Thanks to Jon for posting this piece all for participating in the discussion on fishers and fuel treatments, and especially for Rene Voss being here to discuss his point of view. I’d like to further explore options for common ground.
“the agencies ignored a deep body of scientific evidence concluding that commercial thinning, post-fire logging, and other logging activities conducted under the rubric of ‘fuel reduction’ more often tend to increase, not decrease, fire severity (citing several sources, emphasis in original).
Having been on the other side (writing statements on “how the Forest Service considered those studies”, I tend to think that five or ten pages of explanation of how these studies were considered, is probably not what plaintiffs are ultimately after.
The view that “fuel treatments more often tend to increase fire severity” is not widely held by scientists, nor fire and fuels practitioners.
So we can only wonder what the plaintiffs are really after. Perhaps the problem is “commercial”? So in areas in which thinning is not “commercial” it can be helpful? But “commercial” is not a biological parameter. So, I guess my question is whether it’s possible for folks like Rene to articulate the parameters of what kinds of treatments would be OK with them. It seems to me that would save time and effort for everyone concerned.
Taking a look at California, we notice that in their State Forest Action Plan:
The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and other state entities will expand its fuels management crews, grant programs, and partnerships to scale up fuel treatments to 500,000 acres annually by 2025;
» California state agencies will lead by example by expanding forest management on state-owned lands to improve resilience against wildfires and other impacts of climate change; and
» The USFS will double its current forest treatment levels from 250,000 acres to 500,000 acres annually by 2025.
Governor Newsome asked for this funding in his budget.
In addition to electric vehicles, Newsom’s team actively highlighted the $1 billion investment it was making in wildfire management. That money would go to support firefighting, including 30 new fire crews and additional aircraft, as well as proactive fire management, ranging from tribal engagement on fire issues to creating markets for wood products sourced from forest thinning.
Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said this budget signified a “paradigm shift” in how the state approaches fire management.
The administration realized, he said, that it needs to be more proactive in landscape-level fire management, an effort that would come from moving toward melding modern fire science with traditional Native American practices of prescribed burns.
It seems to me that the State feels that fuel treatments are effective and worthy of megabuck investment. I wonder whether that scientific discussion has occurred with the State. What’s most interesting to me are the processes by which scientific arguments and discussions take place (or don’t) and why, peculiarly, they have a role in the courts that is different from everyday policy development. The courts, as we’ve found out, are not the place for scientific discussions, and also not conducive to finding common ground and where agreements might occur…except in individual settlements, which don’t really help public understanding.
If Governor Newsome wants to “be more proactive in landscape-level fire management”, when 58% of California’s forests are federally managed, and lawsuits can delay these federal projects, we have to ask “how could we get (currently litigating) environmental groups to not only support efforts, but actually to help row the landscape-level fire management boat?” I’m using the analogy of Michael Webber, in this interview on decarbonization).
What policy changes, or changes in project design, might work?