Global Warming & Oregon Wildfires: History Repeats Itself, Again

My current article/editorial on Global Warming and Oregon Wildfires was just published:

This article documents predictions of western Oregon wildfires over the past 30 years, including newspaper and magazine articles, photos, maps, websites and radio interviews. I’ve posted the illustrations, table, cartoon, and captions below.

CONCLUSIONS: 1) From 1952 until 1987 there was only one (!) fire in excess of 10,000 acres in western Oregon — during the past nine years alone, there have been 33 (!) such fires;

2) Of these 33 wildfires, 30 began on, and were mostly confined to, federal forestlands;

3) These fires have been clearly predicted for more than 30 years, based entirely on changing federal land management practices, and have nothing (“zero”) to do with Global Warming — fire seasons (July and August) have remained about the same for more than 200 years;

4) These fires remain predictable into the foreseeable future and could be largely mitigated by a return to active management of our public forests, beginning with the salvage or treatment of millions of highly flammable snags remaining from these fires on federal lands.

Bottom Line: To fix this mess, in my opinion, we just need the legal ability to return to the active management of our public forests.

Figure 1. September 3, 1994 front-page Salem Statesman Journal article describing 90,000 acres of beetle-killed Douglas fir along Highway 20 and Santiam Pass.
Figure 2. Excerpt from March-April 1994 interview with Jim Petersen, Evergreen Magazine, with predictions of catastrophic wildfire on beetle-killed trees on Highway 20 and the Santiam Pass, and fire-killed trees from the 1987 Silver Complex Fire on the Kalmiopsis Wilderness. The 2002 Biscuit Fire reburned the Kalmiopsis and the 2003 B&B Complex Fire burned through Santiam Pass. Both fires were the largest in history for those locations.
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Figure 3. Fall 2003 cover to Oregon Fish & Wildlife Journal, references 1994 Highway 20 beetle-kill as background to current article on B&B Complex.

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Figure 4. Map on the left is from the 1994 article showing Highway 20 beetle kill; map on the right is from March 2004 ORWW educational website focused on the predicted B&B Complex Fire. Note common Abbot Butte, Metolius River, Black Butte and Cache Mountain landmarks.
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Table 1. Western Oregon large-scale wildfires following topical 2013 and 2014 articles and radio interviews with Lars Larson regarding wildlife habitats and forest fires.  
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Figure 5. 2022 cartoon by Tom Toro, Portland, Oregon, has gone viral on Internet.

Forest Restoration: Old-Growth Management

The following map and photos are from a research project I completed a little more than 10 years ago. Management of old-growth trees for their preservation begins with their definition and location. Competition and crown fires are among the greatest apparent threats:

The 2010 “Upper South Umpqua Headwaters Precontact Reference Conditions Study” was authorized by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, in cooperation with the USDA Umpqua National Forest and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. Research focus was to determine approximate forest conditions for the study area during the 1800 to 1825 time period. Primary sources of information included General Land Office original land survey notes and maps from 1857 to 1938, historical photos from 1899 to 1944, historical maps from 1900 to 1970, Osborne fire lookout panoramas from 1932 to 1938, aerial photos from 1939 to 1945, and nearly 3000 comprehensive documentary photographs in 2010. From these sources a series of GIS maps were constructed by the Douglas County Surveyors Office and developed into likely vegetation and trail maps for the ca. 1800 to 1825 time period.

Through this process it was determined that four basic types, or “zones,” of vegetation existed prior to white contact and decimation of local communities by introduced diseases. These four types can be delineated by elevation and corroborated by the existence of old-growth trees and other persistent vegetation patterns in excess of 200 years of age. In each of the following photographs, research assistant Nana Lapham serves as a human scale to an old-growth representative of an earlier forest condition. The Oak Zone photo features a lower elevation 200+ year old black oak in a former oak and pine savannah; the Pine Zone photo shows an old-growth sugar pine, likewise in a former savannah, at a higher elevation; the Douglas Fir Zone photo shows the transition from lower elevation pine to higher elevation Douglas fir, and indicates the much lower density of trees 200 years ago; and the Subalpine Zone photo shows old-growth cedar and young true fir saplings in the highest areas of the study area.

Oak Zone   This photo shows old-growth relict pine and oak with invasive Douglas fir on Pickett Butte in 2010. Relatively young white oak, black oak, and pine savannahs, extensive grassland meadows and prairies, and patches of similarly much younger Douglas fir, redcedar, and pine typified much of the western and lower elevation (below 2,400 feet) portions of the study area 200 years ago. The presence and arrangements of these plants, as well as widespread populations of camas, cat’s ears, fawn lilies, iris, tarweed, yampah, and hazel, indicate regular systematic use of the landscape by people – most likely mostly Takelman-speakers — at that time. The average number of trees larger than saplings per acre was probably ten or less. Human occupation of this zone was likely year-round, with relatively large seasonal villages and campgrounds near the mouth of Jackson Creek and at South Umpqua Falls: two locations that (according to historical reports) were heavily used during times of anadromous salmonid and lamprey eel runs.

Pine Zone This photo shows an old-growth sugar pine, with invasive Douglas fir, pine, and madrone, in a former savannah near Squaw Flat in 2010. The presence of ponderosa pine and sugar pine, with few understory or directly competitive trees, typified much of the mid-slope (2,400 to 3,800 foot elevation) forest in the study area 200 years ago. The pine zone was typically open and park-like with large — though much younger than present — widely spaced pines; patches of oak, chinquapin, serviceberry, and hazel; scattered stands of Douglas fir; and grassy meadows and berry patches. The average number of 8-inch diameter and larger trees per acre was likely less than 20. The location and age of remnant old-growth trees indicate regular seasonal use of the pine forestlands by Takelmans from lower elevations and southern Molalla from higher elevations. The harvesting of ponderosa pine cambium in the spring and sugar pine, hazel, and chinquapin nuts in the fall may have been times of most intensive occupation of this zone. Hunting for game animals with dogs by Molallans likely occurred on a year-round basis, depending on the daily and seasonal movements of deer, bear, and elk.

Douglas Fir Zone This photo shows an old-growth ponderosa pine and an old-growth Douglas fir, with invasive pine and Douglas fir, on the cusp between the Pine Zone and the Douglas Fir Zone above French Creek, in the Black Rock Fork subbasin in 2010. Although Douglas fir of a wide range of ages was present in almost every type of environment in the study area 200 years ago, it existed in nearly pure stands from 3,800 to 5,000 feet elevation, separating the lower elevation pine stands from the higher elevation subalpine vegetation types. Due to generally steep slopes, isolated location, seasonal snow, and relative lack of food plants, accessible water, and animals, this zone likely experienced the least amount of daily or seasonal use and occupation by people. Although the densest stands of trees in the study area occurred in this zone, they were still often open and park-like with only 20 to 30 trees per acre 200 years ago. Grassy meadows and fern brakes also existed throughout this zone, indicating likely human use and maintenance on a fairly regular basis. Established seasonal ridgeline and streamside trails were used by both game animals and people to reach lower and upper elevations, where food and freshwater were more available. Ridgeline trail networks that crisscrossed this zone were regularly burned to promote grassy meadows, bracken fern, beargrass, serviceberry and other useful food and fiber plants.

Subalpine Zone This photo shows old-growth cedar and an historical cabin at Mud Lake on the perimeter of French Junction prairie in 2010. The highest elevations of the study area (above 5,000 feet) formed an international network of foot trails in precontact time that connected Tribes of the South Umpqua with Indian nations in Rogue River, Klamath Falls, Deschutes River, Willamette Valley, Columbia River, and beyond. This seasonal “travel zone” was covered in snow much of the year, but contained extensive fields of shrubs, forbs, and grasses: huckleberries, manzanita, camas, beargrass, and other berries, fruits, nuts, bulbs, edible roots, fuels, and fibers that were readily available in the summer and early fall. The existence of numerous year-round springs, likely “vision quest” sites, flats, benches, and gently sloping ridgelines add further evidence of intensive year-round and seasonal use; more particularly by southern Molallan hunters, who used dogs and snowshoes to hunt elk and other prized game animals throughout the study area and had ready access to the extensive fields of huckleberries and international trade routes. Other Tribes undoubtedly visited these lands to hunt, harvest or trade for elk hides, huckleberries, and beargrass, and to move trade goods along the landscape. Latgawans and other Takelman speakers from lower elevations likely gathered at Huckleberry Lake, Quartz Mountain, and Pup Prairie areas as well. Klamaths likely moved slaves and other trade goods along the eastern ridgelines, following the Klamath Trail to campgrounds in the Black Rock and French Junction areas, before heading north along Camas Creek into the North Umpqua Basin, or south into the Rogue River basin. It is also possible that Paiutes from the east, southern Molallans from the north, and Kalapuyan-speaking Yoncallans from the northwest also entered this area at these times; also possibly for reasons of hunting, trade, harvesting of favored crops, spirit quests, or simply visiting friends and relatives. Much of this area could be characterized by the ridgeline trails and extensive fields of prized huckleberries, which also contained scattered trees: principally redcedar, Douglas fir, and Shasta red fir.



The Snags of the North Umpqua (Illustrated): Current Article & Controversy

For the past 10 years I have been writing a semi-regular series of article/editorials for the quarterly Oregon Fish & Wildlife Journal. This popular outdoor magazine is now in its 43rd year of publication and has a circulation of about 10,000, including all elected Oregon officials and most rural Oregon barbershops. Founder Cristy Rein still remains firmly in charge as the magazine’s publisher and conservative editor. My writings for her have mostly focused on forest restoration, wildfire history and forestry education and can be found here:

My most recent entry, published in early October, is an article about the risks posed by North Umpqua River basin snags in the aftermath of the 2020 Labor Day Fires. The North Umpqua is in Douglas County, in Oregon’s western Cascades.

This article is the first in a two-part series and details the relative risks posed to people, property and wildlife by leaving snags on the landscape. The next article will suggest mitigating forest restoration strategies for each of the four major landownerships (USFS, BLM, industrial tree farm, rural residential) in dealing with snags created or reburned by these fires. Both articles are directly derived from a commissioned report I wrote last summer for Douglas Timber Operators (DTO) under the direction of Matt Hill, DTO Executive Director.

The topic of North Umpqua snag management became suddenly controversial last week when lawyers for three environmental organizations filed a legal action against plans to remove “too many” snags along Umpqua NF roadways and recreation areas:


The following pages contain the 10 images, two maps and table from my article, along with their captions. These give an idea as to the scope of the snag problem as it has developed during the past 20 years, and particularly on Umpqua NF lands within the North Umpqua basin. First, some background, starting with the basics:

A snag is a dead, standing tree. When it falls to the ground it becomes a log. Once a snag is created, the question becomes whether to leave it standing, or turn it into a log.

In western Oregon the most common tree is a Douglas fir. It typically grows in vast stands of even-aged trees numbering dozens or hundreds per acre. Contiguous stands and individual trees can grow and survive for centuries, even when surrounding stands have been decimated by windstorms, floods, landslides, insects, spot fires or other means. However, when a “crown fire” goes through a stand of Douglas fir, nearly all (or all) of the trees are killed and instantly become snags.

The September 8-10, 2020 Labor Day Fires in western Oregon burned nearly a million acres of land — mostly Douglas fir forestland — killed 11 people, destroyed more than 4,000 homes, polluted the air with toxic smoke for nearly two weeks and killed millions of native wildlife.

Of this amount, the Archie Creek Fire, along the North Umpqua River, was responsible for one human death, more than 150 people losing their homes, and over 131,000 acres, mostly forested, being burned. Due to its large size and rapid spread, mortality of native plants — including extensive stands of Douglas fir — and animals approached 100% within much of the fire’s perimeter (see Figures 1 and 2).

Beginning in 1987, and accelerating after 2002, the number of large-scale fires has increased dramatically on the North Umpqua, and particularly on the Umpqua NF (see Table). Immediately following the Archie Creek Fire, the USDA Rapid Assessment Team (RAT) noted:

“Over the past 20 years, 28% of the Umpqua [NF] has burned in wildfires, with the total acreage being higher due to several areas being burned two to three times over the past 20 years. Less than 1% of these past fires in total have been salvaged, with the majority of snag loss occurring along roadsides as danger tree mitigation to keep open public access. Therefore, snag abundance at the landscape level will likely be above the 80% tolerance level on the North Umpqua and Diamond Lake Ranger Districts for quite some time.”

The important statement in this quote is that “several areas [have] burned two to three times over the past 20 years.” Following the 2020 RAT report, the 2021 Jack Fire, Chaos Fire and Rough Patch Complex have burned more than 75,000 additional North Umpqua acres on Umpqua NF lands; much of which already had snags from earlier fires.

Summary: Almost all major wildfires on the North Umpqua during the past 20 years have taken place on the Umpqua NF. Almost all of the snags resulting from these fires have been left in place, many burning a second or third time since they were initially created. Snags provide a continuing and documented threat to burn again; to kill and harm people and wildlife; to disrupt travel, power and communications corridors; to accelerate erosion; and — compared to living trees by most people — are ugly and unsightly. Their value as ephemeral wildlife habitat is open to interpretation.


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:
Here is a link to the article, published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire
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:

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:

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.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014



CONTACT: Press Office


 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.”



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:

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.



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:

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:

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!”:

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:

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.


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:
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:
Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728    900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301 

State Seal
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,