Many thanks to Anonymous for sending a link to this paper. I wrote to the primary author and (quickly, thank you, Jacob!) received a copy, attached here.
What the paper does is correlate observations of high severity fire with landownership patters. When we talk about top-down versus bottom-up research, this is definitely a top-down. And for many of us bottom-up types, it can be great fun to hypothesize the mechanisms for these correlations, whether our own observations support these findings or not, compare with similar research (although the authors did that) and possibly dream up studies that have not been done to test the hypotheses.
So, bottom line, more acres of high severity fire on private industrial than private non-industrial and USG land (Forest Service, Park Service, BLM combined).
I can’t say anything about the technical details of their analysis, but they have a number of caveats in the discussion and conclusions section on page 5.
What would you do with this paper?
Based on the places I’ve formerly lived and worked, I’d want to look at each fire and the industrial forest landowners’ practices. My first thought was perhaps the private folks ended up with the most productive (able to grow high biomass) of the area. That would explain the fires reaching into nearby landowners’ properties, because nearby properties would have the same high biomass.
It also seems a bit counterintuitive.. in many places I’ve worked, jackstrawed dead trees are on the forest floor, conceivably leading to high severity impacts, while industrial landowners tend to remove dead trees, so you’d think there might be less fuel, at least on the ground.
In my experience, industrial landowners vary widely in their practices (think Basin and Range (NE Calif) versus the Coast Range). Some may be barely distinguishable from FS practices. So I think if you looked at each landowners’ practices, and looked at the ground where the high severity fire occurred, you might be able to explain for each landowner/fire combination, based on, I guess, four factors I can think of:
For each fire:
1. Did the industrial landowners (ILs) tend to have a certain location (topographical/soil) differences?
2. Did the ILs tend to have different age classes or other historical effects?
3. What IL practices may have influenced fire intensity?
4. Was the IL forest in the wrong place at the wrong time?
It seems to me that building up from each fire, although labor intensive, might yield a great deal more information. Including how much sense it makes to combine over fires, ecoregions and industrial landowners. For a mere $300k, I’d do it; I see lots of fun interviews and field trips. Anyway, I know there are many Californians in TSW ranks and I’m curious what you think.