The following press release and new scientific review arrived in my in-box yesterday via the California Chaparral Institute. If you have questions about the press release, or the new scientific review, please direct them to the California Chaparral Institute’s Director or Conservation Analyst listed below. Thank you. – mk
For Immediate Release, August 1, 2013
Contact: Richard W. Halsey, Director, (760) 822-0029
Dylan Tweed, Conservation Analyst, (760) 213-3991
Fire Service Unfairly Blamed for Wildfires
Research rejects past fire suppression and “unnatural” fuel build-up as factors in the size and occurrence of large fires in southern California
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – A new scientific review and five major studies now refute the often repeated notion that past fire suppression and “unnatural” fuel build-up are responsible for large, high-intensity fires in southern California. Such fires are a natural feature of the landscape. Fire suppression has been crucial in protecting native shrubland ecosystems that are suffering from too much fire rather than not enough.
The research has also shown that the creation of mixed-age classes (mosaics) of native chaparral shrublands through fuel treatments like prescribed burns will not provide reliable barriers to fire spread; however, strategic placement may benefit fire suppression activities.
The research will be presented during a special California Board of Forestry hearing, August 8, 2013, 8am, at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, in Ventura, California.
Advocates of the fire suppression/mosaic view often misinterpret the research and ignore contrary information. For example, the recent Mountain fire near Idyllwild in the San Bernardino National Forest was blamed on 130 years of fire suppression. More than half of the area had burned in the 1980s. A 770 acre portion had burned five years ago. The 2007 fires in southern California re-burned nearly 70,000 acres that had burned in 2003. The majority of southern California’s native habitats are threatened by too much fire rather than not enough. This is especially true for chaparral, sage scrub, and desert habitats. Fires less than ten to twenty years apart can convert native shrublands to highly flammable, non-native grasslands.
“All of us need to take responsibility in making our homes and communities fire safe,” said Richard Halsey, director of the California Chaparral Institute. “Political leaders also need to find the courage to prevent developments from being built in high fire hazard locations. Blaming the fire service for large, intense fires because of their past efforts to protect lives, property, and the environment from wildfires is counterproductive and contrary to the science.”
The scientific review can be found here
1. August 8, 2013 Board of Forestry Meeting Agenda
2. The five key research papers refuting the fire suppression/mosaic perspective:
Keeley, J.E. and P.H. Zedler. 2009. Large, high-intensity fire events in southern California shrublands: debunking the fine-grain age patch model. Ecological Applications 19: 69-94.
Lombardo, K.J., T.W. Swetnam, C.H. Baisan, M.I. Borchert. 2009. Using bigcone Douglas-fir fire scars and tree rings to reconstruct interior chaparral fire history. Fire Ecology 5: 32-53.
Moritz, M.A., J.E. Keeley, E.A. Johnson, and A.A. Schaffner. 2004. Testing a basic assumption of shrubland fire management: Does the hazard of burning increase with the age of fuels? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2:67-72.
Keeley, J.E., Fotheringham, C.J., Morais, M. 1999. Reexamining fire suppression impacts on brushland fire regimes. Science Vol. 284. Pg. 1829-1832.
Mensing, S.A., Michaelsen, J., Byrne. 1999. A 560 year record of Santa Ana fires reconstructed from charcoal deposited in the Santa Barbara Basin, California. Quaternary Research. Vol. 51:295-305.
13 thoughts on “Research rejects past fire suppression & “unnatural” fuel build-up as factors in the size & occurrence of large fires in So Cal”
A quick look at Google Maps show ample fuels built up in the Idyllwild area. I also wonder just how much forest has burned, and is now replaced by thick brush. The San Bernardino NF had an estimated 12 million dead trees, back in 2001.
Not sure what this post has to do with a New Century of Forest Planning.
—> Your quoted “Halsey and Tweed” article is about the “shrubland ecosystem” of Southern California
—> As your reference #3 says: “Forests are Different from Chaparral”
—> Chaparral is nothing but small, dry, oil rich tinder (if my memory serves me correctly) and as documented here: “Chaparral sites experience a Mediterranean – type climate of hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters. Thia climate, together with the flammable nature of the vegetation and extremely steep Slopes on many sites, makes chaparral highly susceptible to periodic wildfires (typically every 20 to 100 years” See http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/4403/On_Estimating.pdf
Re your reference #3: “It does appear that some, but certainly not all, of our nation’s forests have “unnatural fuel loads,” a consequence of past logging and grazing practices as well as fire suppression efforts … ”
—> “unnatural fuel loads” should read ‘naturally high fuel loads in unmanaged forests’
—> “of past logging” should read ‘cessation of past logging and failure to use sound forest management’
Re your reference #3: “However, without understanding the dramatic differences between forests and the chaparral-covered hillsides in California, some are promoting a single solution to deal with the threat of wildfire everywhere”
—> On this, I TOTALLY AGREE with your reference #3, the Chaparral Institute, in their conclusion that “promoting a single solution to deal with the threat of wildfire everywhere” is totally inappropriate. A one size fits all solution is even inappropriate for different kinds of forests and is even inappropriate for the same forest type at different stages in the life of the forest or in different portions of its range. That is but one reason why Foresters and Forest Fire Specialists have a very important role to play in sound management of our forests to make this a better world.
Gil: What about the “dramatic differences” between “Wet” forests and “Dry” forests? I’m not sure if this is a New Forestry concept, or came in with the newer Ecological Forestry approach, but they are teaching it in our PNW forestry schools and discussing it in the media!
Computers basically operate on a binary digital system: on/off; living/dead, light/dark, etc. What is the purpose in simplifying our dynamic and well known forests into such a simplistic back step? This particular time-waster/no brainer approach to forest management and policy seems, on the surface, totally nuts.
Does anybody on this blog see any particular advantage or need for such a “tool” in managing our forests? Or is this just blatant fallout from the phony owl modeling that’s been taking place?
It certainly dates back before computers/enviros – The scientific terminology refers to the soil moisture content which can be different at different times of the year as is true of the non-forest chaparrell shrub cover type (ecosystem).
Xeric = dry or low soil moisture
Mesic = moderate soil moisture
hydric = soil that is wet long enough to periodically produce anaerobic conditions
As to the need for such descriptors, they are only valuable in describing one particular characteristic of a forest. By themselves, they do not describe the totality of a forest or forest type. A forest is described by the sum total of all of its characteristics. So they do have value but generally only when used in conjunction with the other descriptors representing the other characteristics of a forest type or forest stand.
All mesic forests are not the same and on and on. But then, I would think that you already know this. Anyone who simply speaks of wet or dry forests is only speaking in broad terms about one aspect of many different types of forests unless they are speaking in a very localized context.
Gil: Do you honestly fail to realize that federal public lands in Southern California (including National Forests, BLM Lands and National Parks and Monuments) actually contain Chaparral ecosystems? The very notion that you’d think this study, or a discussion about chaparral ecosystems, isn’t relevant to this blog is mysterious, and also too bad.
RE: “The very notion that you’d think this study, or a discussion about chaparral ecosystems, isn’t relevant to this blog is mysterious, and also too bad.”
To repeat myself, I relied on the following two facts to come to my conclusion
—> As your reference #3 says: “FORESTS are Different from Chaparral”
—> As the title of this blog says “A New Century of FOREST Planning”
So, since I am new to this group and a bit of a literalist, maybe I need several people to define the meaning of FOREST as it is used in the name of this blog and in determining what is suitable for posting in this blog.
My major point, which you seem to have missed, was to the effect that scientific findings specific to chaparral which controvert some people’s beliefs about fire problems in chaparral can not be extended to forests.
You also seemed to miss that I agreed that “promoting a single solution to deal with the threat of wildfire everywhere” is not scientific and is therefore unsound. The quote comes from your reference #3, which in proper context was: “However, without understanding the dramatic differences between forests and the chaparral-covered hillsides in California, some are promoting a single solution to deal with the threat of wildfire everywhere”
Peace and Love to you and yours
Morning Gil: You may wish to visit the tab “About” at the top page of the blog.
Thanks, and enjoy your Sunday.
Fair enough, I read it when I first joined but obviously it didn’t stick as well as the blog’s title did.
If I take “and public lands policy” literally then we are talking about the NPS, BLM, F&WS, EPA, USFS, Armed Forces, Corps of Engineers, State lands, County lands and any other public lands (including water bodies) that I missed for any possible use including the National Mall and other monuments. Naturally, frequency of discussion would tend to be proportional to acreage.
If I take “topics related to the Forest Service” literally that could include personnel policies, retiree meetings and on and on. On the other hand, and the more likely meaning, if I read “topics related to the Forest Service and public lands policy” with the “and” indicating only the union of the two sets (USFS = 1st set and Public Lands Policy = 2nd set), then “topics related to the Forest Service” is restricted to USFS Public Lands Policy.
If I read you correctly then, to simplify, this is a Public Lands Policy blog rather than a Forest Planning blog as indicated by the blog’s title. Have I got the big picture or not?
Forgive my tedium, but I just need to pin things down and remove as many ambiguities as possible.
Have a great day
What ‘good fire’ looks like: http://www.abqjournal.com/241924/news/jeme-zblaze.html?paperboy=loggedin630am
From the article:
“Just 640 acres of the almost 24,000 acres that burned in the Thompson Ridge Fire burned at high intensity, which means that the flames leapt from treetop to treetop and destroyed everything in their path from the needles on trees to the organic matter in soils.
Those acres were part of a section of the Valles Caldera slated to be thinned in 2015.”
We can also expect a flush of bark beetles in the next 5 years to come in and finish off the trees that suffered cambium damage. You cannot judge a wildfire to be good, so soon but, it was burning on managed lands. It appears we SHOULD be managing more lands, eh?
interesting link (no affiliation, just found it) -gk
sorry, here’s the link: http://www.californiachaparral.com/chaparralfacts.html
If you look at the Google Earth link I supplied above, you would see that area around Idyllwild is not chaparral. I really doubt that there is a shortage of chaparral on National Forest lands, down there. Is everyone happy with the results of the Station Fire?
It sure looks like there is lots of room for brush to grow, unhindered by the evil Government!