4 Sep 2008, 9:57am
Federal forest policy The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Incinerating Wyoming Forests With Impunity

The Shoshone and Bridger-Teton National Forests are engaged in deliberate criminal arson and incineration of Wyoming public and private forests. And they are proud of it.

The Casper Star Tribune reported the gloating over the illegal scorched earth policies yesterday [here]:

Rain, snow drench wildfires

By CHRIS MERRILL, Casper Star-Tribune, 09/03/2023

LANDER — Mother Nature has doused Wyoming’s two major wildfires with rain and snow, reducing both to smolder through the underbrush, forest officials said Tuesday.

They warned, however, the return of hot, dry weather could reinvigorate the blazes. Both fires have been consuming beetle-killed trees in western Wyoming for more than a month.

Neither fire has been extinguished, but both have cooled tremendously and should stay calm for at least the next few days, representatives of the Shoshone and the Bridger-Teton national forests said.

And even though the Gunbarrel fire has cost the federal government nearly $10.5 million so far, officials are saying it has been economically valuable — even cheap if one considers the ecological benefits.

The Gunbarrel fire, ignited by lightning on July 26, has burned almost 105 square miles of dead and fallen pine trees between Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

The New Fork Lakes blaze, caused by an out-of-control camp fire on July 29, has scorched more than 23 square miles of dead, dried-out trees, 19 miles north of Pinedale.

Wapiti District Ranger Terry Root said the Gunbarrel blaze consumed trees that “needed to be burned” west of Cody. The “decadent” timber was in the wilderness, and it couldn’t be removed otherwise, he said.

“So burning is really our only option to recycle the forest,” Root said. “We feel like it has actually been pretty good, economically — actually pretty economically valuable. It comes out to about $153 an acre.”

It costs the U.S. Forest Service about $300 per acre to perform fuel reduction projects regionally.

The result will be a 35-mile stretch of rejuvenated forest in the coming years, Root said.

“We lost no private residences, no structures, and we had no serious injuries. We’re looking at it as a real success,” he said.

That’s where we are at, sports fans. The USFS is “treating” your forests with catastrophic fire with no EIS, no EA, no NEPA process, deliberately, with malice aforethought, in full recognition that their activities are outside the law, and they are proud as peacocks about it.

There are no, repeat no, ecological benefits from holocaust. The habitat has been destroyed, the air polluted, the streams fouled, and the forest eliminated from the landscape permanently.

There is no such thing as “recycling” forests. The Shoshone NF officials made that up out of the clear blue sky, or should we say, out of the smoky haze. They cannot cite one case where forest has returned to incinerated land on the Shoshone NF.

Indeed, absolutely no forest science exists that supports the claims of Terry Root et al. There was no prior evaluation of forest conditions, no documented analysis of forest health, no prescription for treatment, no predicted outcome, and there will be no analysis of fire effects.

The holocaust was planned and codified in secret documents in the Shoshone NF files. Congress did not mandate the burning, nor did Congress fund it. What Congress did mandate is that the Shoshone NF by law must engage the public in scoping, comment periods, and application of the best available science. That’s NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. But the Shoshone NF gave the finger to NEPA and spit on the law.

More from the Casper Star Tribune article:

Mary Cernicek, spokeswoman for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, said about an inch of rain north of Pinedale has stopped the trees from igniting, but the New Fork Lakes fire is still creeping through the undergrowth.

“If the weather were to change, and things were to dry out, it could flare back up in the wilderness area,” Cernicek said. “There is still a lot of beetle- and bug-killed timber there. But right now it’s policing itself.”

Firefighters will continue to make sure the blaze stays in the wilderness area, and will keep steering it toward the beetle-killed trees, she said.

Because the New Fork Lakes fire has remained quite a bit smaller than the Gunbarrel blaze and has not posed as much of a threat to man-made structures, the total cost has been about $2 million, or less than 20 percent of the Gunbarrel fire’s price tag.

What the article failed to state is that the New Forks Fire [here] is not an official whoofoo (WFU) because it was not ignited by lighting. It was a human-caused fire, but the Bridger-Teton has treated it like a “natural” burn.

The New Forks Fire has been burning since July 29. Recreational users have been banned from the Bridger-Teton NF for the entire month of August. The fire has crowned and plumed and devastated the forest. The forest will not return but will be replaced by brush and exotic weeds.

Wyoming Congressperson Barbara Cubin has issued no statement. She is utterly clueless, or else approves of illegal catastrophic immolation of Wyoming forests, despite the fact that Congress has never addressed the USFS forest incineration program.

The illegal destruction of forests by a rogue agency operating outside the law and with no scientific justification is a travesty and a tragedy. What a waste! What arrogance and stupidity on the part of the USFS!

4 Sep 2008, 10:44am
by Bob Z.


I am very interested in considering “the ecological benefits” of the Gunbarrel wildfire.

What are they? Are they worth more than $10 million?

Do the benefits outweigh the costs (Econ 101)?

Also: How do you “steer” a fire?

Finally: Shouldn’t news reporters be asking these types of questions before they go to press?

4 Sep 2008, 12:56pm
by Robert Brown


We live in Wapiti, Wyoming and could watch the Gunbarrel fire directly across from us on Jim Mountain for a week as well as witness the other related blazes up and down the North Fork of the Shoshone. We personally witnessed the fire’s growth from 600 acres to over 60,000 and fire management’s action and inaction this year.

That said…I’m disappointed in your negative position and subjective reasoning that the habitat is ‘destroyed’ and can be described as a ‘holocaust’. The planet is just fine…and that includes a natural lightning strike burn in the Shoshone National Forest. Your position is not based on facts apparently.

I also don’t agree with the Incident Management Team’s strategies here either. I would guestimate that approximately 30-40% of the trees in the burn area could be described as ‘beetle kill’. So their position about the fire consuming all dead trees is also inaccurate and misleading. May good trees were consumed by the fire…and while a tragedy to some, such is life. Fires keep a forest healthy over time - not the other way around.

Officials did kept the road to Yellowstone National Park open despite areas of fire right up to the edge of the highway - kudos to their efforts here. They also protected the lodges and other personal structures with sprinkler systems and the like. My main concern is the official position of ‘ramping up efforts’ to put out a fire in the backcountry when they knew well and good the weather was bringing in the first rain and snow this fall. They reportedly spent 3 to 3.5 million dollars these last few days which were tax payer dollars ill-spent IMHO.

Next time…be a little more responsible with your facts before reporting such a rant, which albeit had good intentions but failed to win me over with your overly ‘green’ sentimentality.

- RPB

4 Sep 2008, 1:53pm
by Mike


Robert, The planet will survive but the forest did not.

With all due respect, I would hope your principal concern would be whether the agency delegated with the responsibility of managing your watershed and landscape did or did not follow the law when they chose to incinerate it rather than suppress the fire.

You and I should have had our legally mandated opportunity to advise, consent, and or appeal decisions that affect our livelihoods, homes, landscapes and shared, publicly-owned environments.

It is after-the-fact now. The damage has been done. The 60 percent green trees have been killed. The forest is gone. No forest will grow there again. Take a look at Mann Gulch, or Meriwether Gulch, or the site of the Little Venus Fire. What once was forest is now weeds and brush fields.

The Gunbarrel WFU was planned well in advance. Maps were drawn and procedures specified months before the lightning struck. Yet you had no opportunity to review those decisions because the mandated NEPA process of review and scientific analysis was not implemented prior to incorporation of WFU into the Shoshone NF Fire Plan.

The laws of this country were broken with the intent to steal your rights as a resident and citizen. Now your landscape is incinerated.

It is you who should take some responsibility. Stand up and act like a free American citizen and demand accountability. Demand that your government agencies obey the law.

I cannot do that on my own. Your assistance is needed. If you do not care what laws are followed or broken by government agencies, then this country is lost. We descend into anarchy and tyranny.

Demanding accountability is a part of good citizenship and is your responsibility as much as mine. I am sorely disappointed that you are not carrying your fair share of the load.

6 Sep 2008, 12:47pm
by Jack Mayhoffer


Hey Partner - Your ignorance of NEPA is staggering. Not doing something (e.g. letting a fire burn) is not a federal action that requires NEPA analysis and disclosure.

Show me a court case that backs up your continual claims that wildland fire use is a violation of NEPA.

Didn’t think so….

6 Sep 2008, 1:57pm
by Mike


Again and again I have pointed out that the manual for WFU states categorically that implementation requires NEPA. And there are multiple court cases that require Fire Plans as well as Forest, Land, and Resource Management Plans to comply with NEPA.

Pre-planned actions are not accidents of fate. If you don’t like the law that requires public involvement and scientific analysis of impacts, then change it. Until then, federal agencies must follow it or act illegally.

And Partner, I imagine you are staggered every day by people whose expertise and knowledge vastly exceeds yours.

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