28 Jul 2010, 9:30pm
Federal forest policy Monkeywrenching forests
by admin

Destroying Forests in NE Washington

by Ken Schlichte

An article in the Seattle Times this week begins:

Environmentalists, Loggers Push New Wilderness Deal in Northeast Washington

By Craig Welch, Seattle Times, July 27, 2023 [here]

The rolling highlands of Northeast Washington are home to grape ferns, lady slipper orchids, burnt-orange flameflowers - and scratch-dry ponderosa pine that timber companies really want to log.

The wild country from the Kettle Range to the Selkirk Mountains offers a corridor linking Washington’s elusive lynx with other carnivores in Montana. But it also offers uber-popular spots for riding dirt bikes, jeeps and all-terrain vehicles.

So after decades of lawsuits and arguments about this corner of the state, environmentalists and logging companies tried a different approach: They talked. And talked some more.

Eight years later they’re putting forward something new: proposals to set aside tens of thousands of acres as wilderness.

Conservation Northwest, a Bellingham-based environmental group run by former EarthFirst! tree-sitter Mitch Friedman, will unveil an initiative Wednesday to add more than 180,000 acres of wilderness to Colville National Forest. The plan also calls for designating areas of the forest for recreation - from mountain bikes to dirt bikes - and raising up to $2 million from donors to put 2,200 acres of private land east of Republic, Ferry County, into a forest-conservation program. And it largely has timber-industry support.

The efforts still are being massaged, and all sides concede they’re just getting started. But few dispute something remarkable has happened. Former enemies are working so well together that they’re jointly trying to bring others along.

“The environmentalists here aren’t just in it for themselves,” said Russ Vaagen, of Vaagen Brothers Lumber in Colville, Stevens County. “They’re not trying to lock us out of the woods. They want us back in. But they’ve got things they want to achieve, too.”

Friedman, who helped raise $16.5 million from private donors to set aside the 25,000-acre Loomis Forest in 1999, said this “Columbia Highlands Initiative” is part of an effort to maintain lasting wildlife corridors that could link the Cascades to the Rockies.

Ranches are being subdivided and sold for housing, and climate change already is altering the ecology of this landscape. “We need these corridors for climate adaptation,” Friedman said. …

Environmentalist Mitch Friedman’s suggestion that climate change is altering the ecology of Northeast Washington forests is questionable because we have seen that annual temperatures in the Northwest have actually been trending downward for over 20 years.

The ecology of Northeast Washington forest stands is being significantly altered, however, by the lack of Native American landscape burning activities and the effectiveness of modern wildfire control activities that have allowed many of these forest stands to become overstocked and over-aged. These overstocked and over-aged forest stand conditions have increased the wildfire potential as well as decreasing forest vigor and increasing the potential for mountain pine beetle outbreaks and other forest health problems.

Mitch Friedman led the effort to set aside the 25,000-acre Loomis Natural Resource Conservation Areas in the Loomis State Forest managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources in 1999. The forests on this 25,000-acre set aside are primarily overstocked and over-aged stands with increasing mountain pine beetle outbreaks and increasing wildfire potential. As consequence, those forests will eventually be destroyed by the increasing mountain pine beetle outbreaks and/or wildfire because all forest management activities, including thinning and prescribed burning, have been prohibited.

Without forest management activities like thinning and prescribed burning, the forests on the more than 180,000 acres of wilderness now being added to the Colville National Forest will also eventually be destroyed by mountain pine beetle outbreaks and/or wildfire.

This Seattle Times article included the photo below that illustrates the general appearance of most Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon ponderosa pine stands until the late 1800’s while Native American landscape burning activities regularly eliminated the natural regeneration and minimized overstocked forest stand conditions.

Without forest management activities, future photos of this Ferry County forest stand that are taken from the same location will illustrate the increasing natural regeneration that will eventually result in the overstocking, the increases in ladder fuels and the total fuel loading that will eventually destroy this stand with a mountain pine beetle outbreak and/or a wildfire.

29 Jul 2010, 7:51am
by Mitch Friedman

Ken’s article uses an awfully broad brush to paint over the forests of eastern WA. In short, only parts of the area have the dry forest type he describes, and is pictured.

With respect to dry forests, we agree about the need to thin and maintain with fire. The balanced forest plan developed by the Northeast WA Forestry Coalition allocates almost a third of the Colville National Forest to this type of restoration management.

While most of the proposed wilderness area is higher, wetter, and less accessible, those areas (like the 13 Mile and Cougar IRA’s) that are dry forest are proposed for active thinning before becoming wilderness, and for ongoing fire management.

Regarding the Loomis Forest protected areas, those are high lodgepole pine forests with an altogether different fire cycle and not appropriate for what Ken suggests. Moreover, the pine beetle invasion peaked on the Loomis in the mid to late 1990’s, and its pretty stable now. Of course it could catch lightning tonight and conflegrate. That’s how lodgpole is, and as it was pre Europeans too.

Regarding climate, Ken misinterpreted my point. Whatever the local temperature trends, the need for preparing ecosystems to adapt to broad scale climate change is imperative. Habitat connectivity is essential in that.

29 Jul 2010, 9:09am
by Mike


Thank you for your participation in this discussion. Some questions:

1. What has your advocacy group done to investigate the landscape history of the area?

2. What has been discovered regarding ancient human influences on the environment?

I ask because, as Ken points out, the area is not “wilderness” in the sense that human beings have been resident there for 11,000+ years. It seems a trifle RACIST to deny the existence and humanity of those residents.

By “humanity” I mean the propensity of those residents to manage the area with frequent, seasonal, designed, anthropogenic fire. That is something ALL human beings do, or used to do, for a variety of survival reasons.

One reason the residents used to manage the vegetation in the putative “wilderness” was to avert catastrophic holocausts which would have compromised their survival, possibly wiping out their population.

Another reason was to manage the wildlife.

You see, Mitch, without human stewardship such as has been going on there for 11.000+ years, bad things happen, such as megafire holocausts and wildlife extirpations.

Those of us involved at SOS Forests would rather not see giant killer megafires sweep through putative wilderness, destroying heritage, vegetation, wildlife, watershed values, recreation opportunities, public health and safety, etc.

What about your group? What’s your group’s feelings about GIANT KILLER MEGAFIRE HOLOCAUSTS IN HERITAGE FORESTS that have been set-aide in No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot phony “wilderness” areas?

Please try to couch your answers in a non-racist mode.



PS — the residents did a pretty good job of “preparing the ecosystem” for all the climate changes that have taken place over the last 11,000+ years, don’t you think?

29 Jul 2010, 3:39pm
by Al B

Wilderness is a fallacy period. The entire notion behind it is pure twaddle.

29 Jul 2010, 3:51pm
by Mitch Friedman

Got to hand to you guys. Not a lot of insight, information, or common manners, but lots of nerve.

29 Jul 2010, 4:19pm
by Mike

Now Mitch, those insults hurts. I don’t claim to be mannerly, but W.I.S.E. has put together the MOST COMPREHENSIVE online library of cutting edge forest science on the Internet, jammed packed with information and insights.

You may not be familiar with W.I.S.E. We provides a free, on-line set of post-graduate courses in environmental studies, currently fifty topics in eight Colloquia, each containing book and article reviews, original papers, and essays. In addition, we present three Commentary sub-sites, a news clipping sub-site, and a fire tracking sub-site. Reviews and original articles are archived in our Library.

Regarding the wilderness myth and the true history of our forests, I recommend you study the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here]. You will find there a slew of papers by the top scientists in the field. Lots of information and insights that pertain.

The active presence of humanity across the landscapes of North America is established fact. Nowhere in the proposed Colville “wilderness” have human beings been absent or without substantial impact for the last 11,000+. Denial of that fact is simply ignorant or worse, racist. That’s just how it is.

North American forests were at one time (prior to ~120 years ago) open and park-like, with widely spaced, large, old trees. Forests were conditioned to be that way by frequent, non-stand-replacing, anthropogenic fires. Historical human features included village sites; sacred and ceremonial sites; hunting, gathering, agricultural and proto-agricultural fields; extensive trail networks; prairies and savannas; and other features induced and maintained by ancient human tending through the use of traditional ecological knowledge.

Not only does wilderness designation ignore or deny all that, designation serves to destroy all those heritage values by removing traditional stewardship and obliterating historical features, most especially through the inevitable catastrophic fires.

Wilderness advocates are also ignorant of the forest development pathways that lead to old-growth. Our old-growth trees arose under much different conditions than today. The forest development pathways of pre-Contact eras were not punctuated by catastrophic stand-replacing fires but instead were the outcomes of frequent, seasonal, light-burning fires in open, park-like forests. Those fires were largely anthropogenic (human-set by the indigenous residents). Because the fires of historic eras were frequent and seasonal, they gently removed fuels without killing all the trees. The widely-spaced trees thus survived repeated burning and grew to very old ages.

Modern fires, especially those in dense thickets that are no longer managed by frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires, cause total tree mortality. No trees survive the infrequent holocausts, and so no trees attain old-growth status. In fact, modern fires routinely kill old-growth trees that withstood multiple fires in bygone eras. Modern fires, burning in dense, build-up fuel conditions, are severe and often convert heritage forests to more or less permanent brush fields.

So wilderness designation not only destroys heritage, it also destroys old-growth and the forest development pathways that lead to old-growth.

Wilderness designation does not enhance any ecological values, rather it destroys them. Conservation Northwest is not promoting conservation, you are promoting environmental destruction.

That’s an insight I think we all grasp.

29 Jul 2010, 5:50pm
by Al B

Mr. Friedman can never accept the evidence and facts and still offer a defense to the notion of wilderness. To accept the facts and truth is to denounce his belief as purely ideological and thus twaddle. If he can defend the idea and accept the truth about the area, I am open to that discussion. However, I won’t hold my breath nor be shocked when that debate never happens.

29 Jul 2010, 9:42pm
by bear bait

I am always miffed at the US Govt standard “old growth” definition as being any tree over 21″ dbh. That, my friend, is twaddle. Ascientific. Pure PolySci 101. The Great Bullshit Story.

Old growth, by my unscientific conclusion, based on 50 years of observation across a pretty wide swath of landscape in the West, are the survivors of multiple large weather, insect, and fire events. True “old growth” are those trees of differing ages, but most certainly all over 200-300 years old, that were left standing after fires, after windstorms, after micro/downbursts, after floods, after insect infestations.

When every last standing tree is incinerated, because of some declaration that fire is benign and a necessary part of the deal, and fires should be let burn, understand that to replace the 500-year-old tree that was killed will take five hundred frigging years!!!!

Half a millennia. Eight or nine lifetimes. A truck load of time. And will that even happen? Are we stewards enough to make that happen? I seriously doubt it. Will those trees of that phenotype and age ever occupy that land again? I seriously doubt it.

What we are doing, people, is burning our heritage to prove some political point, some left wing Gaia deal, that is not working, has never worked and is doomed to fail. It is a bad, bad, bad deal that those who make the policies wish to burn the forests because they can — because evidently if they burn all our forests they can deny logging forever. Sort of cutting our nose off to spite our face kind of deal. As the Nation become more and more polarized, that kind of behavior is now the norm.

Great museums, fine art galleries, ceremonial homes for grandees and US politicians, private collections, all are about antiquities. Old stuff. Stuff that is representative of our heritage, our past, the change in the human condition to what it is now. There is no end to the facilities to honor the past for stuff that is not even 150 years old. Auto, aviation, furniture, you name it, is ensconced in fine buildings and people with a lifetime of continuing education are the proctors and keepers of all this fine old stuff.

And yet we burn trees up every summer, sometimes by the tens of thousands of acres, that are three and four times the age of those valued antiques. We are actively pissing away our heritage to save it from logging.

I have some interesting news: there is not even a handful of sawmills or veneer plants that can saw a 4 foot diameter log, let alone a 3′ diameter log. All the remaining, viable, still operating or operable mills are geared to making narrow dimension lumber out of small diameter logs. Small logs, small knots. We are talking about 2″ (finished 1 1/2″) by 4″ (finished 3 1/2″) or 6″ (finished 5 1/2″) dimension lumber, and the occasional wider or thicker stuff like railroad ties or posts and beams — that is, 4″ or 6″ stuff, by 4″ to 12″ wide. All dimensions that can be made from a 20″ diameter log. And are. Larger dimension lumber is made, to the highest of strength and grade, by gluing wood or veneers together to make the thicker and wider stuff.

The milling industry operates on small logs and fast realization of capitalization costs of planted timber because the tax system won’t let them operate long term. Any company with older timber that does not contribute to the company bottom line, this quarter or next, will be bought by raiders and the timber logged. Weyerhaeuser has a 32-40 year timber rotation. Willamette Industries was a 60 year rotation company, and Weyco took them out in a raid, burned through the W-I timber, used it all up, closed the mills, sold the paper operation to I-P, and left a dozen towns without their major employer. Our tax system did that. Our public employee pension demands drove the stock prices and earnings, and the result was the rape of Willamette Industries.

Conservative management of old growth or larger diameter timber cannot stand the US Tax system, the US pension system, or the US stock market pricing strategies and the demands of fund managers and corporate leadership. No matter the will, there is no way. For all those reasons, logging and milling today is about small logs. Solid big beams, posts, and timbers, long dimension, clear faced plywood — none are needed now in construction. They all went the way of the dodo bird, as did the demand for the those products.

Big trees have no real market. In fact, if you get logs too large in diameter, you get paid LESS for them, and are often charged the hauling from where you dumped to where there is a mill that can use them.

Burning the trees to save the forest is the McNamara strategy in Vietnam, which did not work. All we got was Mai Lai and dead civilians out of the deal. The USFS is now in the war criminal stage, pushed there by radical groups spouting the “black dead trees are beautiful” motto. WFU or AMR or whatever they want to call them — doing nothing but being a witness to incineration. Paid to witness the destruction of their charge. Sort of like a babysitter watching kids play in the street with knives. Doing their job of watching, sitting, witnessing. And doing nothing to save their charges.

We do live in the U.S., where bad intel is the way we live and manage our country. We can’t keep from killing our allies and our enemies here and abroad. The USFS is run by bad intel, on purpose. Not unlike ELF and PETA and others who can’t shoot straight. Why just this month those arsonists of protection, the oxymoronic morons of the anti-fur trade antics, tried to burn out a mink farmer in Astoria. The mink farmer had given up on raising mink, and had “pelted out” six months ago. Had no more mink. Was done. Quit. But the ELF folks still tried to burn him out with arson this month. Bad intel Bad for the Movement. And a reflection on the kind of education you now get at the UofO… or PSU… the Illiteratti. The Day Late and a Dollar Short crews. It could the lack of vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, which is probably due to global cooling and many more cloudy days. That and sun screen. No cancer but you go crazy instead and try to get the cops to kill you. Or so it now seems… and more Wilderness is about as crazy as it gets. Not enough Vitamin D. So burn it all, and then the sun can reach it all and save us. Now I understand. I get it!!!!! It is about not enough Vitamin D!!!

30 Jul 2010, 5:13pm
by Mitch Friedman

Yes, the literature shows expansive deliberate use of fire across a variety of a forest types. But not only does an absurdly general statement like “North American forests were at one time (prior to ~120 years ago) open and park-like, with widely spaced, large, old trees” overlook the literature’s assessment of limited human modification of high forest (not to mention the dense PNW coastal forests) - like much of what’s proposed for wilderness on the Colville, but you’re glossing over continued scientific debate of even dry forests int he northern Rockies.

Your flippant suggestions of racism is unbelievably offensive (and your hysterics about fire, esp your use of the term Holocaust, only a little less so). I believe you use these buzzwords to presuppose the superiority of your conclusions and to mask the laziness of your research. My sense is that you are reactionary and in such a rush to judgement, that you overlooked an opportunity to find what you would consider much merit in our proposal.

Frankly, I only came to your site due to a Google alert, and my experience here leads me to not take you seriously. I won’t be coming back. I suggest you learn how to engage in civil dialogue if you want to be treated otherwise.

30 Jul 2010, 5:59pm
by Mike

Mitch, Mitch, Mitch,

Colville NF is in the NE corner of Washington, 300 miles from the coast. They are not “coastal” forests. Furthermore, the research that’s any good indicates that historical human influences were significant right up to the water’s edge in coastal forests as well.

It’s all there in the Colloquia. Take a look. You cite nothing. I cite dozens of papers by dozens of scientists. Looks like I win that debate!

And you call me a “reactionary”. Does that reveal something about you? It’s such a Maoist term and all. Are you a Maoist, Mitch?

Sorry to see you leaving in a huff. There’s much you could learn here. But then, we emphasize cutting-edge forest science, not revolutionary politics, so maybe it’s not your cup of Kool Aid.



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