New Report: Regional effectiveness of wildfire mitigation treatments in the US

The Joint Fire Sciences has just released the final report on its study “Fuel Treatment Effectiveness in the United States,” and it confirms what many of us have been stating on this blog: in most forested areas of North America, the effects and extent of wildfire can be significantly reduced with a combination of stand thinnings and prescribed fire. Other benefits, of course, include fuels and construction materials for people, stable and productive environments for wildlife, and aesthetically pleasing locations for recreation and employment.
The “Key Points” of the report are listed below. Here is a link to the complete report: https://www.firescience.gov/projects/06-3-3-11/project/06-3-3-11_final_report.pdf
Here is a link to the article, published in the International Journal of Wildland Firehttps://www.firescience.gov/projects/06-3-3-11/project/06-3-3-11_06-3-3-11_cochrane_etal_IJWF_2012.pdf
K E Y   P O I N T S

Fuel treatments can be effective for reducing both local severity and fire extent. However, the effectiveness varies by ecoprovince, treatment type, and treatment age.
NORTHERN ROCKIES –  prescribed fires as a stand-alone treatment do not mimic wildfire and is ineffective for dependable fire severity reduction and may offset the effects of thinning for the 6-10 year interval if the treatments are combined.  Stand-alone thinning treatments were the most reliably effective and effectiveness lasted longer (>10 years) than wildfire (> 5 years).

SOUTHERN ROCKIES– prescribed burning with or without thinning reduces fire severity for > 10 years after treatment. Prescribed burns were more reliable and longer lasting in their effectiveness when applied as stand-alone treatments without previous thinning. Thinning alone is ineffective for reducing fire severity and should be discouraged as a fuel treatment.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST – wildfires only reduce subsequent fire severity for <10 years after the initial fire. Prescribed fire was ineffective unless combined with thinning treatments. Thinning as a stand-alone treatment was the most consistent treatment for reducing fire severity with treatment effectiveness lasting longer than 10 years after implementation.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – prescribed burning provides similar reductions in fire severity as wildfire; neither shows significant value beyond 10 years. Thinning reduces fire severity for more than 10 years but only after >5 years since implementation. The combination of thinning and burning may capture the short- and long-term effects, but this requires further study. Mastication/site prep is ineffective and possibly detrimental for reducing fire severity in the short term (2-5 years).

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – previous wildfires reduce subsequent fire severity for < 10 years while prescribed burning is most reliably effective at > 10 years after implementation and highly variable in effectiveness for the first 10 years. Both thinning and mastication are apparently effective for at least 5 years, with thinning having somewhat greater effects, but more study is needed to verify this finding.

SOUTHEAST – previous wildfires have little impact on fire severity of subsequent wildfires. In contrast, prescribed burning, although somewhat variable in its impacts, is the most effective treatment for reducing subsequent fire severity, with greater and more reliable effectiveness >5 years after implementation.Mastication/site prep is ineffective for fire severity reduction after the first 5 years, with enhanced fire severity apparent 10 years after treatment.

INTERIOR BROADLEAF ecoprovince –  prescribed burning is uniquely reliable and effective at reducing fire severity for at least 10 years after implementation. All other fuels treatments appear to be ineffective or detrimental to reducing wildfire severity. The combination of thinning and burning has particularly lethal results. However, more study of fuel treatment effectiveness in needed in these systems.

SEMI-DESERT ecoprovince – prescribed burning appears ineffective until >10 years, but may have greater effectiveness than wildfire after that point. However, few fuel treatments were available for study in this province.

GREAT LAKES ecoprovinces – prescribed fire may be effective, but more study is needed to confirm this finding.

Taxpayer Science: Global Warming is Killing our Forests with Fire

More publicly-funded political science, this time from the University of Utah: http://www.livescience.com/44947-western-wildfires-bigger-more-frequent.html

Here’s a quote: “It’s not just something that is localized to forest or grasslands or deserts,” said lead study author Phil Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah. “Every region in the West is experiencing an increase in fire. These fire trends are very consistent with everything we know about how climate change should impact fire in the West,” Dennison told LiveScience.
 
Actually, this type of taxpayer-funded BS is NOT consistent with everything we know about how climate change should impact fire in the West,” despite Dr. Dennison’s assertions. It’s not even consistent with “anything we know” at all, except that unmanaged forests in the western US will predictably burn in place if they are not actively managed. It is a fuel management problem — as I have pointed out for many years — clear and simple, and I have publicly predicted these fires for more than 20 years for that reason alone.
These fires are predictable and preventable and seem to mostly take place on passively managed public lands. Seasonal weather patterns are an important factor and “climate change” is a paid-for conclusion. Untended fuels are the real problem, and addressing those would put thousands of people to work and billions of dollars into our treasuries. Apparently that is not a good thing. Big Timber doesn’t like competition.
 
There is a reason that Democrats pay for and swallow this stuff while Republicans remain skeptical. It’s a political issue, not scientific. My principal concern, though, is not the waste of taxpayer dollars promoting a political agenda so much as actual scientific methodology is being publicly degraded in the process. As evidenced by these kinds of statements and conclusions. Maybe there’s a pony in there somewhere.

NW Forest Plan: Close your eyes, plug your ears, declare victory and move on.

This was just printed in the Portland Oregonian today. In my own personal opinion, Jim Furnish may have been the worst Forest Supervisor in the history of the Siuslaw National Forest, based on his record and based on his pronouncements during and following his career there. He now declares the “Forest Wars” are over, and he thinks he personally did a great job in helping bring that episode to a conclusion. Maybe he hasn’t been reading newspapers or watching TV the past 10 years or two months, maybe he is just delusional, or maybe he has a (really) dry sense of humor. In any instance, this editorial is a good indication of his grasp on history and on reality.  
I’ll agree with Furnish that this plan has not been replicated anywhere else, but strongly disagree when he says it has been a “success” and that it should be replicated in other places. By nearly all other accounts, the “forest wars” continue unabated and the NW Forest Plan has been a devastating failure — and particularly for rural timber manufacturing businesses and economies. Also, spotted hoot owl numbers have continued to decline — not that facts really matter when making declarations. It will be interesting to read the comments of the anonymous participants on the OregonLive blog: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/04/twenty_years_of_the_northwest.html

Twenty years of the Northwest Forest Plan: Guest opinion

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In this 2003 file photo, a northern spotted owl sits on a tree in the Deschutes National Forest near Camp Sherman. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Guest ColumnistBy Guest Columnist 
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on April 11, 2014 at 2:45 PM, updated April 11, 2014 at 2:48 PM

By Jim Furnish and Dan Chu

Twenty years ago, the Northwest Forest Plan sought to resolve the timber wars. Has it worked? We think so.

It’s important to recall that gridlock plagued the Northwest during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The old-growth forest that once covered much of the region had been decimated by clearcutting and other logging, threatening the spotted owl and other wildlife. While many stakeholders demanded protections for the remaining forests, the shutdown of logging on federal lands left others facing an uncertain future. Out of this tense situation came the Northwest Forest Plan.

Hundreds of local, grassroots stakeholders were actively involved in the creation of the plan, and hundreds of thousands of people across the country submitted comments to help refine it.

The Northwest Forest Plan had no precedent and continues to be a unique landscape scale management plan. The plan dramatically reduced logging to save wildlife and fish habitat, placing the burden for spotted owl protection on federal lands (thus “freeing” private timber lands for continued harvest), and imposed cautionary requirements for numerous other species; all to be accomplished with layers of required cooperation among affected parties.

Over the next few years a radically different vision for our national forests was implemented, most notably in the Siuslaw National Forest. The timber industry began restoration forestry. Citizens throughout the Coast Range joined hands with the Forest Service as partners to craft a better future for their public lands. In giving the land a needed respite from decades of unsustainable logging, nature has been busily healing itself.

In the 20 years since its inception, the Northwest Forest Plan has protected hundreds of wildlife species, conserved and restored riparian areas, protected water resources, and kept some of our country’s largest remaining old-growth forests intact.

While not perfect, the Northwest Forest Plan has provided a durable vision and guide for forest management. The benefits have stretched beyond the initial aims of protecting wildlife and preserving clean water. We know now that the forests, particularly those in the Northwest, play an essential role in capturing and storing climate-disrupting carbon pollution. The ripple effect from healthy forests spreads beyond the communities and forests located within the scope of the plan.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of this landmark management guidance, we should look for ways to strengthen and replicate it elsewhere, not undermine it. Nature has tremendous, but not limitless, restorative powers. It’s vital that we continue the focused, collaborative work started two decades ago to ensure management of our national forests provides a vision for a better tomorrow, not a flashback to the unsustainable and conflict-riddled past.

We’d do well to consider where we’d be today without the Northwest Forest Plan.

Jim Furnish is a former deputy chief of the National Forest Service and served as Siuslaw National Forest supervisor during the creation and implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. Dan Chu is the senior director for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. 

Hastings: Court Misses the Mark on ESA Settlement Ruling

This just in as a press release from the House Committee on Natural Resource. The bladderpods seem to have scored another major legal victory in closed door meetings between litigious groups’ lawyers and government lawyers. April Fools Day seems to be an appropriate date to learn of these things. 160 NEW species listed! And all as transparent as closed doors, muffled voices, and shredded notes can be. Reminds of the Clinton Plan for Northwest Forests planning process, and we can see how that turned out. This type of stuff should be illegal. In my opinion.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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CONTACT: Press Office

202-226-9019

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) issued the following statement regarding the federal court ruling upholding the Obama Administration’s closed-door Endangered Species Act (ESA) settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians:

I’m disappointed with today’s court ruling that upholds the Administration’s mega-settlement with litigious environmental groups to make listing decisions for hundreds of species behind closed-doors and in a rushed, arbitrary time-frame.  Over 160 new species have already been added to the list just since these settlements.  In many cases, such as the White Bluffs Bladderpod in my district, or in the Lesser Prairie Chicken listed just last week, legitimate concerns have been raised about the science or the lack of state or local government involvement. The potential listings of even more species, including the Greater Sage Grouse, could have devastating job and economic impacts across the entire country.  Listing decisions should be made in an open, transparent manner and based on the best available science and data.  This decision today proves even more why common sense legislation to curb these lawsuits and closed-door settlement agreements will do more to aid endangered species than lawyers and courtrooms.  That’s why I and other colleagues will work to advance targeted legislation to improve and update the ESA by focusing on transparency and species recovery.”

 

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NaturalResources.house.gov

For Sale: Cheap! Oregon State Forest Land — Get It Now!

Now you, too, can own your own personal piece of Oregon State School Fund Forestland — but hurry! Only five days remain for you to buy one of these fine forested tracts in claimed prime marbled murrelet nesting country. Also — you might even be able to kill an elk on your own property, or have someone else pay you for trying to kill one themselves. On your property!

This is being posted at the request of John Thomas, Jr., a regular contributor to this blog. The deadline of the sale is March 28 and the details (including a fine collection of aerial photos and maps of the properties) can be found here: http://www.rmnw-auctions.com/auction-catalogs/1401-auction-catalog/

I will leave it up to John to explain why this is such an important topic, and what the marbled murrelet has to do with current timberland prices on these lands. Also, his predictions as to what will happen to the trees after these sales.

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Minority Report: “EPA’s Playbook,” “Fraud,” and “Secret Science”

About a month ago I had a discussion with Dr. Bob Ferris on this blog, initially concerning the general quality of “government science.” Dr. Ferris is a “real scientist” who is “serious” and currently works for Cascadia Wildlands, an environmental activist group based in Eugene, Oregon. He has a number of publications to his credit and was instrumental in the efforts to reintroduce gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1996, through his position as a biologist with Defenders of Wildlife. Here is a current sample of his work: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_25387360/wheres-science-fish-and-wildlife-service-must-rewrite

When Dr. Ferris brought up the topic of “best available science,” I responded by providing a link to an Evergreen Magazine interview with Dr. Alan Moghissi, a published and widely recognized expert on the topic. For some reason Dr. Ferris was able to use this link as an opportunity to veer oddly and sharply off-topic and to begin leveling ad hominem attacks on ESIPRI’s website; one of ESIPRI’s founders (and occasional contributor to this blog), Norman MacLeod; Evergreen Magazine; Jim Petersen (Dr. Moghissi’s interviewer and publisher of Evergreen); Dr. Moghissi’s “right wing credentials”; Dave Skinner, a regular contributor to this blog; and the Boards of both ESIPRI and Evergreen Foundation: https://forestpolicypub.com/2014/02/17/of-wolves-and-wilderness/comment-page-1/#comment-38197

The link that seemed to cause Dr. Ferris so much vexation and total disregard for the topic at hand (“best available science”) was to a recent issue of Evergreen Magazine with a picture of Dr. Moghissi on the front cover, the Capitol Building in the background, and featuring the headline: “Fresh Air! Alan Moghissi: Rocking Capitol Hill and the EPA!”: http://www.esipri.org/Library/Evergreen_2012.pdf

Earlier today Karla Davenport, producer of Salem, Oregon’s iSpy Radio show, sent me a copy of this amazing report, EPA’s Playbook Unveiled: A Story of Fraud, Deceit, and Secret Science: http://www.esipri.org/Library/Bolar-Steel_20140319.pdf

This may be the first time I have ever referred to a government report as “amazing” without meaning to be disrespectful. If this is only 50% accurate, it should be made required reading by our public land legislators and their staffs immediately. In my opinion. The report was just released on Wednesday, so has only been available for 72 hours. I have reproduced its Executive Summary here for discussion purposes. I’m curious as to how it is going to be received.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The greatness of our unique nation hinges on the fundamental purpose of the government to serve at the will of the people and to carry out public policy that is in the public interest. When it comes to the executive branch, the Courts have extended deference to agency policy decisions under the theory that our agencies are composed of neutral, non-biased, highly specialized public servants with particular knowledge about policy matters. This report will reveal that within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some officials making critically important policy decisions were not remotely qualified, anything but neutral, and in at least one case — EPA decision making was delegated to a now convicted felon and con artist, John Beale.

John Beale is the character from the bizarre tale of the fake CIA agent who used his perch at the EPA to bilk the American taxpayer out of more than a million dollars. Even Jon Stewart, host of the popular Daily Show, featured Beale’s bizarre tale as “Charlatan’s Web” on his program in December 2013. Before his best friend Robert Brenner hired him to work at EPA, Beale had no legislative or environmental policy experience and wandered between jobs at a small-town law firm, a political campaign, and an apple farm. Yet at the time he was recruited to EPA, Brenner arranged to place him in the highest pay scale for general service employees, a post that typically is earned by those with significant experience.

What most Americans do not know is that Beale and Brenner were not obscure no-name bureaucrats housed in the bowels of the Agency. Through his position as head of the Office of Policy, Analysis, and Review, Brenner built a “fiefdom” that allowed him to insert himself into a number of important policy issues and to influence the direction of the Agency. Beale was one of Brenner’s acolytes — who owed his career and hefty salary to his best friend.

During the Clinton Administration, Beale and Brenner were very powerful members of EPA’s senior leadership team within the Office of Air and Radiation, the office responsible for issuing the most expensive and onerous federal regulations. Beale himself was the lead EPA official for one of the most controversial and far reaching regulations ever issued by the Agency, the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM). These standards marked a turning point for EPA air regulations and set the stage for the exponential growth of the Agency’s power over the American economy. Delegating the NAAQS to Beale was the result of Brenner’s facilitating the confidence of EPA elites, making Beale the gatekeeper for critical information throughout the process.

Beale accomplished this coup based on his charisma and steadfast application of the belief that the ends justify the means. Concerned about this connection, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) staff have learned that the same mind that concocted a myriad of ways to abuse the trust of his EPA supervisors while committing fraud is the same mind that abused the deference afforded to public servants when he led EPA’s effort on the 1997 NAAQS. Brenner was known to have an objective on NAAQS, and would have done whatever was necessary to accomplish his desired outcome. Together, Brenner and Beale implemented a plan, which this report refers to as “EPA’s Playbook.”

The Playbook includes several tools first employed in the 1997 process, including sue-and-settle arrangements with a friendly outside group, manipulation of science, incomplete cost-benefit analysis reviews, heavy-handed management of interagency review processes, and capitalizing on information asymmetry,
reinforced by resistance to transparency. Ultimately, the guiding principal behind the Playbook is the Machiavellian principal that the ends will justify the means. In the case of the 1997 NAAQS, the Playbook started with a sue-and-settle agreement with the American Lung Association, which established a compressed timeline to draft and issue PM standards. This timeline was further compressed when EPA made the unprecedented decision to simultaneously issue new standards for both PM and Ozone. Issuing these standards in tandem and under the pressure of the sue-and-settle deadline, Beale had the mechanism he needed to ignore opposition to the standards — EPA simply did not have the time to consider dissenting opinions.

The techniques of the Playbook were on full display in the “Beale Memo,” a confidential document that was leaked to Congress during the controversy, which revealed how he pressured the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to back off its criticism of the NAAQS and forced them to alter their response to Congress in 1997. EPA also brushed aside objections raised by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy, the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Academy of Sciences, and EPA’s own scientific advisers — the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee.

These circumstances were compounded by EPA’s “policy call” to regulate PM2.5 for the first time in 1997. PM2.5 are ubiquitous tiny particles, the reduction of which EPA used to support both the PM and Ozone NAAQS. In doing so, the Playbook also addressed Beale’s approach to EPA’s economic analysis: overstate the benefits and underrepresent the costs of federal regulations. This technique has been applied over the years and burdens the American people today, as up to 80% of the benefits associated with all federal regulations are attributed to supposed PM2.5 reductions.

EPA has also manipulated the use of PM2.5 through the NAAQS process as the proffered health effects attributable to PM2.5 have never been independently verified. In the 1997 PM NAAQS, EPA justified the critical standards on only two data sets, the Harvard “Six Cities” and American Cancer Society (ACS II) studies. At the time, the underlying data for the studies were over a decade old and were vulnerable to even the most basic scrutiny. Yet the use of such weak studies reveals another lesson from EPA’s Playbook: shield the underlying data from scrutiny.

Since the 1997 standards were issued, EPA has steadfastly refused to facilitate independent analysis of the studies upon which the benefits claimed were based. While this is alarming in and of itself, this report also reveals that the EPA has continued to rely upon the secret science within the same two studies to justify the vast majority of all Clean Air Act regulations issued to this day. In manipulating the scientific process, Beale effectively closed the door to open scientific enquiry, a practice the Agency has followed ever since. Even after the passage in 1999 of the Shelby Amendment, a legislative response to EPA’s secret science that requires access to federal scientific data, and President Obama’s Executive Orders on Transparency and Data Access, the EPA continues to withhold the underlying data that originally supported Beale’s efforts.
After President Clinton endorsed the 1997 NAAQS and the Agency celebrated their finalization, Beale became immune to scrutiny or the obligation to be productive for the remainder of his time at the Agency. Similarly, the product of his labors have remained intact and have been shielded from any meaningful scrutiny, much the same way Beale was protected by an inner circle of career staff who unwittingly aided in his fraud. Accordingly, it appears that the Agency is content to let the American people pay the price for Beale and EPA’s scientific insularity, a price EPA is still trying to hide almost twenty years later.

After reaching the pinnacle of his career at the Agency in 1997, and facing no accountability thereafter, Beale put matters on cruise control and enjoyed the lavish lifestyle that the highest paid EPA employee could afford, producing virtually no substantive work product thereafter. For Beale’s successes in the 1997 NAAQS process, Beale was idolized as a hero at the Agency. According to current EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, “John Beale walked on water at EPA.”

This unusual culture of idolatry has led EPA officials to blind themselves to Beale’s wrongdoing and caused them to neglect their duty to act as public servants. As such, to this day EPA continues to protect Beale’s work product and the secret science behind the Agency’s NAAQS and PM claims.

Newton’s Paradox Redux: Whitsett Calls for Scientific Accountability

 State Senator Doug Whitsett, who represents Oregon’s District 28 — the State’s largest when measured in square-miles — posted the following editorial in his most recent newsletter. Whitsett is based in Klamath Falls, but within two days his thoughts have been featured on several blogs and widely distributed as links and/or attachments via email. For those familiar with talk radio personalities, Lars Larson talked about Whitsett’s newsletter on his show Friday, and is planning to interview Dr. Newton himself sometime next week.
Senator Whitsett’s editorial was based on an earlier post and discussion on this blog, which mostly focused on the scientific aspects of what Newton is saying: http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/10/06/newtons-paradox-why-fish-prefer-clearcuts-over-regulated-buffers/
Following the blog discussion, a version for a more general readership was then written for Oregon Fish & Wildlife Journal, which has a rural-focused distribution of about 10,000: http://www.nwmapsco.com/ZybachB/Articles/Fish_vs_Loggers_2014/Zybach_20140100.pdf
Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301 
Email: sen.dougwhitsett@state.or.us 
Website: http://www.leg.state.or.us/whitsett

State Seal
E-Newsletter
Oregon was the first state to adopt a Forest Practices Act. The widely supported 1971 Act was intended to protect forest streams against potential negative timber harvest impacts. It required the maintenance of sufficient undisturbed forest buffers alongside streams to reduce water pollution and soil erosion.
Over the ensuing twenty years, both the purpose and the implementation of the Act changed dramatically. Forest buffer zones were widened by rule in 1987 and then extended by the 1992 Northwest Forest Plan to require the maintenance of 150 foot wide buffers of undisturbed forest vegetation. Those required forest buffers have been enforced for more than two decades.
The purpose of the forest buffers now is allegedly to be to protect cold water fish habitat. Government paid biologists have theorized that maintaining the buffer zones would reduce stream temperatures and result in better fish production in the protected streams. Studies by the Department of Environmental Quality (Department) measured stream temperature and forest buffer widths, but did not evaluate other factors including the fish. The Department established their “Protection of Cold Water Standard” criterion based on those assumptions and studies.
It appears that those “Department scientists” based their assumptions, and the future of both the forest products industry and our salmonid fisheries, on modeled studies that often contradicted empirical research. The government paid biologists never bothered to actually measure the fish production in those protected streams. Worse, they ignored several studies that reported a general increase in fish productivity where clear cuts extended to the edge of the water.
Oregon State University forestry professor emeritus Mike Newton has been researching the actual benefits of streamside forest buffers for more than 20 years. Dr. Newton has measured and evaluated data collected on streams that have no forest buffer zones, streams that have various widths of forest buffers, and streams that have never been logged. He has accumulated years of empirical data on stream temperatures and fish food production. He has counted the actual number and size of fish and calculated fish production volumes in the stream segments.
Dr. Newton’s data emphatically contradicts the conventional wisdom that shaded streams are necessary or even beneficial for salmonid fish production.
His long-term empirical data proves that fish actually grow more numerous, and grow larger, in areas with little or no streamside vegetation, compared to streams with carefully maintained forest buffers that shade the stream surface. His measured data shows that fish reproduce and grow better in sunlit streams because the sunlight creates conditions that grow more food for the fish. One of those beneficial effects is increased water temperature! Any warming of the water that occurs in those sunlit areas is rapidly dissipated, as the water flows downstream.
Clear-cuts extending to the water’s edge, with no streamside forest buffer, produced the highest and largest fish counts in Dr. Newton’ study area. Moreover, streams affected by all different kinds of logging activities consistently produced more fish compared to stream segments passing through unlogged forests.
Dr. Newton’s twenty years of carefully collected on-site data simply destroys the veracity of the Department’s modelled “Protection of Cold Water Standard”. In fact, his data proves that the entire effort to protect the cold water standard may be misguided and actually counterproductive to optimal fish production.
Once again, the adoption of a false assumption by government paid biologists has wrought serious harm on both the timber industry and our fisheries.
Most government paid scientists appear to shun spending time in the field to actually observe, measure and collect real data. They seem to be wed to the practice of supporting their assumptions with modeled data. Too often the information used to calibrate their models is also based on assumed data points.
One could assume that these biologists are either uninformed regarding appropriate scientific methods, too lazy to gather and evaluate empirical data, or that they have an agenda other than the protection of fish. In my opinion, the latter is too often true. The execution of the Forest Practices Act is a clarion example. It has devolved into a pretense of science that targets the future existence of the forest products industry.
The myth that mercurial additives to vaccines causes autism was the most damaging medical hoax of the century. The British scientist that initiated and perpetuated that hoax was found guilty of three dozen charges by the General Medical Council, including dishonesty, irresponsibility and abuse of developmentally challenged children. He was stripped of his science credentials, struck from the Medical Registry and barred from medical practice.
Those scientists that misrepresent and adulterate forest science for political gain deserve no less.

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

Best Regards,
Doug

Flathead Indian Nation Declares “Success” with 998-Acre Lolo NF Project

The following article and photographs were published yesterday in Char-Koosta News, “the official news publication of the Flathead Indian Nation”: http://www.charkoosta.com/2014/2014_02_27/McGinnis_Cabin_Stewardship_Project_deemed_a_success.html

On the surface this sounds like an excellent example of the intentions of the Tribal Forest Protection Act of of 2004, but it also raises some questions: Why did it take so long to treat so few acres? What were overhead costs compared to income? And, of course: Will it work as anticipated should a wildfire (or bug infestation?) strike the area?

The article claims there are still brush piles to burn, roads to build, and roads to decommission before the project is complete. Would a good test of the project’s success be to conduct a broadcast burn through the area, too? Or is that a capability not structured into the project’s design?

February 27, 2014

McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project deemed a success

Road construction/maintenance and pile burns were some of the tasks the CSKT Forestry Department executed for the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. The project started in 2009 and will be coming to a close in December 2014. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)Road construction/maintenance and pile burns were some of the tasks the CSKT Forestry Department executed for the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. The project started in 2009 and will be coming to a close in December 2014. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)

HOT SPINGS — Since 2000 nine large forest fires have burned near or across the border of the Flathead Indian Reservation – eight started off the reservation and burned onto the reservation. Nationally over twenty Indian reservations faced wildland fires in 2002 and 2003 that originated off reservation and moved onto the reservations. These fires brought up issues of threatened tribal resources, lands, and collective health of residents. To address these threats, the TRIBAL FOREST PROTECTION ACT OF 2004 (TFPA) was passed and allowed the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to give special consideration to tribally – proposed Stewardship Contract projects, on United States Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, bordering or near Indian trust lands; this would enable tribes to better protect their lands from threats like fire or disease. After the bill passed, the CSKT Forestry Department proposed a project on the Lolo National Forest near the western reservation border. By 2009, the funds became available to start the project, titled “McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project”.

CSKT Forestry Department conducts a slash pile burn to clear out the extra logged timber material. Pile burns are one of the few things left on the “to do” list for the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)CSKT Forestry Department conducts a slash pile burn to clear out the extra logged timber material. Pile burns are one of the few things left on the “to do” list for the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)

The McGinnis area, located west of Hot Springs near the border of the Flathead Reservation and the Lolo National Forest, covered 998 acres. In 1960 the area had been logged, then between 1961 and 1966 undergone a controlled burn and was replanted with trees. Between 1973 and 1976 the Forest Service conducted pre-commercial thinning to the area.

The McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project began in 2009 as a joint project between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Lolo National Forest. The project entailed thinning trees on 998 acres, road maintenance, road construction, and road decommissioning near the border of the Lolo National Forest – Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. The goal of the project: by reducing tree density and debris, and underburning in the 998 acres, the consequences of future severe wildland fires should be reduced. CSKT would also sell the timber products as mostly pulpwood and small sawlogs, allowing some economic benefits for the tribe, and employing CSKT members. The project is coming to a close and CSKT, the Intertribal Timber Council (ITC), the (USFS and BIA are deeming it a success.

Pre-commercial thinning and commercial thinning in the McGinnis Creek area was an important part of the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. The CSKT Forestry Department thinned 998 acres in order to diminish the consequences of future severe wild land fires. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)Pre-commercial thinning and commercial thinning in the McGinnis Creek area was an important part of the McGinnis Cabin Stewardship project. The CSKT Forestry Department thinned 998 acres in order to diminish the consequences of future severe wild land fires. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)

The McGinnis project has provided additional employment opportunities for tribal loggers during a period when the timber market was low.

CSKT faced several obstacles during the project. The tribe had a new role as a contractor, assuming all of the risk, which had not been done before. Jim Durglo says, “There was a large learning curve for the CSKT Forestry staff.” There were multi-layers of managers and administrators in the USFS, and a high rate new personnel in administrative positions. Working with all of the parties took time; the contract was complex and required working closely with the Plains-Thomson Falls District Ranger and Lolo Forest Contracting Officer. CSKT managed to overcome the hurdles and started the project.

The McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project began in 2009, and entailed thinning trees on 998 acres, road maintenance, road construction, and road decommissioning near the western border of the Lolo National Forest - Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)  The McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project began in 2009, and entailed thinning trees on 998 acres, road maintenance, road construction, and road decommissioning near the western border of the Lolo National Forest – Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)

Thirty percent of the work had finished when Smurfit Stone Container Mill of Missoula shut down. CSKT had been selling the pulpwood to Smurfit Stone. CSKT was forced to suspend the contract until reliable markets could be found for both the pulpwood and small logs. Finally in the fall of 2013, Willis Enterprises entered into a delivery agreement for the pulpwood delivered to the Bonner Mill site with CSKT, the Plum Creek mills in Evergreen and Columbia Falls and Tricon Timber Inc. mill near St. Regis purchased the small sawlogs, and the project resumed.

The project ends in December 2014 Jim Durglo says, “We still have work to do. We still need to do burn the slash piles, complete road maintenance and decommission other roads within the project area. We plan on completing these tasks in the summer and fall of 2014. The most important aspect of the project, under the TFPA is that we are creating employment and economic opportunities for tribal members and are reducing the impact of large fires to tribal resources.”

The McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project began in 2009, and entailed thinning trees on 998 acres, road maintenance, road construction, and road decommissioning near the western border of the Lolo National Forest - Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)  The McGinnis Cabin Stewardship Project began in 2009, and entailed thinning trees on 998 acres, road maintenance, road construction, and road decommissioning near the western border of the Lolo National Forest – Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger district and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation. (Photo courtesy of Jim Durglo of the CSKT Forestry Department)

Eight years after the enactment of the TFPA, only ten Tribes and eight National Forests have implemented projects under the TFPA authority. Of the ten projects, only six have been deemed a success so far – CSKT being one of them. Jim Durglo says, “A lot of our success needs to be credited to Tribal Forestry Department staffers, Duane Plant, Project Planning Program Manager, and to Rod Couture, Project Administrator and CSKT timber sale administrator, and to Forest Service employees, Randy Hojem, Plains-Thompson Falls District Ranger and Loren Ebner, the Forest Service Contracting Officer.” Also, the following tribal loggers; Dupius Logging, Three Mor Enterprises, Bras Logging and Wheeler Logging were instrumental in the success of this project.

After the completion of this project, the CSKT Forestry Department has no further plans for the area, but wants to maintain a good working relationship with the Lolo National Forest and propose additional hazard fuel reduction type projects near the reservation border.

Doc Hastings vs. ESA: Here’s Why

This editorial by Doc Hastings was published on the Salem Capital Press website yesterday. Their website has the slogan: “The West’s Ag Website,” and their focus is agricultural businesses in the western US:

Endangered Species Act needs reform

By DOC HASTINGS

For the Capital Press

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash., 4th District)
The federal Endangered Species Act needs reform, and here’s why.

From endangered salmon to the spotted owl, the Pacific Northwest has been the poster child when it comes to the Endangered Species Act. This is why, last year, I joined Rep. Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming and 11 of my colleagues, representing communities from across the country to launch the ESA Congressional Working Group. The purpose of this Working Group was to start an open and honest conversation about what works and what hasn’t with the ESA, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary.

The intent of the Endangered Species Act was to preserve and protect key endangered species, and there is still widespread support for that goal today. However, a lot has changed in the past 40 years. I believe it’s not only common sense, but the responsibility of Congress, to examine this law to see if there are ways it could be improved and updated for species and people.

Recently, the Working Group released its final report of findings and recommendations. It reflects hundreds of comments from the public, and testimony from nearly 70 witnesses that appeared before the Working Group or at House Natural Resources Committee hearings.

We found that there is still strong support for conserving endangered species, but that there are four key areas where improvements could be made to make the law more effective for species and helpful for our communities.

The first is to restore the goal of species recovery and ensure greater transparency and prioritization of ESA decisions. Today, too much focus is put on listing new species instead of recovering species and taking them off the list. The ESA only has a 2 percent recovery rate, and I believe we can do better. Instead of enforcing deadline-driven decisions or litigation — as we saw with the recent flawed listing of the White Bluffs bladderpod in Franklin County, Wash. — we should ensure that federal agencies take the time to work with those who live and work around these species, and who should have an active role in deciding how best to improve their recovery. A specific target for what recovery means should also be identified when the species is listed.

The second area for improvement is ESA litigation and settlement reform. The ESA today has become a tool for never-ending lawsuits that often have more to do with limiting the activity of humans than achieving recovery for plants or animals, and drain time and money away from actual recovery efforts. To enact serious reforms to the ESA, we must begin by discouraging ESA lawsuits, limiting excessive taxpayer-funded attorney fees and bringing some sunlight to closed-door settlement agreements that can result in the listing of hundreds of species.

The third area for improvement is to empower states, local governments, tribes and private property owners on ESA decisions that affect them, their citizens, and their land. The ESA Working Group heard countless stories of how state, tribes and local governments are often more successful at species conservation but are, at times, undermined by the federal government. While not perfect, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has been far more successful in working with local residents to manage wolf populations than the federal government has in the part of the our state that the species is still federally listed.

The fourth area for improvement is transparency and accountability of ESA data and science. Decision-making should be based on the best available scientific data, instead of backroom political deals or court-driven deadlines. In the case of the White Bluffs bladderpod, the federal agency failed to even take a DNA test to figure out whether the plant was genetically different than countless bladderpod plants in other parts of the country, and when an outside party provided proof that it was the same, they moved forward with the listing anyway.

There are many other specific recommendations included in our final report, which can be found at http://esaworkinggroup.hastings.house.gov.

It’s my hope this report will further the discussion on the ESA and serve as a starting point as we move forward with commonsense legislative solutions. My intent has never been to introduce sweeping legislation to overhaul the ESA. Instead, I believe there are thoughtful, sensible, and targeted proposals that would address many of the issues highlighted in this report. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the coming months to consider commonsense, targeted ways to improve and modernize this law for the 21st Century.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

John Leiberg Reports on SW Oregon “Natural Fire Regimes” in 1899

Last February I posted a somewhat lengthy discussion of lodgepole pine bug and fire history that included several quotes from John Leiberg’s 1899 report titled “Cascade Range Forest Reserve from Township 28 South to Township 37 South, Inclusive, Together With the Ashland Forest Reserve and Forest Regions from Township 28 South to Township 41 South, Inclusive, and from Range 2 West to Range 14 East, Willamette Meridian, Inclusive”: https://forestpolicypub.com/2013/02/28/lodgepole-pine-ecology-1899-2013/

A more comprehensive selection of his observations in this report can be found here: http://www.orww.org/History/SW_Oregon/References/Leiberg_1899/

Several of these quotes were also posted as a Comment about a week ago, but WordPress won’t let me search those files or list more than 18 of my past comments for some reason, so I am reposting them here, based on current discussions of wet vs. dry forests, natural fire regimes, and wildfire severity patterns and history.

Leiberg was a Swedish immigrant who did much of his botanical field work from his base near Lake Pend Oreille, in Idaho Territory, including the 19th and 20th annual reports of the US Geological Survey, which encompassed most (or all) of the current Bitterroot National Forest. He was meticulous in his observations, including counting the tree rings of several tree species at small sawmills that had just entered the region (“virgin forests”), and using land surveys, photography and personal interviews to build detailed maps and tables for several different forested areas in the western US, mostly in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and Minnesota.

I believe him to be one of the very best forest scientists of his era for these regions, but his work has been sadly neglected — likely beginning with the politics surrounding the formation of the National Forests in 1906 and the transfer of the Forest Reserves for the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. It was to Pinchot’s advantage to ignore Leiberg’s work because it directly contradicted his assertions that the federal reserves were not being properly studied or managed. Leiberg died in Leaburg, Oregon (near Eugene) in 1913.

I would be very interested in the thoughts of other Commenters on this blog regarding the following quotes:

(p. 245) The duration of the forest type is indefinite.  While undoubtedly subject to evolutionary changes, its modifications or transitions to other types are so slow as to be quite imperceptible to us.  Not so with subtypes, They frequently change, sometimes two or three times in a generation.  Forest fires are fertile causes for inducing such rapid changes.  But even when left undisturbed a subtype rarely persists in any particular locality for more than 250 or 300 years.  Such at least is the rule on the eastern and immediate western slope of the Cascades and in the basins between the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains.  The only exception to this rule in the region named that is known to me occurs in pure yellow-pine and western-juniper growths. 

(p. 248) But the open character of the yellow-pine type of forest anywhere in the region examined is due to frequently repeated forest fires more than to any other cause.

(p. 249) The forest floor in the 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. 268) In other places fires have destroyed a certain percentage of the forest.  The damage may vary from 10 to 60 per cent or higher. The destruction has not been all in one place or body.  The fire has run through the forest for miles, burning a tree or group of trees here and there.

(p. 274) The age of the timber utilized in sawmill consumption varies from 100 to 350 years.  Most of the yellow pine falls below 175 years; the higher limit is reached chiefly in the sugar pine.  Most of the sugar pine in the region is of great and mature age.  Comparatively little red fir is sawn.  It varies in age from 100 to 500 years, and some of the very large individuals seen were doubtless even older.  The noble fir and white pine of mill-timber size varies in age from 100 to 350 years, most of it falling below 180 years.  The alpine hemlock of mill size runs from 80 to 250 years, 120 to 140 years representing the age of the bulk of the standard growth.  The white fir, with sufficient clear trunk development to come within the limit of these estimates, varies in age from 75 to 120 years.

(p. 277) The aspect of the forest, its composition, the absence of any large tracts of solid old-growth of the species less capable of resisting fire, and the occurrence of veteran trees of red fir, noble fir, white pine, alpine hemlock, etc., singly or in small groups scattered through stands of very different species, indicate without any doubt the prevalence of widespread fires throughout this region long before the coming of the white man.  But, on the other hand, the great diversity in the age of such stands as shown clearly their origin as reforestations after fires, proves that the fires during the Indian occupancy were not of such frequent occurrence nor of such magnitude as they have been since the advent of the white man.

(p. 277) The age of the burns chargeable to the era of Indian occupancy can not in most cases be traced back more than one hundred and fifty years. Between that time and the time of the white man’s ascendancy, or, between the years 1750 and 1855, small and circumscribed fires evidently were of frequent occurrence.  There were some large ones.  Thus, in T. 37 S., R. 5 E., occurs a growth of white fir nearly 75 per cent pure covering between 4,000 and 5,000 acres.  It is an even-aged stand 100 years old and is clearly a reforestation after a fire which destroyed an old growth of red fir one hundred and five or one hundred and ten years ago.  A similar tract occurs in T. 36 S., R. 5 E., only that here the reforestation is white pine instead of white fir.

(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.

(p. 278) Along the summits of the Cascades from Crater Lake to Mount Pitt are very many even-aged stands of alpine hemlock 200 to 300 years old.  These even-aged stands may represent reforestations after ancient fires dating back two hundred and fifty to four hundred years, but there is no certainty on this point.

(p. 278) It is not possible to state with any degree of certainty the Indian’s reasons for firing the forest.  Their object in burning the forest at high elevations on the Cascades may have been to provide a growth of grass near their favorite camping places, or to promote the growth of huckleberry brush and blackberry brambles, which often, after fires, cover the ground with a luxuriant and, to the Indian, very valuable and desirable growth.  The chief purpose of the fires at middle elevations and on the plains or levels probably was to keep down the underbrush in the forest and facilitate hunting.

(pp. 282-283)  There is little doubt that a very large proportion of the many rocky level tracts which occur east of the Cascades in the region under consideration are wholly due, as to the character of their present surface, to frequently repeated fires.  The pumice originally laid down at the bottoms of shallow lakes would be evenly spread out.  As the lakes were being gradually drained thick masses of marsh vegetation would preserve the pumice surface from wastage.  The marsh vegetation was finally supplanted by forest; then man came on the scene and with fire as an ally made some profound changes.  The entire series of phenomena here detailed, not omitting the part played by fire, are in full operation at the present time in the region bordering Klamath Marsh, and in various other localities, such as Sycan Marsh and tracts bordering the Klamath lakes.

(p. 288) These grassed-over places are, and have been, of commercial importance since the upper plateaus and summits of the Cascades began to be utilized as sheep pastures.  All of these pastures and meadows which owe their origins to fires are merely temporary affairs. If suffered to remain undisturbed by further fires they will return to forest cover.  Around Diamond and Crater lakes the grassy places are slowly giving way to stands of lodgepole pine as the primary reforestation.  On the lava plateaus flanking the crest of the range in Ts. 34 and 35 S., R. 5 E., grassy places created by fires before the advent of the white man have, in course of time, become covered with thick stands of lodgepole pine, now mature and giving way to stands of noble fir and alpine hemlock.

p. 290-291) The custom of the Indians of peeling the yellow pine at certain seasons of the year to obtain the cambium layer which they use for food, is in some localities a fruitful contributory cause toward destruction of the yellow pine by fire.  They do not carry the peeling process far enough to girdle the tree, but they remove a large enough piece of bark to make a gaping wound which never heals over and which furnishes an excellent entrance for fire.  Throughout the forests of the Klamath reservation trees barked in this manner are very common.  Along the eastern margin of Klamath marsh they are found by the thousands.

(p. 298) The southern and central portions are covered with stands of lodgepole pine, all reforestations after fires and representative of all ages of burns from one hundred fifty years ago [ca. 1750] up to the present time [1899].  There is no portion of these or the heavier stands of alpine hemlock and noble fir in the northern sections of the township that have not been visited by fire within the past forty-five years [since 1855].  Reforestations consist wholly of lodgepole pine as the first growth.  In some places on warm southern declivities brush growth comes in after fires.  In other localities a grass and sedge sward covers the ground.  It is clearly evident that many of the fires have been set for the purpose of promoting these grass growths and enlarging the possible sheep range.  It is also noticeable that wherever fires have been kept down for four or five years there is gradual return to forest and a disappearance of the grass.

(p. 305) This region [T. 29 S., R. 5 E.] was burned periodically during the Indian occupancy, as the many different ages represented in the lodgepole pine stands prove.  But when the white man came into the region the areas in this particular township was covered with a uniform stand of the species.  During the past forty or forty-five years [1855-1899] the timber has been burned in many locations and the subsequent reforestations have again been burned.  The region is too high in altitude to permit the growth of much brush.  After a fire one of three things happens: either lodgepole pine comes in as the first forest growth, or grasses and sedges form a thin, interrupted sward, or the ground remains bare of all vegetation.  It is impossible to predict beforehand which one of the three phases will appear.

(p. 395) The forest is of the alpine-hemlock type throughout [T. 35 S., R. 5 E.] .  Fires of modern origin have ravaged it extensively.  The great burns which cover the eastern areas of the adjoining township and wrought great havoc among what must have been heavy stands of noble fir.  The forests in the eastern areas have suffered no less, and there are scant signs of reforestation.  Most of the young growth now standing is overwhelmingly composed of lodgepole pine.  The bottom and eastern slopes of the South Fork Canyon have escaped fairly well and carry a forest in a state of tolerably good preservation.  Much of it has not experienced a fire for 300 or 400 years,  and in consequence it contains a vast amount of litter, consisting chiefly of the original lodgepole pine growth which followed a fire that occurred between three and four centuries ago [ca. 1500 to ca. 1600]. The lodgepole pine has had time to mature, die, and fall down, and a new forest 150 years old has taken its place since that time.

(p. 457) The Pokegama Lumber Company operates here, sending the logs to their mills at Klamathon, on the southern Pacific Railroad, by way of the Klamath River.  They cut pine exclusively, and cut all pine clean as they go, leaving great accumulations of debris behind them for future fires.  They take all trees far into the crown, trimming off the limbs and making the last cut on a basis of 7 to 8 inches in diameter at the small end.  In consequence they realize about 40 per cent higher yield than the customary cruisers’ estimates provide for.