We Need a Horse To Push the Cart

by bear bait

Hi Mike: Sunday I did my citizen due diligence and attended the Independence stop on the Wyden town hall meetings around the State tour, done in weekend chunks all year long. This is my report, or really my impressions of that meeting.

There were about 100 people in attendance at the pretty new and wonderful Independence Library. Most were geriatric supplicants from around the county, there to support their guy while he preached to his choir. Independence itself is 35% or more Hispanic, and demographically they are an older generation of post WWII Tejanos (US citizens) from the lower Rio Grande agricultural areas of southeast Texas, who came to replace the Okies in farm labor while the Okies were taking jobs in the mills and logging camps after coming home from the War.

They are a wonderful group of senior citizens, and they and their offspring are a core group in good citizenry for Independence. The rest are of recent arrival and dubious papers. We do have an all Hispanic aliens-only Headstart program which acts as a summer babysitting service for women needing to work in the fields. However, none of those were at the meeting. In fact, there were two people of color that I could see, one an Asian lady and a retired WOU prof of Asian (India) background. I also saw at least two people under 20 and a small sprinkling of people between 20 and 40, most of whom were either press or Wyden staff.

The rest in attendance were old farts like me, and quite concerned about their entitlements as they take their final steps to eternity. What’s in it for me? was the general question raised. That and some FAA decision that might keep airpark folks from accessing the State airport from their private taxiways, thus lowering property values… me, me, me. America at its best. None expressed concern for lost jobs or the collapsing economy. What will my take be? What is in it for me? And also punish Bush. Get that Bush administration and Halliburton… (under my breath I said to one and all: “Get a life, dudes.”)

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17 Feb 2009, 1:57pm
Uncategorized
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New Site: News From the Salmon Front

W.I.S.E. is pleased to announced the addition of a new Commentary subsite: News From the Salmon Front [here].

News From the Salmon Front is written by W.I.S.E. Board Member, Portland attorney, and salmon expert James Buchal, author of The Great Salmon Hoax [here].

Please enjoy and learn. As is the case on the other W.I.S.E. commentary and news subsites, informative and polite comments are welcome.

16 Feb 2009, 1:41am
Forestry education Saving Forests
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Tall Tree Tales: Bear Bait Unleashed

Mike to bear bait:

Tillamook Head. Tallest trees I ever cruised. Hard to get a good look at the tops due to the 30-40 foot brush. Had to tunnel from tree to tree. The tops were way up there. Pencils to the sky. Ridiculously tall trees.

bear bait to Mike:

I have cruised trees with 4 and 5 forties in them to MBG 40% of dbh, but guess what?  To be that tall, trees have to grow in high site 2 or better, in 2nd growth with crowding. They end up with a tassel top, which is a parachute, and you belly break the shit out of them falling. The butts hit the ground to about 60 to 80 foot up the bole, and then the rest of the tree arrives later, slowed by air resistance. So you lose the 3rd log to longitudinal breakage all too many times. You have to adjust your breakage from the gross scale by a factor of double or triple of normal.

Best to have some humps and broken ground to purposefully break them over, clean.  Flat ground is destructive.  I learned all that the hard way. I was with an outfit for several years that sold [telephone] poles from timber sales they bought.  The best stand of poles I ever found would not make the grade because of not enough sapwood to treat.  70′-120′ poles up the wazz, but no sapwood. Grew too tight and not fast enough.

Most trees have a lean.  Big trees can be wedged or jacked to some degree to control their fall to a pre-determined bed.  The trick is to avoid stumps and landscape features. But tall, whippy second growth doug fir needs to be broken while falling. On a stump or over a little rise.  Or else you lose a lot of wood to belly breaks.

Most small second growth today is 45-ed down slope and not bucked but processed on the landing by a stroker. Or if bigger, 45-ed up the hill to save out, and then it also gets butt hooked and sent up to a processor. Or maybe across the hill with a butt log cut and then processor for the rest. All depends on the site and timber type, lay of the ground.

Most trees have a lean, especially old trees on the coast. The land is constantly being upheaved by tectonic plate action,  and the whole of the landscape is either marine sediments or basaltic intrusions. The different strata of sediment layers have a great range of common particle sizes,  but each layer is a pretty much homogeneous particle type:  siltstone,  mudstone,  sandstone, conglomerates,  etc. And when rainwater infiltrates, it lubricates.  So the layers are prone to slippage. That is why you are always on either the ridge top or a prior slump in the Coast Range.

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Why the blind faith in Al Gore?

by Roni Bell Sylvester, Good Neighbor Law, Feb 14, 2023 [here]

As Psychologist Stephen Greenspan (Annals of Gullibility) states so perfectly, “Intelligent people have long been ruined by frauds.”

In addition to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, someone else is engaged in a dishonest fraud that, when exposed will make Bernie’s look like a pencil box thief. Yes. With his claims of, “man makes the globe warm and climate change, I’m suggesting Mr. Al Gore is engaged in a big O dishonest fraud.

Don’t you think Mr. Gore’s deception is generating damages heavy enough to crush what little economic stability we may have left?

Couldn’t his distortion of facts be construed as violation of truth in advertising?

How does he make his money? Does anyone know? Has anyone connected the dots?

Couldn’t one draw a parallel between what Al’s doing and what Bernie did?

As volunteer editor of Good Neighbor Law, I read countless examples of connections between Al’s actions and the un-necessary painful destruction of individual livelihoods.

If President Obama and the Democrat controlled house truly cared about us, they’d demand Al Gore publicly debate his positions before they make one more “climate change” policy.

They should force him to debate any one of the thousands of scientists whose carefully documented findings bear out - man does not manufacture our climate.

The difference between the Madoff and the Gore Ponzi schemes is - Al convinced our elected officials to bless him with a no-bid contract, then mandated that you pay for it!

Along with the thousands who got stung by Madoff, and those who know the difference between the size of the sun and the size of the earth, betcha Stephen Greenspan is also asking, “Why the blind faith in Al Gore?”

Eco-Colonialism Degrades Africa

by Paul Driessen and Willie Soon, Townhall.com, February 14, 2023 [here]

Sub-Saharan Africa remains one of Earth’s most impoverished regions. Over 90% of its people still lack electricity, running water, proper sanitation and decent housing. Malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and intestinal diseases kill millions every year. Life expectancy is appalling, and falling.

And yet UN officials, European politicians, environmentalist groups and even African authorities insist that global warming is the gravest threat facing the continent. They claim there is no longer any debate over human-caused global warming – but ignore thousands of scientists who say human CO2 emissions are not the primary cause of climate changes, there is no evidence that future warming will be catastrophic, and computer models do not provide valid projections or “scenarios” for the future.

Warming alarmists use the “specter of climate change” to justify inhumane policies and shift the blame for problems that could be solved with the very technologies they oppose.

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13 Feb 2009, 8:59pm
Politics and politicians
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What Does A Job Cost?

Let’s do the math. The latest off the news wire:

U.S. Senate on brink of passing stimulus bill

By Richard Cowan and Jeremy Pelofsky, 02.13.09, 09:03 PM EST [here]

WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Friday was on the brink of passing a $787 billion package of spending and tax cuts aimed at rescuing the struggling economy, hours after the House of Representatives approved the measure. …

The president has urged the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass the stimulus before the end of the coming holiday weekend so he can sign it into law. His goal is to create or save 3.5 million jobs in an economy that has seen massive job losses since the recession began in December 2007.

Okay. Using scientific notation: $787 x 10^9 funding / 3.5 x 10^6 jobs = $225 x 10^3 / job.

That’s $225,000 per job.

Can I have one of those?

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The Montana Legacy Project: Worth the Price?

by Dave Skinner

In late June 2008 U.S. Senator Max S. Baucus (D-MT), along with representatives of Plum Creek Timber (PCL), the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC), announced the “Montana Legacy Project” or MLP.

The Project covers 312,000 acres of “non-core” Plum Creek commercial forest in several western Montana counties: Missoula (223,400 acres), Mineral (42,800 acres), Lake (35,500 acres), Lincoln (13,800 acres) and Powell (3,900 acres). MLP plans to allocate proportions of roughly a third each to: The U.S Forest Service, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), and private owners.

In general, the asking price for MLP is $510 million, an average of $1,634 per acre. $250 million in Federal funds is set aside for the Forest Service to buy 112,000 acres (roughly $2,232 per acre), while the Montana state legislature is considering a general issue of $21.5 million in bonds for 27,000 acres south of Potomac, around $796 per acre.

Is that price fair? Should the State of Montana obligate its citizens to a bond issue and other spending that may or may not retain 36 jobs, for $10 million per job? Should Montana buy forest lands when current information indicates the price is five to twelve times what the land is worth? Is this project truly a “legacy”?

Before purchasing forest lands, especially so much land with so much money, rational buyers undertake due diligence, seeking information relevant to the decision, in this case timber inventories, growth potential indices, species composition, mineral estate issues, taxation and other issues, before buying.

Lack of disclosure on the part of a seller warrants caution on the buyer’s part, the less disclosure, the more caution. In short, caveat emptor – buyer beware.

In the case of MLP, which involves a half-billion dollars in what history indicates will be a 90% publicly-financed scheme, one would expect troves of information freely available to not only public officials, but also the citizens who will ultimately fund MLP.

Instead, “hard” information from MLP proponents has been nonexistent. While there have been plenty of buzzwords bruited about, relevant numbers have been released only sparingly, or totally held back as “proprietary business information.”
The minimal information that has somehow managed to escape MLP’s “cone of silence” has been less than reassuring – alarming would be more apt.

Timber Value

While MLP is being pitched as a “conservation” deal, Montana’s recent fire seasons have proved the truism that forest land is best-off managed. Management costs money. The primary way to pay for forest management costs is by producing forest products.

Well-managed forests provide not only timber and associated employment, but the full range of “conservation” and recreation “values” the multiple-use public desires.

To support a simple six-percent mortgage on MLP’s “buy” of $510 million, an investor would need to realize at least $30.6 million in cash flow each year, and more to pay off the principal. How much wood needs to be on MLP to support its price?
Using Plum Creek’s rule-of-thumb of 6 to 7 percent growth aggregation, assuming a price range of $175 to $265 per thousand board feet of harvest, and further ensuring that sustainable harvest does not eat into the standing forest inventory “principal,” MLP would have to have, at a minimum, between 2 and 2.9 billion board feet of standing timber today, yielding between 115 and 174 million board feet of harvest each year.

Does it? Plum Creek CEO Rick Holley told the Flathead Beacon he “does not know” how much wood MLP lands contain, only that the MLP land trust partners conducted an inventory and were “satisfied.” Other company and land trust representatives have repeatedly said inventory information was “proprietary” or otherwise restricted.

The only information that gives even a glimpse of actual MLP ground conditions is a September 5, 2023 “Fiber Supply Agreement” (FSA). The FSA gives Plum Creek a first right of refusal to harvest 92 million board feet in ten years, an average of 28.5 board feet per acre per year. The FSA further states that MLP is growing 29 million feet of wood per year, or 93 board feet/acre/year – a figure oddly above DNRC’s production average of 63 feet/acre/year.

The first number, if based on sustained yield from actual inventory, implies a timber base of only 153 million board feet, worth only $26.8 million, or $86 per acre. The second number, if based on actual growing stock, implies a “base” of  483 million feet worth $84.5 million, or $271 per acre. Both figures are far below MLP’s “ask” of $1,634.

Montana DNRC has conducted an appraisal on MLP’s Potomac parcel. Over the next 60 years, DNRC expects to harvest 44.2 million feet from Potomac’s 27,000 acres, an average of 27.2 board feet/acre/year. This productivity appears somewhat lower than MLP’s at-large productivity of 28.5 feet/acre/year.

Such marginal productivity may explains why the price for Potomac is “discounted.” But the price, $796 per acre, remains far above the apparent value. In constant dollars, discounted at 6 percent, DNRC’s planned Potomac harvest is only worth $2.33 million, or about $86 per acre.

Adding in the net present value of a 10,000 foot/acre harvest in year 60 ($53.05), the range of values for MLP based on proponent information run from a low of $139 to a high of $324 per acre. This in turn forces the conclusion that MLP’s asking price is from five to twelve times (not percent, times) the ability of the forests to pay for themselves.

Jobs

Montanans concerned about losing the timber “leg” of Montana’s economic-diversification “stool” might be willing to pay a premium if the premium could be made up by a positive jobs impact from MLP. MLP partner Trust for Public Lands has registered a website to promote the Legacy Project as a source of employment (www.montanaworkingforests.org). However, the site makes no direct claims of how many “working forest jobs” MLP may or may not create. Why not?

Using the data from FSA and DNRC’s Potomac appraisal as well as an industry rule-of-thumb for primary forest jobs around 5.5 jobs per million feet of harvest (one logger for three millworkers), MLP looks to have insignificant employment impact.

The planned FSA harvest level is only a bit over one percent of Montana’s recent harvest levels of around 800 or so million board feet, a yield already well below historic yields now that the Forest Service has left the arena.

Rounding the FSA annual harvest up to an even ten million feet gives MLP an impact of 55 jobs, meaning MLP would “buy” jobs at over $9 million each. But after the FSA expires, many expect the Forest Service will cease routine harvests on its “share” of MLP, reducing MLP’s total impact to around 36 jobs, and increasing job “price” to $14.1 million each. Breaking out the Potomac parcel separately, the slightly more than four jobs “bought” come in at $6.67 million each.

Nonetheless, management activities will always be necessary on MLP no matter the ownership. In other words, claims that an “investment” in MLP will create jobs, or retain existing jobs, cannot be credibly made.

Note: author Dave Skinner is a Montana freelance journalist who has written for Evergreen Foundation and Range Magazine, and is a frequent contributor to SOS Forests. He doesn’t like being ripped off by large corporations making sweetheart deals with on-the-take Senators and lying multinational “enviro” consortia. Nor do we.

See also The Great Montana Land Swindle of 2008 [here]

Is Restoration Forestry in the Stimulus Bill?

The Senate-House Conference Report on the Stimulus Bill has a small section (out of 1,000+ pages) devoted to US Forest Service capital improvement and maintenance and wildfire management.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOREST SERVICE

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE

The conference agreement provides $650,000,000 for Capital Improvement and Maintenance as proposed by both the House and the Senate. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the agency in determining the allocation of this funding among various program activities and sub-activities. The conferees encourage that selection of individual projects be based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and which create lasting value for the American public. While maximizing jobs, the Service should consider projects involving reconstruction, capital improvement, decommissioning, and maintenance of forest roads, bridges and trails; alternative energy technologies, and deferred maintenance at Federal facilities; and remediation of abandoned mine sites, and other related critical habitat, forest improvement and watershed enhancement projects.

WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT

The conference agreement provides $500,000,000 for Wildland Fire Management instead of $485,000,000 proposed by the Senate and $850,000,000 proposed by the House. This includes $250,000,000 for hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation activities on Federal lands and $250,000,000 for cooperative activities to benefit State and private lands. The conference agreement provides flexibility to the Service to allocate funds among existing State and private assistance programs to choose programs that provide the maximum public benefit. The Conferees encourage the Service to select individual projects based on a prioritization process which weighs the capacity of proposals to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time and to create lasting value for the American public. The bill allows the Service to use up to $50,000,000 to make competitive grants for the purpose of creating incentives for increased use of biomass from federal and non-federal forested lands. To better address current economic conditions at the state and local level, funds provided for State and private forestry activities shall not be subject to matching or cost share requirements.

What does all that mean?

First, the word “restoration” is nowhere to be found. Restoration is akin to “hazardous fuels reduction, forest health protection, rehabilitation and hazard mitigation” but it is so much more than that.

Restoration forestry is science- and history-based active management that protects, maintains, and perpetuates the structures and functions of reference landscape conditions in order to achieve multiple goals, including enhancement of fire resiliency, protection of wildlife habitat and populations, recognition and preservation of heritage tribal sites, protection and enhancement of watershed functions, improvement of recreation opportunities, and enhancement of public health and safety in a sustainable manner.

Restoration forestry focuses treatment actions on thinning, strategic fuel breaks, and the use of prescribed fire in prepared stands to modify fire behavior that maximize the retention of large trees and recreate historical forest development pathways that led to modern old-growth.

Restoration forestry also reduces fuels and carbon losses due to wildfire, enhances carbon sequestering in wood products, productive forests, and in soils to reduce atmospheric carbon emissions, produces wood products and biomass energy, and benefits local economies. However, the concept and practice of restoration forestry is more than fuels management and firewood production. It entails a holistic view of landscapes as living ecosystems and strives to sustain the essential elements that translate to ecosystem values of heritage, habitat, watershed, and community well-being.

The Stimulus Bill lacks any statement regarding the particulars of restoration; it avoids the mention of the word altogether.

In contrast, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S.22) awaiting passage includes Title IV — Forest Landscape Restoration [here]. Title IV does use the word “restoration” throughout, and approaches the holistic concept to some degree.

Appropriate and ecologically-sensitive restoration forestry applied on a landscape scale would meet and satisfy all the criteria in the Stimulus Bill. It would also prevent catastrophic holocausts such as the recent and ongoing Australian fires and the repeated megafire destruction that has visited American forests over the last twenty years.

Granted, it is difficult if not impossible for our Congress to grasp the key ideas behind restoration forestry. But the US Forest Service should be able to understand and implement technical restoration forestry on a landscape scale, particularly now that the start-up funding has been appropriated.

They might need some public encouragement in that regard. It might help if you called or wrote your local District Ranger and Forest Supervisor and told them that restoration forestry is what they need to be doing. They need to hear that. They need to know that the public desires more than fuels management, that the holistic, scientific approach of restoration forestry is preferable.

Policy critics predicted ‘inevitable mega-fires’

by Andrew Rule, the Age (AU), February 14, 2023 [here]

A GROUP of forest-fire experts has accused state Environment Minister Gavin Jennings of attempting to deceive the public — and of pre-empting a royal commission — over fuel-reduction burning.

Mr Jennings this week defended the Government over suggestions it had contributed to Australia’s worst peacetime disaster by tacitly neglecting its commitment to fuel-reduction burning to appease the green lobby.

Forest Fire Victoria [here] — a group of forestry experts and scientists, including outspoken academic David Packham — claims the Government has sidelined crucial recommendations from its own parliamentary environment and natural resources committee to curry favour with environmentalists.

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Time to heed the warnings

Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, February 13, 2023 [here]

JOHN Brumby says he will call a royal commission into the fires that have so mauled us.

“We want to put in place whatever arrangements are necessary to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

Good, Premier. But the question is: will your government this time listen?

Every time we suffer a disastrous bushfire it’s the same. In our agony, we set up an inquiry.

Cold months - even years - later, that inquiry tells us that we must especially do more fuel reduction burns to stop forest litter from mounting so high that it turns a fire into a turbo-fuelled inferno, impossible to fight.

And each time governments ignore them. Or forget them. Or hear too late.

In fact, no government has ignored them more completely than this one, doing fewer and fewer fuel reduction (or prescribed) burns over this past 10 years, until time had run out.

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Prescribed Fire Hampered by Aussie Greens

Burnoffs following Victoria bushfires a ‘threat to biodiversity’

Siobhain Ryan, The Australian, February 12, 2023 [here]

CONTROLLED burning would be declared a key national threat to biodiversity under a new proposal before government that has been slammed as dangerous to life and property.

While Environment Minister Peter Garrett yesterday gave Victoria carte blanche to do all it needed to control its deadly bushfires, without review by federal environment laws, it emerged he will be asked next year to decide whether prescribed burning to reduce fuel loads puts plants and animals at risk.

A Department of Environment spokeswoman confirmed yesterday it had received a public submission to list controlled burning as a “key threatening process” - the same category that applies to climate change, land clearing and feral cats, pigs and foxes.

“This recommendation is due by late 2010,” she said.

Victoria’s bushfire tragedy has focused attention on the management of its state forests, national parks and other Crown land, which make up a third of the state but contributed four-fifths of the fires started since Australia Day.

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11 Feb 2009, 3:24pm
Uncategorized
by admin
1 comment

Green ideas must take blame for deaths

by Miranda Devine, Sydney Morning Herald, February 12, 2023 [here]

It wasn’t climate change which killed as many as 300 people in Victoria last weekend. It wasn’t arsonists. It was the unstoppable intensity of a bushfire, turbo-charged by huge quantities of ground fuel which had been allowed to accumulate over years of drought. It was the power of green ideology over government to oppose attempts to reduce fuel hazards before a megafire erupts, and which prevents landholders from clearing vegetation to protect themselves.

So many people need not have died so horribly. The warnings have been there for a decade. If politicians are intent on whipping up a lynch mob to divert attention from their own culpability, it is not arsonists who should be hanging from lamp-posts but greenies.

Governments appeasing the green beast have ignored numerous state and federal bushfire inquiries over the past decade, almost all of which have recommended increasing the practice of “prescribed burning”. Also known as “hazard reduction”, it is a methodical regime of burning off flammable ground cover in cooler months, in a controlled fashion, so it does not fuel the inevitable summer bushfires.

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Environmental Policies Kill - Again!

by Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute, February 11, 2023 [here]

One of the main themes of my book, The Really Inconvenient Truths [here], is that misguided environmental policies often lead to humanitarian and environmental disaster. We’ve just seen another example in Australia, where fires have claimed many lives. Distraught survivors are certain they know at least part of the reason why the fires were able to do so:

During question time at a packed community meeting in Arthurs Creek on Melbourne’s northern fringe, Warwick Spooner — whose mother Marilyn and brother Damien perished along with their home in the Strathewen blaze — criticised the Nillumbik council for the limitations it placed on residents wanting the council’s help or permission to clean up around their properties in preparation for the bushfire season. “We’ve lost two people in my family because you dickheads won’t cut trees down,” he said.

It’s called bushfire season for a reason: the bush catches fire. If you want to reduce the effects, you cut back the bush. Policies that stop this are criminally dangerous.

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11 Feb 2009, 10:52am
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
1 comment

Black Saturday: The Sequel

by Stephen J. Pyne, Forest History Society Guest Commentary, February 10, 2024 [here]

The fires are a horror, even by Australian standards, which is saying much. But for those of us who have long admired Australia’s gritty resolve in the face of conflagrations and have regarded it as a firepower for the caliber of its fire sciences and its bushfire brigades, the recent spectacle arouses dismay and sadness as well.

This is not the first such eruption. Australia has filled up the weekly calendar with Red Tuesdays, Ash Wednesdays, Black Thursdays, and so on. The chronicle is having to appeal to holidays like Black Christmas and renumber its sequels. Black Saturday II is a monster: the bad bushfire on steroids. But it is not an alien visitation. It is a recurring nightmare, at times worse, at times less savage, and Australians seem unable to do anything but fight and flee, and curse and console.

***

The reason for the fires is simple. Australia is a fire continent: it is built to burn. To this general combustibility its southeast adds a pattern of seasonal winds, associated with cold fronts that draft scorching, unstable air from the interior across whatever flame lies on the land. At such times the region becomes a colossal fire flume that fans flames which for scale and savagery have no equal elsewhere on Earth.

But even heat waves do not kindle fires of themselves, and cyclonic winds do not drive fire in the same way they do storm surges. Fire is not a physical substance: it is a reaction. It feeds on the vegetation, and whatever climatic forces exist must be integrated into that combustible biomass. Fire, that is, synthesizes its surroundings. Understand its setting, and you understand fire. Control that setting, and you control fire.

***

What saddens many of us is that Australia knows better. It developed many key concepts of fire ecology and models of bushfire behavior. It pioneered landscape-scale prescribed burning as a method of bushfire management. It devised the protocol for structure protection in the bush, especially, the ingenious stratagem of leaving early or staying, preparing, and defending. In recent decades, it has beefed up active suppression capabilities and emergency response services.

Almost uniquely, Australia seemed to have gotten the basics right, certainly better than the muscle-bound, paramilitary response of North America. That approach only set up an ecological insurgency which summer surges of hardware and firefighters could never quell. Americans looked to Australia especially as a cognate country that knew how to replace feral fire with tame fire.

Yet Australia keeps enduring the same Sisyphean cycle of calamitous conflagrations in the same places. It isn’t getting what it knows into its practices. It seems to be abandoning its historic solutions for precisely the kind of telegenic suppression operations and political theater that have failed elsewhere. Even when controlled burning is accepted “in principle,” there always seems a reason not to burn in this place or at this time. The burning gets outsourced to lightning, accident, and arson.

It’s too early to identify the particulars behind this most recent catastrophe. But it’s likely that investigation will point to the same culprits, perhaps aggravated by climate change and arson. Both are reasons, and both are also potential misdirections. Global warming might magnify outbreaks, but it means a change in degree, not in kind; and its effects must still be absorbed by the combustible cover. Arson can put fire in the worst place at the worst time, but its power depends on ignition’s capacity to spread and on flame to destroy susceptible buildings.

Neither is basic. With or without global warming or arson, damaging fires will come, they will spread as the landscape allows, and they will inflict damage as structures permit. And it is there – with how Australians live on the land – that reform must go.

***

Australia will have fire, and it will recycle the conditions that can leverage small flames into holocausts. The choice is whether to kindle those fires with some degree of deliberation, or whether to leave that task to lightning, clumsies, and crazies.

After the 1939 Black Friday conflagration, a royal commission set into motion the modern era of bushfire management. At the time the official ambition of state-sponsored conservation was to eliminate fire as far as possible, and through fire exclusion, ultimately to alter the very character of the landscape so that it would become less fire prone. Judge Stretton asked the nation’s forester why he continued to hold this view when it had never succeeded, when bushfires had inevitably wiped out his every repeated effort. Wryly, Stretton mocked the absurdity of those who sought to make sunburnt Australia into green England.

It seems likely that Black Saturday II will yield another royal commission. Much has changed over 70 years; Australians are more urban, more sensitive to environmental issues, keener to protect unique ecological assets. Yet perhaps they are substituting another, more modern delusion, striving to remake the burning bush into an unburnt Oz, only to find this vision also repeatedly obliterated by remorseless fire.

I hope not. We don’t need a Black Saturday III.

Note: Stephen J. Pyne is Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University and author of 20 books and numerous essays including Burning Bush: A Fire History of Australia (1991) and The Still-Burning Bush (2006). Dr. Pyne is a frequent contributor to W.I.S.E. and we are honored and very grateful for that. Links to his essays may be found [here] and [here].

It’s Time to Push Back

If We Don’t Fight Now—When?

by Harriet M. Hageman

My father was a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives for 24 years.  He always fought against granting general fund moneys to the Game and Fish Department, arguing that the moment any State does so, it would destroy our game and fish populations.  He explained that if their funding was dependent upon the hunting and fishing industries, they would manage and protect our wildlife.  If, on the other hand, the Game and Fish Departments received general funding, they would immediately turn towards the radical “enviro” anti-hunting, anti-management, anti-protection, pro-predator mentality.

He also said that we should never compromise our food supply by inserting into your energy chain.

He also said that the only way to protect our environment is to protect the caretakers, not the absentee owners that live (and govern) thousands of miles away.

My father passed away in 2006.  He was right on many counts.

My contribution is this.  The people in the resource management and use industries have created a utopia for the people who have never lifted a finger to do anything other than file lawsuits and send money to the Sierra Club.  We have provided food and water resources for the wildlife.  We have created and protected magnificent open spaces.  We have provided food and water resources to our citizens. We have been the foundation of the prosperity in this Country for the last century (and before).  We have created a standard of living that is unrivaled in the world.  We have made life easy for many, many, many folks and, to my chagrin, made it possible for people to believe that you could continue to take from the producers, and give to the non-producers. 

We are now on the brink of disaster, and I do not mean the economic situation.  We are on the brink of disaster because, under the false pretense of addressing our economic situation, there are people who are crafting a spending package in Washington, D.C., that is designed to take all of that away (through regulations, taxes, introduction of predators, global warming hysteria, lawsuits, federally-controlled health care, etc.).

While I am worried about the future, I also believe that the only way to restore some common sense to our government and to our society is for this disaster to play itself out.  We have always provided a buffer between the rhetoric (a chicken in every pot, universal health care is a constitutional right, we can solve the worlds problems by spreading the wealth around) and reality.  As a result, we have been blamed, vilified, hung in effigy, hated, attacked, regulated beyond rational thought, and ridiculed.  As Ayn Rand said, ” you can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of reality.”  By our sheer productivity and determination, even in the face of being regulated and lawsuited to death, we have made it possible for the citizens of our Country to not only ignore reality, but to ignore its consequences.  Perhaps more dangerously, we have allowed our judicial, legislative, and executive branches to do so as well.

I believe that the current situation will be difficult (that is probably an understatement).  It has become obvious to me, however, that we will never fix this problem, until the masses understand what the problem is.  We have given them easy scapegoats (with the press failing miserably to tell the truth).  We have made it easy for our educators to shovel misinformation to our students, because there have been no consequences for doing so.  An example are the teachers in Wyoming who teach global warming propaganda, while ignoring the fact that coal pays their salaries.  We have made it easy for people to wonder at the “beauty” of a wolf as it frolics in the meadow, because we have provided a steady, sustainable, healthy and safe food supply not only for our citizens, but for the wolves as well.  We have made it easy for people to believe that government is the savior, because we have been able to succeed despite their intervention, bureaucracy, and inefficiency.  We have made it easy to yell at oil and gas companies, because when the latest political rally and rock concert is over, everyone can go home to a heated home or unlimited air conditioning.

In short, we have to stop protecting the nitwits from the consequences of their decisions.  We have to let them learn what it means to bow down to the god of global warming (a five-fold increase in heating and air conditioning bills — for a start); what it means to allow predators to decimate our ungulate population, and eventually our livestock industries (substantial increases in food costs); and what it means to allow the government to control everything from your health care decisions to what kind of a car you can drive.

I am, for the first time in a long time, optimistic about our future.  I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I see that those of us out here in the hinterlands will not be bearing their bad decisions on our own.  I see a Country of people that are far too spoiled, too satisfied, too safe, too prosperous, too independent to allow our government to go the way of Europe.

Now is the time to push back.  Force the federal government to take responsibility for this mess.  Do not let them foist this onto the States.  We can win this battle if we turn our backs on Washington, D.C., and force them to do our bidding rather than the other way around.  The States have the power, not the feds.  We have forgotten this for far too long.

Note: Harriet M. Hageman of Hageman & Brighton, P.C., Cheyenne WY is a member of the Board of Directors for the Wyoming Water Association, the Advisory Board of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, and the Steering Committee for the Wyoming Business Alliance. She is also Contributing Counsel to Good Neighbor Law [here].

 
  
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