Federal Govt. Blamed for Faster, More Destructive Wildfires

Here’s a relatively balanced news report (video): Chad Hansen is balanced by a USFS district ranger, though Hansen gets more screen time. The “investigative report” focuses on salvage logging, and ties the Camp Fire to past USFS salvaging from a fire 10 years ago. I don’t think it’s so simple — I’ll wait for a detailed report on the conditions that existed before and during the fire.

Who are the 300 scientists? The story doesn’t explain. They may be the ones who signed a letter last year against salvaging.

Federal Govt. Blamed for Faster, More Destructive Wildfires

Nearly 300 scientists from across the country and abroad believe actions taken by the U.S. Forest Service are contributing to faster, more devastating wildfires throughout California. The fiery debate centers around a long-time practice known as ‘post-fire logging.’ Investigative reporter Bigad Shaban reports. (Published Wednesday, May 15, 2019)

20 thoughts on “Federal Govt. Blamed for Faster, More Destructive Wildfires”

  1. I suggest that people look at the Forest map and show me the Forest Service lands that were salvaged, and how close to town were those units. There was much more private forest lands that were salvaged, again, close to town. The fire had to burn through thousands of acres of unlogged lands, before it got to any salvage-logged lands, again, close to town.

    If Hanson is saying that unsalvaged lands would have resisted the fire better, then he is obviously wrong. It might have been much, much worse, with all those perfectly dried stacks of wood, so perfectly ‘conserved’, in the “No Action” agenda-driven scenario Hanson so adores.

      • Los Angeles Times had an interesting article about the strange phenomena of neighbourhoods burning and tree canopies untouched and left intact. The article touched on all the major debate talking points used in many of the wildfire cause arguments. Here are some quotes:

        “Our problem is a society that is unintentionally, but actively, ignoring opportunities because of the cultural perception of wildfire,” said Jack Cohen, who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service where he worked for 40 years as a fire research scientist.

        “That perception, he argues, is based on myth and fear and complicated by an ongoing narrative that attributes conflagrations like the Camp fire to such factors as climate change, overgrown forests and urban encroachment into rural areas.”



        • Pretty good article. It’s the “home ignition zone” — but also intense fires that can spread embers more than a mile, sometimes several miles.

          ‘In spite of this, the popular perception is that wildfires burn through these communities like a wall of flames. In fact, small, burning embers — firebrands — blown in advance of the fire are the primary cause of structural fires.”

  2. “While the 100-foot requirement is appropriate, it is important to begin thinking closer to the structure itself and work out in concentric circles, Cohen said.” That’s going to make public lands, especially backcountry, a really low priority. Makes sense to me.

    • Could it be, perhaps, that the people, politicians and industries that constantly advocate logging miles away from homes actually have their own financial interests in mind, far ahead of the interest of homeowners and firefighters? Could it be that the people Secretary Zinke called “environmental terrorists” actually have a pretty good plan to protect homes and communities from wildfires?

      • Who are these folks that advocate “logging” “miles away from homes”. Let’s talk about specific projects and their “purpose and need” as described by the FS.

        • Ok, let’s talk about specific projects and their purpose and need.

          How about the East Reservoir timber sale on the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, which we’ve discussed and debated a number of times on this blog.

          The Forest Service proposed to log 8,845 acres with this project, including 3,458 acres of clearcuts. Nearly 8,000 logging trucks would be required to haul out the trees. The project area is home to bull trout, Canada lynx and grizzly bears, among other fish and wildlife species.

          This timber sale is certainly “miles away from homes.”

          Here’s the official USFS purpose and need for this timber sale:

          The purpose and need for this project is to: (1) Re-establish, restore and retain landscapes that are more resistant and resilient to disturbance (insect and disease infestations, fire) and uncertain environmental conditions (climate change) by enhancing species diversity and managing density; (2) reduce hazardous fuels adjacent to private property and across the landscape while re-introducing fire to the ecosystem; (3) restore, maintain or improve wildlife habitat; (4) improve recreation settings, opportunities and experiences; (5) provide amenities, jobs and products to the communities and maintain an adequate, balanced transportation system.

          According to the Alliance for the Wild Rockies:

          “The Forest Service would be spending $2.6 million subsidizing the project, which would add 3,458 acres of new clearcuts in an area that already has about 22,000 acres of old clearcuts.

          Much of that cost will be to rebuild and maintain an astounding 175 miles of logging roads, nine miles of new permanent logging roads and an additional 13 miles of illegal, user-created roads to the legal road system, and open nine miles of previously closed motorized trails when all the existing science shows more roads directly lead to more grizzly bear deaths and more sedimentation of bull trout spawning streams.”

          • The East Reservoir project is much more than a timber harvest. See the RoD (https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=34594):

            * Precommercial thinning on approximately 5,775 acres to improve growing conditions
            and increase composition of shade-intolerant species in managed sapling-sized stands.

            * Prescribed fire will be used to reduce hazardous fuel loadings on treatment units, create
            fuel breaks along ridge lines, and restore natural fire regimes. Prescribed fire treatments
            will be completed on approximately 4,257 acres (appendix 2).

            * Approximately 10,049 acres (appendix 2) of burning and/or slashing over the next 10
            years to enhance wildlife habitat (bighorn sheep escape habitat and foraging), increase
            ungulate browse and to reduce hazardous fuels.

            * Watershed rehabilitation will include road decommissioning and intermittent stored
            service (storage) work.

              • Unfortunately, the court failed to fully consider the effects of no action, which, in my view, is far more harmful overall than the proposed forest management activities.

                • That wasn’t the court’s job. That would be the job of the Forest Service in their NEPA document, but even if they got that right, their failure to demonstrate compliance with the forest plan was a fatal flaw.

                  However, on remand, the district court did take the effects of no action into account in deciding that the bulk of the project (that was consistent with the forest plan) could continue: “More pressingly, the Project will decrease the likelihood and severity of wildfire, which threatens local communities and the forest ecosystem.”

                  • Jon, the RoD offers a long list of “no action” consequences. Under “Why I Did Not Select the No-action Alternative (Alternative 1):

                    “There are many reasons I did not select Alternative 1 (no action). While in the short term, doing
                    nothing may have less effect than the short-term disturbances associated with the action
                    alternative activities, over time, the consequence of doing “nothing” is potentially far greater.”

                    • It’s laughable to think that industrial logging on 8,845 acres – including nearly 3,500 acres of clearcuts – and building nine miles of new permanent logging roads in prime habitat for bull trout, Canada lynx, grizzly bears and other wildlife species will have less consequences over time than “doing nothing” and simply letting the landscape be. Honestly, what’s the Forest Service’s track record and legacy over the past 114 years, and especially since the post World War 2 era?

  3. I still think that the idea of “it’s OK to run wildfire through towns as long as 100 feet from people’s houses is protected” is kind of strange- I don’t think if you asked anyone who has recently been involved with/ been asked to evacuate wildfires would agree. Do people in those communities have livestock? What about emergency egress?

    Also, houses aren’t the only infrastructure of importance– there can be infrastructure of various kinds in the backcountry. And for water providers, sedimentation is not a good thing, but that’s not really infrastructure at all. All arguments that attempting to counter negative fire effects are not always about houses.

    • “Also, houses aren’t the only infrastructure of importance …” No, but because they tend to have people living in them they are the most important infrastructure and should be first priority. When we get human lives and their immediate needs taken care of, we can talk about the costs and benefits of protecting other less essential infrastructure (and livestock). Do you disagree?

  4. It sure looks like Hanson STILL cannot read a map (or aerial photos), based on his accusations. His claims are completely baseless and his credibility continues to drop like Trump’s popularity. Will he drag down the Sierra Club with him? (Let’s hope so!)

    • Except for your constant insults on Dr. Chad Hanson you don’t have much to offer in the comments section Larry. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that someone who has a law degree and a PhD in forest ecology (and hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail) knows how to read a map.

      • But…. his accusations are STILL false! He offers ZERO evidence, and, based on the map and aerial photos, Forest Service salvage projects had ZERO effect on the Camp Fire (other than reducing the firestorm’s intensity).

        Here is a fine example of unsalvaged Forest Service lands, close to the first ignition point.


        You might notice the extreme fuels build-up, which burned intensely but, leaving outlines of all the larger fuels, completely consumed by the firestorm. Now, go ahead and zoom out, one increment at a time, to see the scope of what was so quickly burned, early that day. You will find no evidence of salvage logging in this entire block of Forest Service lands. The intensity of the fire in the Flea Valley area made the fire impossible to attack, along with the high winds.

        Now, imagine if that kind of fuel loading was perfectly preserved, close to town, where SPI salvaged and replanted.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading