“Wild Buck” Timber Sale Undercuts Forest Restoration

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By Jay Lininger

The old “yellow-belly” ponderosa pines anchoring the majestic forests of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim grew up long before European settlement. Precious few remain.

More than 1,000 of them will be lost forever in the “Wild Buck” timber sale later this year, undercutting U.S. Forest Service claims that it is restoring this fire-adapted forest ecosystem.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that 38 percent of timber volume in the Wild Buck sale will come from logging 1,174 trees larger than 24-inches diameter. Field surveys by the Center for Biological Diversity revealed that many of those giant trees stood tall when the United States declared independence well over 200 years ago.

Old-growth pines are rare as a result of past logging. Their towering canopies and thick bark make them naturally fire resistant.

Hundreds of thousands of smaller trees that would have burned off as saplings during natural fire events have encroached on the forest during a century of fire suppression. Small trees now blanket Arizona’s forests like kindling.

Wild Buck is part of a larger project spanning 20,000 acres on the north rim with a stated purpose to reduce fire hazard and restore historic forest conditions.

The Forest Service assured the public last year that “little more than 1 percent” of trees to be removed from the North Rim are larger than 16 inches diameter.

However, nearly 30 percent of trees to be cut in the Wild Buck sale — 78 percent of total volume — are larger than 16 inches diameter. In other words, the Forest Service’s first move out of the gate in a “forest restoration” project is to sell thousands of large and old trees for commercial purposes rather than meeting its own mandate to clear small trees for fire safety.

Ponderosa pine forests need small-tree thinning to safely reintroduce natural low-intensity fires without causing undue harm to wildlife and the amenities that people cherish.

Recognizing this, the Center for Biological Diversity collaborated with partners of all political stripes to develop an old-growth protection and large-tree-retention strategy for the historic Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) that will expedite thinning across millions of acres.

Unfortunately the Forest Service dismissed the collaborative 4FRI strategy and routinely rejects good-faith restoration proposals from the public, opting instead to log big, old trees, as evidenced by the Wild Buck timber sale.

Wild Buck is separate from the 4FRI, but it is on the same national forest (Kaibab) dressed with the same restoration purpose. It demonstrates the Forest Service’s willingness to exploit a lack of accountability and mine large, fire-resistant trees from the landscape.

At a time when the Forest Service claims to be working with stakeholders to do the right thing, the Wild Buck timber sale is a vivid example of what’s wrong with the agency. Its addiction to logging big, old trees and its refusal to collaborate in management of public forests demonstrate a need for better leadership and reform.

Reform should start with permanent protection of the irreplaceable old-growth pillars of our region’s unique natural history.

Jay Lininger is a senior scientist with the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity. Read him via email at [email protected].

94 thoughts on ““Wild Buck” Timber Sale Undercuts Forest Restoration”

  1. Cutting one larger pine per 17 acres doesn’t seem so bad to me. Certainly, it is easy to find a 26″ diameter tree that was suppressed by a larger and better tree. Instead of focusing on what is taken out, it is usually better to discuss what is being left, and where. What is the target basal area? What is the species composition? Are all the large cut trees pines? How many “dominant” pines are being cut? Additionally, how many submerchantable trees are being cut, and not considered by the CBD, in their percentage?

    • The Wild Buck timber sale is 405 acres. 1,174 trees >24″ dbh designated for cut divided by 405 acres equals 2.9 trees/acre, not “one larger pine per 17 acres.”

      • JL: When did a 24″ tree become “large” (please see the picture above), and when did young second-growth become transformed into “old-growth?” For the greater part of the past century, “old-growth” was defined as trees in excess of 200 years — and many scientists in the mid-part of the century thought the term should more accurately apply to trees in the 350-400 year range.

        • The Kaibab Forest Plan speaks for itself, defining “old-growth” ponderosa pine as >18-diameter and older than 180 years. The 24-inch class corresponds to the forest plan’s definition of “vegetative structural stage 6 (old forest).” As noted above, the Forest Service recognized a deficit of mature and old forest structure on the Kaibab Plateau in its analysis of the Jacob Ryan project.

          The “many scientists” to whom you refer discussed … what location? I’m not tracking you on age. It doesn’t seem to address the site discussed here.

          • Is the CBD in favor of more Let-Burn fires, like the Warm Lake disaster? Remember, it takes many decades, and maybe even centuries for such incinerated old growth stands to grow back into mature forests, (even when man’s future impacts are not factored in).

            • Even if “incinerated,” burned forests that remain unlogged retain structural legacies that supply coarse wood, soil nutrients and wildlife habitat to the future forest. That’s how it’s been for a long time.

              I worked on the Warm fire as a FFT2, FEMO and HECM-t.

              It was a “let-burn” fire for almost a week to take advantage of unplanned ignitions for cost-effective ecosystem restoration and fuel reduction benefits. At least two “hotshot” crews, that I saw, were deployed to contain that burn within a well-defined perimeter.

              The Warm fire crept through pine and mixed-conifer forests for days until a weather shift pronounced by extreme downdrafts caused it to blow up, causing me and my co-workers to evacuate to safety zones. On June 25-26, 2006, I watched forests explode in flame, sometimes at a rate exceeding 120 chains/hour in wind gusts >30 kph.

              It doesn’t matter what forest structure is left behind after mechanical thinning if those weather conditions occur again. They will. It’ll burn again at high-intensity.

              But whenever a fire leaves behind patches of black sticks, you will take the opportunity to assert that removal of the largest, most fire-resistant trees could have prevented “disaster.” What BS.

              As explained by Northern Arizona University (http://nau.edu/CEFNS/Forestry/Research/Warm-Fire/),

              “The fire was initially managed as a WFU fire where it burned with a mix of low, moderate and high severity fire across approximately 7900 ha (19,500 acres) of predominately ponderosa pine forests (USDA 2007). The initial plan was altered on June 25th, when weather conditions changed considerably, and the Warm Fire exceeded its maximum manageable area and was declared a wildland fire. The wildland fire portion of the fire was predominately high severity, but did burn in low and moderate severity and burned in all three vegetative types: mixed conifer forests, ponderosa pine forests and pinyon juniper woodlands. In total, the fire burned 24,000 ha (59,000 acres) with several very large high severity patches. The Warm Fire served as the first large application of the WFU program and had unintended consequences which resulted in controversial second-guessing of fire policies within northern Arizona and especially across the North Kaibab ranger district.”

                • 120 chains is a mile and a half. 12 chains 1/16+ of a mile. A competent fire crew can stop a fire moving a sixteenth of a mile an hour. And the prudent course on a fire moving a mile and a half per hour is to find safety and stay there. Mop up the burned areas behind the fire front and hope for a wind change.

                  If fire is “random” in what it takes and leaves, how do “prescriptions” mimic chaos? I am guessing, non PhD that I am, that you could bring ten people in off the street, hand them the paint gun, and tell them to leave the trees they think should be there in 100 years. Create the space as you would want to see it, enjoy it, visit it. That, after all, was the process for the last 30,000 years or so of human occupation. Set fires to allow preferred vegetation to prosper wasn’t random, nor was it possible for it to be “controlled.” Forests are somewhat like haircuts in their response to logging and other stand removal events. It will look a lot different in time from what it does the moment the equipment moves out, winter rains put out the fire, or you leave the barber shop.

                  Most of the human problem is our not being able to have a practical sense of time when it comes to other than our own lives, our own period of mortality. Having lived long enough to log trees I planted when in Boy Scouts, having watched diverse forests become uniformly 100% tree covered by good intentions having unplanned results, I actually think that the best habitats are the result of poor tree utilization and non prescriptive logging practices. And those are mostly on small private lots. That is where hardwoods have replaced conifers, temporarily. That is where some have only removed the larger trees or the trees without long term potential to be there anyway. The joke on all that is the market for saw logs changed, and now the small woodlot owners don’t have affordable markets for oversize trees. The markets prefer smaller trees. The mills that ran on public, large diameter wood are now gone and in their place are the industrial timberland dependent mills that utilize trees at a predetermined time in a cutting schedule based on returns on the capital investment (for tax purposes) that trees are. Cutting sooner than later to interrupt the capitalization schedule, get the return before fire can claim it, or insects, or other pandemics. And for God’s sake, never have merch timber inventory if you are publicly held because you instantly become a takeover target due to the unused asset standing there in the sun, snow and rain, growing and adding volume each year. Volume is money, and companies with too much cash or too much timber get taken over and the money or timber converted to other uses. It is a business, you know, this cutting of trees. Milo Minderbinder lived to be a timber baron.

                  I live in Oregon where the cumulative result of 26 years of same party rabid green politics has ham stringed the Common School Lands timber sale program. Now the State Land Board has three parcels of Common School Lands, (both the land and timber) up for auction this month because they have no way to raise money to protect and manage their charge if they can’t cut timber, and instead are to preserve species and aesthetics. CSL is a permanent fund, where only the earnings can be used for education. Using earnings to manage an asset you cannot utilize is a dead end proposition. Selling the land is their only option now. Red tree voles and men have been left with no exit strategy. Steinbeck would understand.

                  So the sale of the geese laying the golden eggs is underway. That is a very real potential for Federal lands as well. Use it or lose it. That is the crux of this discussion. What are the losses and the gains, and where is the balance? When there is, over time, no definitive answer, time and events will alter the arguments and the landscapes. It then all becomes moot. Leadership at the national level will address borrowing a trillion or more dollars a year to run government, which includes policing the Federal range and forests that once paid their own way. If the military can sell surplus equipment and land (the Congress passed the War Dept. Surplus Act in 1944—selling training bases and properties as we invaded Europe!!) you can rest assured the US Govt can also sell public lands. They go from being a tax burden to being tax paying. A dollar less in costs and a dollar more in revenue is a two dollar change to the bottom line. The has a cumulative benefit.

                  Perhaps the best path is to take grandkids, great grandkids, to see that that is still here, and show them what was when you were their age, and show them what was when their parents were their age, and show them the result of poor logging practices, good logging practices, the result of landscape fires, stand replacement fires, and what was “preserved” only to burn, and tell them this is theirs to deal with down the road. What do you want to see in ten, twenty, fifty years? How will you pay for it? Let the kids see what is there, what has been there, what is there now. After all, it will be they who are the “deciders” in another 20, 30, 50 years. It is pretty apparent the “adults” in the room cannot come to conclusions now due to extreme polarization. Turn it over to the kids. I trust them more than I do the most jaded and invested adults, locked into careers and positions that pay the bills, buy the vacation in the sun. The status quo feeds them, well.

              • Yes, and THAT, precisely, is one of the main problems with Let-Burn fires. The Forest Service doesn’t seem to have a clue when to begin full suppression, until it is too late. There was a very similar incident on the West Fork complex, where the fire was a mere 150 acres after more than a week of burning. One could even say that those Hotshots might be alive today if the West Fork fire had been put out, instead of allowing it to burn to massive size, dedicating resources to it, in the middle of a severe fire season. Let-Burn is dangerous, destructive and very bad for things that live there, including humans. To me, it is merely a part of the “whatever happens” strategy that preservationists continue to embrace. “Whatever happens” includes all sorts of things, including unnecessary old growth mortality, man-caused firestorms and a tying up of fire resources in the middle of fire season, when we need them the most. Yes, there ARE other options to “whatever happens”.

                • So what do we do? Thin trees, light fires and suppress unplanned ignitions everywhere? Budgeting doesn’t support that approach. Like roads, we have too many fire-suppressed forests to actively manage all of them. Can’t we locate areas where unplanned fires SHOULD be used? The Gila NF has a successful track record.

                  Clearly, you can’t let fires burn anywhere near infrastructure created by civilization. It’s an especially thorny issue where municipalities staked their sole water supply on fire-adapted watersheds that are largely roadless.

                  What do you do? Thin it all? You can’t pay for it, and even if you could, endangered species might not recover, so what are your values?

                  And what about the environmental damage caused by suppression operations? Dozer lines, “back burns,” and chemical retardant drops are not without impact.

                  • God forbid that federal workplace safety rules should be observed. Maybe then more than one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots would be able to weigh in here.

                  • We do agree on wildfire realities you list. However, there are more realities than you know, in the form of post-fire impacts, far, far, far down the road. Those impacts usually dwarf the suppression costs. More and more these figures are coming out for recent wildfires, including Let-Burns.

                    One reality that is unavoidable is that many future wildfires will burn in places that are impossible to control, and difficult to mitigate. They become losses (depending on your point of view) regardless of “whatever happens”. I see it as a form of “triage” for some of our forests. The rest of it needs to be assessed and prioritized (and budgeted) to put it on the road to a “desired future condition”, as it was in days of yore. Humans who live in the forests are clever creatures, no matter which century they lived there.

                    I understand the complexities of “multiple use”, for all stakeholders. If people are willing to compromise, everyone can be unhappy about being satisfied with the future of our forests.

          • JL: The 180-year designation seems pretty good, I’m just not sure what diameter has to do with it. Certainly yew trees can become a lot older and have a smaller diameter. Same with 24-inches somehow correlating to “old forest.” Those are two entirely different measures: 1) age, and 2) size. “Age” is universal, although the scientists I’m referencing were based in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not sure how (or, more reasonably, “who”) determined there was a “deficit” of “mature” “forest structure” exists, or what their reference point might have been, but the “Forest Service” is a notoriously poor authority and has been noted for its convoluted and/or contradictory pronouncements in the past.

            I think 180 years of age is a good measure, and I would be very curious as to whether a “deficit” of this age class existed 190 years ago. So far as equating diameter to age, I’ll go with Dave’s perspective in that regard, no matter what the Forest Service is currently claiming.

            • The Forest Service is a “poor authority,” you say. If “180 years of age is a good measure” of old-growth then I’m confident that >250 growth rings is old-growth.

              In forest plan revision, Kaibab NF and others in Arizona keep definitions close to the vest, striving for maximum discretion and minimal accountability.

              • The use of tree age in marking guidelines is problematic. The use of diameter limits is easier, accomplishes the “real wishes” of some people, and reduces forest health, a little. We’ve dealt with diameter limits for a long time, in California. It’s an imperfect solution but, it was meant to be a temporary thing, until older and larger forests were more common. After 20 years of this policy, I’m sure that, yes, we do now have larger and old forests. With diameter limits, that also eliminates clearcutting, too.

      • In your own words… “Wild Buck is part of a larger project spanning 20,000 acres on the north rim with a stated purpose to reduce fire hazard and restore historic forest conditions.”

        Are you going to include the area of the whole project, or are you singling out just 405 acres of it. It is not unusual to have a timber sale embedded into a larger overall project, where logs pay for other non-commercial activities. Also, I’d like to see a focus on what is being left, and what the basal area target is. Do you think the amount of larger trees should be halved, or do you think no large trees should be cut, at all? (Let’s just pretend the CBD is openminded to “all-aged” thinning. We don’t need to pretend that I want to cut every large tree, too! I have a LOT of experience in picking which 20-30″ dbh trees live and die, here in California.)

        • Fair enough. The silvicultural prescription for “cutting units 6, 7, and 8” of the Wild Buck sale calls for retention of an “average” of 90 square feet/acre basal area in ponderosa pine forest. Those units are so-grouped because they occur in “post-fledging areas” for northern goshawk. The problem with averages is that they don’t reflect what occurs on the ground: the Forest Service chooses the scale at which forest structure is averaged, which includes created openings and denser stands. Show me an uneven-aged “group” in the Wild Buck timber sale managed for 90 ft/ac BA. Better yet, show me one in the whole Jacob Ryan project area. I’ll owe you a beer.

          • I’d bet those 405 acres are managed more for spacing, rather than any other measure. Large trees do not grow with perfect spacing. Now, I do see that the situation does not necessarily need to have perfect spacing. I do believe that a “clumps and gaps” strategy could be useful to keep some spatial diversity. However, there are some reasons to cut some big trees, in surplus areas. The amazing thing is that the Forest Service could find only 405 acres of old forest that needs thinning, out of 20,000 acres. Remember, goshawk pairs use about 5000 acres of core habitat, protected from timber sales. Their foraging areas can be almost any type of forest.

            • The only “amazing” thing about the Wild Buck sale is that it designates 38 percent of timber volume in existing VSS 6 (old forest) groups. Those are the largest, most fire-resistant trees in the forest, and cutting them undermines the purpose and need to reduce fire hazard and restore historic conditions. And they overlap goshawk “post-fledging areas,” which by definition are suitable nesting habitat for dispersing juveniles. Managing those sites for “spacing,” despite the recognition of rarity in this size/age class and imperfection in natural growth pattern, is the height of arrogance in forestry. Let the Forest Service create “clumps and groups” in over-represented classes like VSS 3, with a plurality of basal area in trees 8-12″ diameter, where the fire hazard and deviation from historic conditions actually exists. Run me a fire model: show me where old-growth trees need to be removed at this location to realize the purpose of the project.

              • JL:

                Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but your “oldest, most fire-resistant trees in the forest” have been getting killed at an amazing clip by crown fires the past 30 years — way more than they have by logging, windstorms, volcanic eruptions, bugs, diseases or any other method. As Larry points out, it is illegal to log such trees in California, and as Bob Sproul says, there are only a few specialty sawmills in existence anymore that can even deal with such large trees. And you should already know about the fires during this time period.

                You talk about managing forests to “restore historic conditions,” but like many people who make such claims, you seem to have zero idea as to what those conditions actually were, much less the difference between “historic” and “historical.” I think you’ll have to “run your own fire model” to better understand what I am saying — acronyms won’t help in this regard.

                About two years ago Sharon ran a link to a PDF file of a magazine article I wrote at that time that basically pointed out that that the models running “historical forest conditions” were permanently flawed because the modelers seemed to have no idea what those conditions actually were, and simply substituted their own assumptions into their models rather than actual facts. Not surprisingly, their assumptions seemed to closely follow their own biases and agendas rather than be based on actual research, and their results simply mirrored their own prejudices. GIGO was a popular acronym at that time.

                I’m going to post that article again, but in its complete form, so you will have a chance to discuss your thoughts in terms of specific weaknesses you see in other discussions of “forest restoration,” and so that I don’t have to simply regurgitate the weaknesses I see in yours. Here is the link, if you want to follow the earlier discussions on these points: https://forestpolicypub.com/2012/04/04/8829/

                • The Forest Service defined the purpose and need for the Wild Buck sale, not me. A “future range of variability” concept appears to me a useful concept for restoration mindful of key resource values needing conservation in a changed environment. In the SW, fire is a key disturbance process by which forests track climate. I don’t like the recent mega-fires any more than you do, but appreciate that much of the high-severity fire effects witnessed recently happened in “back burns” and related extended attack suppression activities. It’s not just the historical legacy of fire suppression that created those impacts. Anyway, thanks for the link, Bob. For giggles, I’ll share this newer one that you apparently refuse to read:


                  Not saying I agree with findings/conclusions, but it’s noteworthy and merits discussion about method.

                  • Thanks, JL:

                    I didn’t say I wouldn’t read it — I just said I’d need to be paid to read it. For which I would offer a printed review. Also, we are likely in full agreement on wildfire-based back burns (especially through private property) if I am reading you correctly. I did read the Abstract of your link before deciding not to read any further the first time (a way-too-large, really bad, raw dead oyster, to take that analogy another step). This time I went so far as to note that two of the coauthors are Chad Hanson and Dominick DellaSala before stopping. I’m a man of my word, but I think I’m going to have to amend my original offer to time-and-a-half before reviewing. I’m guessing their “method” probably has more holes than a block of my grandfather’s Swiss cheese. And that’s a prediction by a scientist, rather than a scientific prediction. Big Difference. In my opinion.

                    Also, just for the record, I’m in agreement with both Guy and Gil regarding definitions and determinations of “scientists” and “ecologists.”

                  • Many mega-fires are ALLOWED to grow VERY large, pretending that “Let-Burn fires are good for the environment”. They seem to use a “reverse precautionary principle” to decide when to begin full suppression. Some have this fantasy that man-enhanced and climate-enhanced wildfires can be used for “good”. I’d like to see the GAO do a study on the effectiveness of Let-Burn fires, in the framework of wildfire economics. Clearly, they aren’t valuing the problems with tying up tons of resources to deal with a fire that is 10,000 times bigger than the one they could have put out, when it was small. We need to place bigger restrictions on when and where wildfires can be allowed to burn. Clearly, we need to make Let-Burn fires meet full NEPA. When “Maximum Management Areas” are up to 100,000 acres, designated without public input, occupied by endangered species and in drinking watersheds, some people STILL feel that it’s OK just to “wing it”. Even a large part of the Rim Fire was a “de facto” Let-Burn fire, with the Forest Service knowing that a future fire in the Tuolumne River canyon would be left to burn until it could be safely fought. It’s a denial thing! Knowing that, they should have installed fuelbreaks, to keep residents safe. Yes, they did try, in some areas but, the Stanislaus is notorious for “under-performing”, for all the wrong reasons.

              • The Warm Lake Fire, and its impacts are plenty enough reason for me to see that there is, indeed, a problem with wildfires burning in overstocked forests. If such a fire can blow up, while being manned and monitored by firefighters, then there is a problem, ya think? There can only be a finite amount of pairs of goshawks, tied to nesting habitats. Since they are territorial, the parents run off their young. It is kind of a sad, hearing young goshawks begging for food that will never be delivered. Goshawks are actually quite flexible in where they will nest. They don’t require a pristine site with 800 year old trees. They do, however, need lots and lots of foraging areas, which can be clearcuts or thinned stands. I’d bet that thinned forests make perfect foraging areas.

  2. I believe this timber sale is the first step of implementing the Jacob Ryan Vegetation Management Project. Though not mentioned in the editorial piece, this project was litigated by CBD in Arizona District court, but the decision was affirmed.


    Similar charges brought by CBD were responded to in the local papers by the District Ranger in March 2012, who said:

    “The emphasis of this project is overwhelmingly on removing small-diameter trees and restoring the natural role of fire. In fact, our analysis shows that only a little more than one percent of the trees we might thin during this ten-year project would be greater than 16 inches in diameter.

    There are instances where having the flexibility to remove a tree larger than 16 inches in diameter is necessary to create gaps to reduce the likelihood of running crown fire. Alleviating densely-crowded conditions also gives other trees the space, water, and light they need to grow into the large trees of tomorrow.”

    While I believe there is a fundamental disagreement about what should be done (or not be done) to achieve restoration goals I don’t think implementation of this project is a betrayal of the multi-stakeholder efforts with the Four Forest Restoration Project (4FRI). In fact, I think it is project such as the Jacob-Ryan project that have facilitated CBD and other stakeholder groups to work with the FS to come up with principles and criteria for large tree retention, which were included into 4FRI.

    • Here is what happens when nature is allowed to “take its course”. Be sure to zoom in and zoom out, to see the impacts of the Warm Lake Fire, which was allowed to burn.


      I have seen the ample ladder fuels in this area, and the large diameter trees are sometimes pretty short for their diameters, with their crowns closer to the ground. It is a fascinating “upside-down” forest, with the drier pines at the higher elevations, and the lower elevations populated with aspen, firs and other trees living where moisture hits the north rim.

      • Most of the trees seem to be laying down. Did they rot and fall over? What a disaster! I don,t know how anyone could think this is way to manage our forests.

    • His explanation works just fine for me. Thanks for posting that, MD. I’m not a fan of strict diameter limits, having dealt with them for the last 20 years, here in the Sierra Nevada. For us, when a tree reaches 30″ dbh, it becomes forever sacred.

    • Even if Tim Short accurately claimed that “less than one percent” of trees to be cut in the larger Jacob Ryan project over a decade are less than 16-inches diameter, the 405-acre Wild Buck timber sale feeds the Center for Biological Diversity’s analysis of the project published in the same newspaper on the same date (AZ Daily Sun, 3/27/12):


      “Now the Forest Service is trying to hide its old-growth logging in a game of semantics, deflecting criticism of its old-growth logging by saying only about 1 percent of the trees marked to be cut down are larger than 16 in inches diameter. The problem is that ‘1 percent’ only compares the number of old and large trees to be cut with the astonishingly high number of young and small trees that must be removed to correct the Forest Service’s failed policy of extinguishing natural fires. It doesn’t mean a very large number of ancient trees won’t be chopped down — quite the contrary.”

    • If MD’s suggestion is that long-standing controversy over the Jacob Ryan project (four distinct NEPA analyses beginning with an EIS, two separate decisions both of which were appealed, one administrative appeal upheld by USFS, and one lawsuit) brought the Forest Service to the table to collaborate with 4FRI stakeholders, then the public should comment, appeal and litigate more often.

      If the suggestion is that controversy over Jacob Ryan brought stakeholders to collaborate with USFS, the answer is, “probably not.” The Forest Service isolated itself on 4FRI with its shady contractor selection, which jeopardized implementation, and its unilateral transformation of the old-growth protection and large tree retention strategy into unaccountable “desired conditions.”

  3. Here’s a passage from the Jacob-Ryan project decision notice. which was issued by Timothy J. Short, District Ranger, North Kaibab Ranger District. in January 1012:

    “Contrary to the claims of some critics, we will not be targeting the removal of large trees.
    While the project does focus on thinning smaller trees, I did not opt to impose the arbitrary
    diameter cutting limit that Alternative 3 would require. As with any rule arbitrarily imposed,
    we can expect to encounter good reasons that are exceptions to the rule. When we make
    decisions about what trees should remain and which should be removed, we consider many
    characteristics of each tree. While the vast majority of the trees harvested in the Project will
    be 16 inches DBH or less [EA, pp. 14 – Table 1(b), & section 3.2.1], we know that there are
    trees greater than 16 inches DBH that need to be removed because they: are suppressed; are
    crowding out a larger more vigorous tree or an oak that provides valuable biological
    diversity; have a low live crown ratio and are weak, have been attacked by bark beetles or are
    severely infested with dwarf mistletoe; are part of a group that’s surplus to the desired age
    class distribution of our uneven-aged forest and can provide a growing site for establishment
    of a new age class, or; open up space between crowns reducing the risk of running crown
    fire, etc. For all of these reasons and the science-based determinations that we make when
    we look at each tree, I am not willing to impose the arbitrary cap.”

    • How the Forest Service would love to ignore its own findings and analysis of the Jacob Ryan project.

      On February 11, 2009, the North Kaibab District Ranger issued a Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact implementing Alternative 2 in the Jacob Ryan EA, which included a DIAMETER CAP of 18-inches throughout the project area. The Forest Supervisor REVERSED that decision in response to administrative appeal based on HIS finding that it violated standards and guidelines for the Kaibab Forest Plan for northern goshawk habitat.

      According to the 2/11/09 Decision Notice on page 6, an alternative without any diameter limit was considered but rejected due to the rarity of mature and old-growth forest structure in the area:

      “Comprehensive implementation alternative with no maximum tree diameter: This alternative would more closely achieve the desired size-class distribution and better protect wildlife habitat from high-intensity stand replacing wildfires in the project area. It was not carried forward because there are deficits in the greater area due to the 2006 Warm Fire, which resulted in a reduction in large trees (VSS 5/6) for the geographic area (EA, page 20).”

  4. This project will log old growth. Not just large trees, but old trees. The Forest Service is alone its position to do so.

    Virtually everyone in northern Arizona–academics, 4FRI, conservation groups–urges protection of the last old trees:


    …Everyone except… The Forest Service.

    They’re really blowing it with the public using their restoration mandate to log old growth right out of the gate.

    • Please, by all means, Mandango, tell us what basal area should be optimal for reducing wildfires, and increasing bark beetle resilience? (BTW, basal area is a measure of how much of an acre is covered by live tree stems.) Which kinds of trees should be cut to meet those stocking levels? How can gaps and clumps be installed, to create diversity, into an overstocked forest on the Kaibab?

  5. Diameter numbers are arbitrary in the extreme. If you have a big stick with heart rot and no crown, really, how long will it remain standing? Never mind that knocking off the ladder fuels and mitigating competition between pumpkins will definitely extend the lifespan of the remaining large wood, as well as get better release of the NEXT generation of nice, healthy pines.
    To CBD, it’s all about the money. Anything to render a project uneconomic, by any means possible.

  6. Larry Fotoware:

    My complaint involves logging pre-settlement trees.

    Instead of sidestepping that issue with your inane basal area bluster, why don’t you impart on us your widsom for cutting the last old growth.

    Let’s hear it, Larry: What’s your ecological arguement for logging old growth?

    I’ll start some popcorn…

    • Here in California, old growth logging in the Sierra Nevada has been banned for 20 years, now. Old growth is defined by size, here, with a diameter limit of 30″ dbh. Now, that size of tree really isn’t all that “large”, when compared to an 80″ behemoth. Yes, there ARE situations, which have been discussed, where an older tree should be cut. Without proper stocking levels, tied to annual precipitation, the entire stand is at risk to bark beetles and wildfires, where ALL of the old growth is likely to die. The Warm Lake Fire was allowed to wipe ancient old growth away, completely. Finally, just one old growth tree per an average of 17 acres doesn’t seem like an ecological problem, at least to me. Yes, I am also against widespread cutting of old growth but, it appears that this is not the case, according to the District Ranger, and the statistics.

  7. Mandango: There aren’t any “pre-settlement trees” throughout most of North America — unless you’re talking about “pre-white settlement” (which I assume you must be), and that is only in certain areas of the continent. I have planted and precommercially thinned thousands of trees with my own hands that are now more than 24″ in diameter. Diameter doesn’t equal age, and “smaller” doesn’t mean “smaller than some arbitrary diameter designated by somebody for some reason.” It means “smaller than other trees in a stand.” If you truly want to save the oldest trees in a stand — which are also often among the largest, depending on species — then you need to stop the smaller trees from competing with them for water, nutrients and sunlight, and risking their existence with stand-replacing crown fires by closing adjacent canopies.

    We had this discussion a little over a month ago on this blog, with an illustration: https://forestpolicypub.com/2013/12/20/diameter-screens-age-limits-applied-science-forest-management/

    How would you manage this stand? We studied more than 120,000 acres adjacent to these trees three years ago. Would it interest you to know that some of the first stand replacement fires in history occurred here during the past five years: the Boze; the Rainbow; and the Whiskey; taking hundreds or thousands of old-growth with them. Wildfire and passive management, not logging.

    This isn’t a computer game with numerical rules, it’s biology and common sense. Everything that gets old still dies, and the more pressure it gets as it ages, the more likely it is to die sooner rather than later. Are you really trying to save old trees, Mandango, or are you more concerned with enforcing your arbitrary will on others? The pseudonym makes me suspicious. I’m interested in your thoughts on the photograph, and also what it is, exactly, you must do for a living (maybe “curious” is a better word).

  8. Move on CBD. The judge ruled against you in your suit against the Jacob Ryan project. It just astounds me how you are whinning. I wish a group like yours that has so much good it can do piddles by weighing the USFS down with petty appeals and litigation.

    • If the Forest Service implements its promises then the Center for Biological Diversity has nothing to complain about, does it? You wouldn’t see a nuisance editorial like this. Unfortunately, CBD has to be the messenger of bad tidings that federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of “restoration.” Let me know when I get facts wrong.

      • Ok JL….what is your definition of restoration and how would you implement it? When was the last time you went out with a paint gun with FS folks and marked a timber sale to truley see what they are doing? How would you restore our national forests in an economical and ecological manner that does not mean managing for one species? And how would you restore a forest while allowing for all age classes of trees?….in this case poderosa pine?

        • Hi Kat:

          I just posted a response to these questions for JL’s consideration, and would be very interested in your own thoughts as well. The post is two years old, and the photographs a bit older, but I think the points are still valid.

        • Last time I went out with USFS to play with paint guns was at the Rim Lakes project, Black Mesa Ranger District, Apache-Sitgreaves NF. The forest supervisor figured out how to meet the restoration and fuel reduction purpose while conserving large trees and old growth. Works well, actually.

      • JL

        Re: “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of “restoration.””
        –> Please tell us who has set this agenda? Is it something spontaneous that evil foresters do on their own just for spite? Are they getting kickbacks from the forest industry that will be sufficient to make up for loss of their jobs and jail time? Is the USFS hierarchy telling the prez one thing and its employees another thing? A vast conspiracy like this seems pretty unlikely without someone spilling the beans. Or is it even remotely possible that they learned something in college and on the job and are doing what is best for the forest as opposed to your one size fits all approach.
        –> Bob and Larry and others above have laid out the science and the need for location/site specific sound forest management and it makes no difference to you. What basis do you have for ignoring science and practical forestry experience? What knowledge and experience do you bring to the discussion? Unfounded accusations do not contribute to the discussion. Please stick to facts.

        • “Bob and Larry and others above have laid out the science and the need for location/site specific sound forest management and it makes no difference to you. What basis do you have for ignoring science and practical forestry experience? What knowledge and experience do you bring to the discussion?”

          Hello Gil: Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps many other people also have experience with public lands management and simply disagree with the science as some of your folks see it and present it? I suppose that doesn’t make one side right and one side wrong, but it should be pointed out.

          But since you asked, I looked up some of JL’s background, which he’s likely too modest to post himself. Pretty impressive, varied and broad, especially for someone who’s not an “old goat” in his 70s and 80s.

          JL is a certified fire ecologist and earned a master’s degree from the University of Montana-Missoula College of Forestry and Conservation, where he was a Duke conservation fellow and researched forest restoration effects.

          Forestry Technician: Lomakasti Restoration Project
          2004 – 2007 Southwest Oregon
          Developed protocols for monitoring forest restoration effects. Quantified effects and wrote reports. Felled trees with chainsaws and managed planned wildland fires.

          Biological Science Technician, National Park Service
          2004 – 2006 Arizona and California
          Monitored effects of wildland fire on vegetation and soil. Quantified effects and wrote reports. Felled trees with chainsaws and managed unplanned fires. Assisted helicopter operations.

          • Matt:

            If JL is “too modest” to print up his own credentials, is that the reason he also uses a pseudonym? “Modesty?” Also, with all of that education, it seems odd that he hasn’t learned to differentiate between “facts” and his own “opinions.” And what the heck is a “certified” fire ecologist? We’ve discussed credentialed “ecologists” on this blog before, and many of us are of the opinion that “ecologists” typically refers to actual scientists with PhD’s. It’s called the “Wuerthner Effect.”

            • Are you seriously unable to figure out that this oped was written by Jay Lininger and that JL are his initials? On top of that, Bob, you have access to the approval portion of the comments section and can clearly see JL’s email address: [email protected]. Personally, I’m happy that Jay has come to the blog to share some additional context and his opinions about the project. I wish more oped writers did that.

              Anyway….If we’re going to limit “ecologists” to only those with a PhD’s then I suppose we’ll have to admit that the US Forest Service (and the timber industry) has very few “ecologists” or even “scientists.”

              Moving on….

              • Yep. I seriously didn’t put the two together. Acronyms are not my thing, and I rarely bother trying to figure them out or memorizing them. Probably because I can’t. I co-presented at a national wildfire conference in San Diego with Jay a few years ago, and he is a really nice guy and I liked what he had to say at the time. I must say, though, that I am a little disappointed in a few of his comments — as I have already pointed out.

                • It makes me wonder whether he is simply promoting the CBD “Party Line”, Bob (Instead of an objective opinion… He seems educated and knowledgeable). In the big picture, 405 acres of old growth thinning doesn’t mean much, for either side. It is, however, a fine example of how far the CBD will go, in pursuit of “sue and settle”. I find it very interesting that the Forest Service could, apparently, only find 405 acres of old growth to thin! *smirk*

                  • The part that bothers me is “JL” is on the federal payroll part time. Is he looking to get hired full time like Boone Kaufman managed to do? It would be like a KGBer being in the CIA.

              • Matthew and Bob

                I can assure you that the USFS has plenty of scientists and ecologists as did every large company that I worked for whether you base it on having a Phd as Bob does or on a broad scientific background, continuing education and experience as I do – The degree is nice but effective, practical application of knowledge (no matter how it is gained) is what matters.

                Even I was a practicing scientist in the forest industry. Just because my proprietary work was only published internally within the company for which I did the research design and analysis didn’t make me any less of a scientist (contrary to someone’s charge shortly after I joined this blog). As to ecologists, I am not so sure that there aren’t plenty of well educated foresters who are better ecologists than some Phd’s.

                • Gil:

                  I am certain that you are right concerning some well educated foresters who are better ecologists than many PhD’s. Also, I strongly believe that “knowledge” is gained from a combination of education and experience — and, further, that experience often easily trumps education when it comes to professional capability. You won’t find any argument from me in these regards; I am in full agreement.

                  So we are left with semantics. Can an unmarried woman carry the title of “Mrs.” next to her name? Sure, but there will be a lot of questions from others if she does. Can a High School graduate call himself a “scientist” if he conducts scientific research? Same problem. One I know very well, having conducted scientific research for several years before obtaining my PhD — but always wary of terming myself a “scientist” during that time because my colleagues would have disagreed with my self-anointment. I could conduct independent scientific research as an “associate” or “grad student” or “tech” — but I needed a PhD before my peers would stand for me calling myself a “scientist.”

                  Yes, labeling is stupid and, true, this form of academic arrogance only became a point of contention when the government began establishing rules and definitions 30 and 50 years ago before awarding NSF funding and other societal recognitions, but that is how language evolves.

                  So, in the US, can a non-PhD refer to himself as a nuclear physicist with only a BS? Sure, but probably no one else will, except maybe his Mom or his GF. Can he be hired in a hospital as a “Dr.?” No, probably not — but he can still call himself a physician if he wants and will be arrested if he starts an independent business under that title. Still, that doesn’t stop him (or her) from competently practicing medicine with family members and friends — at least until something goes wrong.

                  When I got my degree as an Historical Ecologist I was assured that this was a label earned and paid for by people who also stated that “scientists” and “ecologists” held the same academic standards as requirements for those labels. Just the same as a woman had to get married to technically be labeled a Mrs. in order for others to take her seriously with that label — even though there are thousands of women who might be better mates and mothers and yet remain unmarried and are typically referred to by their “maiden” names and maybe a “Ms.” designation.

                  We’ve argued semantics here before (and there are good arguments for referring to “a historical” condition and still be grammatically correct if one uses a “hard H” sound; although ahistorical means something entirely different), so this is just one more instance. The “Wuerthner Effect” refers to a well-known writer and photographer who has called himself a “fire ecologist” on several occasions, yet does not have the academic credentials or practical experience to justify such a claim. Evolving terminology, or borderline fraud? There are arguments both ways.

                  This blog is populated with a number of PhD’s and lots of people with lesser academic credentials and with more experience and/or capabilities than those of us that have Piled it Higher and Deeper. Can they be called “scientists,” too? If so, is an “ecologist” a type of “scientist,” and should such people be encouraged to reference themselves as such?

                  So it really does boil down to semantics. I’m interested in what others think about this. George Wuerthner made me curious. Other opinions?

                  • Most days, I figure if you do ecology, then you can certainly call yourself an ecologist. Or any other “ology” or even “forester” for that matter. And let people judge you by your ideas and accomplishments instead of the letters after your name. But most academic scientists put a lot of stock in scientific publication, so if you don’t play that game you may not get all the respect you might deserve from other ‘ologists. Industry scientists often have to deal with that. Presumably someone who’s gotten a PhD has acquired a bunch of expertise in something or other, but I’ve unfortunately known many exceptions to that generalization. Of course, some things you don’t want to call yourself, like “physician” or “attorney” or “pharmacist” etc., because it’s against the law. But the law isn’t there to honor those professions, rather to provide at least some level of protection for the public by having praticioners demonstrate at least some bare minimum level of competence and ongoing education in those fields.

                  • Bob

                    I think that we are in general agreement.

                    To simplify couldn’t we say that to be classified as a professional scientist, teacher or whatever you have to have been recognized by someone as having succeeded in carrying out the duties of the profession. That someone could be an employer, an informal group, or a professional society. Further recognition beyond this initial recognition is dependent on the number of groups that recognize your professional expertise and how those groups are recognized by other groups. Having an opinion doesn’t count unless that opinion has been tested and found to be true in the real world.

                    Re: “Can they be called “scientists,” too? If so, is an “ecologist” a type of “scientist,” and should such people be encouraged to reference themselves as such?”
                    –> I guess that the first question is who defines what constitutes a Scientist or an Ecologist or an …?
                    –> It is better to be referenced by someone other than yourself. Self referencing is only important in establishing why you have something to contribute to a discussion, project or job. As we have seen here on this blog, a title and facts, no matter how grand, mean nothing to those who oppose what you propose and whose motivation is only to get their way regardless of the facts and their lack of insight.

                    This is no different than the discussion that we had way back when on the appropriateness of applying classifications in order to fit nature into a systematic analysis framework called ecosystems. As you imply, ‘it is all semantics’ and people will use semantics to their advantage.

                  • Wuerthner is a troll with zero self awareness and nothing in his trollism to consider him a voice of reason in any debate. Unless howling at the moon means something.

                    • mike:

                      That’s precisely why it’s called the “Wuerthner Effect.” Howling at the moon just might mean something. Or maybe not.

                    • Hello Sharon: Are you going to allow comments like this to be posted on this site? I certainly hope not.

                    • Hello Matthew

                      You are two faced when you complain about mud slung at your compatriots while you refuse to find fault with your compatriots when they spit on and sling dung at others?

                      I guess that you have forgotten JL’s unsubstantiated, slanderous and irresponsible charge stating that “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of “restoration”” earlier in this thread.

                      I guess that you have forgotten that elsewhere in this thread I said to you “As much as you have admonished others for making unsubstantiated charges, it simply seemed incongruous that you would be selective in applying your moral principles.” But, I shouldn’t be surprised because that is the same thing you do repeatedly with scientific facts that oppose your mantras.

                      Again, you have ignored others pointing out your inconsistencies and still haven’t justified your duplicity. Your attempt at outrage to intimidate others by invoking Sharon’s name is not effective.

                      You’ve done this before. You continue to act like a bully who runs to his momma or daddy to get even for him when he gets his nose bloodied.

                    • Thanks, as always, Gil for sharing your opinions about me. It means so much coming from you. I especially like how you continue to hold me accountable for other people’s words and actions. That takes real talent. And your continual use of the ‘running to momma or daddy’ meme is humorous, if confusing. Just like the fact that you think you have bloodied my nose. Something which, I might add, I would actually enjoy seeing you try to do in real life.

                      Here’s a Sunday afternoon project for you Gil. Good back and read the entire comments section here on this post and please find us examples of where I’ve engaged in anything resembling the “two faced” name calling you accuse me of, or anything that remotely resembles “bullying.” Next, please take a look at your own comments on this very thread and see how many examples of name calling, and bullying, you find.

                      It’s Sharon’s blog and if she wants to let people just engage in childish name calling on it, I suppose that’s her right. Thanks.

                    • Matthew

                      Glad to be of help 🙂

                      I’ve been specific about your duplicity (ignoring unfounded statements by your compatriots and making a mountain out of a mole hill when one of your compatriots is on the receiving end) and bullying/intimidation (requesting Sharon’s help rather than dealing with it yourself).

                      Now it is your turn to do your Sunday Best to be specific about your charges against me. As to your bloodied nose, Mike and Bob are the one’s who torqued you off with their rather tame comments about Wuerthner and sent you running to Sharon with your bloody nose. Why couldn’t you have just ignored their comments as just their opinion and part of the repartee on the blog? Then I wouldn’t have felt justified in pointing out your double standard again.

                      You’re welcome

                    • Matt:

                      Not sure if you were calling mike out, me out, or me and mike. Either way, you are right about specific points being made, rather than just plain name-calling. And you are right about the vitriol — childish and uncalled for. I think Gil is right, though, about not involving Sharon in minor disputes or misunderstandings. It’s not fair to her and we need to learn to be better at self-regulating. That takes practice, and we all seem to be getting better at it, most of the time.

                      In my defense, Wuerthner has become a known quality to many conservative readers, just as “Norm n’ Jerry” are short-hand for many members of the enviro community and “James Hansen” serves for the climate change industry. More on a regional scale of Chad Hanson serving the ESA, though, not such a national scale as the others.

                      However, we have discussed Wuerthner many times on this blog (often with your encouragement), so it’s not like we haven’t formed some general opinions of his work in that time:





                      My opinion of Wuerthner is that he is a good photographer, a good story teller, and a successful promoter. In the past I have disagreed with a number of his claims and opinions and am unimpressed by his logic. So much so that I’ve pretty much not bothered to read any of his stuff (except occasional blog posts, apparently) for the past 5 or 6 years. He may well even have the same feelings toward my own work and writings. Maybe he even calls it the “Zybach Effect.” Probably not, but it would certainly be coincidental!

                    • Hello Bob: Here’s the comment, containing outright name-calling and lacking any substance, that I thought should have never been approved in moderation. It wasn’t any comment you made. I wrote Sharon a private email about this. Thanks.

                      Wuerthner is a troll with zero self awareness and nothing in his trollism to consider him a voice of reason in any debate. Unless howling at the moon means something.

                • This jumped out at me:
                  Administrative Co-Director
                  Dr. Timothy Ingalsbee
                  PO Box 50412, Eugene, OR 97405
                  AFE Office: (541) 852-7903
                  [email protected]

                  Tim got his PhD in Sociology, and if I remember right, it was a paper on Earth First. And of course, Tim was an EFer so that was an easy paper to write. I asked his mom, Nancy, about Tim once….she treated it like a confession.
                  That right there is a classic case of piling higher and deeper.

                  And the founding head honcho, “Dr. Jan van Wagtendonk, noted wildernesss advocate and fire ecologist, will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act with us. His presentation will cover the last 50 years of wilderness history with a focus on our own Sierra Nevada. ” That’s from a Sierra Club banquet note in December of last year.

                  And this from the International Journal of Wilderness (wow, there is such a thing?)
                  “Dr. van Wagtendonk, who works for the U.S. Geological
                  Survey, and is stationed at Yosemite National Park
                  in California, has been the leading researcher and advocate
                  for wilderness science in the Department of the
                  Interior for over 30 years.”

                  Color me a little suspicious that AFE is kind of like SCB, set up as a mutual peer review club.

          • Matthew

            You are priceless:
            –> With all of the harmony on this blog site, it never crossed my mind that anyone had any differences of opinion – Thanks for enlightening me – NOT!
            –> Your effort to obfuscate by deflection is a total waste. What does anyone’s qualifications have to do with an unsubstantiated, slanderous and irresponsible charge that “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of “restoration””? It seems to me that you are quick to accuse others of expressing opinion as fact. Why are you selective in your pursuit of the truth?
            –> You are a fine one to accuse someone else of not considering opposing opinions. You do not consider your own lack of knowledge on the scientific fundamentals of forestry to be a limitation on your ability to choose wisely between opposing opinions in regards to our national forests.
            –> We live in the present, not the past. We do not attempt to restore civilization, its medicines and technology to pre-historic knowledge and we should not be worried about restoring forests to something that once existed but instead we should be focused on maintaining healthy vibrant forests adapted to the present environment and best positioned to deal with any threats including global warming. If you are going to restore the forests to prehistoric conditions then you must also restore mankind to war and pestilence in the US in order to restore the environment to the same prehistoric conditions that created those forests. Oh, by the way, how are you going to chose which part of the cycle of sun and earth temperatures that determined that environment? Why should we go back to your imagined vision of the past instead of one a couple of Milena earlier or later? Oh, yea, one more thing – let me know when you invent a time machine that can go back in time and determine what environmental conditions existed when and what needs to be done to recreate those conditions. You grossly oversimplify – Soundbites and mantras are not appropriate.

            • Morning Gil, What you’ve presented here is all cool and great (even “priceless”), but the only problem is that I’ve never once said anything about returning forests to some prehistoric conditions, or a specific point in the past. And, honestly, I know of nobody in the forest protection movement who feels this way. What we’ve repeatedly said (through the Restoration Principles and other places) is that restoration involves removing impediments to naturally functioning ecosystems.

              Also, I need to point out that never once in my entire life have I stated, “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of ‘restoration,'” which you seem accuse me of doing above. So, you may want to circle back, see who actually said that and direct your ire in that direction. Thanks.

              • Matt:

                What the hell — really — is a “naturally functioning ecosystem?” From everything I’ve been able to gather it is a landscape-scale ecosystem that “functions” without any influence and little presence of people — no roads, plants, harvesting, etc., or very few, if any, of these management actions. If that is the case, then we are talking about a pre-human landscape, because it isn’t “natural” to have people present managing the landscape. If we are talking about a pre-human landscape, then Gil is correct in calling it “prehistoric.”

                • Yes, regardless of “whatever happens”, as long as it isn’t a part of forest management, it is fine with some people. Those kinds of people want zero human impacts, “pining” for a pre-human landscape that cannot be, in this human-dominated world. Indeed, many projects seek to mitigate past practices, including “preservationism”.

                  In the archaeology world, historic means just what it says. Pre-historic means “before the white man”, in a nutshell. I also think that we need to point out the problems of wanting a pre-human forest condition.

                  • Hi Larry:

                    To continue the current discussions on semantics: In the past several years the Tribes I work with have preferred that the pre-white time period be called “precontact” instead of prehistoric, because of some of the negative connotations associated with the latter term. “History” can refer to either the time people enter an environment, or to the time written records are made of an area. The problem with the latter designation — which is the most common — is that most environmentalists don’t seem to have a clue about precontact conditions, and thus tend to substitute their own concepts of a “naturally function ecosystem” as being a prehuman condition. You would think that Cahokia, Macchu Picchu, or Mesa Verde would give them a clue — but, nope. So what we get is modern-day eco-babble, and the problem is that it permeates our schools, (most of) our environmental sciences, and our national resource management policies. As Charles Kay, and many others, have pointed out: this is essentially a racist viewpoint that relegates the 10,000+ years of precontact Indian existence to a perceived “localized” and “incidental” impact on the environment. It is the basic fallacy that affects almost all current modeling on forest history, fire history, and even Global Warming. The damage from accepting this fallacy can be seen everywhere you look in the western US, in our school curricula, and in our scientific literature.

              • Matthew

                Re: “I’ve never once said anything about returning forests to some prehistoric conditions, or a specific point in the past. And, honestly, I know of nobody in the forest protection movement who feels this way. What we’ve repeatedly said (through the Restoration Principles and other places) is that restoration involves removing impediments to naturally functioning ecosystems.”
                –> Restoration by definition is “the act or process of returning something to its original condition”
                –> On page 16 of your “Restoration Principles” bible babble it specifically states “A restoration approach based on ecological integrity incorporates the advantages of historical models while recognizing that ecosystems are dynamic and change over time.” Really, so someone went back in time, but which time did they go back to? Why did they chose that time as natural? While they were back in time did they collect all of the environmental information necessary to recreate those environmental conditions? Or did they design a replicated sample design over many different time periods? Seems to me that in terms of any degree of statistical rigor their confounded models are nothing but very incomplete observations extrapolated by their speculations influenced by their biases. Please tell me what science they used to adjust the past for current environmental conditions in order to define what is the correct ecological target for any forest ecosystems much less for all forest ecosystems on all sites.
                –> As to removing impediments – Why don’t you start by removing all of the concrete and restore the forests that once existed in those locations. Seems like you’ve got your priorities wrong? Or do you prefer to restore them by letting nature burn those places down?

                Re: “never once in my entire life have I stated, “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of ‘restoration,’” which you seem accuse me of doing above.”
                –> If you had paid attention, you’d have seen that I accused of no such thing.
                –> I questioned why you chose to proudly extoll JL’s credentials while you ignored his “unsubstantiated, slanderous and irresponsible charge that “federal foresters have an agenda to mine old-growth under the cover of “restoration””” As much as you have admonished others for making unsubstantiated charges, it simply seemed incongruous that you would be selective in applying your moral principles.

                • Morning Gil, Sorry, but you lost me when you wrote, “On page 16 of your “Restoration Principles” bible babble….”

                  For the record, The “Citizen’s Call for Ecological Restoration: Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria” were the result of a 4-year bridge building effort between 120+ conservation groups, community forestry advocates and restoration practitioners to develop agreement on a common sense, scientifically-based framework for restoring our nation’s forests. Indeed, total “bible babble.”

                  • Morning, Matthew

                    I’m sorry that I lost you. Were you able to resist that primal urge to close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears when I criticized the flatulence in your eco bible? 🙂

                    Re: “the result of a 4-year bridge building effort between 120+ conservation groups, community forestry advocates and restoration practitioners to develop agreement on a common sense, scientifically-based framework for restoring our nation’s forests.”
                    –> So, agreement between like minded individuals which excludes those with science to counter their tom foolery is the new science. It makes life easy – just get a bunch of people together and their java mugs and a few bulls to provide the manure and you’ve got scientific principles that though they “do not address regional ecological differences, they do provide a national vision and guidance for the establishment of a sound restoration agenda, as well as the tools and a checklist to implement responsible forest restoration on the ground” all based on modeled suppositions of what used to be which is then further adjusted by suppositions as to how to compensate for the fact that “ecosystems are dynamic and change over time”. And then there are these caveats that they reserve: “Because ecological systems are inherently complex and dynamic, it is impossible to accurately predict all the consequences of our actions” and “given the infancy of forest restoration science, active restoration should take a precautionary approach and make use of monitoring and adaptive management techniques.” Too bad those 120+ groups don’t allow those caveats for anyone else.
                    –> How many of these same groups are fighting the Franklin and Johnson “small scale” variable retention restoration efforts so roundly criticized by those opposed to sound forest management in this blog? Isn’t that the very thing that your 120 groups agreed not to do when they agreed that “The more controversial or experimental the project is, the smaller the scale should be”. I mean a couple hundred acres of a trial are unacceptable while a devastating, unsuccessful, unproven theory was given millions of acres as a stab in the dark to save the NSO – GIVE ME A BREAK!
                    –> In the ten years since your eco bible was written its ten pages have proven to be nothing but pure in-actionable blather because there is always controversy and your eco bible did nothing to reduce that controversy. The forests are too dense, beetles are still chomping and the fires rage on. Move On, open your eyes to the possibility that you and those like you opposed to sound forest management are the problem – or continue to make things worse for our beloved national forests.

                    • Morning Gil, This time you lost me at “Were you able to resist that primal urge to close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears when I criticized the flatulence in your eco bible”…so I simply stopped reading.

  9. Many litigators subscribe to a “Do No Harm” policy in public forests. Let’s review some facts. The project seeks to thin old growth on 405 acres. Apparently, this timber sale is embedded within a 20,000 acre project. The District Ranger says that there are restrictions and considerations regarding the cutting of larger trees. Apparently, those 405 acres are overstocked with large and old trees, and are, apparently, wrongly-classified, regarding goshawk status. Having done goshawk surveys before, I know that there are protocols to follow in surveys for goshawks. Either there are nests there, or there are not. Goshawks need multiple nests in their territory, so finding just one inside, or around the timber sale would have stopped it.

    There are other things that we don’t know about. How much old growth remains un-entered, within the 20,000 acres of project? How much old growth is there outside of the project area? How is the other “restoration” work funded, on those other acres? What is the current basal area of those 405 acres, and what is the “normal” basal area for a representative site?

    Also, remember that there will be a “Limited Operating Period” in effect, allowing the nesting and fledgling process to finish, too, if birds are nearby.

  10. I don’t know what the timber industry is like in Arizona, but most of the industry in Oregon can’t even process large logs.
    Typically large logs go to the small producers who create special products. So to assume that the timber industry is just waiting to “mine” the “last” of the old growth is a not true.
    Though limited harvesting of old growth could be an important part of a vibrant rural economy.

  11. Matthew, I came back this afternoon and found I couldn’t reply to your comment because it is down so far on the thread that replying doesn’t work. Which comment did you find offensive?

    • Yes, you can reply to any comment, through the comments list in the approval area, for us “ops”. As far as bashing goes, it is always better to bash their opinions and actions, rather than insulting their names. Be specific in what you don’t like about them. Wuerthner has a keen photo eye, and is obviously educated but, he clearly has an agenda which forces him to not see the big picture. His tactics are of the “hit and run” variety, which we commonly see here with folks like “Chapparalian” and Brent Bird. When such people go up against the likes of our regulars, they often turn tail and run away. There are easier prey in newspaper comments sections and partisan eco-websites.

  12. I just wanted to point out that CBD’s picture on their website talking about this project is very deceitful.

    One, the trees in the foreground are probably 18 inches or less in diameter, but from placement of the camera on the ground and the person standing far away in the background, they portrait the trees to be 5 to 6 feet in diameter. Might as well have photo shopped; why isn’t someone actually standing next to the tree for scale? Very reminiscent of what the Sierra Club tried with similar tactics in its opposition to the Alton Coal mine in southern Utah (See link).
    What deceit and lies does the world-wide-web weave…?

    Two, the title of the article is also deceitful: “1,000-plus old-growth trees will be lost forever.” So does this convince the public that these trees are 1000-plus years old? Which is what the title of the article alludes to? The term old-growth is context with “age” therefore the title coveys a thought that the trees are 1,000 plus years old. I do have to give you credit on the propaganda though. Your PR tactics are such that you could probably even convince my grandma that Russian forces moving into Ukraine is a good thing. God rest her soul….

    And, three, the title under the CDB website photo refers to the “North Rim Grand Canyon ponderosa pine forest outside of Jacob Lake?” A second article states that logging is on the “North Rim” to associate the activity with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, when in fact the logging is on the Kaibab National Forest some 30 to 35 miles north of the rim on the park. The only reason the term “North Rim” is used is again to make it controversial and get bleeding hearts to contribute to a cause. Be Honest. But “Greed” does not breed honesty…

    Facts about the Jacob Ryan Vegetation Management Project:
    Link to “About the JR Project:”

    The real facts can be found in the Jacob Ryan Vegetation Management Project EA and Decision Notice/FONSI:

    Decision Rationale for JR is Forest Health (stand density, Treatment Longevity, Dwarf Mistletoe Treatment, Diameter Cutting Limit), Fire and Fuels Reduction (Openings, Modeling, Potential Costs), Goshawk Habitat (Forest Plan Direction, Vegetative Structural Stage Diversity, Canopy Cover and VSS Measurement, Forest Arrangement), Old Growth, Harvest Volumes and Associated Economic Consideration, as well as (Best Management Practices, Mitigation Measures, and Monitoring).
    Again, the facts are being twisted about what the JR Vegetation Management Project (JR)is really going to accomplish.

    In the EA (pgs. 28-29) we state that 80% of all old-growth within JR exists within Northern Goshawk nest stand areas. In the nest stand areas, the prescription is thin from below up to 12-inches, thus all the old-growth within nest stand acres within JR will be protected. Additionally, there are 848 acres of non-treatment areas (i.e., slopes over 40%) which also contain some allocation of old growth (These areas receive “no treatment”).

    The EA on page 53 talks about Old Growth:
    The Forest Plan desired range for VSS 5 and 6 combined within the uneven-aged strata is between 34-46%. Under Alternative 1, VSS 5 and 6 (combined) increase from 40% following treatment, to 46% in 20 years, then to 51% in 40 years. Under Alternative 3 (i.e., the diameter cap), VSS 5 and 6 combined increase from 49% following treatment, to 55% in 20 years, then to 57% in 40 years [EA, table 5(a)].
    See table 5(a) “Vegetative Structural Stage analysis for JR alternatives after implementation at (zero) 0, 20, and 40 year time periods (Uneven-Aged Strata).

    By comparison, the 16-inch diameter cap would produce a landscape of mature and over-mature trees (55% VSS 5 – 6 after 20 years and 57% after 40 years) with only 6% VSS 1-2 (at both the 20 and 40 year marks), with no means to regenerate areas of the future mature forest. Alternative 3 is essentially trending towards even-aged forest structure dominated by VSS 5-6.

    Link to JR EA without appendices:

    Look at “why is the work important.” Also look at the EA for Why here and Why Now sections.
    It is especially important to look at the big-picture – JR Treatment Area Map (figure 4 of EA);
    FINAL EA (pp. 5-9) Section Proposed Treatments or “Actions” Displayed by Strata:

    • I looked closer at the picture and you can also see that what appears to be two large trees in front are actually four trees. The picture appears to be carefully arranged to make those trees look bigger. I have seen it done like this in other pictures produced by the eco-folks.

      In reality, those trees are all probably the same age. The bark is characteristic of old growth pine, for sure. Chances are, at least one of those four trees meet the thinning criteria. However, those trees appear to be “joined at the butt”, making it unwise to cut one and leave one.

      Thanks for supplying the pertinent information in the actual documents. The CBD is really reaching on this, wanting to apply their “Do No Harm” policy on each and every acre of public land.

      • Hello Larry, As someone who often posts your own pictures here on this blog I’m wondering if you have ever “carefully arranged” or cropped or adjusted the position/angle, etc of your camera to make a desired effect or impact? Or do you just go out in the woods and shoot from the hip and “whatever happens” happens? Are the eco-folks really the only photographers in the world who do such things?….If that is, in fact, what even happened here.

        • The issue is whether someone knowingly manipulates the scene, to show something that just isn’t true. It is usually pretty easy to see where a photo was digitally altered but, it is much more common for an activist/photographer to exclude things related to the issue they don’t want their target audience to see. We’ve seen some very notable examples in the media, including one front page image that was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning article, supposed to be depicting a clearcut (instead of a burned forest). Another example is a front page picture, showing a stump next to a stream, claiming that “the Forest Service broke environmental laws”. Of course, they didn’t show the road and the bridge that the dead tree was next to. *smirk* One example on the Biscuit shows a very large tree marked with blue paint, with tree huggers surrounding it, without showing the very large catface on the uphill side or the road where the photographer stood.

          I’m thinking that Jay took that picture, wanting to show some examples of large old growth trees. I don’t think that anyone can say that he knowingly shot it from that angle to make those trees look bigger than they really are. Yes, he surely shot it to show old growth trees, and there is nothing wrong with that, at all. However, his picture doesn’t prove that such trees are being cut, and doesn’t prove that such scenes are rare and “endangered” by timber sales. If all four trees had been marked with blue paint…

          What is wrong is basing accusations or proofs upon such selective pictures, alone. More pictures is always better, for illustrating issues. Luckily, we have Google Maps to help us show “the big picture”. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an activist handbook for producing such slanted images. I’m sure that many extractive industries do the same, too. It is up to people like us to monitor such images and point out obvious (and not-so-obvious) manipulations.

          • Oh, man….Wizard, good catch. Low res shots tend to do that. Nice bark on those trees, tho, so there’s a chance they got burned and are probably at least in the 80 year class. But 80 years is not old, just a vigorous teenager entering the prime of pumpkinness.
            Now I am most definitely not amused with JL.

      • Larry makes clear that one can discern the number of trees in the photo simply by looking at it. There’s no misrepresentation. It’s a reach to suggest that CBD wants no cutting on “every acre of public land,” which is false.

        Photos of trees marked for cutting in Unit 8 of the Wild Buck timber sale are published here: http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2014/feb/25/forest-thinning-tangles-dispute-over-tree-size/

        Again, the timber cruise data speaks for itself.

        • Going to your link, the picture seems to show a standard type of thinning. To get basal areas into prescription, you do need to cut trees, and sometimes, the best trees to cut are ones that are suppressed, diseased or are crowding better trees. One “pumpkin” on the side of the picture doesn’t prove that the “wrong” trees are being cut. Yes, if that “yellow belly” in the foreground was growing all by itself, I would question that decision. Yes, even experienced foresters will disagree over which individual trees should be cut. Maybe the tree looked worse from a different direction. Maybe there was a bad fire scar on the backside of that trees. People need to focus on what is left, instead of what is being cut.

          I do agree that your picture is a non-issue, though, and not a misrepresentation. It appears that it is just an example of what kind of forest is there. Nothing more, and nothing less.

        • Hmmmmmmmmm. Now that I look at the picture again, I can see a probable source of confusion. Yellow paint is NEVER used in a “cut-tree” mark. There are very good reasons for that, to combat timber theft. It is more likely that such yellow-marked trees are “leave trees”, allowing all unmarked trees to be cut. *SMIRK*

            • Oddly enough, my “zone of knowledge” extends over 25 years, Jay, including marking timber and timber sale administration, for the Forest Service, in 11 different States and 25 different Forests. The reason yellow paint is never used to mark timber (to be cut) is that there is always yellow paint on the active log landings, used to paint the brands on the ends of the logs. Over the years, they have phased out the use of yellow paint for all timber prep activities. The last time I used yellow paint was to paint unit boundaries, and that was about ten years ago.

              Think about it, for a second. When you want to reduce stocking levels in overstocked and dense stands, do you mark each and every tree you want to cut? Or do you mark just the trees you want to leave?

              If a reporter took the picture, do you think they know the difference between a “cut tree mark” and a “leave tree mark”?!?!? Well, I sure do!

              Come on, Jay. Can YOU say with confidence that this isn’t the case, here? It has always been good policy to not use yellow paint for cut trees!

  13. You must have had an interesting career, Larry, and I’m sure that the varied experience you boast gives you creditable insight. I can say with total confidence that the cruise report and silvicultural prescription for the Wild Buck timber sale specify that yellow paint designates trees for cutting. Don’t take it personally, this is just “zone of knowledge” in which you haven’t done the requisite research.


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