16 Jul 2009, 2:57pm
Federal forest policy The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Wildfire — Beneficial or Damaging?

The US Forest Service is incinerating millions of acres this year with dozens of wildfires they Let Burn under the rubric of “fires used for resource benefit” (FUFRB’s), or as we called them, foofurbs. Foofurbs have replaced whoofoos (Wildland Fire Use fires or WFU’s) [here].

Background: the illegally constituted Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) [here] is the Federal Advisory Committee that oversees firefighting on Federal land, including USFS, BLM, NPS, USFWS, and BIA. The WFLC seated radical enviro lobbyist groups such as the Wilderness Society, promulgated a “Black, Dead Forests Are Beautiful” campaign [here] and invented whoofoos [here] as a substitute for Let It Burn. After complaints were received, the WFLC went underground. They no longer post meeting notices or minutes [here] or even their membership list [here] (note that the names and dates are over a year out-of-date).

This year, in secret backroom meetings with radical enviro holocaust advocates, the WFLC dumped whoofoo and replaced it with foofurb. This is despite the push over the last two years to write WFU into over 30 National Forest Plans nationwide. Now the WFU language is defunct, and all the illegal altering of Forest Plans must happen again.

In the meantime, foofurbs have sprung up all over. The Southwest Region has already burned a half million acres this year in foofurbs. The Southern California, Alaska, Eastern Great Basin, and Rocky Mountain Regions all have foofurbs burning right now.

Interestingly, in none of these foofurb fires has the USFS specified exactly what the alleged benefits of “fires used for resource benefit” are. There have been no analyses made, no declarations, no public hearings, and most importantly, no Environmental Impact Statements produced.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is quite clear in stating that any major Federal action that will have significant effects and impacts on resources and the human environment requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to implementation of that action. Potential “significant effects” require an EIS whether or not those effects are characterized as detrimental or beneficial:

“Significantly” as used in NEPA requires considerations of both context and intensity:

(a) Context. This means that the significance of an action must be analyzed in several contexts such as society as a whole (human, national), the affected region, the affected interests, and the locality. Significance varies with the setting of the proposed action. For instance, in the case of a site-specific action, significance would usually depend upon the effects in the locale rather than in the world as a whole. Both short- and long-term effects are relevant.

(b) Intensity. This refers to the severity of impact. Responsible officials must bear in mind that more than one agency may make decisions about partial aspects of a major action. The following should be considered in evaluating intensity:

Impacts that may be both beneficial and adverse. A significant effect may exist even if the Federal agency believes that on balance the effect will be beneficial.

From Sec. 1508.27, the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4371 et seq.), sec. 309 of the Clean Air Act, as amended (42 U.S.C. 7609), and E.O. 11514 (Mar. 5, 1970, as amended by E.O. 11991, May 24, 1977). Source: 43 FR 56003, Nov. 29, 1978, unless otherwise noted.

When the USFS deliberately conducts foofurb fires, it does not matter what their excuse is. “Restore ecological function” or “rejuvenate wildlands” are largely pseudo-scientific BS, but they are also tacit admissions that the actions will have significant effect on the environment. Ergo, the USFS is in multiple violation of NEPA and they know it.

Ironically, the USFS wants it both ways. Last summer they won a judgment against Union Pacific Railroad Co. for poor track maintenance that resulted in the Storrie Fire (2000). The Federal District Court of Eastern California awarded the USFS $102 million in damages:

Department Of Justice Press Release, July 22, 2008 [here]

…The Storrie forest fire ignited on August 17, 2000, in the Feather River Canyon north of Storrie, California on the railroad right-of-way within the Plumas National Forest. The United States’ complaint alleged that the fire started as a result of a midday repair operation to railroad tracks by UP employees who failed to take the necessary precautions to prevent the fire. The United States contended that UP track maintenance workers failed to clear the area of flammable material, and failed to use appropriate spark shields in connection with high-speed rail saws and grinders, allowing the escape of small, hot pieces of metal that ultimately started the fire.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Kendall J. Newman, the lead government attorney in the case against UP, the Forest Service mobilized over 2,600 federal, state, and local firefighters, air tankers, helicopter crews, and other personnel to fight the Storrie forest fire. The fire burned over three weeks, encompassing an area of over 52,000 acres within the Plumas and Lassen National Forests before it was fully extinguished. Fire crews successfully suppressed the fire, without the loss of any life or buildings, at a cost of approximately $22 million.

The fire nonetheless caused substantial damage to National Forest System lands, destroying wildlife habitat and killing trees on over 21,000 acres. The areas ravaged by the fire included pristine, old growth forests that Congress had expressly set aside for preservation by protecting them from logging through the Quincy Library Group Act and federal Wilderness Area designation. The United States District Court ruled in this case that the people of the United States are entitled to compensation for the unique aspects of the damaged forests, above and beyond the fair market value of the timber destroyed. The remaining $80 million of the settlement compensates the United States for damages to its natural resources. The settlement monies will go directly to the Plumas and Lassen National Forests to help remedy the resource devastation from the fire.

“We are pleased with this settlement. The money will be quickly applied toward restoring the landscape and the ecological balance on National Forest lands damaged in the fire so that the public can once again enjoy these pristine forest regions,” said Undersecretary Rey. …

Mark Rey’s disingenuous, a-historical, and laughable reference to “pristine forest regions” aside, an article in the New York Untimely yesterday called the lawsuit settlement “habitat equivalency damages”:

Carbon Offsets a Wild Card as Environmental Markets Converge

By Michael Burnham, NYT, July 15, 2009 [here]

It was a scorcher nine years ago in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada.

The temperature climbed to about 95 degrees Fahrenheit on Aug. 17 as workers repaired a stretch of railroad that snakes through Feather River Canyon. Smoldering pieces of metal popped from tracks, igniting a blaze that would consume 52,000 acres within the Plumas and Lassen national forests.

It took firefighters three weeks to suppress the “Storrie Fire” and attorneys eight years to settle the ensuing litigation.

Union Pacific Railroad Co. agreed to pay $102 million to the Forest Service last summer, marking the largest recovery of fire damages in the agency’s history. More remarkable was how a U.S. district court calculated the sum: The government was entitled to “habitat equivalency” damages — the loss of wilderness for animals and humans — above and beyond the value of the timber that was destroyed. …

So which is it? Do wildfires benefit resources by creating the blackened dead, “beautiful” forests desired by secret government conspiracies, or do they damage resources? Do foofurbs meet objectives or do they cause irreparable harm to forests, wildlife habitat, watersheds, airsheds, public health and safety, recreation opportunities, and rural, urban, and national economies? Are foofurbs so insignificant that they do not require compliance with NEPA, or are they multi-million dollar deliberate disasters perpetrated in defiance and violation of Federal laws?

Do the public forests belong to the public, or to backroom wheeler dealers working for radical leftwing revolutionaries? Is the U.S. Forest Service a public agency or a conspiracy to rob and harm the public by wreaking extreme havoc across our landscapes?

Those are questions to be asked and answered before a two-faced government foofurb burns your watershed, home, or community.

Note: an additional irony — when the USFS backburns your property to ashes, as a private citizen or company you have absolutely no recourse in Federal courts to recover damages or be recompensed in any way. You will be injured, insulted, and thrown into the street while your property lies in ruins from patently illegal Federal incineration.

30 Jul 2009, 12:22am
by YPmule

Did they fight that fire with direct attack? Or did they wait for the fire to meet some distant back burn? (The stand back and throw a match “fight fire with fire” approach.)

Oh my, that was a beautiful canyon in the late 1980’s - just beautiful. That used to be the old Western Pacific Line - the Feather River Route.

30 Jul 2009, 12:30am
by Mike

Good question. I don’t know the answer, but given the fire was contained in 3 weeks, I would guess direct attack. That was 2000, a couple of years before megafires became a popular pastime for the USFS.

BTW, much of the Feather River Canyon got burned last year in fires that stretched from Chico to Quincy.



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