OMB and Fuels Treatment Efficacy

Pages from ERI paper

I found this to be an interesting blog post from Bob Berwin (thanks, Bob!), because, if true, it appears that we actually have a few more branches of government than the Founders intended. We know from Jack Ward Thomas’s Journal that DOJ can have its own policy agenda, which can be different from that of the agencies of the administration. Hopefully, there is some kind of higher-level conflict resolution at some point- but we don’t really know that, do we?

Now we have OMB, and here’s a quote from Bob’s post:

The letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Mark Udall, D-Colo., and James Risch, R-Idaho. The lawmakers cited recent figures showing that the Forest Service has cut back on programs to reduce fire risks in areas where homes and the wilderness collide. The U.S. Forest Service treated 1.87 million acres of those lands in 2012, but expects to treat only 685,000 acres next year, out of millions of acres that need treatment.

“Our understanding is that these cuts were based on OMB’s continued skepticism about the efficacy of hazardous fuels treatments. We whole-heartedly disagree with OMB on this point,” the senators wrote.

Well, given the President’s efforts with regard to transparency in government, I think it is only reasonable to ask for OMB to document the reasons for its skepticism in a public forum, complete with citations and logic paths. If they don’t have the technical capacity due to the many lawyers of security, I would volunteer this blog for the discussion to take place.

For those of you who haven’t been following this, this study was specifically is directed to answer that question.

There are a variety of other interesting papers from the Ecological Research Institute here.

6 thoughts on “OMB and Fuels Treatment Efficacy”

  1. I wonder if they are skeptical about the efficacy of “hazardous wildfire treatments”, like the ones currently burning out of control in the Four Corners area. The West Fork Fire has used close to 4 million bucks (14 million bucks, current total) in the last three days, alone. The Silver Fire costs haven’t been updated in several days but the fire has added another 18,000 acres since yesterday. The costs show 11.1 million bucks. Other fires’ costs haven’t been updated, either, as per How many thinning and fuels reduction projects could be prepared and completed with those millions of dollars?

    Also interesting is this statistic within the Situation Report, are the prescribed fire YTD totals. The Forest Service has currently done 992,517 acres of prescribed fire, this year. While that sounds like a lot, 858,096 acres were completed in Region 8. The next highest Region only did 32,916, and that was back east. If prescribed fires are so good (yes, it is amazing how well they work in the South!), how come we aren’t doing more in the fire-prone West?? There seem to be MANY excuses but, it appears to be much easier to let “nature” start them in any unprepared spot, then letting “whatever happens”, happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Forest Service uses those wildfire acres as “accomplishments”, somehow.

  2. Sharon: Did you mean “many layers of security?” If not — excellent point!

    Yes, I think the government should be transparent in these types of decisions, and that this blog would be a fine forum for discussing these problems if they continue to operate in secret. I can’t tell if their reticence in open discussion is due to arrogance, insecurity or incompetence, but there must be some kind of rationale for the continued avoidance of involving the public in these processes. Certainly, there are no excuses for continuing these types of arbitrary and deceptive decision making processes in this day and age of Internet communications.

    • Oops.. that might have been a Freudian slip! Although I am a Jungian, myself. I did mean that the usual excuse for not communicating on the internet with the public tends to be “we can’t do on our systems due to security issues.”

  3. From Bob’s blog:

    “At the same time, wildfires continue to spread and their costs steadily rise. Across the country, 65 million acres of national forest — an area bigger than Oregon – are at a high risk for fires, according to a Forest Service report issued last year.”

    That is a LOT of acres but, Bob also says this: “The most effective fire prevention efforts are those that focus narrowly on reducing fuels in direct proximity to homes, but numerous fuel reduction projects in Colorado have been outside the wildland-urban interface, in areas where they won’t do much to prevent damage to neighborhoods.”

    So, the 65 million acres at risk, minus the Forest Service lands within the WUI, will be just fine as long as we leave it alone? Is he saying that only communities should be protected? What about cultural sites, endangered species habitats, drinking water reservoirs, roadside strips where trees can fall on highways and back roads, stream buffers, powerlines, irrigation structures, old growth, campgrounds, private landing holdings, youth camps, etc, etc, etc??? What about man-caused fires? Should we be preserving the fuels for the inevitable future man-caused fires? Should we be letting $3000 lightning fires turn into “wilderness” (small w) firestorms?

    • Larry.. I don’t know what projects Bob is talking about and how far in the “backcountry” and what is in the project’s purpose and need. Might be helpful to name names (projects) in this case and we would all be able to improve our understanding..


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