Oregon’s O & C Forest Lands: “The Rest of the Story”

Register Guard Viewpoint

Stephen P. Mealey*

After reading recent guest opinion pieces (Keene 2/4/14, and Doppelt 2/5/14) citing climate change as a primary reason to curtail management of the O&C forests, I felt compelled as Paul Harvey might have put it: “to tell the rest of the story”. The following is a key message from the forestry chapter of the 2013 draft National Climate Assessment (NCA): “Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to ecosystem change and tree mortality through fire, insect infestations, drought, and disease outbreaks. Western U. S. forests are particularly vulnerable to increased wildfire and insect outbreaks…” In 2012, U. S. Forest Service researchers supporting the NCA concluded: “By the end of the 21st century, forest ecosystems in the U. S. will differ from those of today as a result of changing climate…wildfires, insect infestations, pulses of erosion and flooding and drought-induced tree mortality are all expected to increase during the 21st century.”

Around 48% of the 2.2 million acres of O&C forests are unhealthy and fire-prone, conditions that will only worsen with prolonged climate warming. Nearly 25% are classified as Fire Regime Condition Class 3 (FRCC3) meaning the risk of losing key ecosystem components (i.e., soil, water, wildlife) to uncharacteristic wildfires that are larger and more intense and severe than normal, is high. In addition to climate warming, these conditions reflect the long-term policy of fire exclusion and the dramatic reduction of timber management since 1990. Natural disturbance cycles have been altered, and have not been replaced by managed systems. Most of these “at risk” forests are called “Dry Forests” by Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson and are generally found between the southern end of the Willamette Valley and California on the BLM Roseburg and Medford Districts and the Klamath Falls Resource Area. Forest types include Southwest Oregon mixed conifer, dry ponderosa pine, red fir, dry Douglas fir, and California mixed evergreen habitats.

The 2000 National Fire Plan and the 2012 National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy are federal/state government partnership initiatives to address the problems of the O&C at risk forests and those like them throughout the West. Goals are: restore and maintain landscapes that are resilient to fire related disturbances; provide for fire adapted human communities that can withstand wildfire without loss of life and property; and, make efficient risk-based wildfire management decisions. The most fundamental principle is: Actively manage at risk forests to make them more resilient to disturbance and protect human communities. To restore the FRCC3 O&C forests to resilience in a 20-25 year time period, 15,000-20,000 acres per year need to have tree densities reduced through selective harvest and prescribed fire while maintaining Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife population goals for wildlife.

Management of at risk forests to restore resilience is not a “Trojan Horse” to “get the cut out”, as some claim. Clearly, the absence of active management is at least one of the principal factors resulting in the 2002 Biscuit Fire, Oregon’s largest. There, forest types the same as those at risk on the O&C forests burned in many places with uncharacteristic and harmful effects blowing the entire topsoil horizon out to sea in many places and destroying ESA protected Northern Spotted Owl habitat. The need for active management of the O&C forests is part of a much larger state problem. Many of Oregon’s more than 18 million federal forest acres reflect an unhealthy condition made worse by climate warming where most are considered at risk of uncharacteristic wildfire and nearly 40% (Dry Forests) are considered at high risk. In the past 10 years over 3 million acres in more than 20,000 wildfires have burned affecting 10% of Oregon’s total forest land and 16% of its timber land. These fires have come at significant economic and ecological costs. A hopeful response in Oregon’s Blue Mountains with much FRCC2&3 forests is a Forest Service program dubbed “accelerated restoration” designed to provide more timber for mills while restoring resilience to tree-killing insects, disease and wildfires.

Oregonians should be grateful especially to Congressmen DeFazio, Walden and Schrader, and Senator Wyden for addressing the needs for healthy forests and healthy communities in their respective proposals for management of O&C forests. While their approaches differ in some respects all agree that active forest management to restore forests and associated communities is imperative ecologically and economically. Proposed timber harvest in “Moist Forests” not only benefits local communities economically but can, if well distributed, create high quality early seral habitat beneficial to a wide array of wildlife species including elk and deer which are in steep decline.

Finally, in September 2013, the Pinchot Institute in Pennsylvania convened some of the nation’s leading thinkers in conservation science and practice to re-examine the vision, goals, and methods for conserving and sustainably managing forests in the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch where humans are massively changing Earth’s life support systems. More active management of forest ecosystems was seen as important to conserving biodiversity and maintaining other essential values of forest ecosystems such as water resource protection. Unmanaged “static” conservation reserves in rapidly changing “dynamic” ecosystems were not seen as useful options. That’s the rest of the story.

*Steve Mealey lives near Leaburg. He is Vice President for Conservation, Boone and Crockett Club, the oldest American hunter/conservationist organization in America. The Club was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887.

33 thoughts on “Oregon’s O & C Forest Lands: “The Rest of the Story””

  1. Speaking of “the rest of the story.”

    I see that Mr. Mealey is VP for Conservation of the Boone and Crockett Club. The Boone and Crockett Club “strongly supports” Rep Hastings and Rep Daines mandated logging bill, HR 1526, which is so radical that even SAF decided to “remain neutral” on the bill.

    For “the rest of the story” about HR 1526, Jon Haber (who retired from the Forest Service at the end of 2012 after 32 years as a forest and regional planner in Regions 6 and 1 with a background in forestry and natural resource management, including a law degree) wrote this informative piece on HR 1526 last October, which ended with:

    In sum, [HR 1526] would return national forest planning and management on probably the majority of national forest lands to dominant timber use for economic gain– which is what triggered the National Forest Management Act in 1976. I can see why this rearview mirror approach can’t be taken very seriously.

    • Matthew, I’ve noticed a pattern (not to pick on you, but you happen to have done it) where someone makes some claims and we look into their background and critique it. This seems relevant if they are making claims about their background (e.g. scientist, worked for 30 years in the Sierra, etc.), but in this case:

      He wrote a piece about O&C and you switched the topic to something else the organization he represents supports.

      It’s as if I wrote something and you said “Sharon volunteers for SAF that had this position on ….”

      Like I said, Matthew, I don’t mean to pick on you, but I think the idea of posting something is to address the claims the person makes, including claims for the legitimacy of their experience, not so much claims the organization they work for has made.

      It’s interesting that Guy states “Mealey appropriates buzzwords” instead of “people can have legitimately different ideas about how to respond to climate change and I disagree with his because…”

      • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sharon. I likely would have sat the Mealey discussion out if it wasn’t for “the rest of the story” meme.

        I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t me who brought up Mealey’s background and critiqued it. Seems like John Thomas Jr and Guy were the ones having a discussion about Mr. Mealey’s background.

        What I did do (or at least attempted to do) was to simply look into other similar federal forest policy positions that Mealey (in his role as “Vice President for Conservation” of the Boone & Crockett Club) has supported. I believe this is 100% relevant to getting “the rest of the story,” as it gives a more complete picture of Mr. Mealey’s vision for public lands forest management.

        Also, I hope you will agree that the Vice President for Conservation of the Boone and Crockett Club likely has 1000 times more to do with setting Boone and Crockett Club public forest policy positions than anyone who volunteers at SAF. As such, I’m not sure your comparison really is very relevant.

        Finally, Sharon, I must say that it strikes as a little odd that you bring up these issues in regards to my focus here on the actual policy positions of Mr. Mealey and the organization he serves as the VP for Conservation.

        This is especially true in light of the fact that earlier in the week you allowed this comment on the site from Mike, in which he stated:

        “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.”

      • I was hoping to sit this one out, too, but I’m afraid I can’t fully appreciate the insult without knowing what a “Fairbanks” is. I also can’t tell if this is intended as an insult to all federal employees/retirees, or just us “planners” (as Mr. Thomas Jr. apparently intended). Either way, don’t expect an apology.

        I will say by way of coincidence that Steve Mealey and I (along with many others) collaborated on one of the larger more fruitless Forest Service planning efforts – the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. Fruitless apparently because the incoming Bush Administration decided that it should be so. (Steve got paid a lot more of your tax dollars than I did.)

          • That’s right, I sure am. Fairbanks did a heck of a job on the post-Biscuit denouement. I was not surprised at all to later learn he was with FSEEE all along, and I guess is now with TU or something.
            And ICBEMP was a ridiculous overreach, that deserved to die. The whole concept of “ecosystem management” of entire complex ecosystems being placed in some incomprehensible “plan” was flawed from the start.
            Just yesterday I was at a “collaborative” meeting, I got stuck at a table with one of our worst local fruitcake Greens, as well as another complete zero-cut, no use Hansonite who came up from Missoula.
            First thing she does is talk about her 22 years in the USFS as a geologist on the WNF and in planning on the Lolo, now retired and a member of the Sierra Club. Then, she whips out her Iphone and reads off a statement about how the Sierra Club objects to local collaborative processes because these are national lands.
            Of course, I disagreed quickly….locals have to live with the consequences of ecotopian Beltway fantasies, ya know.
            But it was clear to me that the idea of multiple use never really had much appeal to her during her years of “public service.” Servicing the public was more like it — just another Sara Jane Johnson, this time, with the good fortune to hang around long enough for her pension to vest so she can now fully pursue her personal agenda free of fiscal worry. How nice.

          • I love everything you’ve written here Dave….seriously I do. I hope everyone reads it twice, especially in the context of Sharon’s note above where she’s upset I brought up Mr. Mealey and his organization’s support of HR 1526.

            I mean, “fruitcake Green” and “Hansonite” is some really good, substantive, contextual sh*t. Hey, wait a minute Dave, wouldn’t that make Sara Jane a “Johnsonite”?

            And man, I didn’t realize Missoula had so many “zero cutters.” I thought we all abandoned that concept around 2005. Does that person have a name – or even an insulting nick-name – as I’m genuinely curious as to who she is.

          • Wow, I wasn’t upset, Matthew, I was just pointing out that if someone says something and has a set of arguments for it, how relevant is it that that person said and did a lot of other things?

            Like I said, you are not the only person who does this, but I think it’s something we should all be conscious of doing or not doing and why we choose a particular time to do it (are they claiming that their background makes them especially knowledgeable)?

          • The progression that brought people from being against forest management to the next step of merely wanting to control all the parameters, is simply one small step for Montana personkind. The learning curve is steep and progress often comes with one small step. *grin*

          • Rich Fairbanks was planning team leader for the Biscuit EIS. He must have done a pretty good job, too. The nation’s top environmental law firm (Earthjustice) challenged the EIS in court and lost on every claim.

          • That’s because the post-fire salvage was an insignificant effort in the face of what needed to be done.
            And the fact that Sierra Club’s legal arm felt driven to sue against even that pathetic effort says a lot about Sierra Club/EJ — remember, my table companion was shilling their line.
            That reminds me of something I saw in my old kiddie ‘hood in Riverside Manhattan on Lexington Avenue. Piled off the subway to take a picture of the old apartment building (pretty nice part of town, in retrospect) and there’s a THE EARTH NEEDS A GOOD LAWYER with a big-eyed animal baby staring soulfully at bus-shelter patrons. Donate now 1 800 BIG CASH….do you think any donor who took the bait has ever read an EIS?
            But because these donors don’t — I have to.

          • Blame the “insignificant” Biscuit salvage effort on Mark Rey, not Rich Fairbanks. Mark was calling the shots.

            Speaking of the SCLDF/EJ t-shirts, there’s a no-doubt apocryphal story about the first edition, which had the caption “Someone needs a good lawyer,” above a spotted owl picture. When first worn into the deposition room during the Dwyer owl lawsuit, the timber industry’s lawyer was heard to say, “It’s bad enough to be losing to a good lawyer, but now I learn we’re losing to bad lawyers!”

            Word went up the chain-of-command, the t-shirts were quietly disposed of and replaced with a new slogan.

            Btw, Dave, SCLDF/EJ is not and was never a part of the Sierra Club. One day, if you’re nice, I might even tell you the related story of how EJ got its name.

          • Perhaps not legally, Andy, but why else call it the SCLDF in the first place? That’s hairsplitting, honestly.

          • Hairsplitting? Hardly. SCLDF’s name derived from the founding attorneys who had done a lot of pro bono work for the Club. But when they sought to set up a non-profit law firm, named SCLDF, their first and biggest funder said “you’ve got to incorporate separately from the Club so that you can represent other organizations.” That proved prescient.

            So, here’s the story of SCLDF’s name change, which illustrates the foresightedness of separate organizations. It turned out that the Sierra Club opposed the spotted owl litigation from the get-go. Opposed so much that when the cases were brought (remember, “Seattle Audubon Society” and “Portland Audubon Society,” with no “Sierra Club” to be found among the plaintiffs in any of the half-dozen spotted owl cases) the Club threatened to sue SCLDF for trademark infringement. And that’s why SCLDF is called Earthjustice. Far from controlling its agenda, or being connected in any way, shape or form, SCLDF and the Club were always and still are quite separate organizations.

  2. Here is what we should be doing in Oregon’s Lodgepole-Ponderosa Interface, where lodgepoles have invaded into the ponderosa pine understory. Notice how resilient ponderosas now have room to grow, while still maintaining adequate crown cover. This restores the historical Indian landscape, restores forest health and increases resilience. Yes, the diameter limits are at 21″ dbh.


    • I thought the post was about the O&C lands. There’s very little lodgepole growing on those lands. The map link provided leads to the Winema NF, about 100 miles away.

      • The article talks about dry forests and moist forests, and how to deal with climate change. I do know there is lodgepole east of Medford on the Rogue River NF, from when I did research plots. My link was a fine example of dry forest management to increase health and resilience. Isn’t this kind of thinning (no clearcutting or highgrading) the kind that most people want??

  3. Matt: Look up the rest of Mealey’s work history. He is a retired USFS Forest Supervisor, former head of the Idaho Dept of Fish and Wildlife. His father Bob was a career USFS administrator I met and worked with when I was a pup and he was in the SO of the Siuslaw NF, in Corvallis, heading the timber staff when it actually had a large staff and sold timber in meaningful amounts. I remember it well. The Lady who ran the auctions was the most distinguished, confident, organized, capable woman I ever observed employed by any agency, organization, or company in my entire life. Glenville Wilson. If I remember, she was married to the Dean of Pharmacy at Oregon State. I am afraid I compare all whom I meet in positions of responsibility, male or female, to her standard of deportment, intellect, and judgement. Gracious and steely strong. Fair and knowledgeable. She did what she said she would do and on time, every time. I have yet to come in contact with her better. Bob Mealey was cut of the same professional cloth and a very capable forester.

    I have only met Steve on one occasion, and I can’t remember where. Maybe D.C. He’d have to be a very black sheep to be doubted or demeaned by people who haven’t his experience, accomplishments, and education. Even regional planners with law degrees. They never have the responsibility to actually implement their plans, that being the job of the line officers from District Ranger and up the line, or from the RO down to the SO to the RD. If it can’t or does not work, what then? Mealey has had the implementation jobs at several levels. In the line of fire, as it were. Trying to make theory pieces fit in the reality holes. Perhaps he comes to his views from four or more decades in the trenches trying to make theory mesh with reality. And you, Matt?

    • Matthew didn’t demean Steve Mealey, though he may have doubted him. Mealey was indeed the head of my state’s Dept. of Fish and Game (not Wildlife), although he was fired from that position for a variety of reasons. Being cited for publicly dropping his pants (“standard of deportment”?) was probably the least of those reasons. Opinions will vary as to whether he should have been fired, but basically development interests were sorry to see him leave, and both conservation and sportsman groups were glad to see him go. His ideas are worth what they’re worth; “decades in the trenches” only has value in the context of what someone was actually doing in the trenches. The story about the woman who ran auctions in Corvallis is nice but irrelevant. Mealey’s article is written well enough but doesn’t really say anything new, though he appropriates a surprising number of buzzwords/names that are often frowned upon in the pro-development community: climate change, Jerry Franklin, Norm Johnson, ESA protected NSO habitat, biodiversity, sustainability… But like with Orwell’s Newspeak, 2+2=5 “when the situation warrants”.

    • Thank you, John Thomas Jr, for reminiscing about Glenville Wilson and sharing some additional information about Mr. Mealey’s background and work history. Although, it appears from Guy’s comment you may have left out some fairly relevant information about Mr. Mealey’s background.

      Guy is also correct that I didn’t demean Mr. Mealey. In fact, I said nothing about him or his background. Instead, I stuck to “policy issues” and took his “rest of the story” meme and applied it to a specific piece of legislation (HR 1526) that his organization “strongly supports” to give the “rest of the story” as to what direction Mr. Mealey would like to see America’s national forests management turn. A direction which 32 year Forest Service veteran Jon Haber characterized as a “rearview mirror approach [that] can’t be taken very seriously.”

      But you are right, John Thomas Jr. I don’t have a long Forest Service or Idaho Fish & Game career under my belt. But then again, I’ve never dropped my pants in public (at least that I can remember).

  4. Interesting that Mealey decides to hinge his pro-logging argument on fire hazard, because clearcutting moist BLM forests under the Wyden bill will make fire hazard worse instead of better. This is a significant concern because BLM checkerboard lands are located relatively close to homes and private property. The dense young forests that dominate a managed forest landscape represent a high fire hazard because they have dense interlocking branches close to the ground. There is also more slash and more roads and ignition sources in a managed landscape.

    Mature forests, on the other hand, pose less of a fire hazard because large trees have thick bark; they hold most of their fuel high above the ground where surface fires tend to spread; their dense canopies help create a cool-moist microclimate that is less conducive to fire spread, and the canopy also helps suppress the growth of ladder fuels.

    The science of fire behaviour has been confirmed by recent observations of large wildfires in SW Oregon. The agencies have repeatedly noted that wildfires spread rapidly in dense young tree farms and behaves more moderately in mature natural forest.

    Even thinning dry forests may also increase fire hazard. Some of the dry forest prescriptions might slightly reduce fire hazard, but thinning also has competing tendencies to increase fire hazard by moving fine fuels from the canopy to the ground, making the stand microclimate hotter, dryer and windier, and stimulating the growth of ladder fuels. Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin note that certain forest types in SW Oregon have a unique tendency to grow flammable shrubs after thinning. Johnson & Franklin (2009) said: “Some dry mixed-conifer plant associations have the potential to develop dense shrubby understories when light and moisture are made available by tree thinning; … . Such understories can provide significant ground fuels for wildfires, thereby negating some of the positive effects of thinning on fire behavior….” Johnson & Franklin 2009. Restoration of Federal Forests in the Pacific Northwest: Strategies and Management Implications.

    • HA! It appears that 2ndLaw/Tree123 is not an American! And, BTW, I’ve never bought into the “windier” thing, after thinning. Was it also windier when tree densities were lower, due to Indian burning? Of course, it’s all site specific, and not a “law of nature”. ALL Sierra Nevada Forest Service timber projects have fuels as a main purpose and need. Everything else is a bonus, due to sound management.

  5. Franklin and Johnson proposed their “ecological restoration forestry” not only to address forest health in dry forests, but also to create early-seral habitat in moist forests, which they say do not need restoration at this point.

    From their Congressional testimony on Feb. 6:

    …”many Moist Forest landscapes currently lack sufficient representation of high-quality early seral ecosystems due to harvest, reforestation, and fire suppression policies on both private and public lands…. Functional early seral habitat potentially can be created using regeneration harvest prescriptions that retain biological legacies and use less intensive approaches to re-establishment of closed forest canopies (Franklin and Johnson 2012). Such approaches would produce more modest
    timber yields than the intensive management described above but could provide significant
    ecological benefits.”

  6. I didn’t know about Mealey’s mooning the beach users from a state boat. Certainly not a proper greeting by a state official. Especially if it were not spring break at the time. High crimes and misdemeanors not withstanding.

    I do, however, wonder if it is worth anyone’s time to get involved in any effort to manage Public Land forests. I think the official opinion of the Oregon State Land board after the Tillamook fires, which was to do nothing and graze them for income, might be a reasonable path today. A pesky newspaper publisher wanted the burns to be planted to trees for the future. A statewide bond issue was voted on and won. Brush to trees began. He nor Oregonians didn’t have a crystal ball, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to have that forest which is imperfect, and now probably not available for logging. It, too, could be sold to private interests due to no income to manage and protect it. Don’t log. Can’t log. No revenue. Oregon has to have a balanced budget. Push is rapidly coming to shove. Privatization is coming. Real Estate Northwest has one parcel of Oregon Common School timberland up for auction in March.

    Don’t actively prevent fires through fuel management. Just let them burn. Try to keep fire out of private property as best you might. Tort protection for governments means there is little return for trying to get damages from Federal fire trespass. And for goodness sakes, do keep your private lands as fuel free as possible because heaven forbid, if fire originates on private property, the Holder Justice Dept. has a flying wedge of attorneys ready to claim civil damages to the suddenly very valuable Public Domain, no matter the segment of government claiming ownership. That is the real record for this century. Federal fires are intrinsically “good” and “needed.” All the resources lost to fire only have stated value when fire from other than government sources consumes them. There is no estimate or valuation for lost resources to fire until it might be claimed it was by negligence on the part of private interests. A one way street, really. The same is not available to the private sector. The private sector has unlimited liability and the public sector has a very constrained and limited liability. Sounds sort of Ukrainian to me. Syrian if you will. A status only Peter Sellers could explain with “clarity.”

    Under the present system of valuation, there is “no there, there.” We have a firewall between the private sector and the public sector that is not justifiable, in my mind. A check valve, if you may. Damage may flow from the public sector to the private sector with no compensation for all practical purpose. But not from the private sector to the public sector. So when we talk about O&C, and checkerboard ownership, why is it not in the best interest of the private sector to keep their lands slicked off as clean as possible, with no fuels? The Feds can allow fire to burn from their holdings onto private lands with no meaningful recapture of value or damages, penalty, but if a fire comes from private lands, Katy, bar the courthouse door!! You will be charged with civil damages by a zealous Justice Department that measures success in hundreds of millions of dollars. Treble if they can get them. Until the process has a dollar value estimation system to determine whether or not to fight a fire, or let it burn to gain “diversity” and “ecological value”, subjectively measurable but not in dollars, the fate of O&C lands would best be determined by a very large scale land exchange to where the entirety of O&C lands were in one block and title passed to the USFS. Of course, I would think a one time payment to the counties involved would be proper, to represent the 50% of value they have lost over time. And for an exchange to happen, the common denominator would be dollars by an appraisal system. Then both landscapes will have had value put on them so all would know what their worth was on that one particular occasion, date in time. No more of this ” loss of the grandeur of the landscape” as a civil damage expressed in US currency. No more “habitat” loss expressed as a damage. Beauty and ethereal interconnections as subjective bases for damage collection is insanity at its best. But so is the whole argument and process. The whole dance is choreographed presently to end in fire, and the point of value is moot. A monster carbon release into our protective atmospheric veil, and the cries of joy because now we can begin to measure carbon sequestration with it now all gone to gas and sediment deposited elsewhere. What a great notion. Provided that one call still fly east or west. I will try to catch flight 22. Get as far from the madding crowd as possible. Get a good sheep dog and a small flock, and lease some graze on a very large burn. A man, a plan, a canal, Panama.

    The lesson: We can’t today, but in time, the Chinese can and will.

  7. I loved the remark “O&C forests burned in many places with uncharacteristic and harmful effects blowing the entire topsoil horizon out to sea in many places and destroying ESA protected Northern Spotted Owl habitat.” Yep….that happened. Saw it with my own eyes.
    As for the idea of not managing in the face of “climate change” — that is an asinine concept. Given that “cc” implies less moisture, longer evap cycles and water loss in the water year, and therefore less “net” for uptake by the vegetation, having the same amount of biomass competing for less net water is suicidal. The trees will suck each other dry, even in COMPARATIVELY moist, but now drier, “moist forests.” Over on Flesher Pass in Montana, that’s exactly what happened, all the bull pine (probably 50 yo) cannibalized each other, the bugs hit and BOOM. Basin wide mortality.
    Sure, the forests will eventually “respond” and “adapt” — through catastrophic immolation. To insist otherwise, and expect a good result, is utter insanity.

  8. “In addition to climate warming, these conditions reflect the long-term policy of fire exclusion and the dramatic reduction of timber management since 1990.”

    This argument from Steve Mealey , that forest health has suffered because logging has not continued at the levels it used to, is a narrow look how conditions really were 24 years ago. There’s more to forest health than whether trees are alive or dead. Watershed quality for one thing. Since 1990 on most of the Kootenai NF there have been restrictions on harvest in riparian areas and on the amount of clearcut acreage in each watershed drainage to limit increased peak flows that, along with the impacts of sediment delivery to streams from the amount of road use needed to maintain that volume of timber harvest, had severely degraded water quality. Today fine sediment in the streams has been greatly reduced from what it was in the past but there is still the problem of the lack of quality fish habitat as a result of the high peak flows in side streams that filled in deep pools with larger boulder material.

    Steve’s view that climate change and the decrease in timber harvest are responsible for unhealthy forests today also ignores the impacts of past logging practices on both national forest and private tmberlands. There are thousands of more trees per acre in clearcuts than what was there before logging. While these plantations are less fire prone for the first few decades the even-aged stands over 40 years become more at risk for stand replacing crown fires like we’ve seen since 2000 in the Bitterroot NF and Plum Creek lands.

    I live in a rural area and would love to see more logging and job opportunities for young people to live and work here but partly because of the amount of logging before 1990 options are limited. One area of the Kootenai however that has maintained the harvest levels of the past is the Rexford District where the Young Dodge project that has been discussed here is located. Every large project in that district has multiple Forest Plan amendments because there is simply no way to maintain the harvest volumes anymore without impacting things like wildlife travel corridors, elk security, size of openings in winter range, road densities, etc. According to a MTFWP biologist I talked to a few years ago trapping of pine martens crashed to almost nothing over the past ten years. One of the large regeneration units in the Young Dodge project was a fifty-year old clearcut in winter range that was composed primarily of Doug-fir 4-10″ dbh, even the timber representatives at a field trip I was on were shaking their heads over this unit since it would make more sense economically to perhaps do some thinning and allow the remaining Doug-fir to grow, but that’s what happens when you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. If you want to see what so called forest health looks like while maintaining those levels of harvests from before 1990 just google earth the northeast corner of the Purcell’s in Montana adjacent to Canada and Lake Kookanusa. If the harvest levels from before 1990 across our forest would have been less intensive think of how many more options there would be today for forest management and wildlife.

  9. See I’m a little late to the party. I have looked at Google Earth images in the northern part of the Kootenai, which I’d like to make a post someday. It’s fascinating to watch those durn Canadians clearcut their way to the border with new roads snaking into wilderness. The only place I’ve seen on my Google Earth adventures that clearcuts more…is Sweden. What fun to see such a progressive socialist paradise “intensively managing” their forests.

    My Canadian google earth adventure began over the whole Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery zone(or WTH it’s called). I wanted to see what’s happenin on the Canadian side of the recovery zone. I got a funny feeling the GB is doing better on their side…don’t quote me on that until further inquiry…but I did read a tidbit awhile back that suggested such. Meanwhile, on the Kootenai, a total lack of early seral in the green desert(those clearcuts in the 80’s…are reaching the end of their usefull early seral life). Canadian researchers have found the GB showed no “foraging preference” in wildfires VS. clearcuts. They also found that GB’s in “intensively managed” (clearcuts) areas gained way way more summertime weight than their cousins up in the dense old growth. That said, they also found that “roads” is still a problem. It would be interesting research, for that mythical grad student, to do a comparison of GB populations on the Canadian side of the CYRZ (or WTH it’s called).

    Maybe I’m all wrong…but I know the bears gots more to eat in Canada than they do on USFS. Come now…we all know the ESA had very little to do with GB recovery in Yellowstone…it ALL had to do with a 1.5 million acre fire cooking off the old growth. The GB numbers in Yellowstone have what…tripled since the fire. The GB seems to be doing quite well in the Glacier/Bob Marshall wilderness…and I wonder I how much 40% of IT burning off in the last 25 years had to do with it. Perhaps Boone and Crocket should sue the USFS for totally breaking the law and not managing for early seral species. Isn’t managing for “species viability” part of the law? Quite discriminatory if you ask me.

    Speaking of Canada and those durn Swede’s clearcutting…it brings me to another thought that perhaps should be, but never will be on this blog, pursued. How about a comparison of the ESA in the United States with endangered species laws in other countries? Do the other country’s even have one? I know Canada steered clear of that train wreck…but I do believe the EU has such a law…but how come there isn’t anyone litigating timber sales in Sweden? Perhaps the question should be phrased thus, “is Endangered species litigation solely a U.S. phenomenon? If so, is that because the other countries laws have no real “teeth”…or is it because of our particular brand of law(is it true that the US is the only country where “loser doesn’t pay winners attorney fees.”) Does the EU ESA designate critical habitat? Do they allow a “take.” Bottom line is….”what are endangered species laws in other countries…and how do they compare to US.” and more specifically “can enviros litigate…or what avenues do they have… to stop any timber harvest in said country.”? I wonder if Sweden has an ESA law? I got a feeling there ARE no avenues, at law, and that was no accident. (was there even an earth day there…WTH is the green party) So many questions…so little time… because of to much work.

    • In regard to “I got a feeling there ARE no avenues, at law . . .” in other countries, e.g., Canada and Sweden. True enough. But, why? Because Parliamentary-based legislatures have no incentive to pass such laws. In a Parliamentary democracy, the legislature’s majority coalition also runs the executive branch of government. Always. There is no “separation of powers” between legislative and executive functions. So why would a party in power pass a law that limits its own discretion and can always be undone by its successor?

    • You would be surprised how many (and which) other countries have laws protecting species at risk (I don’t know anything about Sweden, though). The latest ‘ESA’ litigation from north of the border (sound a little familiar?):

      Grizzly bears in the Kootenai/Panhandle area are geographically at kind of a dead-end. The bears north of them in Canada are much better connected to others, and the overall population should be expected to be much healthier. (This is why it’s important to preserve habitat that helps the Cabinet-Yaak bears get to and from the Glacier/Bob Marshall system.)

      • What would surprise me is if Canada’s ESA stops the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

        Enbridge is to Canada what Keystone XL is to the US — an Alberta tar sands oil pipeline to an ocean. The BC government is holding out for a bigger cut of the financial take before it allows its world-famous inland waterways to be threatened by catastrophic oil spills.

      • PS/FYI – Just to provide an idea of how wordwide the idea of species conservation and protection is:

        CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. It’s another step from this to ensuring conservation of species’ habitat, but 180 countries have at least embraced the goal of not threatening their survival.


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