This is a guest post by Dr. Bob Zybach.
This is probably more of a rebuttal than review. As I was reading through this essay when it was posted here a few weeks ago, I became struck with how familiar it all seemed. Sure enough, when I checked through my old emails, George and I had debated this exact same topic from the exact same perspectives in a series of detailed emails more than 12 years ago — in January 2009.
My first thought was that this was a dated article, but when I checked his post, there was no publication date. That caused me to try for several days to contact him to make certain I wasn’t responding to something he had written long ago, but after no response and noting that a few of his references were from 2020, I decided to continue with my review.
The problem is that Wuerthner has written something debatable in nearly every single paragraph, and there are a whole lot of paragraphs. Dozens of uncited opinions and questionable statements are presented as “facts,” supported by cherry-picked references and superficial citations to important materials that he seems unfamiliar with. The exact same problems I was pointing out when we were corresponding in 2009.
Wuerthner describes “8 Major Issues” with the “Indian Burning Myth” that he lists at the outset of his essay. In this regard, these do seem to be representative of the general thinking that still pervades his (and others) thinking on these issues today. So, my strategy in addressing these issues is to quote him directly on representative statements (which I put into italics), and then offer my own perspective or criticism on a mostly point-by-point basis. Sorry for the length. It was a long article with lots of misinformation.
Wuerthner’s “8 Major Issues”
- The claim that Indian burning precludes large fires feeds into the “fuels is the problem” narrative, which is increasingly discredited, as large wildfires in fact are driven by extreme climate weather.
I am not sure what “climate weather” is, but climate is a mathematical average of weather measurements over time — typically 30 years or more. When I discussed this issue with George in 2009, he said it was a “cheap shot” when I pointed out that wildfires can’t take place in a desert or on a lake, no matter the weather, because of lack of fuels. However, that argument still stands. Fuels are needed. How those fuels burn is determined in large part by the weather, but a large fire can create its own weather — including gale-force winds, “pyronadoes,” cumulus clouds, and even rain.
One thing that consistently weakens Wuerthner’s arguments are his uses of phrases such as “in fact,” which he seems to confuse with “in my opinion,” or something of that nature when it comes to qualifying statements. In mitigating wildfire effects, fuels are the main problem that can be addressed, along with human sources of ignition. We can’t control the weather, no matter how many “carbon credits” we might purchase. Topography is a given, and wildfire sources of ignition are mostly caused by people (year-round) or lightning (seasonal in some locations), with volcanoes and spontaneous combustion occasionally contributing to the mix.
- All large fires are driven by climate and weather conditions which include drought, low humidity, high temperatures, and high winds.
This reminds me of the joke that “all absolute statements are false.” This is an absolute statement in which the word “driven” takes on a much more general definition than when the word is usually associated with wildfire. Climate is an average and does not drive wildfires — I can only guess why George and others keep making this statement (“politics” and “potential funding” come to mind).
“All large fires” are not “driven” by drought, are usually driven by high winds (depending on fuels), and typically take place during weather conditions that include high temperatures and low humidity. Often, large fires do take place during periods of seasonal or prolonged drought. Heavy spring rains — not drought — can result in increased flash and ladder fuels that readily burn during seasonal dry spells.
- These conditions have always existed, and large blazes have always occurred despite Indigenous burning. However, they are being exacerbated today by human-caused climate warming.
Yes, these weather conditions have existed for a very long time (maybe not “always”), and large fires have likely existed from the time of the first dry land vegetation, volcanoes and lightning, but there is zero scientific evidence that they are being “exacerbated today by human-caused climate warming.” Putting aside the difficulty of warming a climate, it needs to be made clear that climate change modelers have been consistently wrong for the past 30+ years in their prophesies of “climate catastrophe” and its “proof” by increased numbers and sizes of wildfires, Florida underwater, melting glaciers, and widespread famine. Wildfires have been worse, as scientifically predicted since 1986, but those predictions have been based almost entirely on unmanaged fuels on federal lands, not climate.
- Indigenous burning resulted primarily in localized fuel reductions but seldom affected the larger landscape.
This is silly, and possibly even a little racist. George lives, or has lived, in Eugene, Oregon, which is in the southern portion of the Willamette Valley. This Valley is more than 3,000,000 acres in size and was entirely formed and maintained by Indian burning practices for thousands of years. Due south is the Umpqua Valley, with the Bear Creek Valley then extending further south nearly to the California border — and both with similar fire histories as the Willamette Valley. People usually settle in valleys, around lakes, along the coast, and at the mouths of creeks and rivers. Fire travels uphill and on the wind — human-caused fires will often get out of control, even if it is Indians that are setting them, if fuels exist along the hillsides. These fires, whether set purposefully or by accident, invariably “affect the larger landscape,” by definition.
And where is George getting the idea that pre-European peoples clustered into “localized” settlements and only had a rudimentary understanding of fire? Obsidian tools that originated in present-day Oregon were recently discovered at an underwater archaeological site in the Great Lakes. Historical Indian trade routes existed the entire length of the Columbia and Mississippi Rivers and numerous foot trails crossed the Rockies, connecting the two great basins. Indians traveled and traded extensively for thousands of years and mostly used fire expertly on a daily basis — same as people everywhere.
- There is historic, scientific, ecological, and evolutionary evidence that challenges the Indian burning narrative.
I’m sure that’s true, but the basic function of science (and probably ecology, too) is to challenge prevailing assumptions and stated hypotheses — so that would be normal and expected. Not too sure of the “historic” information that is being referenced, or what “evolutionary evidence” might exist. Not sure how this statement even qualified as a “Major Issue.”
- Large high severity fires are not “destructive” but essential to many healthy forest ecosystems.
Now we’ve devolved to semantics. Unfortunately, these fires are, indeed, “destructive” by almost any definition. Wildlife are killed, the air is fouled, homes are sometimes burned, and the results are often determined to be ugly and increasingly hazardous for years to follow. Then we have George’s additional opinion that these events are somehow “essential” to whatever he thinks “healthy forest ecosystems” are. Those are known as “value statements” that typically vary from person to person. They are not facts in any sense of the word, just overstated opinions — which, in my experience, many, many people do not agree with, including a significant number of forest scientists and forest managers.
- Implementation of a significant prescribed burning program has many obstacles.
That is true. I’m not sure there is any debate on this point.
- The way to protect homes is to start from the home outward, not to “treat” forests at the landscape scale.
Another of George’s opinions. Flames, sparks, and burning debris can travel hundreds of feet and miles in advance of a forest fire. A well maintained and irrigated homesite should largely be unaffected by these sources of ignition — unless the home is on the edge of a forest, then the formula changes dramatically. One size does not fit all, and all generalities remain false.
After listing these “8 Major Issues,” Wuerthner then goes into lengthy examples and discussions as to why they are so important. Unfortunately, he uses a number of devises to support these assertions that only weaken his conclusions. His writing habits — that include “cherry-picking” the data, superficial references, and stating personal opinions as universal facts — should make the reader suspicious.
In 2009 I suggested that Wuerthner could balance his assertions by reading Robert Boyd’s book on the fire history of the Willamette Valley and Kat Anderson’s book, Tending the Wild, in order to become better informed on this issue. He replied that he would do so and thanked me for the suggestion, but neither one is cited in his essay or listed in his Reference section, 12 years later. My PhD dissertation is on the exact same topic and it’s not listed either — not that I expected it to be.
There are known experts on the Indian burning history of the US, and George is familiar with who they are. But they are not cited in his work, and further weaken it as a result. If he was serious about this topic, he would become far more familiar with the writings of Stephen Pyne, Robert Boyd, Henry Lewis, Omer Stewart and Kat Anderson. Vale, Knox and Whitlock need to be considered in context to these recognized experts in the field, not as the actual voices of “science” on this issue.
Wuerthner also claims that the pollen record is of importance. I agree, but he continues:
If Indigenous burning was so widespread as to influence landscape-scale vegetation, we would expect to find abundance pollen from species favored by frequent, low severity fires. For the most part, except in the immediate area around villages, this evidence does not exist.
More fiction, possibly based on the research of Whitlock or one of her students. Again, if Wuerthner wants to cite a single source to support his perspective, he should reasonably put that perspective in context to the established experts in the field. In that regard, Henry Hansen’s work has been available online since 2002,
The idea that tribal burning impacted the broad landscape is also asserted by some scholars (e.g. Williams, G.W. 2004), but often with scant evidence to back up these claims except for “oral traditions” of Native people.
Gerald Williams is an expert on Indian burning history and has written extensively on the topic. He never claimed to depend on “oral traditions” for his research — Wuerthner is just making that up to trivialize this work. I’m guessing he hasn’t bothered to actually read Williams’ article, or much else of his other writings on this topic.
Most “evidence” for the widespread influence of indigenous burning is based on oral tradition which is notoriously subject to variation of interpretation and misinterpretation.
This is just bullshit, and Wuerthner must know that. My MAIS degree from Oregon State University was in oral histories. These are not true statements and grossly misrepresent both Williams’ and my own research. My PhD study at OSU study focused on Indian burning and catastrophic wildfire patterns of the Oregon Coast Range, from 1491 to 1951. It has been readily available online for nearly 20 years, yet Wuerthner chooses to ignore this research and simply make things up, or else cite sources of dubious accuracy:
Here are a few sentences from my PhD Abstract, which in its entirety only takes a couple of minutes to read:
Archival and anthropological research methods were used to obtain early surveys, maps, drawings, photographs, interviews, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) inventories, eyewitness accounts and other sources of evidence that document fire history. Data were tabulated, mapped, and digitized as new GIS layers for purposes of comparative analysis. An abundance of useful historical evidence was found for reconstructing precontact vegetation patterns and human burning practices in western Oregon.
In addition to apparently being unfamiliar with Williams actual writing and misrepresenting his research, Wuerthner does the same thing with another expert on the topic, John Leiberg, and his USFS report on SW Oregon forests in 1899. Here is Wuerthner’s entire reference and citation for Leiberg:
Early timber surveys also record large high severity fires (Leiberg, J. B. 1903).
I am actually very familiar with Leiberg’s work (I don’t think he was ever aware of the term “high severity fire”) and developed an unfinished report on his detailed 1899 report in which I transcribed and organized his statements on old-growth, wildfires, logging, forest history, reforestation and Indian burning, with minor commentary, and put it online as a draft report in 2006. http://www.orww.org/History/SW_Oregon/References/Leiberg_1899/
Here are some direct quotes:
(p. 249) The forest floor in the [“yellow-pine”] type is covered with a thin layer of humus consisting entirely of decaying pine needles, or it is entirely bare. The latter condition is very prevalent east of the Cascades, where large areas are annually overrun by fire. But even on the western side of the range, where the humus covering is most conspicuous, it is never more than a fraction of an inch in thickness, just enough to supply the requisite material for the spread of forest fires.
(p. 277) The largest burns directly chargeable to the Indian occupancy are in Ts. 30 and 31 S., Rs. 8 and 9 E. In addition to being the largest, they are likewise the most ancient. The burns cover upward of 60,000 acres, all but 1,000 or 1,100 acres being in a solid block. This tract appears to have been systematically burned by the Indians during the past three centuries [ca. 1600 to 1855]. Remains of three forests are distinctly traceable in the charred fragments of timber which here and there litter the ground.
FACTS & OPINIONS
Finally, although Wuerthner’s cherry-picking and misrepresentations make his conclusions suspect, his habit of stating his personal opinions as if they are actually facts only serves to further erode his credibility. Here are some examples, with occasional commentary:
The second highest biodiversity, after old-growth forests, is found in the snag forests with down wood that results from these blazes. These high severity habitats would not exist if such Indigenous burning were as widespread as advocates suggest.
Not sure where George is getting his “biodiversity” measures from (or why they are important to him), but he is apparently unfamiliar with tropical forests, the ocean, and deciduous woodlands.
Most cultural burning, like the prescribed fires set today by state and federal agencies, was practiced in the spring and fall when fire spread was limited by moist fuels, high humidity, cool temperatures, and when winds are calm.
Actually, at least in western Oregon, most Indian burning took place in late summer or fall (“fire season”), as documented by many, many eyewitness accounts. More misinformation, based on personal bias.
Native people were wise enough not to purposely set fires in the middle of extreme fire weather. Setting a blaze under conditions with variable high winds and during a drought would be a recipe for disaster because it would lead to uncontrollable fires that would threaten villages and life.
Bullshit. Wuerthner’s biases do not equal “Indian wisdom.” More self-serving fiction.
For instance, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley most large trees were established after large, high severity fires that occurred long before Euro-American influences on native populations. The 1865 Silverton Fire burned more than a million acres of the western Cascades. The 1853 Yaquina Fire burned nearly a half-million acres.
Jeez. There is zero evidence that the scattered large oak and Douglas fir documented by Euro-American settlers in the Willamette Valley followed a “large, high severity fire.” Not sure where Wuerthner got this nonsense. The “million-acre” Silverton Fire is one of the “myths” that Wuerthner says he is challenging. This became a popular fiction at some point and seems to be referring to one or more Civil War-era wildfires in the Silverton area of western Oregon that likely totaled no more than 100,000 acres. I have personally completed thousands of acres of reforestation projects in the Yaquina burn. This fire took place in 1849 or 1850 at the latest and was expanded in size with a second (or third) major fire in 1868. I studied this fire on-and-off for 30 years and my research is summarized in my dissertation.
Another study found that the mean fire interval in Oregon’s Coast Range was 230 years and the presence of fire-sensitive species like Sitka spruce indicates a lack of frequent fire (Knox and Whitlock 2002).
This is another instance where Knox and Whitlock (and Wuerthner) show their lack of understanding of actual western Oregon fire history. The “230-year fire interval” is total nonsense and difficult to determine who made this up. The famous “Six-Year Jinx” of Tillamook Fires took place in 1933, 1939, 1945, and 1951 — following major fires in the 1890s and 1918. The 1868 Coos Fire followed two or three major events in the 1700s, at least one major fire in the 1840s, and was followed by the 1879 “Big Burn.” There are more examples.
Even if prescribed burning could reduce large blazes (which would not be good for forest ecosystem health), multiple problems would result if prescribed burning were to ramp up significantly.
Apparently, George wants his readers to believe that “large blazes” are “good” for “forest ecosystem health,” whatever that is. His arguments and supposed “evidence” remain unconvincing and unlikely.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the “Indigenous burning will preclude large blazes” argument is that it feeds into the narrative that “fuels” are driving the large fires we see around the West. To reiterate, large fires are and have always been primarily climate-weather driven events.
Fuels do not drive large blazes. Climate/weather does.
I still don’t know what “Climate/weather” is, but I do know an anti-active management agenda when I see one. I would caution students to avoid citing Wuerthner as any kind of authority on fire history, forest management, or wildfire mitigation.
46 thoughts on “Guest Post from Dr. Bob Zybach: Review of Wuerthner’s “Indian Burning Myths and Realities””
Thanks Dr. Zybach for taking the time to respond to Wuerthner. I think the view that Indigenous people did not use fire to manage their environment is not well-supported and may reflect a comfortable stereotype. The value and reliability of oral history in a non-literate society is well documented and the fact that Wuerthner disparages its use is interesting. I think this Stanford article on Native American use of fire by USFS research ecologist (with a PHD from OSU), Frank Kanawha, of Karuk, Seneca, Cherokee heritage is just one example of how fire was key to Native peoples prior to colonization. https://arcade.stanford.edu/occasion/historical-and-cultural-fires-tribal-management-and-research-issue-northern-california . An older resource, Tom Bonnicksen, America’s Ancient Forests (2001) at pp. 54-225 documents historical, environmental and anthropological evidence of how America’s first peoples managed the landscape to meet their needs for food, shelter, travel and warmth through fire and how that management shaped the America that Europeans encountered. See Bonnicksen, Firemasters chapter at pp. 143-216. In 2003, a PHD historical analyst for the USFS published, “References on the American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems,” that provides resources as of that date on this topic. I find it fascinating and appreciate its appearance on this blog.
Thanks Rebecca! I think your Kanawha cite points out something very important.. sometimes scientific disciplines work in silos and our funding institutions either reward that, or don’t incentivize cross-disciplinary approaches. So we waste much funding on silos that are later proven to be not all that useful (blind person and the elephant).
And stepping way back, why is it so easy for some to accept (we are not experts and look, the experts have evidence!) and harder for others?
Thanks for the comments, Rebecca. Frank Kanawha Lake and I attended OSU grad school together and his work in northern California is excellent. We collaborated on a paper on Indian burning nearly 20 years ago, but still need to get it completed and submitted. Thanks, too, for adding Tom Bonnicksen to the mix. More excellent work!
You left a comment at Wildfire Today where you put quotes around climate change, Doc; yet here’s a paper that suggests the anthropocene is indeed the real culprit.
Thanks Larry: I’m not sure I recall what I left at Wildfire Today, but that does sound like something I would do — depending on context. I did my first paper (“peer reviewed”) on climate change as part of an international symposium in 1991, with the Proceedings being published about 1993. I’ve encountered many opposing viewpoints in the years that followed. That’s how science works!
Thank you for the excellent references, Rebecca.
Sharon. Good job. It must have taken a lot of effort and emotion to writ all this. George has been spewing false propaganda for years. This has been dangerous for everyone in the environnmental/resource community.
Let me give a brief example of this. Many years ago i was in charge of managing a grazing allotment on the Beaverhead National Forest in Centennial Valley. I recieved a call one day from the district ranger saying that George was making a huge deal about how the allotment was being overgrazed and mis managed. Apparently the ranger rectified the situation by telling George that we had the best managed allotment on the forest. Turns out he was referring to an allotment that not only wasn’t ours but was in a different state! (Idaho)
Patrick, it wasn’t me… it was Bob Zybach, who wrote his Ph.d. dissertation on Indian burning and has studied it since.
Thanks. I see that now, but awesome efforts on your part anyway.
Pat: Total agreement. This would not have been written or published without Sharon’s encouragement and direction. Bob
I think instead of an “anti-active management agenda” we should simply call this what it is: an anti-human agenda. This author seems like a prime example of the anti-humanist ideology undergirding much of modern environmentalism. These people are so locked into their extreme but simplistic worldview of nature = good, humans = bad, that they refuse to consider that human intervention could possibly have any positive impact on nature, no matter who does it.
Thanks Patrick: That is true in many ways. A colleague at Oregon State in the 1990s referred to this as the “human as pathogen” perspective. They also seem consistent in anthropomorphizing “Nature” and even trees (“Mother Trees”). These arguments were tiresome 20 years ago, but it is impressive how they have come to dominate our courts and public forests in that time. Indications are that it has also affected the teaching/indoctrination of our nation’s youth, even to the university graduate level. I am still amazed that the predictable and preventable catastrophic wildfires we have been experiencing in the western US since 1987 would constitute a “wake-up call” at some point, but so far: nope. Here are some Indexed videos I helped put together following last year’s Labor Day Fires in western Oregon (the remainder to follow — already videotaped, but need editing and indexing): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1JyKCHg2GmFDAhfxSIDygJ_9N0LlmCe6
As a fan of true fire regimes, pre-settlement burning and the “whack a mole” rhetoric on fire and climate change (?), this was a refreshing element of enlightenment toward understanding a broader context of who really knows what’s going on.
Very interesting piece!
Bob, Great job
Thanks, Gil! Good to see that you are still active here!
So, the question remains: should rewilding efforts seek to restore sustainable wild lands to Pleistocene Era conditions or let the Anthropocene lay waste desertifying precious resources changing the landscape forever leaving survivors to cleave out habitable zones forsaking native species?
Global warming has been accelerating since humans began setting fires to clear habitat, as a weapon or just for amusement. Evidence that we humans have eaten or burned ourselves out of habitats creating catastrophes behind us is strewn throughout the North American continent. European settlement and the Industrial Revolution in the New World took hardwoods for charcoal then humans allowed fast-growing conifers to replace lost forests.
The Anthropocene is now and time to rewild some of the American West
Larry, why don’t we rewild the East? or the Lake States? or the Southern US?
Because it’s not politically expedient to remand all public lands to Indigenous communities in every jurisdiction, Sharon.
Larry: This is not an “either-or” situation. I think your characterizations of “rewilding” and human history must sum up your apparent biases and jaundiced viewpoint fairly well. I am apparently much more of an optimist than you, but also, I think, far more of a realist when it comes to the potential “rewilding” of major portions of our — or any — country. Mostly, I have very serious doubts about what people are envisioning when it comes to phrases such as “sustainable wild lands.” What the heck?
Get over yerself, Doc. Your opinion on my work is irrelevant. When you become a policy maker get back to me, k?
The concept of sustainable wildlands is used by the Forest Service among others. This is the internet, Doc — look it up.
So your “work” is “rewilding” parts of North America to your vision of the Pleistocene and then somehow make it “sustainable?” Sounds pretty impressive. If I ever become a policy maker I will definitely get in touch.
Make it so.
Will do. IF I ever become a policy maker.
Prove to readers here that you’re not ideologue, Doc.
You first, Larry. No idea where you are going with this or why I need to “prove” anything to anybody based on a vague demand from a stranger that I have no reason or need to respond to. Seems like a very odd, almost insulting, “request.” Maybe if you were familiar with some of my work you could ask a more meaningful question. Or at least a more logical demand. What are your professional credentials, Larry? Academic achievements? I don’t want to speculate.
My education background is in marketing and I am an unabashed ideologue who lived for 35 years in the Black Hills in my home state of South Dakota. I established my blog in 2010 as a vehicle for rewilding the American West and I reach over 10,000 readers a week from my home in New Mexico.
Only 3 percent of the Earth’s land surface remains untouched by human development and a sixth mass extinction is underway. Urban sprawl, accelerated global warming and drought are reducing productivity on the remaining grasslands of the Great Plains, writes Dr. Jeff Martin. He’s the Director of Research at the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies at South Dakota State University.
Just north of the US border with Mexico long-time environmental activist, Ted Turner has teamed up with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of New Mexico to foster a pair of endangered Mexican gray wolves and their pups on his 243 square mile ranch near the Gila National Forest. Nearby, jaguars are being reintroduced.
Turner’s one million acres in New Mexico makes him the state’s largest private landowner and his 141,357 acre Bad River Ranches earns him the top private landowner spot in my home state of South Dakota, too.
Earlier this month Turner Enterprises, Inc. and Turner Ranches announced the launch of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, Inc. a 501(c)(3) public charity and agricultural research organization that will share a formal agreement, facilities and staff with the Center of Excellence for Bison Studies.
Putting the country on the path of protecting at least 30 percent of its land and 30 percent of its ocean areas by 2030 (30×30) is imperative to preserving public lands.
WildEarth Guardians are based in Santa Fe; the Rewilding Institute is based in Albuquerque. Both organizations are driving the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act or NREPA. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies based in Helena, Montana has been kicking the legislation around Congress since 1993. President Biden’s nominee for Bureau of Land Management, Tracy Stone-Manning lectured on NREPA in 2002 at the University of Montana.
No doubt you see NREPA as a boondoggle, right, Doc?
Larry I’d be interested in your doing a guest post on the work of the Rewilding Institute and having a discussion about that. If you’re interested, please email me at the address on the widget on the right for donations.
Matt Koehler is a better pick for that task, Sharon. I think he’s a self-serving jerk but he knows far more about the Institute and NREPA than I do. I lived in Montana on and off for ten years but I do have some 3000 blog posts about the failures on the Black Hills National Forest, though.
Larry, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) opposes NREPA. I bet Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) does too. Even if the Senate abolished the filibuster, it would fail, and that’s with the Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House. How do you propose to achieve your goal?
Why are you referring derisively to Bob Zybach as Doc? Just curious.
In support of your comment on the politics of NREPA, the Biden administration’s approach to 30×30 (30% of US in conservation status) is instructive. While several groups saw this as an opportunity for wilderness and other federal designations, the initial Biden Interior 30×30 report/roadmap describes a cooperative approach with local communities, tribes, states recognizing local, non-federal designations and working lands in the 30×30 approach. https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/report-conserving-and-restoring-america-the-beautiful-2021.pdf
As a former policy maker, what I’ve seen work over the last 20 years for formal Wilderness designations are largely locally led legislation or bills with strong local involvement. The 2019 Dingell Act designation of Utah wilderness, the omnibus in Bush for NV and NM wilderness the ID wilderness all had local support and were geographically focused. Ambitious bills like NREPA and America’s Red Rocks Wilderness may be useful to focus attention but don’t get enacted, unless made into bite size bills with local support as happened in 2019 for the Utah wilderness.
Actually, I’ll be shocked if Senator Tester is re-elected with the current upended political climate in Montana.
It’s stunning that George Wuerthner is universally panned as a pariah in the scientific community.
Wuerthner is a “pariah” to those anti-environmentalists who love subsidized cattle ranching, commercial logging of old-growth forests, and who hate the idea of laws designed to conserve threatened wildlife species, like wolves, grizzlies, spotted owls, prairie chickens, etc. They would rather champion the “active-management” and domestication of the earth, and they use the term “enviro” in a derogatory sense, even though some of them have “environmental science” degrees. Go figure.
Why is that “stunning,” Larry? Wuerthner is not a scientist and likely mostly unfamiliar to those who are. He has a history of anti-resource management actions and statements, which hurts his credibility among experienced resource managers. He has also systematically ignored the writings of actual experts and made numerous statements trivializing or castigating those he disagrees with. Not sure that makes him a pariah, but he has definitely painted himself into a corner and it has made him increasingly difficult to take seriously. In my opinion.
Such…..nice people these re-wilding advocates are. I guess that’s what comes from viewing your own species as a plague upon the planet.
A few weeks ago Matt asked me to define what I view as an environmental extremist. I answered anyone that advocates a “re-wilding” agenda. Larry is a perfect illustration of why.
Hi Larry: Thanks for the detailed reply! I am pleased to see that you see yourself clearly as an idealogue. I don’t know enough about NREPA to label it as anything. One man’s boondoggle is another man’s idealogy, as the saying goes. If you enjoy your work and no one is harmed, that would seem to make it worthwhile. I doubt you will be successful in achieving your stated objectives, but it never hurts to try.
I’m a thirty year volunteer for DSCC, DCCC and DLCC charged with South Dakota as territories and I’m often called a liberal by Trumpettes on Faceberg. But liberals want to convert GOPers or convince them to be kinder and gentler. Me? As a progressive I’m actually working to destroy the Republican Party and erase it from the collective cultural memory.
So, Larry, it is good that you realize your political motivations have little or nothing to do with science, and also personally recognize that you are an idealogue — and apparently proud of it. Self awareness is a good thing, but if Lincoln were still living he might want to discuss your beliefs regarding the Republican Party.
Larry did say that Matt was a “self-serving jerk,” but claims that Matt knows more about “rewilding” than he does. Not sure if there is some kind of cause-and-effect involved. There is a reason that these people take the “science” of the Wuerthner’s, DellaSala’s and Hanson’s so seriously. Logic, common sense, facts, and actual scientific research methods would seem to be in direct conflict with their stated objectives. I think it is long past time that these self-identified “humans as pathogens” proponents were given more daylight and public awareness.
Looks like writing in the English language is tough for you, Doc since you use apostrophes in your plurals so it’s good that you stick to the things you know best, too.
We have gone round and round in the Montana blogosphere but Matt has chosen political independence rather than the partisan fervor I’ve embraced.
Jeez Larry: Not only are you proudly proclaiming your political and idealogue biases, but you also like to nit-pick minor variations in others’ writing. That is making you sound more (and more) like a troll than someone actually interested in a substantive discussion. Is that a role you also embrace?
Note: Wuerthner’s “science,” Hanson’s “science,” and DellaSala’s “science” are consistent in that they don’t follow traditional methods and can’t be replicated. Better?
Larry, you omitted required commas following “Doc,” “plurals,” and “blogosphere.”
The “too” is superfluous.
It’s “around and around,” not “round and round.”
Glass houses and all that.
I’m genuinely curious.
Which scientists do you actually admire the most and who you believe we should be studying and listening to?
Who do you think has the most insightful or accurate interpretations of our current forest management predicaments, and who do you think has proposed the best solutions?
In other words, who are your role models; which fellow scientists would you recommend that we listen to above others?
If you are talking about modern scientists, and maybe particularly those in the 20th and 21st century focused on forestry, anthropological, and/or environmental topics, I most admire and trust the following:
Ira Allison “Early Man in Oregon”
Kat Anderson “Tending the Wild”
Bob Buckman “Research Natural Areas”
Daniel Botkin “Our Natural History”
Thomas Bonnicksen “America’s Ancient Forests”
Robert Boyd “Indians, Fire and the Land”
Henry Hansen http://www.orww.org/Oregon_Experts/Hansen_HP/
Dick Hermann “Man and Forests; Douglas-fir”
Leo Isaac “Douglas fir regeneration”
Charles Kay “Aboriginal Overkill”
John Leiberg http://www.orww.org/History/SW_Oregon/References/Leiberg_1899/
William Morris “Forest Fires in Western Oregon”
Mike Newton “Streamside Buffers”
Omer Stewart “Forgotten Fires”
Ben Stout “Forest in the Here and Now” (Hugh Raup)
Nancy Turner “Ethnobotany and Ecological Knowledge”
Gerald Williams “American Indian Use of Fire”
Your thoughts on any or all of the above? A number have OSU ties, as you may have noticed, and I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with most (more than 1/2) of these people on a personal basis.
Thank you for the excellent list. Now, I can pick your brain. hehe
I am an obsessive reader and I have an addiction for books (incl Kindle books and PDFs …). Here’s my current reading list (I tend to read them all simultaneously, bit by bit):
Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources Paperback by M. Kat Anderson (an eye-opener; I’m quite impressed thus far)
Fire, Native Peoples, and the Natural Landscape by Thomas Vale
Fire Ecology in Rocky Mountain Landscapes by William L. Baker
Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon (same comment as for Kat Anderson above)
Fire in California’s Ecosystems Second Edition, by Jan W. van Wagtendonk (Editor), Neil G. Sugihara (Editor), Scott L. Stephens (Editor), Andrea E. Thode (Editor), Kevin E. Shaffer (Editor), Jo Ann Fites-Kaufman (Editor), James K. Agee (Foreword)
Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness by Omer C. Stewart (Author), Henry T. Lewis (Editor), M. Kat Anderson (Editor)
The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix by Dominick A. DellaSala (Author), Chad T. Hanson (Author)
Salvage Logging and Its Ecological Consequences by David B. Lindenmayer (Author), Philip J. Burton (Author), Jerry F. Franklin (Author)
Plantations and Protected Areas: A Global History of Forest Management (History for a Sustainable Future) by Brett M. Bennett (Author)
The Wildfire Reader: A Century of Failed Forest Policy Annotated Edition by George Wuerthner (Editor)
Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire (Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books) 1997 by Stephen J. Pyne (Author)
Ecological Forest Management by Jerry F. Franklin (Author), K. Norman Johnson (Author), Debora L. Johnson (Author)
Ecological Silviculture: Foundations and Applications by Brian J. Palik (Author), Anthony W. D’Amato (Author), Jerry F. Franklin (Author), K. Norman Johnson (Author)
Environmental Policy: New Directions for the Twenty-First Century Eleventh Edition by Norman J. Vig (Editor), Michael E. Kraft (Editor), Barry G. Rabe (Editor)
I have on pre-order the following two books:
Fire Science: From Chemistry to Landscape Management (Springer Textbooks in Earth Sciences, Geography and Environment) 1st ed. 2021 Edition by Francisco Castro Rego (Author), Penelope Morgan (Author), Paulo Fernandes (Author), Chad Hoffman (Author)
Indians, Fire, and the Land in the Pacific Northwest Paperback – September 2, 2021
by Robert Boyd (Author)
Of course, all the above are supplemented by a liberal helping of USFS and other science publishing sources (the field of forestry is expanding and developing at light-speed like all the other sciences/technologies).
Other than that, I’m reading/researching a lot about geoengineering; pros and cons.
I have and have also read some of the Leiberg USGS “Forest Conditions in the Northern Sierra Nevada, CA” report from 1902; a fascinating historical document.
I look forward to many more enlightened explorations and discussions about these topics in the future.
My mottos are: “The unexamined Life is Not Worth Living (Socrates/Plato).” and “Being is Becoming (Nietzsche).” 🙂
If anyone else would like to contribute to the “recommended reading list,” I would welcome the suggestions.