USFS Retirees Call National Forest Management “Unsustainable”

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Here’s the press release from NAFSR..

Leaders of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees met with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell in Washington D.C. today to present him with their concerns and recommendations to improve the current fire management situation in the America’s National Forests.

NAFSR Board Chair Jim Golden and Fire Committee leader Al West stated that “we believe that the current fire management situation in many of our National Forests is unsustainable,
from the standpoint of natural resources, community welfare, economics and general stewardship. In addition, it is a significant threat to all Forest Service programs, both fire
and non-fire related as well as the statutory responsibilities in all mission areas.” NAFSR leaders also told the Chief that the linkage between poor forest health and fire size and
intensity is undeniable.

NAFSR Executive Director Darrel Kenops added that “we take this position and make these recommendations at a very critical time for the U.S. Forest Service, for affected communities and for our Nation. There is a growing understanding the current situation is unsustainable and now it’s time for enacting significant fire policy improvements if we are to save our
National Forests and National Grasslands. We join with many who realize this situation is unsustainable and recognize the need for improvement and action.”

Here’s the link to the position paper.


1. There is a need to gain recognition and broad support that the National Forests and National Grasslands must be actively managed to restore them to a healthy and sustainable condition for future generations to benefit from and enjoy.

2. Seek ways to increase funding to improve forest health and reduce fuel loading through management that includes the use of prescribed fire and silvicultural treatments, both at
National Forest boundaries and in the interior. Sustainable utilization of biomass and forest products could finance significant forest restoration.

3. Past fire management reviews need to be revisited, including the Yellowstone Evaluation Report following the 1988 fires. They should be updated, revisions made where necessary and reissued as policy for wide understanding.

4. Recent Fire Policy Statements should be clarified to ensure there is understanding of the different types of fires. It is essential that personnel understand and implement rapid aggressive initial attack in all areas and situations where there is no pre-approved and clearly defined plan
that calls for another approach.

5. Line Officers and Fire leadership must receive adequate training, and with help, gain experience in implementing National Fire Policy. Assistance of local knowledgeable personnel and others should be a requirement until experience is obtained.

6. “Hot” fire review of the majority of controversial, costly and damaging fires should be carried out. Follow-up reviews should be independently made with recommendations on accountability.

7. There is a need to continue to pursue realistic fire suppression funding that is adequate so that other general appropriations shall not be used or taken to support fire suppression. The intent of the Flame Act of 2009 has not been realized.

8. Develop a policy statement emphasizing all employees can have and are encouraged to have a role during fire emergencies, regardless of duty location and personal limitation.

9. Emphasis on preparing fire management and leadership succession planning should have high priority. As experienced trained fire-qualified personnel retire, it is critical to step up planning and implementation of training, including practical experience, in accordance with a long term plan.

10. There is a need to actively pursue support for reducing existing legislation conflicts and exposure to frivolous appeals and litigation that hamper proposed management projects, and help to streamline environmental planning to make it more effective and less costly.

The National Association of Forest Service Retirees stands ready to provide assistance

I’d be interested in which numbers people agree and don’t agree with and why.

10 thoughts on “USFS Retirees Call National Forest Management “Unsustainable””

  1. #4. “It is essential that personnel understand and implement rapid aggressive initial attack in all areas and situations where there is no pre-approved and clearly defined plan that calls for another approach.”

    It seems like a major omission to say nothing about strategic planning for the role of fire that would result in such a ‘clearly defined plan,’ or to not at least support the requirement in the planning rule to include ‘wildland fire and opportunities to restore fire adapted ecosystems’ in planning for ecological sustainability (36 CFR 219.8). Otherwise, this proposal sounds like ‘one size (suppression) fits all.’

    #10 of course depends on the definition of ‘frivolous.’

  2. I get the distinct impression that these retirees lack self-awareness that they bear some responsibility for the multi-decade ecological catastrophe that preceded @1990. Listening to these “good old boys” is like listening to the hawks in Congress after two poorly executed wars (one completely unnecessary) were put on the credit card.

    The ecological problems we see today were caused not by two decades of limited active management, but by by decades of too much active management: logging, roads, fire exclusion, grazing.
    Aggressive fire suppression is sadly outdated.
    Using commercial trees to pay for restoration is a recipe for failure.
    Biomass never financed an acre of restoration. Biomass extraction is a cost, not a revenue stream.

    • You know, I can disagree with them without accusing them of “lacking self-awareness” (to me that’s code for “I don’t agree with your awareness”).

      If there has been “ecological catastrophe” which I disagree with existing, then how is that like warfare?
      You make three assertions:
      problems are caused by four factors.
      “aggressive” fire suppression is “outdated”
      UCE is “recipe for failure”
      Biomass “never” financed (hard to prove a negative_
      Biomass is cost not revenue stream.
      Those are claims without any of your arguments so that we can understand where they come from, or the data that you have that leads you to those conclusions. I don’t think we can have a substantive discussion without that information.

    • 2ndLaw

      The charts showing Average Fire Size and # of incidents per year that were located on the previous NCFP blog site clearly show that you are mistaken.

      As I recall those charts showed that the # of incidents was fairly constant with no discernible trend from the ’80s through somewhere around 2011.

      At the same time the average fire size decreased through around 1991 and since then has climbed. Both of those trend lines were highly significant. The scientific reason for this follows.

      A basic understanding of forestry would have led you to a different conclusion than your anti-forest management rant. The decades of active management prior to 1990 including thinnings and regeneration harvests (including clearcuts where appropriate) kept the stand densities lower to reduce stress levels (providing for better protection from beetles and fires) and provided more breaks to bring crown fires to the ground. On the other hand, the two plus decades since 1990 have allowed stand densities to increase above healthy levels and have produced stands of low vigor (poor health) which can not deal effectively with insect infestations and provide lots of low to the ground fuels.

      You can spin it any way you want but the facts show that less than perfect commercial forest management resulted in healthier forests and less catastrophic loss of timberland prior to 1990 than has an 80% reduction in commercial harvests on our national forests since 1990. In addition, sound commercial forest management has improved as the science has improved and, where subject to independent audit, has shown itself to be in compliance with environmental dictates.

      If you were truly interested in our national forests and all of the denizens of those forest ecosystems, you would stop the use of mantras feed to you by others, take your greenie blinders off and study the basic fundamental science of forestry and study wildlife and physiology and ecosystems and etc. Then after working in forestry for 10 or more years you would suddenly see the failures of the gross oversimplifications that you and other greenies propound and you would have a much greater respect for the Forest Service Retirees. Unfortunately, you would also be very sad about the way an uniformed populace spouting mantras was treating our once great national forests.

  3. Why do you disagree with them? Or were you just saying you could disagree with them in theory without offering any substantive discussion?

  4. No, let me give an example.

    8. Develop a policy statement emphasizing all employees can have and are encouraged to have a role during fire emergencies, regardless of duty location and personal limitation.

    Respectful disagreement

    My concern is that this could be interpreted as forcing people with small children to ship out (I know that’s probably not what they meant).
    Based on my experience and today’s technology, I would think that many administrative tasks could be done from the person’s usual location. Anyway, I understand the idea of it, but don’t like the idea of encouraging young parents away from their children. As I recall from my past, when you are young you are strong and able to do great things physically, but that also tends to be when you are a parent of young children.

    Disrespectful Disagreement.

    These old fogies clearly don’t remember what it was like to have kids. Their macho fire BS is totally out of place in 2014.

    Notice some things about respectful disagreement. 1. It assumes that their intentions were good. 2. It focuses on why I think that it might be a problem (correlation between having young kids and being red-card worthy).

    In disrespectful you tend to get what we call “unsubstantiated knowledge claims” and name-calling.These are two separate issues, though. You can still give the details of your arguments and be disrespectful. Still, I think what we should aim for is 1) respect and assuming the best about the other and 2) statements about what we think about the ideas and why.

    Does this make sense?

    • Sharon, this is a little bit over-the-top patronizing, I’m sure we all could use lessons on improving our manners and posting style, but I think the value of your giving those lessons (and the style in which you give them) is limited. I read 2ndLaw’s comments as a concise disagreement with the letter you posted. Certainly that letter itself contained any number of unsubstantiated statements, for example “The linkage between poor forest health and fire size and intensity is undeniable. Reasons for the poor health of the majority of National Forests include legal challenges to proposed management projects, other Agency regulations, administration policies, conflicting legislative mandates and funding constraints. Each of these above factors constrains professional and scientific management and protection of the National Forests and Grasslands.”, or the old standby …exposure to frivolous appeals and litigation… I may disagree with some of those points (and similar ones), but they’re just starting points for discussion, much like 2ndLaw’s points. You say that you disagree with 2ndLaw’s characterization of “ecological catastrophe”, fine, but where is your own argument on that point which will lead to “substantive discussion”? (personally, I don’t think every comment here necessarily needs a thesis to back it up, regardless of who it’s from, but let’s be consistent). I think requiring an assumption that “their intentions were good” is unnecessarily restrictive, since in the world as I perceive it there are lots of folks whose intentions aren’t always good, and it’s often valuable to point that out. 2ndLaw made a pretty straightforward analogy to congressional/military chicken-hawks, which some may not agree with, but he’s calling it like he sees it. Opinions to the contrary presumably should be equally welcome.

      • I don’t know. I was replying to Spectator, who wanted an example. You seem to be saying it’s OK to make statements like “Listening to these “good old boys” is like listening to the hawks in Congress ” because that’s his opinion, but when I say “These old fogies clearly don’t remember what it was like to have kids. Their macho fire BS is totally out of place in 2014” that’s “patronizing.” I don’t get it.

        Also, I think when someone makes a claim, they should explain why they think that. It’s not for the people who didn’t make the claim to explain why they don’t think it. IMHO. Now when we post something that someone else said, we can certainly say “I don’t agree and here’s why….” We do that all the time.

        But looked to me like the “here’s why” was missing.

  5. The continued practice of hiring temporary timber management employees, right off the street, simply hasn’t and won’t continue to be “sustainable”. I know that a lot of retirees have championed the idea that anyone is “trainable” to do timber work. However, many of the people who would be tasked with the training do not have the knowledge, skills and abilities to do so. With the increased complexity of marking prescriptions and the very large knowledge base needed to play “Tree God”, very few people are really qualified to operate a paintgun. I still find it odd that there are certification programs for measuring trees, and marking hazard trees but, there is no standardized program to certify that the right trees will be marked for cutting, or left as excellent leave trees. It makes me think that some Forest Service bigwigs are convinced that any warm body is “good enough for government work” to make these long term decisions, in our Forests.


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