3 May 2009, 6:47pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Let It Burners Obfuscate the Facts

The Redding Record Searchlight continued its series of articles about forests and fire [here, here] this week with a Dylan Darling piece on firefighting methods [here].

Firefighting methods questioned

By Dylan Darling, Redding Record Searchlight, May 1, 2009

Last summer Rayola Pratt experienced the fear that haunts so many in the north state. Wildfire tore through the woods near her home off Rock Creek Road west of Redding.

“From here we could just watch the trees burst into flames,” she said.

When she evacuated as the Motion Fire pushed flames toward her place, she left her home in the care of a fire crew from Montana that slept on her deck between shifts. It was the biggest fire to burn near the home in the 40 years Pratt has lived there and she partially credits the firefighters for saving it.

While people with opposing points of view about wildfire issues in the north state agree that homes threatened by flames should be saved, they disagree about the level at which fire should be fought in the wildland.

At the crux of most any debate about wildfire suppression is the question of how aggressively to attack — when should firefighters hit fires with everything available, and when should they let them burn. The issue is complex, with firefighter safety, threats to life or property and potential benefits of fire for the land all taken into consideration by the agencies fighting the flames.

That would be nice if it were true, but it isn’t. The “agencies fighting the flames” do not take “potential benefits of fire for the land” into consideration, principally because there aren’t any.

Wildfires that are allowed to burn hundreds of thousands of acres all summer long do not benefit the environment. That canard is mousy propaganda, a falsehood, a raft of bilge, not the facts, sophistry, and too easy fodder for numskull journalists anxious to grovel in front their government informants.

The facts are that wildfires destroy forests, incinerate habitat, pollute air and water, cripple rural economies, and scar landscapes for lifetimes.

The facts are that the “agencies fighting the flames” are allegedly subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and must (by law) follow the NEPA process before they inflict environmental impacts, detrimental or beneficial (it doesn’t matter to NEPA — if the action is “significant” it requires an approved Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to the action).

Except that they (the “agencies fighting the flames”) don’t follow NEPA or produce EIS’s before deciding to Burn Baby Burn.

The absence of any NEPA process before landscape-scale burning ought to be a red flag to the Main Stream Media and the public. The avoidance of NEPA is not tolerated in other Federal actions. Many such actions that might be extremely beneficial are still subject to NEPA and frequently enjoined by judges in judgments regarding lawsuits brought by so-called “environmental” litigants.

So-called “environmental” litigants sue the bluejeans off the USFS should they fail to produce an EIS and often even when EIS’s are done. The arguments for the legal actions turn on prior judicial interpretations of NEPA — the arcane minutia of NEPA law. NEPA is not a long law, but the court record is voluminous and stretches NEPA to unimagined regions.

It stands to reason, then, that Federal actions which destroy millions of acres of priceless, heritage forests every year should be subject to NEPA, and that so-called “environmental” groups would rationally be sue-sue-suing to put a stop to the destructive practices.

But reason has gone missing because so-called “environmental” groups DO NOT sue over Let It Burn. They like massive megafires, scorched earth, and roasted watersheds. There can be no other conclusion, since so-called “environmental” groups sue over everything else but not the Let It Burn policy. Moreover, so-called “environmental” groups such as the Wilderness Society are the architects of Let It Burn, sitting as they do in the headquarters of fire policy, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, and say so proudly on their websites.

Back to the article in question:

Let it burn

Fighting fire in the back country is simply a waste of money, said Doug Bevington, forest program manager for Santa Monica-based conservation group Environment Now. “The irony of this, especially at this time of budget crisis, is we spend hundreds of millions of dollars suppressing wildfire,” he said.

He said there is a deficit of wildfire in the north state’s forests and if fires are not threatening life or structures, they should be allowed to burn.

Proof positive that so-called “environmental” groups, in this case Environment Now, are all hot to trot for catastrophic megafire.

Need anyone be reminded that Environment Now funds Sierra Forest Legacy, the Center For Biological Diversity, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology (FUSEE), ForestEthics, Earth Island Institute, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Sequoia ForestKeeper, and Sierra Forest legacy, among other enviro groups [here]? All those mentioned are lawyered up, litigation-happy, frequent suers of the USFS. All those so-called “environmental” groups pursue injunctions against the USFS for the tiniest of healthy forest restoration projects, despite EIS processes dragged out for years with meticulous analysis.

But when it comes to forest holocaust, the pack of lawyers kenneled by Environment Now are dead silent, out to lunch, gone fishing, disappeared, and nowhere to found. The deafening silence from the eco-lawyers is disturbed only by the plaintive bleating of rich LA-LA radicals who swoon over Let It Burn as a “cost savings” measure.

Since when were LA-LA radicals fiscal conservatives?

In one recent lawsuit brought by Environment Now vassals, 9th Circuit Judge “Bakunin” Noonan declared that thinning forests was tantamount to extortion, collusion and bribery [here]. He had no similar dim bulb eruption about forest fires, finding them to be a happy result of responsible governance.

That kind of whack-a-mole insanity is the real cause of our forest fire crisis, and it oozes poisonously from silver-spooned anarchists like Environment Now.

Truly, the Redding Record Searchlight could and should do a better job. If you guys must report on the toxic madness of Angelenos, do so on the Entertainment Page, not in the news section.

The article in question did nibble around the edges of the real problem (which is not the lack of “beneficial” holocaust in the Redding watershed). The real problem is the deliberate incineration of landscapes by “agencies who do NOT fight the flames” and have failed miserably at forest stewardship:

Call for change

Since last fall a group of former Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection fire officials in the north state have been writing to and meeting with lawmakers.

The nine-member Concerned Citizens for Responsible Fire Management contends that firefighting efforts aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Their critiques are pointed at the Forest Service in particular. David Rhodes of Lewiston — who worked for the Forest Service for 30 years, all in jobs involving fire — said the federal agency takes too many precautions now. And that allows fires that could have been stopped when they were small to grow big, he said.

“We are trying to get them back to fighting fire instead of sitting on their hands and saying it’s too dangerous,” said Rhodes, committee chairman for the citizens group.

Rhodes said the group has gone to lawmakers with their concerns because decisions on the changes they propose must come from top firefighting bureaucrats.

The top firefighting bureaucrats run the zoo. They make the snap decisions to spend hundreds of $millions burning vast landscapes with zero input from the citizenry who own the forest and pay the salaries of those top firefighting bureaucrats.

There is no recourse for the average citizen or even for the above-average, expert citizen who is personally affected by the decisions made by nameless top firefighting bureaucrats. You can write your congressperson, but the top firefighting bureaucrats do not answer to Congress. They march to their own drummer. They do their own thing, which involves burning millions of acres of the Public Estate every year, and pocketing the double-overtime bonus pay for “endangerment” and “active duty” which rarely impacts nameless top firefighting bureaucrats, cushioned as they are behind firewalls of bureaucratic pettifoggery.

We know their names, however.

More from the article:

Fire crews now put their personal safety ahead of all other factors when determining how to fight a fire, said Charley Fitch of Redding, a member of the group who was a Forest Service firefighter for 35 years. The safety issue has become a trump card firefighters can pull when given an unappealing assignment, he said. “If you don’t want to do something just say it’s unsafe and walk away,” Fitch said.

Safety concerns now stop firefighters from using strategies and techniques that, although potentially dangerous, were often effective, Fitch said. They say those include using “coyote tactics,” or setting small camps along the fire line each night so crews can work on a fire for days.

Safety first

While recognizing that there have been changes in how wildfires are fought, top fire officials say agencies in the north state still aim to extinguish the flames — eventually. That’s especially true when there is a flurry of fires near communities as there was last summer, fire officials say. “Our philosophy last year was to contain and control the fires,” said Cravens, the Shasta-Trinty’s fire management officer.

Why then was Shasta-Trinty’s fire acreage and suppression expenditures the highest in history last summer with 266,157 acres burned and suppression costs over $150,000,000 [here]? Was that the result of a contain and control philosophy?

At some point the bureaucratic BS meets the public fan, and the inevitable spatter pattern is not pretty. Top firefighting bureaucrats say one thing, do another, and the public takes it on the chin as our landscapes are consumed by designed illegal holocaust.

We pay their salaries. They work for us. Perhaps it is time to name names and evaluate our employees on a case-by-case basis. If the bureaucracy will not reveal itself, much less police itself, then perhaps we ought to assume that burden for the public weal.

3 May 2009, 7:16pm
by Bob Z.


People are getting killed “fighting” wildfires every year — so far, 10 this year alone.

If these nitwits were burning up trailer parks instead of federal lands, they would be sent to prison.

It is past time the perpetrators were held accountable — the bureaucrats, the politicians, their so-called “fire experts” and ecologists; the “foresters” w/o degrees or experience who “manage” our forests and wildfires; the ambulance chasers and the eco-groups who pay them with our tax monies — the whole sordid, sleazy, creepy group of them that profit by the wholesale slaughter of our nation’s forests and natural resources; and kill too many of our innocent young in the process.

They need to be named, and they need to be held ethically responsible, whether “legal” liability can be established or not. The inmates have taken over the asylum, and the public is oblivious. Action needs to be taken.

Talking sense and dispensing facts hasn’t worked. It’s time to name names and hold these killers and destroyers personally responsible for the lives they’re taking and the forests they’re ruining. That’s what they’d do if these were trailer parks or apartment buildings they were nonchalantly firing — why not our forests?

3 May 2009, 9:24pm
by Mike

btw, in the article the journalist quoted a fire official:

Fire crews contained 121 of 136 fires sparked by the storm — 89 percent — at fewer than 100 acres, Cravens said. The summer’s largest fire, the Iron Fire in Trinity County, burned 32,903 acres.

I suspect the speaker was misquoted.

Because we tracked the Iron Complex at W.I.S.E Fire Tracking [here]. The Iron Complex was 101,306 acres on Sept. 9, 2008. The Eagle Fire (one of the Complex) was 32,059 acres at last report, so that may be the one he was referring to. The Iron Complex cost over $75 million in “suppression” expenses alone. Losses were 10 to 20 times that much and include the evacuations of over 1,400 homes, short- and long-term smoke effects on public health, watershed damages, business losses, and ten firefighter fatalities [here]. You can follow the day-by-day progression of the Iron Complex Fires [here] by scrolling all the way to the bottom and working your way up the page.

All the blame cannot be laid on the top fire officials, however. The top Forest officials also played a role. And they were following directives from the Washington Office. So the blame is spreadable, although the buck ought to stop at the top.

But the real source of the problem, as we all know, is poor pre-fire stewardship of the public forests. It’s the biofuels, Sherlock, although “fuels management” alone will not suffice. Forest restoration is a more holistic approach, with a new set of desired future conditions that includes fire-resilient forests. It also comes with a new burning plan: frequent, seasonal deliberate fires set in forests that have been prepared to receive the right kind of fire.

Accidental fires will still occur, including lightning fires, but they will be less severe, less damaging, and easier to contain. That is one of the primary goals of restoration: to reduce fire severity. Like the other goals of restoration, it has a high benefit/cost ratio. In this case, $billions in costs-plus-losses could have been saved, as well as lives.

5 May 2009, 9:37am
by John M.

Mike, as usual you cut to the chase and did an excellent job of summarizing the situation. Bob added some excellent points to help emphasize the seriousness of the fire situation.

I would add a couple observations for what they are worth. So far in the Record Searchlight series there has been no discussion of the fire damage to fish and wildlife habitat in general, or to two of the headline grabbing stars of the Endangered Species Act, the Spotted Owl and Salmon. Neither has there been any discussion of the impact of dead forests on supplies of water, wood and oxygen for future generations.

The impacts to people living in fire areas have also been ignored. But that is expected since the agony of people living in rural forest areas has been ignored since the beginning of the “Owl Wars” in the late 1980’s

And I guess is that it is the American way to not worry about issues — such as where 400 million people will get the natural resources they depend on now if those resources are damaged and destroyed in wildfires.



web site

leave a comment

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta