Possible Salvage Strategy for Dixie and Caldor Fires

Since a battle for salvage projects is brewing, I think the Forest Service and the timber industry should consider my idea to get the work done, as soon as possible, under the rules, laws and policies, currently in force. It would be a good thing to ‘preempt’ the expected litigation before it goes to Appeals Court.


The Forest Service should quickly get their plans together, making sure that the project will survive the lower court battles. It is likely that such plans that were upheld by lower courts, in the past, would survive the inevitable lower court battles. Once the lower court allows the project(s), the timber industry should get all the fallers they can find, and get every snag designated for harvest on the ground. Don’t worry too much about skidding until the felling gets done. That way, when the case is appealed, most of Chad Hanson’s issues would now be rendered ‘moot’. It sure seems like the Hanson folks’ entire case is dependent on having standing snags. If this idea is successful, I’m sure that Hanson will try to block the skidding and transport of logs to the mill. The Appeals Court would have to decide if skidding operations and log hauling are harmful to spotted owls and black-backed woodpeckers.


It seems worth a try, to thin out snags over HUGE areas, while minimizing the legal wranglings.

Forest Management Direction for Large Diameter Trees in Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington

One of the many things that went into the Trump dump the last couple of weeks was the amendment of the Forest Service Eastside Screens old growth protection standard:  “Forest Management Direction for Large Diameter Trees in Eastern Oregon and Southeastern Washington.”    We discussed that at length here.  The Forest Service documentation for the amendment is here. The standard prohibiting harvest of trees >21” dbh has been replaced by this guideline (“LOS” is late and old structure, and it refers to “multi-stratum with large trees” and “single-stratum with large trees”):

Outside of LOS, many types of timber sale activities are allowed. The intent is still to maintain and/or enhance a diverse array of LOS conditions in stands subject to timber harvest as much as possible, by adhering to the following plan components: Managers should retain and generally emphasize recruitment of old trees and large trees, including clumps of old trees. Management activities should first prioritize old trees for retention and recruitment. If there are not enough old trees to develop LOS conditions, large trees should be retained, favoring fire tolerant species where appropriate. Old trees are defined as having external morphological characteristics that suggest an age ≥ 150 years. Large trees are defined as grand fir or white fir ≥ 30 inches dbh or trees of any other species ≥ 21 inches dbh. Old and large trees will be identified through best available science. Management activities should consider appropriate species composition for biophysical environment, topographical position, stand density, historical diameter distributions, and Adapting the Wildlife Standard of the Eastside Screens 5 spatial arrangements within stands and across the landscape in order to develop stands that are resistant and resilient to disturbance.

The proper way to read a guideline is that its purpose is a standard: “Managers must maintain and/or enhance a diverse array of LOS conditions in stands subject to timber harvest as much as possible.”  It’s not clear to me how you maintain LOS “outside of LOS,” so maybe only “enhance” is applicable, but even that term assumes what you are enhancing is already there to a degree.  This is also weakened by the qualifier “as much as possible.”  This could be interpreted to allow timber harvest even if enhancing LOS conditions is not possible.

The rest of the boldface language should be interpreted as actions that would always be allowed because they would always promote the LOS purpose.  This means that a decision to NOT retain all old and large trees could only be made if it is demonstrated that LOS is enhanced.  “Generally emphasize” allows probably unlimited discretion regarding recruitment.  A decision to NOT prioritize old trees (i.e. to log any old tree before logging large trees) could also only be made if it is demonstrated that LOS is enhanced.  This could be reasonably effective, but it puts a significant burden on project analysis and documentation to deviate from the terms of the guideline.  This is as it should be.  The last part of the guideline lists things that “should be considered,” which shouldn’t be given much weight.

There are also changes in standards and guidelines for snags, green tree replacement and down logs.

The last part of the “decision” is to adopt an “Adaptive Management Strategy.”  This strategy proposes monitoring and thresholds intended to trigger additional restrictions on large tree removal:

  1. If large trees are not increasing in number with appropriate composition, the Regional Forester will impose the Age Standard Alternative across the whole analysis area or by national forest or potential vegetation zone.

  2. If effectiveness monitoring does not occur, the Regional Forester will impose the Age Standard Alternative across all six national forests.

However, under the Planning Rule, these are not plan components and are not mandatory.  While there are “requirements” for regional forester review every five years, this is not a plan component either.  Since none of this “strategy” is enforceable it is of much less benefit than if it had been included as plan components like standards.

(For those interested in how the “natural range of variation” (NRV) is used in forest planning, there is a desired condition for the amounts of LOS in different habitat groups and it is based on NRV.  These new amendments leave in place the desired conditions for LOS previously determined in accordance with the original amendments in 1995.   An appendix in the decision notice includes a “Table 3” that is “only an example” of NRV because, “The number and kind of biophysical environments and the historic and current distribution of structural conditions vary by landscape.”  In order to fully understand the effects of this amendment on a particular landscape, we would need to see the definitions of LOS and actual desired conditions for LOS incorporated into a plan for that landscape.  I didn’t find them in or see them referred to in the amendment documentation, I suppose because they are not changing).


North Versus Hanson

Experts Frustrated by Stalled Efforts to Counter Megafires

“Use every damn tool you’ve got,” he said. “If we could have beavers on crack out there I’d be donating to that process — anything that will speed up the pace and scale of this thing.”

Dr. Malcolm North

Hundreds of Giant Sequoias Considered Dead From Wildfires

It appears that rumors of ‘natural and beneficial’ wildfires in the southern Sierra Nevada have been ‘greatly exaggerated’. Even the Alder Creek grove, which was recently bought by Save the Redwoods, was decimated. Of course, this eventuality has been long-predicted.


2016 election consequences for Colorado federal lands

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management over the last several years have been developing long-term Resource Management Plans for more than 3 million acres of BLM lands in Eastern Colorado and the Uncompahgre Plateau and in the Rio Grande National Forest.  According to this article, the state and local communities are not happy.

The Trump-driven shift toward more oil and gas development on public lands worries Colorado politicians and conservation groups that are steering the state toward increased protections. Agencies within the same department seem in conflict. Long-studied plans are changing between between draft and final reports, with proposed protections fading away and opportunities for extraction growing…

“What we are seeing is the full effect — in proposed actions — of the 2016 election at the local level,” Ouray County Commissioner Ben Tisdel said.

The article goes into detail about the effects on the Uncompahgre Field Office’s proposed plan:

County commissioners from Gunnison, Ouray and San Miguel counties have filed protests with the BLM over the Uncompahgre Field Office’s proposed plan. The counties have been involved with the planning for eight years. In 2016, the counties submitted comments on the plan outlining concerns for the Gunnison sage grouse and listing parcels the agency should protect and retain as federal lands.

“Alternative E proposed doing all the things we specifically asked them not to do,” said Tisdel, the Ouray County commissioner, adding that lands his county wanted protected were listed in the 2019 plan for possible disposal by the agency. “We thought we had a pretty good product in 2016 and now we have this new alternative, Alternative E, that goes way beyond anything we had seen before and is awful in ways we never thought of before.”

With regard to the Rio Grande National Forest revised forest plan:

The move from that September 2017 Draft Environmental Impact Statement to the final version released in August has riled conservationists and sportsmen. Goals established for air quality, designated trails, fisheries management, fire management, wildlife connectivity and habitat were scaled back in between the draft and final versions.

Colorado’s governor has weighed in on the BLM plan (in language consistent with the Western Governors Association policies):

The resource management plan’s “failure to adopt commitments consistent with the state plans, policies and agreements hinders Colorado’s ability to meet its own goals and objectives for wildlife in the planning area,” Polis wrote.

The BLM had an interesting response:

“There is room to adjust within the RMP, which has a built-in adaptive management strategy,” he said. “We are ready to respond as the state’s plans are complete.”

So they plan to do whatever the state wants them to do later?  “Room to adjust within the RMP” appears to mean that they don’t have to go through a plan amendment process with the public, which seems unlikely to be legal for the kinds of changes the state appears to want.  (It definitely wouldn’t work for national forest plans.)

The Western Energy Alliance blames the governor for being late to the game:

It doesn’t get a complete do-over just because something new happens, like Gov. Polis issues a new order.”

But it does apparently get a complete do-over because a new federal government administration says so.  There may still be some legal process (e.g. NEPA) questions this raises.

Research: eastern forest old growth more resilient to climate change

“Analyzing large amounts of field data from 18,500 forest plots – from Minnesota to Maine, and Manitoba to Nova Scotia – the study identifies priority regions for forest climate adaption efforts.”

A study funded by the Forest Service found that older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests in terms of the sensitivity of carbon storage, timber volume and species richness.  From the abstract (linked to this news release):

We found the strongest association among the investigated ESB indicators (ecosystem services and biodiversity) in old forests (>170 years). These forests simultaneously support high levels of carbon storage, timber growth, and species richness. Older forests also exhibit low climate sensitivity of associations among ESB indicators as compared to younger forests. While regions with a currently low combined ESB performance benefitted from climate change, regions with a high ESB performance were particularly vulnerable to climate change. In particular, climate sensitivity was highest east and southeast of the Great Lakes, signaling potential priority areas for adaptive management. Our findings suggest that strategies aimed at enhancing the representation of older forest conditions at landscape scales will help sustain ESB in a changing world.

Some of this sounds a little contradictory (maybe someone with more expertise and/or who reads the full article could explain), and I wonder if it has any application at all to more fire-prone forests.  But it is a different way of looking at climate change adaptation that could be incorporated into forest planning.

Sierra Club Comments

I have seen a trend in postings from the Sierra Club, on their Facebook page. Online petitions have been popular with eco-groups but, those petitions really don’t do anything. They seem to be a way of riling up their followers, gathering personal information, and receiving donations. There is also a sizable amount of people commenting who do not side with the Sierra Club.

The particular posting I will be presenting regards the Giant Sequoia National Monument, and how the Trump Administration would affect it. The Sierra Club implies (and their public believes) that Trump would cut down the Giant Sequoia National Monument, without immediate action. With over 500 comments, there are ample examples of what people are thinking.


“So much of the redwoods and Giant Sequoias have already been cut down… the lumber trucks involved had signs which read ” Trees… America’s renewable resource”… and just exactly how to you “renew” a 2 thousand year old tree??? When a job becomes even remotely scarce, one must find a new occupation. Having cut down the redwoods,(RIP Pacific Lumber and the “Redwood Highway”) and when they’ve cut down the national forests (public lands), are “they” going to insist on the right to come onto my land and cut down my trees as well… to provide jobs for the lumber industry? The National forests and Monuments are public lands, and no one has the right to turn them over to private interests for money making purposes. When are they going to see that there is a higher calling here? The forests provide for much of the fresh air we enjoy… they take in the carbon monoxide we exhale, and they exhale the oxygen so necessary to us. They each also take up 300 gallons of water, so provide for erosion control, and I could go on forever with the benefits of trees… but there will still be short sighted detractors who are only able to see the dollar signs in this issue. If providing jobs is the object… bring back our manufacturing jobs from overseas, all you big companies… your bottom line profit will be less, but you will have brought back the jobs to the USA, and you claim that is the object…???? Investing in the big companies in order to get rich does not make the investing noble or honorable when it is condoning taking jobs off-shore to enrich the few. … at the cost of the lost jobs for our people. Love your neighbor..”

I think that statement speaks for itself. Well-meaning but, misinformed.


“Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. Keep loggers out of National Giant Sequoia Forests. Forest rangers and the National Parks already do controlled burning when needed to protect forest ecosystem health. The idea that commerical logging companies can be trusted with that task is preposterous.”

I wonder if he had noticed all those dead trees inside the Monument. Another example of not knowing who is taking care of the Monument.


“No such thing as controlled logging look at the clear cut coast. Once you let them in they will take it all and say Oops. A long time ago Pacific lumber clear cut thousands of acres illegally and Department of forestry did nothing. Things have not changed.”

Yes, things have changed. Logging IS controlled in Sierra Nevada National Forests… for the last 26 years.


“Destroying over 200k acres of sequoias and leaving ONLY 90k acres is NOT “CONTROLLED LOGGING “. OUR planet needs trees to produce oxygen and just how long do you think those jobs will last?”

Someone thinks there is a HUGE chunk of pristine pure Giant Sequoia groves. Thinning forests is not destruction, folks.


“I went to sign this and put my address and what not but then I skipped over my phone number and it won’t let me sign it! Unless you give your phone number it’s not going to San. I will not give out my phone number. Is there another way to sign for this?”

There were many comments like this one.


“They are both classified under same genisus of Sequoia, It’s their enviroment that makes them different. The Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) along N Cal coastline and then the Sequoias trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) found in the Sierra Nevadas mountain regions are the same yet very different trees because of the chactoristics. Both trees share their unique and acceptional height and massive girth size, they share the same red wood tones.”

Someone thinks they are an authority in tree Taxonomy.


“As someone who works in timber, don’t blame it on us! Many foresters care about sustainable forestry. I hate Donald Trump just as much as anyone who cares about the environment”

Well, that is sure saying something, eh?


“The forests are being burned down by all these un-natural wild fires that are created by the powers that be to carry out agenda 21/30. It’s not a secret but most people don’t want to see it & the common mentality is if we don’t see it, or address it, it will go away. Right?”

There’s more and more loonies out there saying this stuff, and blaming “Directed Energy Weapons” for starting all the wildfires.


“There will be no more forest in America, it will be a big cacino and golf courses.”

And there’s other conspiracy theories out there, too!


“The most deushiest thing ever! Poor Trees “

People do believe that Trump would clearcut the Giant Sequoias.


“Oh yes look what tree hungers did to Oregon”

I love a well-mispelled insult!



I wonder what real violent crime victims think of this comparison. Should we let those trees be horribly burned alive, or eaten by insects, resulting in a long and slow starvation death? *smirk*


“Wth…. He truely is satin”

Soooo smoooooth!


“Drop big rocks on their heads. Something like Ewoks from Return of the Jedi all those years ago. Ewoks were “original” monkey wrenchers.”

That’s a lovely solution! Violence will fix everything!


“I think you could stand to be a bit less adversarial in your comments. Oil has nothing to do with this subject and devalues your argument. There is no reason why the land cannot be managed without giving it away to unregulated for-profit companies. That is the right answer.”

Yep, there just might be oil underneath those giant trees. Yep, gotta cut em all down to make sure! Misguided but, kinda, sorta, on the right path.


“The devil could burn it all down there because most of the state is so ungodly. Trump isn’t your problem. Godlessness and son keeps your minds and state in a state of anarchy. Poor people. I will keep praying you will find out that you all need to pray to the living God.”

Yep, because…. ummm, …. God recognizes where California’s boundaries are???!!??


“Try direct energy weapons”

Certainly, the Reptilians and Nibiru are to blame, fer sure, fer sure.


“Because of Monoculture”

Blame the old clearcuts!


“Anyone cutting a tree should be SHOT!!!!”

And another violent solution.


“The lumbar goes to China and else where, not used used in USA, great loose loose thing.the logs get shipped out of country destroys old growth forest well some one will make $$$$$ of it but it won’t be you”

Dumb, dumb!


“Its not about forest management its about trumps business buddies being allowed to buy the land and develop it”

And even another conspiracy theory. People love to say “I wouldn’t put it past him” when promoting such stuff.

This American mindset, on a world stage, is troubling. People proudly display their ignorance and stupidity to fight a non-existent issue. America doesn’t believe the truth anymore, and the Sierra Club, and others, are spreading misinformation through phony petitions.



Sierra Nevada Logging Examples

Back in 2012, I worked my last season with the Forest Service, on the Amador Ranger District of the Eldorado National Forest. In particular, I led the crew in marking the cut trees in this overcrowded unit.

The above picture shows the partially logged unit, as well as the sizes of logs thinned.

This part of the same unit shows a finished portion, and two other log landings.

Here is a link to the larger view.


There are also other completed cutting units in the area, which I worked in. Most of those were also cut in 2018, six years after they were marked. The existing plantations were cut back in the 80’s. At least one new goshawk nest was found, and the cutting unit was dropped.

Slanted News?

I found an LA Times article regarding the Rim Fire, as well as the future of forest management within the Sierra Nevada. Of course, Chad Hanson re-affirms his preference to end all logging, everywhere. There’s a lot of seemingly balanced reporting but, there is no mention of the Sierra Nevada Framework, and its diameter limits. There is also the fact that any change to the SNF will take years to amend. There was also no mention that only about 20,000 Federal acres of the Rim Fire was salvaged, with some of that being in 40-year old plantations.


There might also be another ‘PictureGate“, involving Chad Hanson displaying supposed Forest Service clearcut salvage logging. His folks have already displayed their inability to locate themselves on a map. If he really had solid evidence, he SURELY would have brought it into court

Additionally, the comments are a gold mine for the misinformation and polarization of the supposedly ‘progressive’ community of readers.

Trump “demands” more logging. Really? Does he ever request, suggest or ask for information? I’m tired of hearing of Trump’s “demands.” It could be that some logging would be beneficial but the minute Trump “demands” it, it is suspect. One of his friends will be making millions on the logging and probably giving a kickback to a Trump business. Trump is the destructor of all things beautiful or sacred, the King Midas of the GOP.

A tiny increase in logging of small trees is very unlikely to generate “millions”.

You have no idea what “forest management” is. You want to clearcut all of the old growth forests and then turn them into Christmas tree lots and pine plantations. That is industrial tree farming, not forest management. That is the dumb dogma, speaking, not actual management of the forests.

Most people in southern California don’t know that Forest Service clearcutting and old growth harvesting in the Sierra Nevada has been banned since 1993. The article makes no mention of that.

Riddle me this, Lou. How did the forests manage before we spent $2.5 billion dollars a year on fire suppression? Are we the problem or the cure? Is this just another out of control bureaucracy with a life of its own?

Of course, no solution offered.

Utopia or Dystopia: What comes next?

The other day at lunch with an old friend, our talk turned to optimistic and pessimistic outlooks regarding the future. He has been reading books by authors who are somewhat to highly optimistic about the future—basing their optimism on advances in science and technology. Two books he mentioned are Stuart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary (2009), and Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now: The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress (2017).

I mentioned that years ago I was asked to present a set of myths at a Forest Service “adaptive management” workshop in Santa Fe, NM. The first two myths were “Science will find an answer” and “Technology will save us.” I view science and technology as two-edged swords—working both toward our collective good as well as toward our collective detriment. It all depends on how we choose to use them.

When I got home I looked up both books. Brand’s book seems somewhat reasonable—in a Jack Nicholson “Maybe this is as good as it gets” way—judging the book by its title (and a few reviews I found). Both books seem to fall into the trap I identified at the Santa Fe meeting.

I found an interesting review of Pinker’s book by Ian Goldin in Nature.

Here is a snip from Goldin’s review of Enlightenment Now:

Although it is framed as a historically informed template for a new age of reason, Enlightenment Now ultimately becomes something else: an extended dismissal of the arguments of despair that Pinker fears are defining politics and crowding out an alternative approach rooted in rationality and global cooperation. He does not frame the thesis in economic terms. Yet he essentially defends globalization and the growth of market economies by claiming that it has brought more progress than any force in history. As an economist, I agree.

So do I. But I also agree with Goldin’s other arguments:

But globalization has also led to an escalation of risks. What is rational for individuals is increasingly irrational for society. The drivers of progress are rising incomes and connectivity; these also lead to greater negative spillovers and systemic risk. Managing globalization’s underbelly is essential, and the gulf between what needs to be done and what is being done is widening. Economic growth has come at the expense of ecosystems. Because nature does not respond to price signals (rhinos do not reproduce more when their horns are more valuable), increasing freedom of choice has led to overexploitation of a growing number of natural systems. Pinker does cite climate change, but as a worrying exception to a relentlessly positive narrative, rather than as the most glaring example of a wider failure of global commons management.

Goldin concludes with a precautionary note:

I share Pinker’s optimism that this could be our best century, in which poverty and many of the challenges humanity has historically confronted are addressed. Yet there is also a real potential for dystopian outcomes as sea levels, strife, temperatures and resistant infections rise, and biodiversity, democratic institutions, social ties, mental health and resource security are eroded. We need to face up to these and other daunting challenges while nurturing the positivity required to tackle them.

Enlightenment Now is not a balanced account of the present or future. But for the many overwhelmed by gloom, it is a welcome antidote.

I’m more pessimistic than Goldin. Even though I agree that this century could be our best chance to extract ourselves from what may be a lemming-like mass approach toward the edge of a cliff, it seems an unlikely prospect to me. On the other hand the dystopian outcomes seem more likely. But who am I to make such “likelihood” calls. Then again, who is? I regret that I won’t be around long enough to see much of what happens.

I guess I’d have to read Enlightenment Now to see if I agree with Goldin’s call that it is a “welcome antidote” for “the many overwhelmed by gloom.”

As for Brand’s outlook, take a look at what he and coauthors call An Ecomodernist Manifesto (2015).

The Ecomodernist Manifesto is hopeful, if a bit too hopeful as to humanity’s ability to rise above our worst natures. It seems somewhat reasonable at least in these ways: 1) Nature is recognized as a positive good, with suggested safeguarding of both ecosystems and species diversity highlighted, 2) market economics is relegated to secondary role, not a primary driver of all that is good, …. It seems overly optimistic in its portrayal (or lack thereof) of people’s ability to get from the edge of dystopia to the future they propose. And it is optimistic as to the roles portrayed be technology and development. But it was written in 2015, or 1 BT (BT: Before Trump).

On a hopeful note of my own, if we don’t now and continuing forward from here slip into deep dystopia, Trump and others like him on the world stage may ironically give us the wake-up calls we desperately need.