To the Oregonian: Thanks For Nothing

The following Editorial appeared in the Oregonian “news” paper last Friday:

On timber, thanks for nothing

by the Oregonian Editorial Board, July 23, 2010 [here]

After a year of study, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s crackerjack task force on western Oregon timber management has concluded that, gee, lots of people are frustrated and things are pretty tough out there.

We can’t wait for next year’s sequel in which the Obama task force is invited back to take another yearlong look and rediscovers that, believe it or not, lots of people remain frustrated and things are pretty tough out there.

This could go on forever. It would be laughable if the unemployment rate across much of rural Oregon wasn’t running at 12 to 15 percent, if timber towns weren’t trying desperately to hold together their basic public services such as police and libraries, if huge swaths of public forests weren’t overstocked with small trees one lightning strike or tossed cigarette away from going up in flames late this summer.

We made the mistake of taking the interior secretary at his word last year when the Obama administration abandoned the Western Oregon Plan Revision, or WOPR, which sought to increase logging on more than 2 million acres of public forests. Salazar promised that the task force would come up with a plan that would increase logging and thinning while complying with the Endangered Species Act.

Instead, the task force issued a report Thursday that calls for a three- to five-year planning process and concludes what everybody already knows: Major obstacles such as distrust among competing interest groups and conflicting federal policies stand in the way of increasing logging on western Oregon’s public forests and creating more economic activity in rural communities.

Given all that rural Oregon is struggling with, this “plan to have a plan,” as Oregon’s Rep. Peter DeFazio described it Thursday, is inexcusable. There’s no urgency in the task force report, no acknowledgement of the economic emergency, no commitment to provide any leadership to help resolve the conflicts over management of the public forests. As Rep. Greg Walden said, “It’s doubly frustrating that while this report was being put together, timber sales dropped to historic lows. The sick forests and the economy in southern Oregon can’t wait any longer.” …

Let’s clear the air here. The Oregonian Editorial Board supported and endorsed Barky Obama for president, knowing full well that Barky expressed zero forest policy or agricultural policy during his campaign, and knowing full well that the most extreme anti-forest elements were affiliated with Barky.

Now the Oregonian Editorial Board claims they “made the mistake of taking the interior secretary at his word.” What about taking Barky at his word, or lack of words?

The Western Oregon Plan Revision was the result of years of planning, public meetings, and public involvement with an open, transparent process. Why did the Oregonian Editorial Board sit in mute dumbfoundedness when Salazar, acting on behalf of Barky and his radical minions, jerked the WOPR away illegally?

You see, it was an illegal act on Salazar’s part to TAMPER with a public process. Salazar also jerked the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan, twenty years in the making, because, as Salazar claimed, the plans were potentially jeopardized by improper political influence.

So Salazar, acting on Barky’s orders, undertook the biggest political tampering action possible: he unilaterally and illegally threw both plans in the dumpster.

And the Oregonian Editorial Board was just fine with all that. They approved. Now, all of a sudden, they claim that they were somehow deceived.

It won’t wash, gentlemen. You were never deceived — you were the deceivers, then and now.

The Oregonian Editorial Board claims to be concerned about unemployment in rural Oregon, tinder box forests, and an unresponsive Federal Government.

Well guess what? That’s been the situation for SIXTEEN YEARS!!!!!

The 1994 Northwest Forest Plan had (has) four fundamental goals. It has failed spectacularly to meet any of them.

1. The NWFP has failed to protect northern spotted owls

By most estimations, the northern spotted owl population has fallen 40 to 60 percent since inception of the NWFP.

2. The NWFP has failed to protect spotted owl habitat

Since inception, millions of acres of spotted owl habitat have been catastrophically incinerated. Millions more acres are poised to burn.

3. The NWFP has failed to preserve habitat continuity throughout the range of the northern spotted owl

The dozens of huge and catastrophic forest fires have left giant gaps in the range. The Biscuit Burn alone is 50 miles long and 20 miles wide.

4. The NWFP has failed to protect the regional economy

Since inception of the NWFP, Oregon has experienced 16 long years of the worst economy in the U.S., with the highest rates of unemployment, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, and hunger of any state. These are not just statistics, but indicators of real human suffering. Over 40,000 workers lost their jobs, and the rural economy has been crippled ever since.

The plan to save the owls has not saved anything; not owls, not old-growth, not the economy. The cost for nothing? $100,000 per job per year x 40,000 jobs x 16 years = $64 billion. That’s what Northwesterners have paid, for nothing. And the bills continue to mount.

Sixteen years of gross Federal forest stupidity and the Oregonian Editorial Board hasn’t noticed until now?

But let’s not cast all the blame on those pathetic schmucks. Let’s look at the politicians they mentioned. Rep. Peter DeFazio has been in that office for 24 years, Sen. Ron Wyden has been in Congress for 20 years, 12 as senator, and Rep. Greg Walden has been in Congress for 12 years.

They all have done exactly nothing in all that time to address or amend the Northwest Forest Plan.

Now that is truly inexcusable.

We have re-elected and re-elected mendacious jingoists who every election season stand up on their hind legs and rail against the atrocious un-management of Oregon’s Federal forests, and then when re-elected go back their D.C. party life while doing jack s**t about Oregon’s perpetual forest crisis.

They all claim to “have a plan”. They all claim that they have a bill in their pants that will solve everything. But the bills somehow never get past first base, and any careful examination explains why: the proposed bills are poorly written, completely unworkable, and wouldn’t solve anything if they were passed, which they never will be because the sponsors are frauds and just jerking the electorate around.

They all pretend to be shocked and aghast at the condition of Federal forests in Oregon, and the ongoing misery in rural Oregon, as if it just occurred to them last week.

None of them spoke up in 1994 when the supremely crappy NWFP was jammed down our throats. None of them has done one damn thing about it since.

So blank you, Oregonian Editorial Board, and blank you, Oregon Congressoafs and Senaturds.

You all ARE the problem. You all have perpetuated and exacerbated Oregon’s forest crisis. Nobody is fooled when you cry crocodile tears and blame Barky and Ken. You wanted those guys, just like you want Oregon’s forests to burn in megafires and rural Oregonians to suffer deprivations and poverty.

Your feigned outrage doesn’t cut it anymore. You are all cads and bounders. A pox on all of you.

10 Aug 2010, 2:29pm
by TreeC123

Actually … there were 141,300 acres of spotted owl habitat lost to wildfire on both federal land non-federal land from 1994 to 2004. There were 739,499 acres of spotted owl habitat lost to logging on federal land non-federal lands from 1994 to 2004.

Habitat loss is still a problem, but so is the barred owl.

If we want to protect the spotted owl from the barred owl, we need to protect all suitable habitat in order to increase the chances of co-existence instead of competitive exclusion. This is from any basic ecology class. Smaller patches of habitat harbor fewer species.

10 Aug 2010, 5:42pm
by admin

Tree, your contentions are based on faulty assumptions regarding “suitable”, “habitat”, “logging”, “lost”, fire acreage, etc. And it’s dated. In fact millions of acres of “suitable acres” have burned in the range of the NSO since 1994.

It’s not the barred owl, either. Spotted owls populations are declining because they are being predated (killed and eaten by predators) faster than they can reproduce. It’s predator-prey. Spotted owls have plenty to eat themselves, but they get snatched up too frequently by goshawks, golden eagles, great horned owls, etc.

There are two ways to save spotted owls. One is to control their predators. The other is to do captive breeding and release.

To save old-growth, and replenish old-growth, the fuels need to be removed and new fuels controlled.

The forest development pathway that led to our old-growth was open forests with widely-spaced trees, subject to frequent, seasonal, light-burning fires that kept the fuels at minimal levels. Individual trees could survive those fires and grow to great ages.

To get back to that condition requires biomass removal, i.e. logging — to save trees so that they might grow older, and not be killed in the next wildfire. Forest restoration means restoring the pathways, which, by the way, were anthropogenic, i.e. with significant human influences. Restoration also means restoring people to the land, to carry out stewardship activities, including logging where it’s needed.

Holding the economy hostage for 20 years for nothing, for a decline in the NSO population of 60% or more, is a failed experiment. It was based on faulty science that never could “describe” spotted owl habitat and didn’t understand the basics of population dynamics. But the operative word is “failed”.

The old way failed. There is a new way. It is called historically-informed forest restoration (together with scientific wildlife management).

13 Aug 2010, 1:19pm
by TreeC123

You say “In fact millions of acres of “suitable acres” have burned in the range of the NSO since 1994.” This is simply false. In fact, far fewer acres of forest are affected by fire each year than are affected by fire within the range of the spotted owl. And, only a small subset of all the acres affected by fire are suitable habitat. See Raphael, M.G. (2006). Conservation of listed species: the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. Chapter 7 in R.W. Haynes, B.T. Bormann, D.C. Lee, and J.R. Martin (technical editors), Northwest Forest Plan—the first 10 Years (1994–2003): synthesis of monitoring and research results. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, Oregon. p 121.

Second, trying to save the spotted owl from fire by logging is a fool’s errand. We can’t predict where or when fire will occur so fuel treatments must be widespread across the landscape and only a small subset of those treatments will actually interact with wildfire, so one-to-two orders of magnitude more acres will be unnecessarily degraded by logging than will be “saved” by modified fire behavior. This is probabilistic risk assessment.

13 Aug 2010, 2:22pm
by Bob Zybach


Maybe “trying to save the spotted owl from fire by logging is a fool’s errand,” but certainly trying to save the bird via set-asides and passive management actions has proven a colossal failure. Does that make it a “fool’s investment?” And, if so, when do we stop throwing good money after bad? Hasn’t enough harm already been done to our forests and rural communities by this failed and foolish approach?

On to the other part of your post: YES, we can too predict “where or when fire will occur” across the landscape — and many of us did so with the B&B and Biscuit fires as two good examples.

Fires occur where fuels occur. Typically, they take place during the dry season in the western US, and especially on east winds. Put two and two together and you get a pretty good prediction — and that is what has been happening on many fronts for the past 20 years.

And where did you develop your value systems? Why does logging necessarily cause “degradation?” Who’s doing the “grading?” YOU? To call your statements a “probabilistic risk assessment” is both foolish and grandiose. It is nothing of the sort, of course — only a value-laden rant, and little else.

I can see why you use a pseudonym — less probability and risk of appearing foolish and losing credibility.

13 Aug 2010, 4:42pm
by Mike

Bob is correct. We can predict where fire will occur. Indeed, we can dictate where fire will occur and have been dictating fire occurrence for as long as humanity has been here.

This is a big conceptual leap for many, but only recently. Prior to the modern age, everybody was aware that fire was humanity’s gift, tool, weapon, birthright — that fire is as much a part of who we are as opposable thumbs.

The idea that fire is a mysterious and unpredictable force of nature, like the wind or the rain, is a modern blindspot, an ignorance born of forgetfulness, a cultural memory lapse.

“Logging” is also a tool of humanity, not a mysterious unknown. It is an action we control and can design and implement to fit the need and achieve desired outcomes.

Humanity is neither inept nor a cancer on the planet.

14 Aug 2010, 8:27am
by Larry H.

Having actually done Federal bird surveys, including spotted owls, I know that it is their nest trees that are the most important parts of their “habitat”. For their foraging habitat, they like a mixed bag of forest types and “edge effect”. Unfortunately, when their nest trees burn up, a nesting pair must move on to another one of their other nests they maintain over the years. They also often share those nests and habitat with northern goshawks and barred owls.

If there are a lack of nests, there will be a lack of young. I have a picture of a protected owl circle from the Biscuit Fire. There is more than 95% mortality, at least, and I rather doubt a nest still exists there.



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