Forest Service Tries to Blend Strategies Of Forest Restoration, Fire Risk Reduction

Thanks to Bob Zybach for finding this from the Bloomberg BNA Daily Environment Report.

The linked article is reproduced with permission from Daily Environment Report, 203 DEN B-1 (Oct. 22, 2012). Copyright 2012 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)

Here it is. below are some excerpts.

The Chief also spoke of some of these efforts at the Chief’s Breakfast at the SAF Convention.

Currently, prices for lumber are down, a consequence of depressed housing markets. Weak markets complicate efforts to plan cost-effective timber sales.

Tidwell said the lumber market problems and the shortage of profitable markets for woody debris have led the Forest Service into increased joint efforts with the forest products industry to develop biomass energy markets and cellulose product markets.

Those efforts are needed to help logging companies and sawmills survive, because they can take care of
much of the work within the concept of forest restoration, he said. ‘‘It’s just essential that we continue to have the people who can go out and do the work in the woods,’’ Tidwell said.

It’s interesting that Tidwell is quoted about people working in the woods, just as that has become a topic of interest on our blog. Maybe some funding for studies will follow?

Another note: at the SAF Convention, I heard much about “restoration”, which I think is not a particularly clear concept (other than for specific purposes, such as longleaf restoration). I have made peace with hearing this by just substituting “improving resilience” in my mind whenever I hear it.It worked for me.. although the unnecessary term “resiliency” also kept cropping up.

It may not seem as compelling to budgeteers (in Congress and at OMB), but it is clearer in the context of climate change..even to budgeteers it can’t make much sense to 1) claim that climate change is unprecedented and 2) ask for much in the way of bucks to make things on the land the same as they used to be.

8 thoughts on “Forest Service Tries to Blend Strategies Of Forest Restoration, Fire Risk Reduction”

  1. The latest issue of The Pinchot Letter (Fall 2012) features an article on the management paradigm shift that is now emerging in response to the planet’s entry into the Anthropocene. The same issue reviews two books on climate change and species translocation and extinction that could be as prescient and game-changing as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

    This nascent shift calls into question the rationality of many of our current practices, including forest restoration and endangered species protection.

  2. Resilience is much better term than restoration. The forests have survived past climate change, the 1930s were as warm or warmer than today, as well as the medieval warm period. Not to mention ice ages. The forests will evolve and adapt. Attempting to restore them to some ones ideal of pre-european settlement conditions is probably folly.

    • Mike: The problem with “resilience” is that it can’t be quantified. It literally can mean about anything you want it to — and if you ask an “ologist” what the term means and how to document its presence, you will see what I mean. It is eco-babble, despite all of the valiant (and often successful) attempts to get taxpayers to pay for “studying” it, and — if there’s enough room at the trough — maybe even pay for “monitoring” it. Requires multiple acronyms, academic approval, and good political connections.

      “Restoration,” on the other hand, is something that can be readily described and measured. It does NOT mean “some ones ideal of pre-european settlement conditions.” That’s the type of flippant answer you get from people that don’t understand the basic concepts and word definitions associated with “restoration.”

      First, what is it about the past that has been lost, damaged, or altered that we want to restore? Certain species of plants or animals, such as pine trees or wolves? Those can be documented and measured. A free flowing creek that has been impounded by a beaver or a farmer? That can be removed. A neglected rose garden? Restore public access to gated lands? 1930s-era campgrounds? Grasslands? Oak savannahs? Name it — if it’s been done before somewhere, we can probably do it again in about the same place; and maybe most efficiently by using the same methods. If we know what they are.

      The point of restoration is to (and this is the step always leap-frogged by the resilientologists) 1) research and document past conditions so you know what they are — and when they actually occurred — with some certainty, 2) select which of those conditions you would like to restore, 3) make a plan, with measurable objectives, to achieve those conditions.

      And for all you age-ists and diameter-screen enthusiasts, please start using some arithmetic. A 60-inch diameter spruce on the Oregon Coast may well have been only 60-inches tall 60 years ago (when I was about the same age as a 5-foot tall spruce sapling). “Restoring” conditions for that tree or that “habitat” to a time 50 years ago or 75 years ago is a way (way) different proposition than keeping (“preserving”) the tree in its current form while it keeps getting larger and changing shape. Take that lesson and apply it at a landscape-scale and it starts becoming easier to figure out how needed restoration of our dead and decadent forests and grasslands can be a profitable (“jobs”) enterprise, while achieving numerous other desired social and environmental benefits.

      Nature isn’t a cuckoo clock. All known “fire return intervals” that have been documented have also involved human ignitions. For much of the western US, restoration — to me — means restoring people to the land. We are not pathogens, but critical components, of the land, and that has been true for thousands of years.

      • A big point is that many pre-European conditions are even more highly-desirable today. The historical species compositions are very close to what we want our forests “restored” to. The historical tree densities are also closer to where we really want to be. The historical forest structures are also closer to to where we want them to be, as well. The fallacy that we want to do the same thing to ALL lands is unfortunate. Of course, it is really all about site specific issues. And, of course, some people don’t want to address those site-specific issues.

  3. Some people would rather have (and maintain) pre-human conditions, even though no one knows what those are. Just as some people question restoration definitions, some of us question preservationist ideals. “Passive” restoration often results in “restoring” burned landscapes and the bad outcomes that come with extreme wildfire intensities. Some want you to think that such wildfires are “natural and beneficial”, despite the loss of irreplaceable habitats.

  4. Here is one definition of “restoration” we are using in the Sierra Nevada:

    ‘How is ecological restoration defined in the GTR? In the face of changing
    climate conditions, our focus is on increasing ecosystem resiliency. This focus
    is consistent with that described in USDA Forest Service Manual 2020.5,
    which defines ecological restoration as: “The process of assisting the recovery
    of resilience and adaptive capacity of ecosystems that have been degraded,
    damaged, or destroyed. Restoration focuses on establishing the composition,
    structure, pattern, and ecological processes necessary to make terrestrial and
    aquatic ecosystems sustainable, resilient, and healthy under current and future

    This works for me! If it needs “preservation” that is what we will do. If it needs a thinning, that is what we will do. The treatment needs to fit the conditions.

    • Larry: The problem with that definition is that it “makes sense” to everybody; i.e., it really doesn’t make any sense at all.

      When something is “degraded” it needs to be graded first. By who? And how? And is the same person using the same methods to make the current — and lesser, by definition — grade? Is a c+ ok, or is an 11 better?

      “Increasing resiliency” from what to what? According to who? And why?

      And how about that “adaptive capacity” — whatever happened to the good old days when things were more adaptable? Or should have been, according to USFS regs.

      Etc., etc.

      (“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!”)

  5. This country is now about government for government by government, which is maintained by income redistribution to make the government class the most “comfortable” class. What happens to forests is not on their dance card. Forests that were “discovered” by those who had a written language, some pictorial ability, were mostly forests whose past human managers were removed by disease ahead of “discovery.” So what once was, wasn’t, and what is, is. Whoever is in charge gets to have the forest they want, because forests are so malleable and changeable over time. Forests have a response to any decision and action a human can make. The issue is that forests once provided jobs and wealth, and now forests are not about jobs or wealth, and are also very expensive to “maintain.” There is no “break even” in the paradigm. Forests are either “degraded” or they are “pristine”, although neither condition is wrong, or bad, or “un-natural.” No matter how or what a forest experiences for disturbance has a pretty predictable outcome. So “outcome based” forestry is what is being demanded, but the “outcomes” are seen differently by about any person you would ask. Chaos brings diversity. So why waste our time and lives worrying about forests, which will be whatever they are if only because there are infinite outcomes possible, all depending on inputs. I read a study that said in Panama, a clear cut for slash and burn agriculture could be farmed for maybe 5 years, and then would be abandoned, and in 50 years time, the area is biologically indistinguishable from land never disturbed by human activity. Our problem is that government is allowed to own and control about 40% of the total landscape of the USA. Their mode of action is “one size fits all” which is in and of itself a barrier to chaos, diversity, or natural order. Save the forests by abolishing the USFS, BLM, and non “essential” land ownership by government. Government can’t run a wet dream, let alone conjure a “legal” and defendable forest policy for the lands they are deemed to “manage.” It is all an exercise in futility and classically insane. Government minions keep on doing the same thing, and expect a different result every time. Alice in Wonderland Forestry. Mad Hatter Logging Co., Queen of Hearts Reforestation. White Rabbit Congress. All of it quite mad.


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