Will a pro-logging ‘rider’ bill in Congress bring clearcuts for Christmas?

Rim fire logging aerial
Post-fire clearcutting on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Rim fire area, eliminated the wildlife-rich snag forest habitat and left only stump fields. Photo by Maya Khosla.

[NOTE: The following article first appeared in the Earth Island Journal. – mk]

Clearcuts for Christmas?

Pro-logging “rider” bill in Congress would allow clearcutting in our national forests

When Americans think about the presents they want for the Holidays, clearcuts on our national forests and other federal public lands is not what they have in mind.  But that is exactly what radical, anti-environmental members of Congress are proposing to do right now — make a generous gift to the logging industry.

Republicans in the Senate are using the upcoming December 11 government-funding deadline and fear and misinformation about wildland fire in our forests, to pressure some Democrats and the Obama Administration to go along with a logging bill that would be attached as a “rider” to the Omnibus appropriations act in the coming days. The logging rider would suspend environmental laws to allow commercial logging projects to go forward on our national forests and other federal forestlands through “categorical exclusions.” The rider would, among other things, effectively exempt logging from any environmental analysis or disclosure of adverse impacts on imperiled wildlife species, watersheds, or forest carbon storage. The provisions of the logging rider are similar or identical to many of those in HR 2647, which House Republicans passed earlier this year.

Troublingly, though the logging rider is being led primarily by Republicans, some Democrat Senators from states with an active timber industry presence too, appear to be willing to go along with the proposal. Worse, there are indications that President Obama may be willing to acquiesce to Republicans on the logging rider in exchange for an agreement over increased funding for ill-advised and ineffective backcountry fire suppression. Indeed, the recent fire-phobic and pro-logging rhetoric coming from a few western Democrats, such as Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, is virtually indistinguishable from the media messages coming from logging industry spokespersons.

Built on deceptions, the logging rider promotes the planned expansion of timber sales on our public lands under the guise of “fuel reduction”, “restoration”, and fire management, Much of the increase in logging would be clearcutting of both old forest and ecologically vital post-fire habitat.

For example, one of the logging categories in the rider promotes clearcutting of mature and old forest ostensibly to create “early seral” conditions for wildlife. This sort of hyper-cynical spin is what now passes for cleverness in Washington, D.C. But the advocates of the logging rider are profoundly at odds with current science. As more than 260 scientists told Congress and the Administration in a recent letter, “complex early seral forest” is one of the most ecologically vital and wildlife-rich forest habitat types, and it is only created by patches of intense fire in forests and is destroyed by post-fire logging.  Clearcutting removes and damages habitat, and there is not much wildlife activity in a giant stumpfield.

In fact, there is actually a deficit of post-fire forest habitat created by these beneficial fires, and many of the wildlife species that depend upon the unique “snag forest habitat” created by more intense fire patches have become rare and imperiled, and/or are declining, due to fire suppression, “fuel reduction” logging, and post-fire logging, as detailed in the recent book, The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix.

The fundamental premise upon which this “Clearcuts for Christmas” logging rider rests — that environmental protections supposedly lead to more intense fire and logging reduces fire intensity — is quite simply one of the most profound deceptions in the history of forest management.

post-fire habitat
An ecologically-rich complex early seral forest, or “snag forest habitat”, created by high-intensity fire, with an abundance of snags (standing fire killed trees), native flowering shrubs, natural regeneration of conifer saplings, and downed logs used by small mammals and amphibians. Photo by Chad Hanson.

In one large fire after another in recent years, such as the California Rim fire of 2013 in the Sierra Nevada, the forests with the least environmental protections and the most significant logging history burned most intensely, while forests that were completely protected from logging, with no logging history, burned the least intensely. This is true even when key factors such as forest type and topography are taken into account. Nor does logging conducted under the banner of “thinning” meaningfully reduce fire intensity.

Research shows that it is previous fires, not thinning, that modify fire intensity and spread. For example, forests that have been thinned tend to burn more intensely when wildland fire occurs. Forests that have a combination of both thinning and prescribed fire tend to burn about the same as those with prescribed fire alone, and no thinning; in other words, thinning does not make forests burn less intensely but can sometimes increase fire intensity. Though the term sounds benign, in fact most “thinning” projects on national forests and other federal lands are intensive logging projects that often remove 50 to 80 percent of the trees in a given stand, including many mature and old trees. Such projects do not effectively modify fire intensity and unnecessarily cause significant damage to wildlife habitat for imperiled species like spotted owls and black-backed woodpeckers, while costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Moreover, increased logging and fire suppression in backcountry forests on our public lands will do nothing to help homeowners in rural forested areas where fire is a natural occurrence. In fact, by diverting scarce federal resources away from home protection, and focusing on logging and fire suppression in remote forests, the logging rider, and the fire suppression measure with which it is likely to be associated, would actually put rural homeowners at greater risk from fire. Further, the rider would increase risks to wildland firefighters by unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way in steep, difficult, remote terrain, as they try in vain to stop weather-driven, mixed-intensity fires that are creating important wildlife habitat and ecological benefits. As The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires details, the only effective way to protect homes is to focus on making the homes themselves more fire-resistant, and to help homeowners create “defensible space” within 100 to 200 feet around homes by reducing combustible vegetation and removing lower limbs on mature trees.

It’s ironic that this logging rider is being proposed even as world leaders meet in Paris to address climate change. If the rider is passed, the increased logging on our public lands would substantially reduce carbon storage in our forests, significantly undermining climate solutions. There will be very little carbon storage in the thousands upon thousands of acres of stumpfields that would be created on our public lands if the logging rider becomes law.

The timber industry’s allies in Congress — in both political parties — want Americans to be as scared and confused about wildland fire as possible, because that’s the only political context in which something as regressive, unscientific, and wrong-headed as this logging rider has any chance to pass. This is particularly true in the cover-of-darkness type of legislating that occurs during appropriations season. There is no public dialogue, no open committee hearings, or informed debate. There are only closed-door meetings and back-room deals.

But the truth is that we shouldn’t be afraid of fire in our forests. Fire is not “destroying” our forests, as self-serving, pro-logging members of Congress would have you believe. Rather, fire is doing important and beneficial ecological work on our national Forests and other federal forestlands. And, if homeowners take basic, proven steps to protect their homes and the immediate vicinity, homes have a better than 90 percent chance of surviving a wildland fire.  Homeowners need help to do this, but the logging rider, coupled with more backcountry fire suppression, would take us in exactly the wrong direction.

What you can do: Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be transferred to the offices of your Senators, and leave a comment with the environmental aide for each of them, urging Senators to stand firm against the “Clearcuts for Christmas” logging rider, and oppose any logging riders from being added to spending bills.  Please also call the White House at 202-456-1111 and urge the President to oppose the logging rider. Finally, please write letters to the editor to your local newspapers to get the message out there about this issue.

Chad Hanson, the director of the John Muir Project (JMP) of Earth Island Institute, has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California at Davis, and focuses his research on forest and fire ecology in the Sierra Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected], or visit JMP’s website at www.johnmuirproject.org for more information, and for citations to specific studies pertaining to the points made in this article.

UPDATE: Here are some more John Muir Project photos from post-fire logging on the Stanislaus National Forest from within the Rim Fire area.

UPDATE #2: Wildfire-logging deal throttled by Senate ENR leaders (as well as grassroots forest protection groups, such as John Muir Project) [LINK]

IMG_2173 logged area
Rim Fire Area Logging

60 thoughts on “Will a pro-logging ‘rider’ bill in Congress bring clearcuts for Christmas?”

    • Hi Steve,

      People still ‘believe’ in Santa Claus…or ‘believe’ that some really powerful dude created the entire universe in 6 days, then rested on the 7th.

      Anyway, at the bottom of the article it clearly says: “Visit JMP’s website at http://www.johnmuirproject.org for more information, and for citations to specific studies pertaining to the points made in this article.”

      • I don’t believe that’s true or accurate Larry, but I’m sure you had fun writing it.

        Also, any thoughts on the picture above showing post-fire logging on the Stanislaus National Forest in the Rim Fire area?

        • They are showing the chunk of private land, within the Rim Fire. You can clearly see there is a property line there, and that the uncut side is full of dead and dying trees. The picture is NOT of Forest Service salvage projects, clearly. Just because private land sits within the Stanislaus National Forest, that doesn’t make it Forest Service land. However, snags can be left in clumps, to satisfy snag requirements. It would be easy to exclude such clumps from any picture to show the appearance of clearcutting. Also, survivors don’t get cut, either, unless they show other signs of mortality.

        • Yes, Matt, I did enjoy writing the second part of that sentence, and it obviously isn’t true… for the most part….. kinda, sorta….. maybe. I didn’t add the *smirk* because I didn’t want to discount the truth of the first part. However, Hanson seems to buy into that, going on record as wanting “larger and more intense wildfires”, as well as wanting to end all logging, everywhere. His 15 minutes of integrity and credibility is long-since over with.

                • Of course, I didn’t mean him debating me. I meant he never openly debates ANY of his opponents. I think he is afraid that “his public” will learn that the specifics of his opinions do not match what they value in the forests. He leads the eco-dittoheads, doing their thinking for them, ala Rush Limbaugh. Of course, it is very easy to criticize both extremes but, it is MUCH harder to criticize the compromises of the middle ground. That is where the “Three C-Words” come in. It is clear that Americans need to learn more about forests, treatments and realities, in search of consensus, leading to compromises.

  1. Well, he promised clearcutting in the Forest Service salvage efforts on the Rim Fire, if he lost the lawsuit but, ironically, there was no clearcutting in those salvage plans. Under the Raker Act, it was completely legal to cut dead trees along roads and powerlines, leaving them lay, until harvest. You cannot call a hazard tree treatment a “clearcut”.

    I also am amused that Hanson rails against salvage clearcutting on private lands, while at the same time, blasting the government for allowing it. It is also ironic that on those private lands, they left green trees and live Giant Sequoias, too.

    It sounds more like “Chicken Little”, when only about 15,000 acres were salvaged, away from roads and powerlines, and most of those acres were in 40 year old plantations. I’m sure that his unfounded accusations about clearcutting, spotted owls and active management will find its way into newspapers in LA, Portland, Sacramento and Seattle, and their readers will fully buy into the desperate rhetoric. Again, Hanson never mentions re-burns as a thoroughly-destructive force, while at the same time, blasting the last millennium’s logging practices.

    AND, isn’t it obvious in the picture which land is Forest Service, and which land is private timberland?

  2. More and more, I convinced that the job of our elected officials is to figure out what the American citizen wants for/from our public forests; this is the big picture, long-term stuff. Once they figure that out (and I’m not holding my breath), they should tell the professionals what the goals and objectives are and then step back and let the professionals do what they are trained and hired to do. [The stepping back part seems awfully difficult for a lot of politicians.]

    There are simply too many people weighing in on what should be done who do not have the professional expertise, training, and experience What they do have is personal philosophical values which rightfully should into what the elected officials must consider; what they do NOT have is the professional expertise nor the experience.

    I liken all this to building a new inter-state bridge. It may be a political decision on whether or not to build the bridge and how to fund it. Once those decisions are made, the project is turned over to the engineers. But, if the forest is any indication, there would be a lot of politicians and others who seem to think they also know how to design it, build it, and maintain it! My hunch is that there are no politicians or advocacy groups that have the required training or experience to build this bridge.

  3. We always seem to go from one extreme to another. Timber harvesting is simply a tool to manage forest communities to achieve healthy diverse vegetative conditions. Removing the tools of the scientist results in the do nothing alternative and forest conditions that encourage catastrophic events such as large wildfires and insect and disease outbreaks. Overwhelming the scientist with paper work does nothing for the environment either. Scientists need to be spending their time in the field observing and prescribing treatments the focus on maximizing diversity and maintaining healthy forest communities. So what is the point? We need to recognize that sound forest management is essential and requires us to work together to establish goals to maintain the health of our remaining valuable forests. The number one environmental issue is population expansion and number three is deforestation. This means we must expect increased pressure on our forested lands and therefore must work

    • Well, Hanson has said that thinning is worse for the forest than wildfires. That should be a very easy narrative to discount, especially through photos. This is the kind of mindset we need to stand up to. I think we have him on the run, judging from his last year’s failures, and this “manifesto” of his.

  4. work together if we expect success! Congress is the worst place to seek resolution of major scientific issues. The Goal should be to reduce the paper work load, establish management goals with the various interests and get the scientists in the field evaluating methods to achieve these goals. The products from the forests should be the by-product of proper management not the driving reason for cutting trees .

  5. Definitely “chicken little” stuff. If you follow the post fire sales planned by the Forest Service you will find that very little is actually done. It seems to also have turned out that Fish and Wildlife has the last say if project happens or not. Consultation with Fish and Wildlife can take many months if not years while the timber rots. I find it wasteful to have to wait so long. I mean if the trees get cut anyways, then if makes sense to cut them as soon as possible after a fire.
    I think Chad Hansen’s rhetoric is damaging to our public forests. I don’t know how many people I have talked to who tell me how good fire is for the forests. I tell them yes, if you like your trees dead.

  6. Ummm, after doing some Googling, I couldn’t find any text of the actual Rider. What I did find is fear-mongering about “millions of acres” of clearcuts. If I can be convinced by the actual text of the Rider that clearcuts will happen, then I will join the crusade against them. I’m not against small clearcuts in a decimated forest, as a last resort. I do recognize their value as a silvicultural tool, too. Stands of large trees should never be clearcut. I truly want to know what Congress is directing the Forest Service to do.

    I see that other eco-entities are picking up Hanson’s unfortunate opinion. Now is a very good time to debunk his way of thinking. I also think Hanson sees his cash cow finding holes in the pasture fencing. The writing is on the wall and it is saying “Agency Deference”. Both sides have studies that appear to support their sides but, the Agency is better equipped to decide what is the best compromise.

    • Ummmm, you won’t find any text of a rider at this point because 1) the rider hasn’t yet been attached and 2) negotiations are on-going and Congress doesn’t make available to the public that sort of thing when there is so much fluidity. I should point out that this is one of our general concerns related to ‘democracy’ and the use of ‘riders’ by politicians of both political parties.

      “Republicans in the Senate are using the upcoming December 11 government-funding deadline and fear and misinformation about wildland fire in our forests, to pressure some Democrats and the Obama Administration to go along with a logging bill that would be attached as a “rider” to the Omnibus appropriations act in the coming days. The logging rider would suspend environmental laws to allow commercial logging projects to go forward on our national forests and other federal forestlands through “categorical exclusions.” The rider would, among other things, effectively exempt logging from any environmental analysis or disclosure of adverse impacts on imperiled wildlife species, watersheds, or forest carbon storage. The provisions of the logging rider are similar or identical to many of those in HR 2647, which House Republicans passed earlier this year.

      Here’s the text of HR 2647.

      • Well, then, whatever is being said about what might, or might not be included on a merely potential Rider is pure political drivel, then, eh? (Just like people whining about the potential to clearcut millions of acres)

        It is useless to criticize the other side for something you did when your side was in their position. You cannot cheer for your side’s dirty tricks, while bemoaning the other side’s tactics.

        More handwringing, please!!!!

        • Huh, Harrell? For the record, I’ve always been against riders, and have most folks on ‘our side’ of the environmental movement. I’m also not a supporter of the GOP or the Dems, and most folks on ‘our side’ of the environmental movement say the same thing.

          This is an utterly pointless argument. Thanks.

          • Yes, my point is that it is pointless, as well, making Hanson’s opinions even less applicable. I guess it is similar to me railing against the potential for zero logging in National Forests. Both points of view have little value, in the real world. At least my views are a lot closer to the middle of public opinion, though. Both extremes have too many blind followers.

            • Jeez Larry. If you think zero National Forest logging and a rider along the lines of HR 2647 (which already passed the House…and the GOP controls the Senate…and word is from multiple DC sources that the fire funding fix (which Rep Ryan opposes) and the HR 2647 logging CE’s, which the GOP is demanding) are on an equal playing field for likely passage in this current year-end session of Congress we should play poker…and I don’t even play cards.

              • I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say…. and I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say. It’s not important (although I was making fun of myself). The House passed all sorts of bills that died a predictable death in the Senate. Republicans knew that flooding the Senate with all sorts of crazy stuff that the President would never sign serves a political purpose against the Democrats, as well as showing their constituents that “they tried”.

                I’m not really a fan of Congressional sledgehammers. They are usually more about wielding political power than helping to de-polarize the situation. Since it is really out of our hands, it comes down to how the Forest Service will use their new power. Apparently, many people are assuming that millions of acres will be clearcut if the Forest Service can bypass some (more) rules.

                And, yes, I will support the fight against clearcutting old growth, through streamlined rules. I am also against giving the fire folks a “blank check”, for more Let-Burn fires. We need renewed scrutiny of those fire-related expenditures and policies.

                • FWIW

                  Deal to reform wildfire budget, hasten logging gains momentum
                  Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
                  Published: Friday, December 11, 2015

                  A pending deal to reform the nation’s wildfire spending and expedite logging on national forests is picking up momentum as a potential tag-along to the 2016 omnibus spending package, according to multiple sources close to Capitol Hill.

                  But a key unknown is whether negotiators can gain support from Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who have both historically opposed the wildfire budget reforms that are a key component of the emerging deal.

                  Sources said both Republicans appear to have softened their opposition to allowing some wildfires to be fought using disaster funds, a move aimed at providing budget stability to the Forest Service and Interior Department that would possibly free up more funding for logging, restoration and recreation projects.

                  And a top Agriculture Department official said he could support a deal that would include limited National Environmental Policy Act reforms to expedite logging — a key demand of Republicans and a significant number of Western Democrats.

                  One lobbyist close to the negotiations said a deal appeared to be within grasp and that progress has been made mitigating concerns from fiscally conservative House leaders.

                  But the window of opportunity for a deal is closing fast as negotiators seek to put the final touches on a long-term omnibus bill (see related story). When, and if, House and Senate leaders can agree on higher-profile spending bill policy issues like refugees and gun violence, the wildfire-forestry deal would need to be ready to hitch a ride.

                  Price’s spokesman yesterday declined to comment on his boss’s position on the talks.

                  House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a key negotiator on this deal, said he would “seriously doubt” that Price is a stumbling block to reforming wildfire budgeting.

                  “The biggest stumbling block actually is on the other side of this building,” Bishop said. “If you’re going to have the wildfire funding without management reforms, it’s a waste of money.”

                  Bishop said he sees Senate Democrats as the biggest impediment to streamlining forest management, a key element of the deal. “I think that’s apparently a lift that’s dogmatically too far for them to deal with,” he said.

                  What emerges in the deal is anyone’s guess. The package continues to evolve, according to sources.

                  But if a deal is struck it would likely contain elements of the “Wildfire Disaster Funding Act” (WDFA) as well as provisions similar to what’s been proposed in H.R. 2647 by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), which would allow larger and more intensive logging projects to be approved using categorical exclusions (CE).

                  Sources said CE’s could be offered for roadside timber salvage and projects that create “early successional” forest habitat, which requires something akin to a clearcut. Provisions that could woo Democrats include raising the funding ceiling for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and promoting watershed assessments.

                  The Obama administration will likely require any deal to include WDFA or a modified version of it. The bill would both spare the Forest Service the disruptive practice of “fire borrowing” and prevent wildfire expenditures from continuing to erode the agency’s forest stewardship work.

                  The administration will concede some policy reforms.

                  “There’s an opportunity here to get something that is bipartisan — that solves the fire fix and provides some forest reform,” Robert Bonnie, Agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and environment, told E&E Daily last week at a Western Governors’ Association meeting in Las Vegas.

                  Bonnie said the administration will support NEPA streamlining if it ensures projects are planned through collaboration, that they protect old-growth trees and prevent new roads. It’s pushing for the same types of environmental safeguards that were included in the 2014 farm bill, which allowed projects of up to 3,000 acres to be approved through categorical exclusions.

                  “We’re committed to good NEPA processes, open and transparent processes,” he said. “We want the environmental community at the table. We want industry at the table. That’s the model that works.”

                  Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the sponsor of WDFA, is a leading proponent for a deal in the Senate. A Wyden aide said he has been “closely involved in the negotiations to solve the fire borrowing problem” but would not comment on his position on forestry policy.

                  Some conservation groups are likely to support the deal, or at least not oppose it.

                  Roughly three dozen sportsmen’s organization Wednesday sent a letter to House and Senate leaders asking that they support a package in the omnibus that would reform wildfire funding and hasten forest projects.

                  “We support efforts in both chambers of Congress to provide additional authorities to the Forest Service and the BLM to expedite forest management projects that would return federal public lands to a more diverse set of habitat types, which compose more productive landscapes,” said the letter, whose signatories included the National Wildlife Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

                  “We are also united in our support of efforts to address and reform chronic wildfire suppression funding problems that diminish federal land management agencies’ ability to properly manage habitat and outdoor recreation on public land,” the letter says.

                  Yet other conservation groups want WDFA to move on its own, noting that it has strong bipartisan support. Logging critics argue that the farm bill’s NEPA streamlining provisions need to be given more time to work.

                  “We were hoping [WDFA] could move by itself,” said Athan Manuel, a lobbyist on public lands for the Sierra Club. “We really don’t want that good idea linked to bad forest policies.”

                  An email to Defenders of Wildlife was unreturned. The group issued a memo Monday saying it opposes the numerous spending bill riders that have been advanced in Congress, but it did not mention the potential wildfire-logging deal.

                  The House’s tea party wing is a major wildcard in this deal, given the belief by some that it will increase government spending.

                  A blog post yesterday by the libertarian Cato Institute titled “Dumping money on fire” called WDFA a “blank check for firefighting,” which is not something you want to hear if you’re a fiscal conservative. Proponents of WDFA note that the bill did not register a score with the Congressional Budget Office, though critics say it would clear the way for additional government spending.

                  “This marriage of convenience between anti-environmental interests — and I count a lot of Western Democrats in that camp — combined with USDA and its bureaucracy that wants to see more money and logging, I think they might both find themselves tripped up by tea party folks who think this is a total boondoggle waste of dollars,” said Andy Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

                  Reporter Hannah Hess contributed.

                  • “Bonnie said the administration will support NEPA streamlining if it ensures projects are planned through collaboration, that they protect old-growth trees and prevent new roads.”

                    I am certainly OK with this. However, I doubt that some in Congress want to stop here. I also doubt that the serial litigators would be fine with just this. In any case, those people will sue against any plan to streamline rules or create CE’s, just because they can.

                    I keep saying that consensus will be awkward and painful, and here is another taste of the struggle. Again, both extremes are against a larger and more effective Forest Service, for opposite reasons.

                    Thanks for posting that, Matt.

  7. Sooooo, how do we know that this is Forest Service land, in ANY of the pictures? I see no tracer paint on any stumps, or leave-tree marks on the remaining snags. I just think that the photographer saw this barren land, automatically assuming it is a Forest Service clearcut. Also, I’ll bet the pictures were taken right next to a road, where you do not leave snags. Additionally, the pile of tops in the last picture indicate that it is private land, as most Forest Service salvage projects require taking the tops back to the landing, and either chipped, or piled and burned.

    Once again, we see accusations of private logging practices applied to Forest Service projects. I guess it just shows the extreme desperation that Hanson is going to. Not buying it, Chad!

    • Hi Larry, The photos I posted at the bottom of the article I got directly from Dr. Chad Hanson. Sooooo if Dr. Hanson says those photos are of post-fire logging units on the Stanislaus National Forest from within the Rim Fire area I’m going to take his word for it, rather than rely on someone sewing seeds of doubt from in front of a computer. Thanks.

      • I think he is taking the photographer’s word for it. If there isn’t any paint in the pictures, then it is private land. The Forest Service doesn’t work the way they do on private lands. I guess I could find the exact location of the first picture, through Google maps but, I’m quite confident of my assertions (being a salvage expert, and knowing the area, firsthand).

        Still not buying it, Chad!

      • Sooooo, since that straight line is obviously a property line, Hanson is saying that all those un-cut dead trees are on private lands?!?!?!?!!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?? There is absolutely NO evidence that says the clearcuts are on Forest Service lands, from Forest Service projects. Yes, fact-checking is an important part of being a scientist, Chad-ster!

        AND, stream buffers on Forest Service salvage projects are always a lot wider than what we see in the picture.

  8. Well, after a few minutes of searching, I found that exact spot…. on private land!!!


    Sorry Chad-meister! Caught red-handed!!! Also, try zooming in on that main clearcut and you’ll see that there were tiny trees there, before the fire. By all means, let’s see Hanson’s piece get a lot of press, as long as we get to point out this “inconvenient” truth. *SMIRKS*

    • So, Chad-O-Rama gets to accuse the Forest Service of clearcutting, using lies? Hey, does anyone know of the process to get Snopes to address his lies?!? I expect we’ll be seeing more of his “Clearcuts for Christmas” garbage, too, until his lies reach the mainstream media. Just say no to Hanson’s messages, as he has proven himself to be either ignorant or deceptive. Not one worth listening to.

    • Hi Larry,

      Which picture(s) are you talking about exactly? I see a picture that was printed in the Earth Island Journal attributed to Maya Khosla, that’s at the top of this blog post. The two photos I posted at the bottom of this blog post were taken by Chad Hanson and he sent them to me and told me they were of post-fire logging units on the Stanislaus National Forest from within the Rim Fire area. Thanks.

      • I simply do not believe that the logger would do the site preparation when he didn’t have to. That second picture does show that sub-merchantable trees and logging slash was piled, and the Google Maps link also shows that most all the private lands were site prepped. The other image shows no paint and a big pile of logs. The Forest Service doesn’t allow loggers to leave logs laying around like that. Remember, the Forest Service considers a log with 25% good wood to be a “merchantable log”.

        I guess you can place your trust in people who post fraudulent pictures and accusations, if you want to. I do think I will look into Snopes to add my discovery their list of truths. Additionally, the headline picture isn’t really a salvage clearcut, because it doesn’t appear that there were any merchantable trees there, before the fire. They simply cleared off and piled or chipped those small trees, if you look at the Google Maps image. That was not viable “snag habitat” that BBW’s use. That was not “rare” habitat, as the rest of the Rim Fire has supplied 10’s of thousands of acres of additional snags, which the birds would actually use.

        • Hi Larry,

          I’m still confused about which photo(s) you are specifically talking about. I also failed to see any private properly listed on the Google Map links you sent out. If you are going to accuse people of using ‘fraudulent pictures and accusations’ please be specific and provide documentation. Thanks.

          P.S. Also, not sure if I qualify as an ‘extremist’ or not, but I welcome full transparency and always have.

          • Uhhh, gee, it’s kinda hard to miss a chunk of land about 20,000 acres worth. So, you’re trying to tell me that (in the headline picture) that all those large dead trees over the straight and true property line are outside of Forest Service lands? Look at the caption for the headline picture, probably written by Chad-a-hoochie, himself! Compare that picture to the Google image and you’ll see he even misrepresented that “clearcut” as a terrible loss of snag habitat. Hey, those trees look about 15 years old, and I’ll bet they didn’t get one log out of the whole chunk. That “clearcut” was a young plantation before the fire….AND, of course, the Forest Service hasn’t done clearcuts since 1993! C’mon and admit the picture is a sham, on top of a farce and cloaked with dripping falsehoods. And, Hansonella must take full blame for the picture, its caption and its message.

            The only picture of the four that is accurate is the one of “complex snag habitat”. Ironically, his example doesn’t harbor blackbacked woodpeckers anymore. The picture is actually a good example of the 40 year old brushfields that burned at moderate to high intensities, causing thinned plantations to be singed around the edges. Those “preserved” areas of post-fire habitat burned more intensely than the thinned plantations, that’s for sure!

            On an academic note, maybe the “Ologist” curricula should really include a map and compass class, too? *smirk*

            Yes, I did send a message off to Snopes and we’ll see if they want to act on it (I doubt it).

            • Can you please stop with the middle-school’ish “Chad-a-hoochie” and “Chad-er-rooni” and “Hansonella” and *smirks* so we can figure out exactly what’s up?

              What I’m ‘trying to tell you’ is that I’ve read your accusations and I’ve gone to your links and I’ve read more of your juvenile accusations and assumptions and I can’t understand what you’re talking about.

              Perhaps if you believe the photo taken by Maya Khosla and published by the Earth Island Journal, or the photo caption (likely written by EIJ) is incorrect, contact the EIJ and request they run a correction. Thanks.

              • Fact 1: SPI has a large contiguous chunk of land within the Rim Fire. About 20,000 acres

                Fact 2: The land purported to be a Forest Service clearcut, depicted in the headline picture above, is a piece of SPI’s chunk of land, and evidenced by this Google Maps image, shot before the above headline picture.


                Be sure to zoom out and see that, yes, the land in question is part of that large chunk of SPI land

                Fact 3: The cleared area was a young plantation before the fire, with trees all being 10 years old (approx). There was no “snag habitat” there before it was “clearcut” in a salvage project.

                Fact 4: Since there has been no clearcutting in the Sierra Nevada since 1993, that burned plantation (in the headline picture) could not possibly be on Forest Service land.

                Fact 5: There was no clearcutting in the Rim Fire salvage areas. There was no site prep on salvaged Forest Service lands.

                There is no other valid evidence that says otherwise.

                • Hi Larry,

                  I’ve looked at your Google map image now numerous times and still find nothing at that link indicating land ownership belonging to SPI. Can you please show me specifically where it says it is land owned by SPI? Thank you.

                  • You don’t see it as part of that huge chunk of other clearcuts? Here is a link to a USFS map, of that private land, with Woods Ridge Lookout in the middle. http://www.rexinet.com/6299nfm.jpg (ignore the red box) If you compare the map to the aerial photo, you’ll see that everything lines up, and that all those clearcuts are all on that non-Forest Service lands. It is owned by SPI, and was salvage logged well before the Forest Service did their work. There is no denying that ALL of those clearcuts are on private lands.

                    In the end, it is Hansoniter who is claiming clearcuts on Forest Service lands, using a picture of private land logging. He needs to come here to defend his choice of pictures and words to put forth a false narrative. No wonder he never comes here to debate.

  9. I don’t care where the pictures came from! If the provisions of the Resilient Forest Act are incorporated into 2016 omnibus budget bill it will be a disaster for the environment. The act is basically about eliminating public comment and legitimate legal challenges to proposed timber sales. The act will allow categorical exclusions to be used on timber sales up to 15,000 acres, provided that a “crony collaborative” process has been used to develop the proposal. Only two alternatives will be permitted (log it or no action). Which one do you think will be selected? This does not meet the intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires the development of reasonable alternatives based on public comment.

    The Act would require bonds of plaintiffs and judges could not issue restraining orders or injunctions to stop bad projects. Most individuals and poorly funded environmental groups could not meet the bond requirements. The act would also have very short time frames, 3 months for environmental assessment preparation, 30 days for public scoping, and 15 days for an objection.

    The proposal would eliminate the Eastside wildlife screens that require the retention of trees over 21 inches in diameter. It would also require the BLM to consider a new alternative for logging of over 500 million board feet annually from lands in southern Oregon and Northern California (Commonly called the O&C lands).

    Plain and simple, this Act is an attempt by special interests to gain unconstrained access to our public resources. It puts the “foxes” in charge of the hen house in the form of “collaborative groups” and shuts out the general public from the process. If you are concerned about keeping public oversight on Forest Service projects and don’t buy into the “bogeyman argument” on the effect of wildfire you need to tell your congressional representatives and President Obama to eliminate this terrible environmental rider.

    Harry Jageman
    PhD Natural Resources
    USFS Retired

    • I think we could get better fixes, both in forest management AND in general, if we had term limits that all but eliminate career Congress-folk. Congress has been notoriously-bad at solving things, lately. I do think that if such streamlined concepts are implemented, there will be more lawsuits, and the Ninth Circuit Court will overturn the law. That is the likely trajectory if (a HUGE if) the Forest Service pushes to clearcut old growth. As Matt was saying, no one knows what the meat of the Rider really is. This all assumes that the Forest Service will abuse the new power. THAT has not yet come to be. I do love the handwringing, though!

      Regarding the pictures and claims of salvage clearcutting. He has claimed that many times and this time, he included fraudulent pictures. We have also seen his desire to end all logging, in favor of “larger and more intense wildfires”, while getting rich in lawsuits against salvage sales. Hanson has seemed to hit hard times, lately, losing some lawsuits and not stopping the Rim Fire salvage plans. Hanson just isn’t reliable as a source of valid objective information, offering agenda, instead.

      And now, fraudulent pictures! For shame, for shame!

      One more thing, regarding wildfire impacts. The pictures do show the intense damages, when landowners clearcut their own lands, that firestorms bring. That is a constant when assessing wildfire damages. And then there’s those other 50,000 acres of old growth mortality in YNP, too.

    • I am kind of surprised that as an ex FS employee you think that the FS is capable of or has the desires to run amuck and start logging like crazy. Also I seem to keep running into the problem that the FW services seems to have the last say anyways.
      As far as the poor environmental groups not being able to have there say I find that hard to believe. They have basically controlled our public lands for the last 20 years and will continue to, from the looks of things, into the future. I always thought collaboration meant the FS called up Oregon Wild, Cascadian Wildlands, or some environmental group asked them what they thought. What individuals think hasn’t ever made any difference anyways.
      We need some balance. We can do a better job of managing our National Forests. This might help.
      The NEPA process is too long and expensive and precludes the ability of the Forest Service to act in a timely manner when it comes to fire salvage and other projects.
      I would also assume you have visited some of the wildfires we have had in recent years. I think you would be stretching the truth if you said they all have been beneficial or our forests or it inhabitants.

  10. Hi Bob,

    There are many good people working for the Forest Service and I still believe it does a better job of forest management than most other entities. However, the management reward system within the agency is still heavily tied to “getting out the cut” and the agency has a long history of ignoring obvious environmental concerns in order to achieve timber management objectives. There is much political pressure to increase timber harvest and upper management tends to be very responsive that pressure.

    While it sounds like we both can agree that the collaborative process is not the way to manage the Forest, I strongly disagree with you that the NEPA process is “too long and expensive and precludes the Forest Service to act in a timely manner”. NEPA has generally led to much better decisions by the Forest Service and public oversight (including input and lawsuits from environmental groups) has caused the agency to make much better decisions. The Resilient Forest Act is a return to the past when the agency made its decisions with little regard to public oversight or environmental review.

    You say you want to respond quickly to wildfires and I can agree with you that wildfires can cause some resource damage particularly when combined with rain events like we are experiencing this fall in the Pacific Northwest. However, abandoning appropriate environmental review is not the answer to this problem. Inappropriate management decisions can also lead to resource damage of equal or greater magnitude. As I am sure you can agree, sound management decisions that are the result of considering all of the facts and science is what sets the Forest Service apart from most other management entities. Such analysis are generally done as part of the NEPA process and the idea that this would be done with a 5 page CE over 15,000 acres is ridiculous. Believe me Bob, it just won’t happen if this authority is granted!

    Harry Jageman

    • “The Resilient Forest Act is a return to the past when the agency made its decisions with little regard to public oversight or environmental review.”

      You assume way too much. Please don’t blame the present for the past. Thank you.

      I look forward to the upheaval of how things are currently done. If it gets people talking and learning, instead of blindly following, all the better! FULL transparency isn’t welcomed by the extremists from both sides.

      Let the light of truth shine bright! (Chad-er-rooni)

    • I would think after 20 years or more of survey and manage and don’t know how many NEPA documents
      that we would have a pretty good idea what is going on in our forests and wouldn’t need to make a NEPA document each time someone wanted to harvest a tree.

  11. Here’s an update I got directly from Dr. Chad Hanson.

    This is a photo of post-fire logging (that is not roadside) on the Stanislaus National Forest that Dr. Hanson took earlier this year.

    Dr. Hanson also wrote to me and said that:

    “With regard to the comment from a couple of the people on that list, where they claimed that the Forest Service only allowed roadside logging in Rim fire, and not standard ‘salvage’ logging units, I have attached the Record of Decision for the Rim post-fire logging project.

    On pages 8 and 9 of the ROD you will see that the Forest Service’s decision allowed about 15,000 acres of salvage logging that was not roadside, and about 17,000 *additional* acres of logging that was roadside (but all on level 1 and 2 roads which, by Forest Service definition, are not even maintained for public use).

    Last, in 25 years working on this issue, I have never once declined or avoided a debate on this issue. In fact, I have been trying to get USFS staff scientists in CA to debate me for the past 3 years and they have declined, or don’t respond. “

    So there you have it, if anyone cares to know.

    • “With regard to the comment from a couple of the people on that list, where they claimed that the Forest Service only allowed roadside logging in Rim fire, and not standard ‘salvage’ logging units, I have attached the Record of Decision for the Rim post-fire logging project.”

      Of course, that would not be me. In actuality, most of the non-roadside salvage was in those plantation acreages. In that picture, I really don’t see more than a handful of stumps, and they are all pretty small. Additionally, there IS a road to that deck, and unstable trees that can reach it are usually cut.

      Still, just a random picture isn’t proof of land ownership. Remember, I was a salvage expert, so I do know what I am looking at. Apparently, Chad has some challenges. Apparently, Chad also considers this blog not to be worthy of debate, too. *mentally backspaces hurtful, but funny comment*

  12. The rider didn’t happen. Nothing new here.
    Are those pictures suppose to be offensive? Give them a few years and they will look better than the one Chad has showing “ecologically rich” landscapes.
    I think it is poor judgment on everyone’s part not to salvage more of the dead and burnt timber. Pure waste of our national resources.

  13. Ironically, Hanson has decided not to use some of the fraudulent pictures included in this article, in his latest “victory message”. Yes, he does continue to claim that clearcutting was used in the Rim Fire salvage efforts. Hanson simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth. End of story.

    The Rider would have passed if the tea partiers had pushed for it.

  14. Perhaps I can help end this argument. As part of my work in preparing bar charts showing relationship of growth, mortality , and harvest by states on national forest lands, I’ve sampled the cut/sold reports for national forests in some 10 western states. The reports have species and product codes that indicate whether the cut volume is dead or green.

    In comparing cut mortality with total mortality (from USFS FIA custom reports) I’und that on the average, about 3% of the total mortality is salvaged. The vast majority of fire or insect-killed trees on national forest land is not salvaged and it would seem the deep concern over the adverse impacts of salvage is unfounded.

    Which means that photos showing clear cuts of salvage areas, while dramatic and incendiary (sorry) present a tiny and unrepresentative fraction of the total. It follows that the exact location of the salvage cut, whether Forest Service or private land is irrelevant.

    I’m sending a copy of a representative chart to Sharon with request that she insert it in this post. I think you’ll be interested.


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