Shutdown, Wildfire Suppression Prep and Thinning and Prescribed Burns- Western Senators’ Letter

Once again, I have to say that I am totally against shutting down government as a policy tactic.  I think it’s interesting to watch who calls out which negative effects (e.g., National Parks, wildfire suppression).

There are slightly different versions of this AP story in different places.  Here is the one from Colorado Politics. The basic story is that Democratic western senators wrote a letter to President Trump pointing out the negative effects of the federal shutdown on fire preparedness.

Conservationists and fire managers say there are other concerns.

Clearing and thinning projects and planned burns on federal land that could lessen fire danger by weeding out flammable debris also are largely on hold in California, Oregon and elsewhere. Private contractors say they have received letters telling them to stop the work.

There’s already a backlog of such projects in federal forests in Oregon and Northern California, said Michael Wheelock, president of Grayback, a private contractor in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Intentional fires can only be set in a narrow winter window before temperatures and humidity falls — and that is rapidly closing, Wheelock said.

“Every week that goes by, it’s going to start increasing the impact,” he said.

Notice that in this version “conservationists” are included in those who want “clearing and thinning projects and planned burns.”

Yet the actual letter by the Senators did not mention those activities specifically.

Beyond the significant implications of halting firefighter training and recertification efforts, the shutdown is also delaying critical forest health projects across the country. Press reports indicate that hazard tree removal, pile burning, and other important forest restoration activities are on hold indefinitely. By stopping these important forest management activities, during the very winter months when it is safest to carry many of them out, you are needlessly putting people and rural forested communities at risk.

(My bold) For those of us who talk about this all the time, hazard tree removal is not the same thing as thinning, and pile burning is not the same as prescribed burning. Was this just an inexperienced staffer who wrote the letter, or a careful parsing of words? Or would it not be OK to say that efforts to reduce thinning and prescribed burning are “needlessly putting people and rural forested communities at risk?” Are western Democratic elected officials in an awkward spot? Would they have to support “thinning without logging” or “burn piles, don’t use the wood” to not put “forested communities at risk” and also satisfy their environmental group supporters who are against selling thinned trees?

5 thoughts on “Shutdown, Wildfire Suppression Prep and Thinning and Prescribed Burns- Western Senators’ Letter”

  1. This is also the time that Units start getting together their summer hiring plans, and getting announcements out to Albuquerque. I really doubt they have had time to consider Trump’s EO, to re-allocate funds. With today’s low unemployment, the Forest Service could have a terrible time filling positions that require expertise. Now might be a good time for Temps to just ‘take a summer off’, and explore other options. After all, those Temporary Appointments are just dead-end jobs, anyway. The USFS doesn’t value the work of Temps.

    • Trump’s EO was pretty much a restatement (in an EO) of existing targets and expectations for FY19 (at least that is what it looks like to me). And summer hiring is taking place much earlier this year due to the lead time needed for electronic ID cards to be issued for temporary hires, so planning for that has already taken place.

      • So, I went to the USA jobs website and did a search for Forestry Technician jobs. Turns out, no Forest Service timber jobs are being advertised right now. Time is ticking away, and the workloads for hiring Temps are at a standstill. So much for targets, eh? Now seems to be the best time to let this Temporary Hiring Authority ‘crash and burn’. This is a remnant from the last millennium, which doesn’t do anything good for the employees it is supposed to protect. I wonder if permanent employees are finally getting a taste of what Temps have to experience, each and every winter. (Probably not… yet)

  2. You all sound so smart and yet so kind: I applaud you. As a mere homeowner, I’ve been stunned to see all the blame you’ve received for a very complex problem.
    I’m equally stunned to see how idiotic and wrong-headed it is to put forestry people, whose effort and expertise is desperately needed, on some sort of time-out by the president.
    I don’t know why all the fires are happening, but as a former resident of Paradise and Forest Ranch and now Pollock Pines, and lover of really tall trees, I’ve now decided to move to the desert. How’s that for sticking your head in the sand?

    • The desert has its own beauty and wonders… and hazards. I know the Pollock Pines and Forest Ranch areas well. I haven’t been through Sheep Ranch, on the way to West Point since it burned. That western part of Calaveras County is very flammable, I worked out of Pollock Pines for 6 summers doing timber work for the Placerville Ranger District. I worked 3 summers on the Amador Ranger District, too.

      Your opinion counts, and our lawmakers need to know it. I’m here, as a retired field-going forester, to add some truth, and support full transparency. No one pays me to chime in. Same for most of us. *smirk*


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