68 million acres of fuel reduction and landscape restoration

There’s been a lot of talk (and press) lately about wildfires, public lands logging and fuel reduction, especially related to many statements coming out of the Trump administration, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (who blamed the wildfires in California on “environmental terrorist groups” and “environmental radicals”) and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who is in charge of the U.S. Forest Service.

The basic narrative from the Trump administration, many GOP politicians and some in the timber industry is that the federal government can’t do any logging or fuel reduction because of environmentalists.

Turns out that, according to the federal government, between FY 2001 and FY 2017 the U.S. Forest Service and Department of interior accomplished approximately 68 MILLION acres of hazardous fuels reduction and landscape restoration. See for yourself right here.

We seriously live in strange times when treating over 106,000 square miles of land over a period of less than 20 years is basically characterized as doing nothing and “hands-off management.”

12 thoughts on “68 million acres of fuel reduction and landscape restoration”

  1. As per NIFC, the Forest Service has ‘accomplished’ an ‘equivalent’ of 25,000 acres of prescribed burns in northern California, this year. Southern California did just 14,500 acres, this year.

    Does anyone think this is an acceptable amount?!? I don’t. Region 8 did almost a million acres worth.

  2. Assuming a fire return interval of 3-4 years in southern pines, 7-10 on southern hardwood (non-swamp), 10-20 on Appalachian oak-pine and 30 on Appalachian mesic, coves, Region 8, much as they are burning, really isn’t even making a dent in things. Go to DOE Savannah River Site, Ft. Benning, Ft. Stewart, Ft Jackson, Eglin AFB, Jones Center, Tall Timbers, etc. and ask yourself, “is USFS ever going to be institutionally capable of what is needed in a manner that these land managers do?” Nope. Never. Ever.

    I assume the problem out West is even more intractable with this agency.

    • You also assume that National Forests ought to be managed like military bases. The DOE and DOD have very different land management goals, a tiny fraction of the acreage, and far greater budget flexibility than DOI or USDA. Oh, and their lands are not open to the public. You’re comparing apples to oranges.

  3. From the footnotes: “Forest Service and DOI acres in the ‘Fire’ columns include both Prescribed Fire and ‘Fire Use’ acres.” I could be wrong but I believe the ‘fire use’ component includes the total acreage burned area from wildfires.

    • Hi,

      That’s not entirely accurate, what you have said:

      Here’s what the actual document claims:

      This report was part of the annual Healthy Forest Report from 2006-2009.
      Forest Service and DOI acres in the ‘Fire’ columns include both Prescribed Fire and “Fire Use” acres.
      For FY2006-2009, the Forest Service numbers included hazardous fuel activities, non-national fire plan activities, and fire use.
      For FY2006-2009, the DOI numbers only included hazardous fuel activities.
      From FY2013 forward, both DOI and Forest Service report the same data (hazardous fuel activities, non-national fire plan activities, and fire use).
      Forest Service acres include Recovery Act funded treatments in FY 2009 & 2010.
      Forest Service SFA planned grant acres are counted as Rx Fire and Mechanical treatments in the WUI.

      The “fire use” component includes ONLY wildfires that are managed as “Fire use” fires, NOT all wildfires. A small percentage of total wildfires, and a small percentage of total wildfire acres in any given year is managed by agencies as “fire use.”

      Also, numerous scientist and ecologist tell us that one of the most effective (and cost-effective) ways to reduce fuels and restore landscape is by letting fire back on the land. The agencies “fire use” program accomplishes those goals.

      • Note my use of the qualifier “I could be wrong.” …

        Wildland Fire Use = The management of naturally ignited wildland fires to accomplish specific prestated resource management objectives in predefined geographic areas outlined in Fire Management Plans (https://www.fs.fed.us/nwacfire/home/terminology.html)

        In light of this definition I tend to agree that these acres represent opportunistic accomplishment of land management objectives rather than “hand off” management. I’d be interested to know the percentage of burned area from unplanned ignitions that was managed for fire use in recent years as compared to for full suppression. The NIFC site only shows fire use acreage through 2008 and the acreages listed for those years are fairly low, ~60-500K acres/yr. (https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_fireUse.html)

  4. Yes, I will agree with Matthew and others about how Trump isn’t using “site-specific” politics. *SMIRK* Trump clearly doesn’t know what he is talking about.

    No, Mr. Trump, there is not much opposition to Sierra Nevada Framework thinning projects. It is the purely political barriers that are effective in limiting more active forest management. There are some minor (but workable) conflicts generated from the ESA. Those conflicts are unavoidable and an essential part of the process to follow. Surveys must be done, to the correct protocols. What will get more projects done is to recruit and hire more qualified permanent specialists ( Ologists), including Timber folks, too. Congress should specifically earmark funds for lower-level hires, otherwise, we end up with trickle-down funding, where very little reaches the bottom levels.

  5. Nope DOE and DOD do NEPA, ESA, SIKES, have INRMPs analogous to Forest Plans, etc. Virtually all allow public hunting and fishing. Their ESA performance is head and shoulders above USFS (look at red cockaded woodpecker number on DOD versus all of R8). They have vibrant timber programs AND they manage to provide landscapes suitable for training which would be an analog to recreation. Having lived DOD DOE and USFS lives, the difference is accountability, clear direction, technically competent leadership and can-do attitude.

    • I can’t believe you are comparing DOD, DOE, and USFS. There’s a bit of a funding discrepancy there. I am not knocking the military, but their objectives, uses, and funding are in no way comparable to the other land mngmt agencies.

    • Issuing fishing/hunting permits is not the same as allowing open access for the full range of outdoor recreation pursuits. And while NEPA and ESA still apply on DOE and DOD lands, NFMA/FLPMA and the MUSYA do not. That makes crafting a management plan far less onerous. Apples and oranges.


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