Maybe they should just sell this national forest land?

Steve Sanders addressed the board on the issue of the landfill nearing capacity. Sanders stated the landfill is expected to meet capacity sometime in the summer 2018. The plan for expansion has been on the books for a number of years. The expansion will cap in 5-7 years and then will require Gila County to have a new site to continue to collect municipal solid waste to dispose of for the northern part of the county. They have already started discussions with the Forest Service to acquire land around the Buckhead Mesa Landfill as it’s on a special use permit from the Tonto National Forest.

When someone argues that the Forest Service isn’t complying with the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act because a particular use excludes others, show them this example.  I suppose you could camp here … or how about a shooting range?

Sign of the Times?

Funny seeing an “8 in 1 Survival Kit” advertisement on a ‘climate warrior’ gloom and doom website. The advertiser specializes in “Outdoor and Urban Survival”. A list of what is in there makes me laugh.

1) LED flashlight (No mention of batteries) In a climate emergency, batteries will always be available, eh?
2) Heavy Duty ink pen (In case you need to sign another useless petition?)
3) Flint Stick (For lighting abandoned campfires? 84% of wildfires in the US are human-caused)
4) Compass with ruler (Without a map, that severely limits how much a compass can help you. Magnetic declination? In Seattle, True North and Magnetic North are different by over 20 degrees)
5) High frequency whistle (When the shit hits the fan, just whistle!)
6) Tool Card (Yeah, fix your Prius with THAT!)
7) Steel Striker with ruler and bottle opener (Almost a dozen uses when Civil War starts!)

Enjoy Your Sunday and cherish what we continue to have!

Federal lands and transitional economies

Headwaters Economics has released this update to a report discussed at length here last year:

 “Rural counties in the West with more federal lands performed better on average than their peers with less federal lands in four key economic measures.”

“This update of research from last year finds that from the early 1970s to the early 2010s, population, employment, and personal income on average all grew significantly faster—two times faster or more—in western rural counties with the highest share of federal lands compared to counties with the lowest share of federal lands. Per capita income growth was slightly higher in counties with more federal land.”

An article on “transitional communities” adds:

“Rural decline is a large and complex issue that appears to be accelerating. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, during the period between 1994–2010, 38.4 percent of U.S. rural counties lost population; since 2010, over two-thirds of rural counties lost population.  This level of decline has far-reaching national and international implications for food and energy production, tourism, and national culture and identity.”

Putting them together, it looks like public lands can be an important asset for minimizing or avoiding rural decline, if communities can get their act together to embrace this potential and plan for it.

“Particularly in declining communities where long-established residents remember the charm of life in simpler times, residents can have considerable resistance to change. This connection and preservation of the past, while a rural virtue, can impede its adaptation into the future. Resistance to any proposed solution that “hasn’t been done before” simply impedes innovation or positive transition.”


It seems like an exercise in futility for the “New Century of Forest Planning” group to be discussing and cussing forest planning &/ policy when we haven’t even agreed to the scientific fundamentals that serve as the cornerstone and foundation for any such discussions.

Below, I have developed a tentative outline of the high level fundamentals which any Forest Plan or Policy must incorporate in order to have a reasonable chance of meeting the desired goals. Until we can come up with a version of these “Forestry Fundamentals” that we generally agree to, we are pushing on a rope and wasting each other’s time unless our objective here is simply to snap our suspenders and vent on each other.

In your comments, please note the outline Item that you are responding to. Maybe we can revise my initial effort and come to some common ground. In doing so we would perform a service and make a step forward that would be useful outside of this circle instead of just chasing our tails. Coming to such an agreement would be a step towards developing a priority hierarchy and eliminating the internal conflicts which make current federal forest policy and law ambiguous and self-contradictory. Until we reach common ground, the current obviously unworkable policies will continue to doom our forests to poor health and consequentially increase the risk of catastrophic loss of those forests and the species that depend on them for survival.

– FORESTRY FUNDAMENTALS – 1st Draft 12/15/16



I) The Fundamental Laws of Forest Science which have been repeatedly validated over time, location, and species. They include:
— A) plant physiology dictating the impact of competition on plant health,
— B) fire science dictating the physics of ignition and spread of fire and
— C) insects and pathogens and their propensity to target based on proximity and their probability of success being inversely proportional to the health of the target.

— D) Species suitability for a specific site is based on the interaction between the following items, those listed above and others not mentioned:

— — 1) hydrology, the underlying geology and availability of nutrients in the soil.

— — 2) latitude, longitude, elevation, aspect and adjacent geography.

— — 3) weather including local &/ global pattern changes.


II) The Fundamental Laws controlling the success of endangered, threatened and other species dependent on niche forest types (ecosystems):

— A) Nesting habitat availability.

— B) Foraging habitat availability.

— C) Competition management.

— D) Sustainability depends on maintaining a fairly uniform continuum of the necessary niches which, in turn, requires a balanced mix of age classes within each forest type to avoid species extinguishing gaps.

— E) Risk of catastrophic loss must be reduced where possible in order to minimize the chance of creating species extinguishing gaps in the stages of succession.


III) The role of Economics:

— A) Growing existing markets and developing new markets in order to provide revenue to more efficiently maintain healthy forests and thence their dependent species.

— B) Wise investment in the resources necessary to accomplish the goals.

— C) Efficient allocation of existing resources.


IV) The role of Forest Management:

— A) Convert the desires/goals of the controlling parties into objectives and thence into the actionable plans necessary to achieve the desired objectives.

— B) Properly execute the plans in accordance with the intent of: governing laws/regulations and best management practices considering any economies.

— C) Acquire independent third party audits and make adjustments in management practices where dictated in order to provide continuous improvement in the means used to achieve goals.

— D) Adjust plans as required by changes: in the goals, as required by the forces of nature and as indicated by on the ground results.

— E) Use GIS software to maintain the spatial and associated temporal data necessary for Scheduling software to find and project feasible alternatives and recommend the “best” alternative to meet the goals set by the controlling parties.

What did I miss, what is wrong, what is right, what would improve this list of Forest Fundamentals?

What Our Forests Need: A Forum

This is reposted from Dan Botkin’s blog of June 23. here We’re discussing the more philosophical aspects in Virtual Book Club here. But he raises other topics that we can discuss here..

Foresters and Ecologists thinking about forest practices on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, as part of a project about effects of forestry on salmon. (Photo by D. B. Botkin)
Foresters and Ecologists thinking about forest practices on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, as part of a project about effects of forestry on salmon. (Photo by D. B. Botkin)

This is a forum open to anyone who has thoughts to share about forests and forestry. I will start by expressing how I see current problems about America’s forests and forestry.

I have spent almost half a century trying to understand how forests work, and to use that understanding to solve forest related environmental problems, and to come to know what our place within forests should be, both for the best for us and best for forest ecosystems. My recent visit with Certified Forester Bob Williams in the New Jersey pine barrens reinforced by concern that today we face serious problems about our nation’s forests, and it is time to open a discussion of what needs to be done (See my post Woodsmanship and Naturecraftsmanship).

To understand— to even have a rudimentary notion— about forests as environment, and how we are and should manage and conserve them, we have to deal with three questions: Who owns and controls our forests; how do management, conservation, and the concepts on which these depend have to change, and what has happened to public attitudes, interests, and appreciation of forests.

As I see it, here are the major issues:

We have to accept that nothing in the environment is constant; everything is always changing. Our management and conservation of forests must take this into account in ways not yet dominant.
Forest ownership has changed greatly in the past 40 years, but few people know about this. Who owns forests and what their emphasis is on research and actions has changed.
Forestry research has declined.
Public interest in forests has declined. While it used to be one of the major environmental issues, today, except for wildfires and deforestation of tropical rainforests, we hear relatively little about forests and forest management.

Implications of these major Issues

Since the environment has always changed and is always changin, all life has evolved with and adapted to environmental change. Many, perhaps most, species require environmental change to persist. Another consequence of the ever-changing character of nature is that there is no single best state of nature. As long as people believed in a balance of nature, then there could only be one best state of nature, its (supposedly) constant state. In an every-changing nature, it is possible in the abstract that there might be one best state. But in reality this is not the case.

Our approach to conservation and management of forests must also accept a humility: We can affect, but only partially control, Earth’s environment. As Buckminster Fuller put it, our problem is that we live on a planet that didn’t come with an instruction manual. Globally, our environment is a set of very complex systems, none in a steady-state, each affecting the others, and which we are only beginning to understand.

People have altered the environment for at least 10,000 years, probably much longer. What people used to consider virgin nature never-touched by people is turning out in surprisingly many cases to have been greatly affected by people.

Consequences of changes in forest land ownership: Until the 1980s, most large-scale private forests were owned by 15 major timber corporations, and forest research was expanding. Today, none of the major timber corporations owns any significant forest land. They sold their forests. The major large private owners are REITs and TIMOs. One cannot overestimate the importance of this change. But oddly, almost nobody knows about it. Almost nobody talks about it.

Lack of basic data and monitoring. In this information age, this time of data-mining, massive ability to gather data, forest research is declining and some of the most basic and information data are not being gathered.

Consequences of changes in public and media attention to forests and forestry. Today, much less media and public attention is on forests than in 1980s. During much of the twentieth century, most aspects of forest use were the subjects of lively discussions, including the importance of old-growth, the role of forests in affecting salmon habitat, the certification of forest practices as sustainable, whether timber corporations and the U.S. Forest Service were managing forests properly, what were the ecological and biodiversity roles of stages in forests succession other than old growth.

Today we hear about forests as possible carbon sinks and players in climate change, and we get alarmed about forests when there are major wild fires. Much of public and media attention about forests is reduced to very simple statements, such as “stop tropical rainforest deforestation.” Agreeing with this statement may make us feel good as environmentally-concerned people. This is a convenient sympathy, because tropical rainforest deforestation is a problem far from our shores, about which we can do little and actually do less. In short, when we even bother to think about forests today, it is in a feel good but do little sense.

Where do we go from here? That’s the question. There are many professional foresters and forest scientists, and I’m sure many have thoughts about what we need to do. This is a forum to allow that discussion.

Check out the comments as well…you’ll see people we hear from often, like Derek, and some we seldom hear from (e.g. Jim Coufal). What ideas do you think are important, and worthy of bringing to this blog for discussion?

Can We Try an Interest-Based Dialogue? A Guest Post by Mike Wood

Map from "One Third of the Nation's Land"
Map from “One Third of the Nation’s Land”

From Mike Wood:

I would like to open up a dialogue concerning the relevance and need for public lands within the United States. My interest in doing so is because I deeply value the experience of wildness and the connections to place and nature that come from working in the woods. These are co-equal to me and represent the closest approximation we can have in the modern to how our species has lived for most of our evolution. I am concerned that most of us in the US have lost touch with these experiences and connections, and with each generation the trend is further away from nature and more toward “virtual” realities. People won’t support that which they do not know. Yet, those of us who know the most spend our time focusing on how different we are from one another, thereby splintering the cohort that could otherwise advocate for even the mere existence of public lands.

Here is the background for opening this dialogue.

A couple weeks ago I called Sharon because I was curious about her goals/intentions for this blog site and whether she felt this forum was serving those goals. As our conversation evolved, we began to philosophize a bit about the role of public lands more generally, and whether or not we could start a conversation here that could take a big step back from the usual debates just to see where it would take us . Following this conversation, Sharon sent me the links to several posts on this blog site concerning the 2010 conference in which the topic was, in part, to revisit the findings of the public land law review commission findings 40 years prior. While I found the posts to be interesting it really left me wondering, as I often do, how we arrived at this point, over 40 years after the PLLRC final report.

How is it that so many conversations here and elsewhere devolve into (my view) distractions from what is the more fundamentally important topics? From what I can see, everyone who participates in this on-line debate over public lands management has a reasonably sharp intellect and most participants have a penchant for writing as well (thus you/we participate in the forum). So what’s at issue here?

As a starting point for conversation and just see if anyone else is interested in this stuff, I wanted to make a distinction between “position” and “interest” based communication. While I’m sure this is a review for most everyone, “positions” are fixed in place and are at best a proximate means for serving an underlying interest. For instance, “I am opposed to commercial timber harvest on public lands” is a “position” statement. The real interesting question, in my view, is to ask “What are the underlying interests that this person is attempting to serve and how is it that they arrived at this position as the best alternative in serving these interests”? How often do most of us question the efficacy of our positions, and/or whether they are even serving our interests at all? On the other hand, how many of us could truly articulate our interests clearly and accurately?

An old piece of wisdom I learned a number of years ago suggests that to know the “truth” about another person’s perspective, you have to ask “why” to each response they provide at least five times with each follow up response going progressively deeper until you arrive at the core of their motivation. While it may not feasible to go this far on this blog site, I am curious as to whether anyone would like to carry on a dialogue concerning our underlying interests on this blog site. I have to admit that I motivated by my desire to keep public lands around at least for the next few generations (I’ve heard something about taking care of the next 7 generations…).

If anyone is interested, we could begin by agreeing that to always stay focused on an interest-based dialogue with ear toward understanding the other without judgment for as long as possible. If no one is interested, that’s OK too of course…

Note from Sharon: here is a post by John Rupe on the Land Law Conference put on by the Natural Resources folks at CU Law. It also has a link to the report One Third of the Nation’s Land (1970). Well worth a read to see how far our thinking about public lands has changed since 1970. What were you doing in 1970?

Let’s Just Transfer FS Land to the Park Service: Why or Why Not?

Gil asked a really good question, in my mind, one that is another way of asking what are our public lands for? But a bit more concrete.

Here’s his question. I’m hoping regulars on the blog will answer as well as perhaps some newbies.

The National Park Service (NPS) approach seems to be what the Forest Ecology Scientists and a lot of environmentalists want.

So, my question to all is: how many people in the NCFP group would think that things would be better off if all USFS lands and budget monies (less any economies of scale savings) were transferred to the NPS along with any resources that the NPS requested?

If you don’t choose the transfer, then please tell us what advantages you see for some federal lands being managed by the USFS over NPS management.

As far as I am concerned, with things the way that they are now, I see no reason not to turn all management over to the NPS. It would get the stigma of the USFS being logger friendly off of the table and maybe give the environmental groups a degree of collaborative confidence that is missing to a large degree with the USFS.

Let’s begin this discussion by assuming that there would be no obligation to log any lands.

Buy Local Wood – (from Santa Cruz?)

local wood 2

Thanks to Mike De LaSaux for posting this on the SAF LinkedIn site.

It is a TED talk video of a conservationist, Terry Corwin talking about using local sustainably produced wood for construction. Here are some of the snippets I copied..
“islands of privilege” “environmental haves and have-nots” “bias toward local sustainably produced wood,” and “embrace local supply of building material as much as food.”

I remember submitting an op-ed to the Denver Post with a similar message and received the reply that “this was nothing new.” My op-ed was around “why can I go to the grocery store and find a locally grown section but not Home Depot or Lowe’s?” and so on.

It would be interesting if that were thought to be the “right thing” to do in Santa Cruz but not in places where federal lands happen to be.

But I think what’s most important is who stands up and what kind of credibility they have. If conservationists would stand up with this message everywhere, some of our battles might be different; or not be battles at all.

I was curious about the local wood movement, and found this link at Dovetail Partners. Here is a link to the Colorado campaign.

I have always wondered why “timber industry” doesn’t play a larger role in this local wood effort. I can only think that the “industry” is not a monolith (as we have been discussing recently) and some parts benefit from imports. If not them, who should play this role? (personally I think that some of the Endowment should go for supporting a “Local Wood” effort, but not sure that’s appropriate given their charter).

It would be somewhat ironic if conservationists, such as Ms. Corwin, carried the water on this effort.

Reflections on the Senate Committee Hearing by JZ , and Brainstorming Possible Solutions

JZ sent a comment on the “collaboration is bad for NEPA” thread here. I took part of it out and made a separate post.. as there is a need to ask this larger question . I agree with JZ that the Senate discussion was much more deep and serious. There’s a lot to examine there, including the testimony. They are looking for ideas (that would be acceptable to the Administration, an unknown) so I would propose that we do some brainstorming about solutions that both sides might find acceptable right here on this blog. Mac has proposed Trust lands (as did Jay O’Laughlin in his testimony), some have suggested giving land to the states (don’t think folks on this blog think that’s a good idea), place-based legislation is not popular for a variety of reasons, what else is there?

Here’s what JZ says:

Today’s Senate E & NR committee hearing had a markedly more professional and solution oriented tone than a similar hearing the House NR committee a couple weeks ago:

The end messages of each of the hearings seems to be the same though. The FS isn’t doing enough (logging) and can not fulfill their mission and provide for local communities. These are issues that have been raised to the point of repeated congressional attention.

What, pray-tell, is at the root of the Agency’s inability to accomplish its mission and provide more logs/timber/jobs particularly here in Region 1??? (the most appealed/sued region in the country).

Is it declining budgets? Lack of workforce (retirements, etc)? Probably a major factor.

How about “analysis paralysis” (over thinking/analyzing the same comments) and dealing with antiquated forest plans and the threat of appeal/litigation? I’d venture this is even more of a factor.

Update: Here’s a story from the Oregonian, and what Wyden said

Wyden supports more cutting but, “Short-cuts like selling off federal lands or ignoring environmental laws cannot be expected to pass the Senate or be signed by the President.” Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian
“We now have across the country cash-strapped rural counties facing deadlines later this spring to decide about retaining teachers, whether or not to close schools, what to do about law enforcement and roads and other basic services,” Wyden said.

So, readers, do you agree with anyone at the hearing? With JZ? What are your solutions to the problem, in additional to the ones mentioned above?

Where to do what: some thoughts and the Blue Mountains

Map from the Oregonian, Dan Aguayo
Map from the Oregonian, Dan Aguayo

Ed raised the question of “where do people on the blog think “intensive management, thinning and prescribed burning” belong.. everywhere? roadless? primitive areas?”

So I’ll go first.

I think that for places where there is no “timber industry” currently:

A. “Thinning for protection” thinning should be done around communities and roads in fire country . We should all work together on building “fire resilient communities and landscapes.” We should analyze all the places fire could start and make sure that for every really dangerous area, there are good areas for suppression between them and communities.

We should work on developing markets for the wood removed, so rural people are employed and we can afford to do it.

We would estimate the acreages and volume through time and then encourage industries to come in and use the material. Watch dog groups would watch to make sure than no more was offered for sale than in the agreement.

When a roadless area or wilderness is in a WUI, we would bring in experienced fire folks and determine if the fire could be fought safely with a break on private land (preferred) or public land.

Otherwise the backcountry would be left alone unless there is some compelling reason for action (protecting endangered species, corridors? or whatever).

B. “Thinning for protection plus resilience” Where there is existing mill capacity, thinnings may also be done if they make stands more resilient to drought and bugs, and they make money (not that they are restoring to the past, but the past had those attributes, say open parklike stands of ponderosa).

Now I was drafting this last night in response to Ed’s question. Meanwhile, I ran across these news stories.. in the Blue Mountains Accelerated Restoration project, it appears to be “thinning for protection plus resilience.” There are several good quotes about the rationale in the story.

The roughly 50,000 acres thinned or logged annually within the four forests is probably less than 20 per cent of what’s needed, Aney said.
“We need to at least double that” to stabilize forest health within 15 years, he said.
The plan Aney will execute calls for managing the Blues in blocks of several hundred thousand acres, instead of the current 30,000-acre planning units. Logging or thinning is likely on no more than 40 percent of each planning unit, Aney said. Individual projects will have to go through environmental reviews.
Work in the woods is expected to start in summer 2014.

Veronica Warnock, conservation director for the La Grande-based Hells Canyon Preservation Council, was more guarded. She said forest restoration is necessary but should be avoided in places where science doesn’t support it, such as stands of old growth or wildlife corridors.

I wonder what “science” that is, that involves what you should or should not do…I thought the role of science was empirical rather than normative. oh well.