Science is clear: Catastrophic wildfire requires forest management

Science is clear: Catastrophic wildfire requires forest management” was written by Steve Ellis, Chair of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR), who is a former U.S. Forest Service Forest Supervisor and retired Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director for Operations—the senior career position in that agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.

I have extracted a few snippets (Emphasis added) from the above article published by the NAFSR:

1) Last year was a historically destructive wildfire season. While we haven’t yet seen the end of 2021, nationally 64 large fires have burned over 3 million acres. The economic damage caused by wildfire in 2020 is estimated at $150 billion. The loss of communities, loss of life, impacts on health, and untold environmental damage to our watersheds—not to mention the pumping of climate-changing carbon into the atmosphere—are devastating. This continuing disaster needs to be addressed like the catastrophe it is.

2) We are the National Association of Forest Service Retirees (NAFSR), an organization of dedicated natural resource professionals—field practitioners, firefighters, and scientists—with thousands of years of on the ground experience. Our membership lives in every state of the nation. We are dedicated to sustaining healthy National Forests and National Grasslands, the lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, to provide clean water, quality outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, and carbon sequestration, and to be more resilient to catastrophic wildfire as our climate changes.

3) As some of us here on the Smokey Wire have been explaining for years, the NAFSR very clearly and succinctly states:
Small treatment areas, scattered “random acts of restoration” across the landscape, are not large enough to make a meaningful difference. Decades of field observations and peer reviewed research both document the effectiveness of strategic landscape fuel treatments and support the pressing need to do more. The cost of necessary treatments is a fraction of the wildfire damage such treatments can prevent. Today’s wildfires in overstocked forests burn so hot and on such vast acreages that reforestation becomes difficult or next to impossible in some areas. Soil damage and erosion become extreme. Watersheds which supply vital domestic, industrial, and agricultural water are damaged or destroyed.

4) This summer, America watched with great apprehension as the Caldor Fire approached South Lake Tahoe. In a community briefing, wildfire incident commander Rocky Oplinger described how active management of forestlands assisted firefighters. “When the fire spotted above Meyers, it reached a fuels treatment that helped reduce flame lengths from 150 feet to 15 feet, enabling firefighters to mount a direct attack and protect homes,” The Los Angeles Times quoted him.

5) And in a Sacramento Bee interview in which fire researcher Scott Stephens was asked how much consensus there is among fire scientists that fuels treatments do help, he answered “I’d say at least 99%. I’ll be honest with you, it’s that strong; it’s that strong. There’s at least 99% certainty that treated areas do moderate fire behavior. You will always have the ignition potential, but the fires will be much easier to manage.” I (Steve Ellis) don’t know if it’s 99% or not, but a wildfire commander with decades of experience recently told me this figure would be at least 90%. What is important here is that there is broad agreement among professionals that properly treated landscapes do moderate fire behavior.

6) During my career (Steve Ellis), I have personally witnessed fire dropping from tree crowns to the ground when it hit a thinned forest. So have many NAFSR members. This is an issue where scientist and practitioners agree. More strategic landscape treatments are necessary to help avoid increasingly disastrous wildfires. So, the next time you read or hear someone say that thinning and prescribed fire in the forest does not work, remember that nothing can be further from the truth.

Extreme wildfires are changing Western forests

Extreme wildfires are changing Western forests

Here are three recent studies that examine the ways in which the connections within ecosystems are altered by more powerful wildfires – The titles pretty much tell it all:

1) “High-severity wildfire limits available floral pollen quality and bumble bee nutrition compared to mixed-severity burns,” Oecologia, December 2019
“In areas with more severe burns, pollen had almost 28% less nitrogen than in areas with mixed-severity burns. That pattern was mirrored in the bumblebees themselves: Those from more severely burned areas had less nitrogen in their system. Nitrogen is an indicator of the amount of protein in pollen — a crucial piece of the insects’ nutrition — and bees that consume more protein are larger and more resistant to parasites and disease.”

2) “High-severity wildfire leads to multi-decadal impacts on soil biogeochemistry in mixed-conifer forests,” Ecological Applications, January 2020
“They found that, even four decades after the blaze, the amount of organic carbon was lower in soils affected by wildfire. Organic carbon promotes plant growth and is critical for soil health: It allows the soil to act like a sponge and hold more water and nutrients, and it binds fragments of the soil together, thereby reducing erosion.”

3) “Fuel treatment effectiveness in the context of landform, vegetation, and large, wind-driving wildfires,” Ecological Applications, February 2020
“In areas that received treatment, more mature ponderosa pines survived the fire. That may not seem surprising, but the researchers hadn’t expected the strategy to be so effective during such an extreme and long-lasting fire, said Susan Prichard, a fire ecologist at the University of Washington and lead author on the study.
As huge wildfires like the Carlton Complex become more common, preparatory land management will be even more crucial. Actions like tree thinning and prescribed burns help preserve fire-resistant trees that can spread seeds for future vegetation growth after a blaze. “I really hope that our study comes off as an optimistic view of what we can expect in the future if we are proactive,” Prichard said. “

Forest Management: “For a Warming World, A New Strategy for Protecting Watersheds”

This article was prepared by Yale Environment 360. Although its focus is primarily on protecting watersheds, most of the well validated scientific principles that Sound Forest Management is based on are clearly demonstrated in a way that easily shows the value of human intervention in our federal forests for other site/situational specific prescribed purposes as well. Here are some highlights which have been the subject of many previous posts on this site.

  1. water managers are learning that careful management and restoration of watershed ecosystems, including thinning trees and conducting prescribed burns, are important tools in coping with a hotter, drier climate.
  2. New Mexico’s forests … areas that supported 40 trees per acre in the pre-European era now were blanketed with up to a hundred times as many. This profusion of trees — as many as one per square yard — weakened all of them, and rendered them defenseless against megafires.
  3. the Las Conchas Fire … consumed nearly an acre of forest per second … and left behind nearly 100 square miles so severely burned that even seeds to regenerate the forest were destroyed …
    two months later, when a thunderstorm in the Jemez Mountains washed tons of ash and debris into the Rio Grande River, the water source for half of New Mexico’s population and for a major agricultural area. Only an inch of rain fell, but the debris flows the storm generated turned the river black and dumped ash, sediment, and tree and shrub remnants into a major reservoir, requiring a costly cleanup … a heavy rainstorm two years later generated enough sediment to entirely plug the Rio Grande
  4. In the last two decades, megafires in similarly dry and overgrown watersheds have ended up contaminating downstream water supplies in numerous areas throughout the western United States, including Phoenix; Denver; Flagstaff, Arizona; and Fort Collins, Colorado. Downstream water managers serving millions of urban residents have learned that the security of their water supplies is tied to the health of upland watersheds that may be hundreds of miles away.
  5. In the Western U.S., watershed restoration chiefly consists of two steps: thinning of trees and shrubs, and prescribed burns. In the Eastern U.S., it involves a bigger set of tools, including planting native trees, reducing the area of impervious surfaces, and slowing the speed of stormwater so that more water percolates into soil and aquifers. All these measures are designed to improve water quality.
  6. numerous pilot projects have shown the efficacy of restoration, agencies rarely have enough money to treat entire watersheds
  7. after the Las Conchas fire, residents in the Rio Grande watershed … in 2014 they launched a public-private partnership, the Rio Grande Water Fund, whose 73 contributing members include government agencies at all levels, foundations and other NGOs, local water utilities, and local businesses and residents. Together they raised enough money for a 20-year program to restore 600,000 forest acres — enough to support the resilience of the entire central and northern New Mexico portion of the Rio Grande watershed. They have already restored 108,000 acres, and are racing to complete the job before another megafire occurs.
  8. The Rio Grande Water Fund’s public-private partnership model has become official federal policy. Last August, the U.S. Forest Service published a landmark report called “Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes” that outlined the agency’s intention to convene watershed stakeholders of all kinds to plan and fund watershed restoration. “Because fire crosses back and forth across land ownership boundaries, the risk is shared,” the report said. “Accordingly, land managers cannot achieve the fire-related outcomes people want… without shared stewardship of the wildland fire environment.”
  • The benefits of watershed restoration extend far beyond water security. Most obviously, healthy forests deter megafires. Laura McCarthy, the Rio Grande Water Fund’s executive director, says that in three instances since restoration work began in New Mexico, wildfires that ran up against restored zones immediately died down. Healthy forests can tolerate low-intensity fires: they possess diverse understories of grasses, sedges, and forbs and rich, microbe-laden soil, all of which supports wildlife, from insects to mammals. Watershed restoration can double the amount of carbon stored in the soil, which means that it’s a vital tool in fighting climate change. And watershed restoration creates jobs: In the case of the Rio Grande Water Fund, many of those jobs go to youths in traditional Hispanic and Native American communities where unemployment rates are 30 percent or higher.
  • In some regions, forest restoration even increases water supplies. Roger Bales, a hydrologist at the University of California, Merced, has shown that because watershed restoration requires the removal of vast numbers of young trees, loss of water into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration in those trees is eliminated. The water instead flows downward, into the soil, often on its way to the watershed’s rivers and reservoirs. Bales’ experiments in California’s Sierra Nevada show that restoration can increase water supplies in downstream reservoirs by 9 to 16 percent. That makes restoration a more cost effective (and vastly less destructive) water supply method in California than building dams. Restoration is also cheaper than fighting the megafires that are otherwise inevitable in the overgrown forests: last year’s Camp Fire in northern California alone caused $11 billion to $13 billion in damage.
  • unless it is followed by prescribed burns, undesirable trees and shrubs grow back. In that case, said Don Falk, a leading fire researcher at the University of Arizona, “You’re either committed to a perpetual Sisyphean cycle of thinning” every 10 or 15 years “or you’ve got to let fire back into the system.” Fire is an integral part of the functioning of many ecosystems: Blazes of less-than-megafire scale germinate seeds, keep native species in balance while warding off invasive species, and stimulate microbial activity that produces soil nutrients.

More Details On The Need To Reduce Wildfire Acreage

An article titled “How Wildfires Are Polluting Rivers and Threatening Water Supplies” Published at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies makes the following points:

1) “As hotter and dryer conditions spawn an increasing number of wildfires in North America and around the world, one of the overlooked impacts of these worsening conflagrations is on aquatic environments and drinking water supplies. Just as wildfires can have a regenerative effect on woodlands, so, too, can fires provide some benefits to streams and rivers in burned areas. But scientists are warning that intense and repeated fires can damage the ecology of waterways by exposing them to the sun’s heat, exacerbating flooding and erosion along denuded hillsides, and releasing toxins such as mercury that are often liberated from soil and tree trunks.”

2) “Water treatment plants in those places were overwhelmed by sedimentation, dissolved organic carbon, and chemicals that were released by fire.”

3) ““Forests yield 40 percent of the water for the world’s 100 largest cities,” she says. “Many of these cities are already water-stressed because of drought, climate change, and increasing water consumption.”

4) “the Hayman Fire, which burned 138,000 acres across four counties in 2002, forcing the closure of some federal and state parks at the height of the tourist season. The intense fires removed many of the trees from parts of the mountain landscape. In the hot drought conditions that followed, the soils in those denuded landscapes baked. Some spring-fed streams stopped flowing. Chemical compounds that were vaporized by the fire got driven into the soil. As they condensed, they formed an impervious layer just below the surface.
Without trees, vegetation, and a stable soil structure to absorb the heavy rains that followed, tons of ash, debris, heavy metals, and nutrients were flushed through the watershed. This resulted in the precipitous decline of the blue-ribbon South Platte River trout fishery. Worst of all was that the affected watershed provides drinking water to 75 percent of the state’s residents. Hundreds of tons of sediment filled lakes and reservoirs. Intakes became clogged. Water quality suffered not just for a few days, but for several years.”

5) “Canberra suffered terribly in 2003 when fires blackened the landscape along the Cotter watershed, which provides 96 percent of the water for the 350,000 people who live in Canberra and nearby Queanbeyan. Heavy rains that followed caused massive erosion and flooding. More than 2,800 tons of sediment and an array of metals such as iron and manganese were dumped into the watershed. The quality of water was so poor that the city of Canberra was forced to build a new water treatment plant.

6) “In the Alberta tar sands town of Fort McMurray, … The biggest issue, according to Emelko, is the dissolved organic carbon that is released by wildfires. When mixed with the chlorine that is used to treat water, it can produce carcinogens that most treatment plant technicians don’t have the expertise to manage. To deal with the challenges, Fort McMurray is now spending more than twice as much on chemicals as it did before the fire burned along the Athabasca River.”

7) “Wildfires are not always bad for watersheds, … Fish, however, are vulnerable to the chemicals that are often liberated by fire. Scientist Erin Kelly discovered this in the summer of 2000 when a wildfire in Jasper National Park coincided with a study she was conducting on mercury concentrations in alpine lakes. Following the fire, the doubling of the lake’s nitrogen concentration and a quadrupling of the phosphorus concentration was not a big surprise. What was not expected was a five-fold increase of mercury in fish.”

8) “invertebrates feasted on the nutrients and mercury that the fire introduced. Rainbow trout and lake herring capitalized on that bounty of invertebrates, and passed on the mercury to lake trout that prey on them. At the top of this food chain, the concentrations were high enough for government officials to issue a health warning for fish consumption by humans.”

9) “John Moody says there are two things to watch for in the future: the intensity and frequency of forest fires, and the extreme precipitation – those that unleash a lot of rain in 30 minutes – that follow a fire weeks and months after it is extinguished, when soils may not be able to absorb as much moisture as they normally do. Those are the events that can cause severe flooding, extreme sedimentation, and the liberation of undesirable chemicals.”

Validated Science versus Unproven Scientific Hypothesis – Which One Should We Choose?

In a 6/13/18 article, David Atkins provides a critique of the assumptions behind the Law et al article titled: “Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests” and shows how hypothetical science can and has been used, without any caveat, to provide some groups with slogans that meet their messaging needs instead of waiting for validation of the hypothesis and thereby considering the holistic needs of the world.

I) BACKGROUND

The noble goal of Law et. al. is to determine the “effectiveness of forest strategies to mitigate climate change”. They state that their methodology “should integrate observations and mechanistic ecosystem process models with future climate, CO2, disturbances from fire, and management.”

A) The generally (ignoring any debate over the size of the percentage increase) UNCONTESTED points regarding locking up more carbon in the Law et. al. article are as follows:
1) Reforestation on appropriate sites – ‘Potential 5% improvement in carbon storage by 2100’
2) Afforestation on appropriate sites – ‘Potential 1.4% improvement in carbon storage by 2100′

B) The CONTESTED points regarding locking up 17% more carbon by 2100 in the Law et. al. article are as follows:
1) Lengthened harvest cycles on private lands
2) Restricting harvest on public lands

C) Atkins, at the 2018 International Mass Timber Conference protested by Oregon Wild, notes that: “Oregon Wild (OW) is advocating that storing more carbon in forests is better than using wood in buildings as a strategy to mitigate climate change.” OW’s first reference from Law et. al. states: “Increasing forest carbon on public lands reduced emissions compared with storage in wood products” (see Law et. al. abstract). Another reference quoted by OW from Law et. al. goes so far as to claim that: “Recent analysis suggests substitution benefits of using wood versus more fossil fuel-intensive materials have been overestimated by at least an order of magnitude.”

II) Law et. al. CAVEATS ignored by OW

A) They clearly acknowledge that their conclusions are based on computer simulations (modeling various scenarios using a specific set of assumptions subject to debate by other scientists).

B) In some instances, they use words like “probably”, “likely” and “appears” when describing some assumptions and outcomes rather than blindly declaring certainty.

III) Atkins’ CRITIQUE

Knowing that the modeling used in the Law et. al. study involves significant assumptions about each of the extremely complex components and their interactions, Atkins proceeds to investigate the assumptions which were used to integrate said models with the limited variables mentioned and shows how they overestimate the carbon cost of using wood, underestimate the carbon cost of storing carbon on the stump and underestimate the carbon cost of substituting non-renewable resources for wood. This allows Oregon Wild to tout unproven statements as quoted in item “I-C” above and treat them as fact and justification for policy changes instead of as an interesting but unproven hypothesis that needs to be validated in order to complete the scientific process.

Quotes from Atkins Critique:

A) Wood Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Versus Non-renewable substitutes.
1) “The calculation used to justify doubling forest rotations assumes no leakage. Leakage is a carbon accounting term referring to the potential that if you delay cutting trees in one area, others might be cut somewhere else to replace the gap in wood production, reducing the supposed carbon benefit.”
2) “It assumes a 50-year half-life for buildings instead of the minimum 75 years the ASTM standard calls for, which reduces the researchers’ estimate of the carbon stored in buildings.”
3) “It assumes a decline of substitution benefits, which other LCA scientists consider as permanent.”
4) “analysis chooses to account for a form of fossil fuel leakage, but chooses not to model any wood harvest leakage.”
5) “A report published by the Athena Institute in 2004, looked at actual building demolition over a three-plus-year period in St. Paul, Minn. It indicated 51 percent of the buildings were older than 75 years. Only 2 percent were demolished in the first 25 years and only 12 percent in the first 50 years.”
6) “The Law paper assumes that the life of buildings will get shorter in the future rather than longer. In reality, architects and engineers are advocating the principle of designing and building for longer time spans – with eventual deconstruction and reuse of materials rather than disposal. Mass timber buildings substantially enhance this capacity. There are Chinese Pagoda temples made from wood that are 800 to 1,300 years old. Norwegian churches are over 800 years old. I visited at cathedral in Scotland with a roof truss system from the 1400s. Buildings made of wood can last for many centuries. If we follow the principle of designing and building for the long run, the carbon can be stored for hundreds of years.”
7) “The OSU scientists assumed wood energy production is for electricity production only. However, the most common energy systems in the wood products manufacturing sector are combined heat and power (CHP) or straight heat energy production (drying lumber or heat for processing energy) where the efficiency is often two to three times as great and thus provides much larger fossil fuel offsets than the modeling allows.”
8) “The peer reviewers did not include an LCA expert.”
9) The Dean of the OSU College of Forestry was asked how he reconciles the differences between two Doctorate faculty members when the LCA Specialist (who is also the director of CORRIM which is a non-profit that conducts and manages research on the environmental impacts of production, use, and disposal of forest products). The Dean’s answer was “It isn’t the role of the dean to resolve these differences, … Researchers often explore extremes of a subject on purpose, to help define the edges of our understanding … It is important to look at the whole array of research results around a subject rather than using those of a single study or publication as a conclusion to a field of study.”
10) Alan Organschi, a practicing architect, a professor at Yale stated his thought process as “There is a huge net carbon benefit [from using wood] and enormous variability in the specific calculations of substitution benefits … a ton of wood (which is half carbon) goes a lot farther than a ton of concrete, which releases significant amounts of carbon during a building’s construction”. He then paraphrased a NASA climate scientistfrom the late 1980’s who said ‘Quit using high fossil fuel materials and start using materials that sink carbon, that should be the principle for our decisions.’
11) The European Union, in 2017, based on “current literature”, called “for changes to almost double the mitigation effects by EU forests through Climate Smart Forestry (CSF). … It is derived from a more holistic and effective approach than one based solely on the goals of storing carbon in forest ecosystems”
12) Various CORRIM members stated:
a) “Law et al. does not meet the minimum elements of a Life Cycle Assessment: system boundary, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation. All four are required by the international standards (ISO 14040 and 14044); therefore, Law et al. does not qualify as an LCA.”
b) “What little is shared in the article regarding inputs to the simulation model ignores the latest developments in wood life cycle assessment and sustainable building design, rendering the results at best inaccurate and most likely incorrect.
c) “The PNAS paper, which asserts that growing our PNW forests indefinitely would reduce the global carbon footprint, ignores that at best there would 100 percent leakage to other areas with lower productivity … which will result in 2 to 3.5 times more acres harvested for the same amount of building materials. Alternatively, all those buildings will be built from materials with a higher carbon footprint, so the substitution impact of using fossil-intensive products in place of renewable low carbon would result in >100 percent leakage.”
d) More on leakage: “In 2001, seven years after implementation, Jack Ward Thomas, one of the architects of the plan and former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said: “The drop in the cut in the Pacific Northwest was essentially replaced by imports from Canada, Scandinavia and Chile … but we haven’t reduced our per-capita consumption of wood. We have only shifted the source.”
e) “Bruce Lippke, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and former executive director of CORRIM said, “The substitution benefits of wood in place of steel or concrete are immediate, permanent and cumulative.””

B) Risks Resulting from High Densities of Standing Timber
1) “The paper underestimates the amount of wildfire in the past and chose not to model increases in the amount of fire in the future driven by climate change.”
2) “The authors chose to treat the largest fire in their 25-year calibration period, the Biscuit Fire (2003), as an anomaly. Yet 2017 provided a similar number of acres burned. … the model also significantly underestimated five of the six other larger fire years ”
3) “The paper also assumed no increase in fires in the future
4) Atkins comments/quotes support what some of us here on the NCFP blog have been saying for years regarding storing more timber on the stump. There is certainty that a highly significant increase in carbon loss to fire, insects and disease will result from increased stand densities as a result of storing more carbon on the stump on federal lands. Well documented, validated and fundamental plant physiology and fire science can only lead us to that conclusion. Increases in drought caused by global warming will only increase the stress on already stressed, overly dense forests and thereby further decrease their viability/health by decreasing the availability of already limited resources such as access to minerals, moisture and sunlight while providing closer proximity between trees to ease the ability and rate of spread of fire, insects and disease between adjacent trees.

Footnote:
In their conclusion, Law et. al. state that“GHG reduction must happen quickly to avoid surpassing a 2°C increase in temperature since preindustrial times.” This emphasis leads them to focus on strategies which, IMHO, will only exacerbate the long-term problem.
→ For perspective, consider the “Failed Prognostications of Climate Alarm

Forestry prof says enviro’s corridor lawsuit has holes

We should start a list of enviro’s willing to use falsehoods to obstruct sound/healthy, sustainable forest ecosystems – here are two strong candidates:

Enviros (Oregon Wild and the Greater Hells Canyon Council) indirectly claim supernatural powers by being able to discern the false motives of others and decide what research is good and what is bad in spite of their lack of any impartiality, broad understanding of established forest science or background sufficient to discern relative value of evolving research.

Dr. James Johnston has been quoted in the Wallowa County Chieftain as outing certain falsehoods perpetrated by these two groups. Selected facts per the Chieftain and quotes from Dr. Johnston are as follows (my comments are in italics and parentheses):

A) Per the Chieftain:

1) “The corridor project is a U.S. Forest Service plan to use both hand and mechanical treatments to ostensibly mitigate wildfire in the area west of Lostine, while the two activist groups claim it is a thinly-veiled excuse to commercially log the corridor.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim to be able to discern False Motives of others)

B) Per Dr. Johnston after reading the FAQs published by the two enviro groups:

1) “One-hundred percent of the project is explicitly designed to address safety issues. Oregon Wild may believe that only 10 percent of the project is appropriate to address safety issues, but that’s just their opinion. … the U.S. Forest Service has considerable expertise in managing fire and risks to human health and property while stating that Oregon Wild is not drawing on any particular fire management expertise. Johnston also said he was not aware of any expert in fire and fuel management that endorses their claim that only 10 percent of the project addresses safety issues.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that their opinion is fact without supplying objectively determined evidence.)

2) “The professor also questioned FAQ statements that the project will prioritize commercially logging some of the largest most fire-resistant trees out of the forests over stands of smaller trees that could benefit from thinning, or that scientific evidence indicates that logging in that type of forest will not decrease the severity of fire but would likely increase fire severity risk in the forest. … 100 percent of the proposed logging targets small fire- intolerant forest structure, and a huge body of scientific evidence demonstrates that removing those trees can reduce fire severity and make wildfires more manageable and less of a threat.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that faux science is good and established science is bad. Again, where is there evidence?)

3) ““Oregon Wild badly misrepresents the science,” Johnston said. “The one paper that they cite clearly states that fuel reduction thinning such as that planned for the Lostine River Corridor is appropriate in cases of unnaturally high fuel loading. This is precisely the case in the Lostine River Corridor.””
(i.e. Enviro’s cite references that don’t support their case. How could that occur unless it was a deliberate attempt to deceive or an example of their ignorance on the subject?)

4) “Dr. Johnston also noted that the Forest Service has documented that the corridor currently contains far more trees than were present before fire was excluded from the area at the end of the 19th century.

“There are very high fuel loadings that pose a significant risk to old-growth forest structure,” Johnston said. “Much of the old-growth larch in the corridor has died or is dying as result of competition-induced stress. Oregon Wild presents zero evidence that thinning will increase fire severity. All of the available evidence suggests that thinning and prescribed fire will reduce fire severity and protect old growth.””
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that their opinion is fact without supplying objectively determined evidence.)
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that faux science is good and established science is bad. Again, where is there evidence?)

5) “Another statement in the FAQ gave Johnston pause: “Not only will this project not stop a fire, the proposed industrial logging prioritizes many of the most mature fire-resistant stands in the canyon over those that might benefit from thinning.”

“The Forest Service is only planning to treat 450 acres within the corridor, which is a tiny percentage of the total land area and a tiny percentage of the total area that probably should be treated to reduce risk of uncharacteristic insect, disease and fire effects,” he said. Johnston added that all 450 acres of thinning is targeting the most overgrown stands.”
(Again, enviro’s are unabashedly publishing outright falsehoods and making mountains out of molehills to mislead the public; spend taxpayer dollars on insignificant issues; and delay the implementation of sound, sustainable forest management where appropriate to reduce the risk of loss of existing federal forests prized by all Americans. And for what? Maybe, if we are lucky, another forest that will look like a huge clearcut in the beginning and possibly produce an inferior forest because of all of the erosion of valuable topsoil and dead/destroyed root systems resulting from the baked soils. Yet, they will protest any suitable use of clearcuts even if the only impact is a deterioration of the viewshed for a limited time period. Or maybe, the denuded land will become another grassland or maybe even another Grand Canyon. They have outed themselves. Once they had clear but mistaken goals to “preserve specific old growth forest ecosysytems/types” without any plan for regeneration to replace those dying stands/ecosystems. Now their double talk and lies have turned 180 degrees and have contradicted all of their past claims and revealed that they don’t really care about protecting existing forests. In fact they don’t care what happens to the land. The only thing that they seem to care about is being important, maintaining their power base (fiefdom), and raising funds to keep certain enviros employed.)

Idaho Collaboration: “Lawsuits and appeals are no longer what hold up timber projects. The problem instead is money”

A) A few excerpts from an 12/27/17 article describing a situation where local collaboration has, to date, prevailed over legal suits to stop the Pioneer Fire Salvage Plan. The battle isn’t over but the prospects look good.

1) “Loggers are racing wood-boring insects and decay to salvage as much timber as they can from the 190,000 acres that burned across the Boise National Forest in last year’s Pioneer Fire, before the wood loses its worth.

The U.S. Forest Service planned to harvest 70 million board feet of timber from about 7 percent of the area burned in the massive wildfire. But insects, fungi and rot have deteriorated the standing trees so much that it will be lucky if it can get 50 million to 60 million board feet”

2) “Under the banner of the Boise Forest Coalition, these groups helped the Forest Service write a restoration plan that will use the proceeds from the salvage logging to pay for a variety of projects. On the list are efforts to protect and restore water quality in the South Fork Payette River and area streams; limit erosion; and reopen trails, roads and campgrounds.

This approach put loggers and conservation groups like the Idaho Conservation League on the same side as they helped the cash-strapped agency write up a plan that would meet environmental laws. So when other environmental groups like Wildlands Defense, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystems Council sued to halt the project, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill allowed the logging to continue, noting in November the coalition’s approval of the project.

“We all want to see a healthy forest and clean water and appreciate that the court agreed that the project should move forward,” said Alan Ward, chairman of the Boise County Commission and a member of the coalition.”

3) “Statewide, four timber projects endorsed by collaborative groups over the past two years have later been challenged in court, and all four held up. Fuels treatment in Idaho rose from 53,000 acres in 2016 to 79,000 acres in 2017.

Part of the reason for success has been the use of “Good Neighbor” authority by the state of Idaho. Using a state fund, state foresters prepare timber sales after the Forest Service completes environmental reviews. This has increased how many projects can be offered even as federal staffs become smaller.”

B) A few excerpts from the background story from May 6, 2017

1) “Even before fall snow put the fire out last year, Peterson and John Kidd, his counterpart in the Lowman District, were overseeing rehabilitation projects to prevent landslides, mud flows and severe erosion. Such events can take out the roads that are major recreation arteries into the places Treasure Valley residents go to camp, collect mushrooms, hike, hunt, fish or ride off-road vehicles.”

2) ““It also gives us the ability to have some funding for the reforestation and other things, like culvert replacement,” said Kidd. “If we didn’t do this salvage right away, we would probably be dealing with this for the next 20 years. (Restoration) takes manpower and that takes funding, which we might not have down the road.””

3) “Many of the trees to be harvested are near roads and trails and are considered a hazard to the traveling and recreating public. If not cut now, those hazards might last 10 years.

Morris Huffman, a forest consultant who served on the Boise Forest Coalition, said uncut burned trees could fall and close corridors like Clear Creek Road for years. Clear Creek provides access to Bear Valley Creek, one of the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River popular with campers, hunters and anglers.”

4) “In addition to logging and tree planting, the projects include decommissioning and removing unneeded roads; thinning overgrown forests; trail work; spraying to control noxious weeds; road maintenance; and water quality-improvement projects such as culverts and water bars.

5) “Not everyone is eager to see such aggressive action following the fire. There is ecological value in leaving the forest alone after a burn. The Northwest forest ecosystem evolved in fire, and bird species like black-backed woodpeckers, for example, rely heavily on snag trees left standing after a burn.

Jeff Juel, an environmental consultant from Missoula, Mont., who works for environmental groups that oppose salvage sales, argues that the less done after a fire, the more resilient the area is to future disturbances. He opposes the agency’s emergency declarations justified by the need to sell timber to help the local mill and workers. He wants a full environmental review instead of the shortened one the Forest Service is doing.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, government relations director for the Idaho Conservation League, agrees with Juel on the overall benefits of allowing natural renewal following a fire. But he’s a member of the Boise Forest Coalition and worked closely with partners like Roberts and the Forest Service to “make sure that those high-quality and sensitive resources are protected.””

In Search of Common Ground II – It Takes Two: Forest Management and Social Management

Here are two current articles that get some things wrong but if we ignore those items and focus on the big picture that they present rather than on the details, I believe that we will find that we have more in common than we thought.

Between the two articles we see the full picture for PRIORITIZED actions to begin the long battle ahead to recover from national ashtrays, lost lives, lost homes and infrastructure, significantly decreased health of both humans and forests. It is a two pronged battle that includes both sound forest management and social management.

A) Using Forests to Fight Climate Change – California takes a small step in the right direction.

“The state’s proposed Forest Carbon Plan aims to double efforts to thin out young trees and clear brush in parts of the forest, including by controlled burning. This temporarily lowers carbon-carrying capacity. But the remaining trees draw a greater share of the available moisture, so they grow and thrive, restoring the forest’s capacity to pull carbon from the air. Healthy trees are also better able to fend off bark beetles. The landscape is rendered less combustible. Even in the event of a fire, fewer trees are consumed.

The need for such planning is increasingly urgent. Already, since 2010, drought and beetles have killed more than 100 million trees in California, most of them in 2016 alone, and wildfires have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres.

California’s plan envisions treating 35,000 acres of forest a year by 2020, and 60,000 by 2030 — financed from the proceeds of the state’s emissions-permit auctions. That’s only a small share of the total acreage that could benefit, an estimated half a million acres in all, so it will be important to prioritize areas at greatest risk of fire or drought.

The strategy also aims to ensure that carbon in woody material removed from the forests is locked away in the form of solid lumber, burned as biofuel in vehicles that would otherwise run on fossil fuels, or used in compost or animal feed.”

B) Why are California’s homes burning? It isn’t natural disaster it’s bad planning

This Op-ed by Richard Halsey (director of the California Chaparral Institute who sometimes posts on NCFP) is well written and, though I would disagree on some statements in his post, I present those that I do agree on in an attempt to show that there are specific components that are middle ground that we all should be able to agree on and focus on rather than focusing on what won’t work. Once we change our emphasis, hostility between opposing sides should decrease and progress should increase.

“Large, high-intensity wildfires are an inevitable and natural part of life in California. The destruction of our communities is not. But many of the political leaders we elect and planning agencies we depend upon to create safe communities have failed us. They have allowed developers to build in harm’s way, and left firefighters holding the bag. ”

“others blame firefighters for creating dense stands of chaparral in fire suppression efforts—when that’s the only way chaparral naturally grows, dense and impenetrable.”

“”we need to recognize that fire disasters aren’t natural, they’re social. And they require social solutions.”” (quote from University of Colorado geographer Gregory Simon)
–> Pay attention to the statement “fire disasters aren’t natural, they’re social”. My first reaction was “not true” but in the context of the Op Ed, I think that the author is making an appropriate distinction between the words “Catastrophic” and “Disaster” by reserving “Disaster” for those situations where the catastrophe falls mainly on humans.

“We also need to examine the best practices of other fire-prone regions. Communities in Australia often install external, under-eave/rooftop sprinklers, which have proven quite effective in protecting structures during wildfires. (Australians understand that wet homes do not ignite.) Such systems should be standard in all new developments in high fire hazard zones. It is likely they would have protected many of the homes consumed in Ventura’s Thomas fire this week.”

“As we do with earthquakes and floods, our goal should be to reduce the damage when wildfires arrive, not pretend we can prevent them from happening at all. That mindset starts at the planning department, not the fire station.”

C) Relevant Prior Posts with included references:

1) Finding Common Ground
IN SEARCH OF COMMON GROUND
Frustration: Will It Lead to Change?

2) Wildfire
Fuels management can be a big help in dealing with wildfires
Air Pollution from Wildfires compared to that from Prescribed burns
Inside the Firestorm
The Impact of Sound Forest Management Practices on Wildfire Smoke and Human Health
Humans sparked 84 percent of US wildfires, increased fire season over two decades
More on Wildfire and Sound Forest Management
Scientific Basis for Changing Forest Structure to Modify Wildfire Behavior and Severity
Articles of Interest on Fire
The Role of Sound Forest Management in Reducing Wildfire Risk
15 Minute TED Talk: “Forest Service ecologist proposes ways to help curb rising ‘Era of Megafires’”

15 Minute TED Talk: “Forest Service ecologist proposes ways to help curb rising ‘Era of Megafires’”

“Dr. Paul Hessburg, a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service, has traveled across the West to share the result of 30 years of research into wildfires and what might be done to prevent them.”
–> My thought: Err! Reduce them – preventing any from occurring is impossible. Other opportunities for disagreement but well worth watching none the less.

Good video presentation of how we got here and the need for changes to be “made in how national forests are managed and the how the public views certain preventative measures”

The 15 minute TEDx Talk video is about half way down in this link