limiting crown fire in these forests can be accomplished by actions that manage in concert the surface, ladder and crown fuels. Reducing crown fire and wildland fire growth across landscapes decreases the chances of developing large wildfires that affect human values adjacent to forested areas.”

  6. Bob Z, if you and Derek had said “…nobody cares or agrees with George’s opinions on this matter…” or something similar, it would have been less “nasty” or personal. I don’t know George Wuerther, nor do I know you, except by your posting here. But I must say that your writings expose an attitude that is again expressed in your poke at me.

    When I first joined this group others were using less than their full names, so I followed suit.
    My full name is Ed Javorka. I live in north Idaho, and am a retired USFS forester/wildlife biologist/forest planner who retired from the IPNF after 26 years. I don’t claim to be an expert in anything except the USFS Region One period from 1957-1985. But extensive field experience in all aspects of forest management do provide an insight that many specialists don’t have.

    I have followed this site with interest for several months, and I notice that there are a couple of “regulars” who write with a “chip on the shoulder” attitude. And both of these regular commentators clearly have a personal, commercial or economic interest in many of the topics we review here.Just sayin’.

    I am a watcher, a reader, a listener, and hopefully a learner. I do feel strongly that, from my experiences here in USFS Region One, that the role of fire and the various proposed “fixes” espoused by you and Larry are in theory plausible, but economically and politically not feasible. The billions and billions of dollars needed to do the work are just not available. Congress in the present political climate is unwilling to budget the bucks. Just maybe the current firestorms and economic losses will help get the message through. We will see.

    • Thanks, Ed: Appreciate the candor and your experience. I’m guessing that many of us here do have a chip on our shoulders, and that is partly due to decades of personal confrontations (“habit”) as much as anything we can blame on our parents. Personally, I kind of enjoy the exchanges, particularly if their is some levity and/or truth to them. They’re always sincere, that’s for sure; though sometimes there’s a fine line between good-natured teasing and verbal abuse, too, I’d guess.

      Regarding the cost of forest restoration, I am sure that an actively managed thinning and salvage process on our federal lands would produce more value than it would cost. Tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of fat rural county treasuries, fewer and less destructive wildfires, greater wildlife populations and recreational opportunities, and healthier and more beautiful forests would be the outcome. Passive management is a proven failure, and leaf-raking mostly is, too.

  7. Bob Z, I can’t and won’t argue with the probable economic and social benefits locally and regionally from well planned and executed thinning in a TRUE WUI zone. We truly need more national investments in our forests and infrastructure. But Congress and too many state politicians are too nearsighted to think beyond the next election, and “no taxes” and reduced budgets and minimal government is now vogue…as you know. So the reality of the big bucks for such work is not here right now.

    And as I have stated before several times, I don’t visualize a WUI that extends miles and miles up the drainages to some distant ridgetop. But I find it hard to have patience or feel too sad for folks who will build a million-dollar home in or near the forest and spend little or nothing to truly protect their investment. I know there are fire retardant products and systems that, for an investment of 5-10 percent of the cost of the house, could save many homes from destruction. But these folks would rather invest in a swimming pool! So now, with all this destruction (much of it preventable?) in Colorado and Idaho and New Mexico, all of taxpayers will in one way or another have to “help out”. Something is not right.

  8. Ed,

    Given your experienee, would you agree that carefully disigned timber harvest for whatever reason (WUI, fuel reduction, maintaining mosaic stand structures and subsequent forest “resilience”, economic benefits, restoration of underrepresented habitats) is a worthy cause?

    If so, how do we arrive at such an end? Should it involve a collaborative approach of local and/or knowledgeable stakeholders? Should the Agency just go about it’s business and not involve external folks in project development and instead rely soley on the requirements of the NEPA process?

    If not, why? What about all the acres of “need” (ecologically speaking) that are outside of “true WUI”?

    I would agree about the dubious WUI designations and responsibilty of landowners to fireproof their own properties, but given the Agencies responsiblities, it seems that all the objectives are not mutually exclusive….responsibly managing National Forests for all the above should be an achieveable objective, although our routine appealants/litigants say otherwise.

    Your expertise towards solutions is encouraged.


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