More on Wildfire and Sound Forest Management

These links are from a USFS Quarterly List of Recent Forestry Related Publications


– “Fuel Treatments and Fire Severity: A Meta-Analysis” – “Thinning treatments have demonstrated the greatest reductions in wildfire severity, but only by those treatments that produce substantial changes to canopy fuels, shift the diameter distribution towards larger trees, and are followed by broadcast burning or other means of removal. Until the residual activity fuels are disposed, they will largely offset much of the hazard reduction benefit achieved from opening the canopy. … Modifications in fire behavior achieved within a single treated stand, however significant, are unlikely to change the total area burned by a large wildfire, aid fire control efforts, or impact the distribution of severities across a landscape (Finney and others 2003). Fuel treatment effectiveness ultimately depends on the cumulative impact of a treatment regime applied across landscapes and maintained through time.

–> Note: This cessation of treatments is what resulted from the 80-90% reduction in NF harvest levels. This cessation is a primary factor in the increase in wildfire (documented repeatedly in other posts on NCFP) acres burned since the harvest reduction policy was instituted after 1990 at the behest of those opposed to sound forest management – it’s called shooting yourself in the intestines.
–> Note: This is a combined statistical analysis of various controlled experiments wherein the model referred to is the normal statistical model used to test a hypothesis for significance of the independent variables.


– USFS – “Decision Making for Wildfires: A Guide for Applying a Risk Management Process at the Incident Level

6 thoughts on “More on Wildfire and Sound Forest Management”

  1. This post contains numerous embedded assumptions that do not pass even the most basic scrutiny:

    1. Gil says “cessation [of harvest] is a primary factor in the increase in wildfire”. In reality, the best evidence shows that firs are more closely associated with multi-decade weather patterns. It’s basically just a coincidence that fires seems to subside during the heyday of logging in the western U.S. The apparent low level of fires during that period was caused by a cool ENSO pattern, not by logging.

    2. Gil forces us to accept an implicit assumption that fires would have occurred at low levels if we would have continued the pattern of unsustainable logging through the 1990s and to the present. In reality, this would have lead to federal landscape with fewer mature forests and lots more dense young plantations. Mature forests are one of the most resilient fuel structures, with most fuels held out of harms way w/r/t surface fire, more large trees with thick fire resistant bark, a cool/moist/less windy microclimate, canopy that suppresses growth of ladder fuels, etc. Dense young stands on the other hand are one of the most hazardous fuel structures, presenting a near-contiguous expanse of fine resin-filled fuels close to the ground. Thus, continuation of the pattern of unsustainable logging would likely make fires worse not better, and be like “shooting yourself in the intestines.”

    3. Gil also presents another hidden assumption that continued over-harvesting would have only positive benefits, when in reality, (i) logging would not have the intended effect on fire as described above) and (ii) the Forest Service reduced the rate of logging for good reason, because it was socially, legally, and ecologically unacceptable. The public will simply not stand for high rates of logging on public land because it degrades their use and enjoyment of the forest and water. High rates of logging also conflict with legal duty to recover endangered species and provide quality and quantity of habitat to maintain viable populations of wildlife. Continued logging at high rates would thus create a variety of serious problems that Gil ignores.

    4. The proper “statistical analysis” for this kind of problems is to weigh the cumulative effects of logging at high rates and across the landscape, plus the unavoidable effects of climate-driven fire, versus the effects of fire alone. In this “with versus without” framework, aggressive logging does not look very good. e.g., Mitchell, Harmon, O’Connell. 2009. Forest fuel reduction alters fire severity and long-term carbon storage in three Pacific Northwest ecosystems. Ecological Applications. 19(3), 2009, pp. 643-655

    • Of course, no mention of any middle ground on these issues, Yep, pretend that all logging is of the “intense” variety. What about the fuels projects done in California, where no old growth is cut and no clearcutting is performed? Straw Man Mania!

    • 2ndLaw (i.e. NoName) you hide behind a pseudonym while attacking those who are willing to stand behind what they claim until sufficient evidence arises to force them to change. There are no imbedded assumptions here if you understand the science. If you refuse to recognize the science then everything is an assumption. And a large part of the problem with our National Forests is that assumptions and wishful thinking that we can have it all have superseded science.

      NoName, re your item 1: – Your unproven claims “do not pass even the most basic scrutiny” – you speak out of both sides of your mouth by accepting assumptions/mantras while accusing others of doing the same. You provide no facts to refute the preponderance of the evidence presented in this and multiple other posts on NCFP.
      – Re: “It’s basically just a coincidence that fires seems to subside during the heyday of logging in the western U.S”
      — Consider the ENSO pattern between 1977 and 1990 and compare it to the Wildfire Acres burned during the same period found in “Figure 3” here and here – Now tell me that the ENSO pattern was warmer from 1999 to the present than it was from 1977 to 1991 – Can’t do it can you? So much for your wonderful mantra – maybe you can get your money back from the pied piper that sold you that ocean front property in Arizona.
      — Nobody denies that warmer dryer fuels will burn hotter and faster than cool moist fuels. It is fundamental to fire science. But nobody who knows anything about fire science will deny that removal of fuels through thinnings and controlled burns consistently and responsibly carried out over the landscape will decrease total acres burned as compared to landscapes where fuels are allowed to build up. This is true regardless of what part of the ENSO cycle we are in. Consider % of acres burned on soundly managed forests than on National Forests. Of the total 514 million US timberland acres only 113 million are on Federal Lands. If everything but management is equal then we should expect 3.5 times more fires on non fed lands than on fed lands. I don’t think anyone believes even by region and forest type that the non fed fires even comes close to the same number of acres as burned on fed lands much less 3.5 times – Read the papers, your Pied Piper sure doesn’t.
      This quote summarizes the current vetted fire science: “Development policies and fuels management show more promise than intensified fire suppression for reducing some of the economic impacts of increased wildfire risks. Suppression involves actively extinguishing wildfires. Prevention measures seek to reduce the number of large fires and their economic and ecological impacts, primarily through vegetation management (e.g., mechanical thinning, managed fires, cleared buffers) and ignition reduction”

      NoName, re your item 2: – Addressing only those items not already addressed in #1.
      — This response reveals the short sighted vision of one who doesn’t understand that forestry requires a long term view. Your wishful thinking that we can freeze our mature forests in time, ignores that when a great imbalance of age distributions exists in favor of old forests we will eventually have a great imbalance of young forests when those mature forests die. If global warming is a greater factor then, we will pay a greater price when the old dies in mass. Wishful thinking doesn’t work, a balance of age classes provides more stability over the long run for our forests and the species that inhabit them.
      — Now let’s address Your straw man of “unsustainable logging”. Please, give me an example of any forester who has advocated “unsustainable logging”. Please dis-prove LarryH’s figures given elsewhere that USFS lands have cut significantly less than net growth. Please give me a factual source for your “unsustainable logging” claims. I believe that I have asked you that question before and here you are making the same unsubstantiated claims again in spite of detailed refutations given in the past.

      NoName, re your item 3: – Addressing only those items not already addressed above. No one here has advocated returning to the previous levels of harvest – So you have included a straw man in this. As LarryH says, there is a middle ground.
      – Cessation of Logging at appropriate rates creates a variety of serious problems that you ignore.
      — “the Forest Service reduced the rate of logging” because they were forced to by uninformed people who thought that they could freeze forests in time (like you imply above) and ignore the consequences as mentioned in #2 above.
      — Agree that the uniformed public may not stand for reasonable rates of logging as appropriate to the long term goals. Agree that the public insists on not degrading “their use and enjoyment of the forest and water” and the need “to recover endangered species and provide quality and quantity of habitat to maintain viable populations of wildlife.” – Funny, the degradation of their use and of wildlife habitat resulting from increased risk of catastrophic wildfire and insect loss is ok – No, it’s not ok and it’s not funny at all. Ignorance is bliss. Here again, is another straw man in your assumption that recovering endangered species is counter to sound forest management.

      NoName, re your item 4: – Your one link (at OSU) leads to “page not found” so I can’t address how it differs with the controlled (with and without) studies included in the opening post above. Did you even read the post or the link to the first study. So why do you ignore multiple studies conducted over the last 80 years as discussed in this and other posts and instead choose to believe one study that agrees with your Pied Piper’s mantra?

  2. Please help me with this Forest Fire issue. First I have to say I feel an incredible, overwhelming gratitude for our Foresters. I know it’s not easy–and many of you joined on to do good and got an unpleasant surprise. I honor you for hanging in there. Yes, I do have Forester friends and I was on Lake McDonald in Glacier in a big fire year, maybe 2003 or 2004. FS Firefighters from all over the SW were staying behind my cabin, so I got a close look at the reality.
    Which brings me to the issue I am working with–What water reserves do National Forest maintain for putting out fires? I live south of Green Valley, AZ near the Coronado. In 2011, there were two relatively small forest fires started by industrial (mining) operations. They were put out by the Fire Department in the nearby towns…. using water off of private land and their own storage tanks. I was pretty shocked to learn that the FS has no provisions or plans for water for suppressing fires…. they just figure someone else will come up with the water. Is this correct? Is this sound science (vilsack’s and tidwell’s favorite phase)? There is also the question of the payment… Does the $500,000 violation go to the public entity that put out the fire???
    I appreciate any insight you can give me on this situation.

    • Nancy

      When there is a fire threat, you’d be amazed at how cooperative everyone gets. The nearest pond, stream or lake is the stored water source whether it is on private or public land. Air tankers can use lakes large enough, helicopters can use ponds / lakes and fire trucks can use anything that they want. I’m no expert but I am not aware of any complaints with this “necessity overcomes all preferences” approach.

    • Many forests have invested in a system of ponds and tanks to supply a limited amount of water. During a drought, those sources may not be reliable. One of my old Forests used to have an extensive system of waterholes, with unique plumbing on every one of them. They fell into disrepair, and some probably preferred a more “natural” stream flow. I would expect that there will be a new investment in modern off-channel water supplies, especially with this drought going on. It’s easier to just throw money at the symptoms, instead of the cure.


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