OFRI: Numbskulls On Parade

More money down the tubes. The Oregon Forest Resources Institute has issued a new “special” report six years in the making: Federal Forestland in Oregon - Coming To Terms With Active Forest Management of Federal Forestland [here, 3.1 glossy MB].

The report is “special” only in the sense that it is filled with errors, misstatements, and poppycock. Which is about what you’d expect from yet another government bureaucracy.

The Oregon Legislature created the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) in 1991 to improve public understanding of the state’s forest resources and to encourage environmentally sound forest management through training and other educational programs for forest landowners. OFRI is funded by a dedicated harvest tax on forest products producers [here].

Tax the victims, shove the knife in deeper, and twist it.

The problem with crappy forest policy is that it is based on crappy forest science. Political solutions crafted by numbskulls, with no conception of what it is they are attempting to regulate, is doomed to failure.

Failure is OFRI’s middle name.

But let’s give them some credit. The report acknowledges that

* rural communities are suffering extreme social and economic hardships.

* lack of active management to restore forest resilience and health on federal forestland, have put eastside [and westside] forests in large areas of the state in dangerously overstocked conditions and at high risk of drought, disease or insect-induced mortality, and uncharacteristically intense wildfire.

* forest conditions are “out-of-whack” or “out-of-kilter”

* despite protection of owl habitat on federal land, Northern spotted owl populations
have declined [precipitously]

* After five years of study and planning, in December 2008, the BLM completed the Western Oregon Plan Revisions, what became known as the WOPR. However, on July 16, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar withdrew the WOPR …

* with the advent of the Northwest Forest Plan and the near stoppage of timber harvest on federal lands, counties were hit with a double whammy of fewer jobs and less tax revenue.

That stuff is obvious fact. It is also a fact that the State and OFRI have done absolutely nothing to correct those problems.

They won’t or can’t because they are forest science challenged. OFRI is out-of-whack and out-of-kilter in the forest science sense. And as long as they are married to junk science, they will continue to be utter failures at policy-making.

Some examples. OFRI contends that fire suppression is responsible for all these problems.

Fire in the forest is not the only problem facing federal forestland in Oregon today, but it is certainly a central one. It is directly related to a century-long Forest Service policy of fire suppression.

Without fire suppression, all of Oregon’s forests would have burned up long ago. Now these numbskulls want to disband fire suppression. Let It Burn! But that will not solve anything — instead it is an invitation to mass disaster.

OFRI is ecology challenged, too. They arbitrarily divide all Oregon forests into two types:

To best understand Oregon’s federal forestlands and the issues that surround them, one should have a sense of its two primary forest regions. To generalize, they are often referred to as westside and eastside, or alternatively, wet side and dry side.

There are dozens of forest types in Oregon. Gross simplifications like that above do not lead to understanding; they lead to gross ignorance.

Misunderstanding is OFRI’s other middle name.

Junk science is rife in the report. It evinces a fundamental ignorance of forest history:

On the wet side with all its moisture, relatively little lightning and more moderate temperatures, fire is an irregular visitor, sometimes occurring as infrequently as every few hundred years. … The dry side historically has had a markedly different fire regime. Hotter and drier, with frequent lightning strikes, it experienced recurrent fires, sometimes as often as every three to five years.

Nope. Wrong-ola.

All Oregon forests (and prairies, and savannas, have been subject to anthropogenic fire for 10,00 years or so. As amazing as it may seem to the forest science challenged folks at OFRI, the fact is that human beings set fires every year on “wet side” and the “dry side” for millennia upon millennia.

All that human-set fire had enormous effect. Anthropogenic fire eliminated forests entirely in some regions, including Coast Range valleys. Anthropogenic fire established and maintained prairies, savannas, and open, park-like forests across the entire state. Anthropogenic fire created anthropogenic mosaics that are still evident today.

Without human influences, there would be little or no old-growth in Oregon today. The open, park-like conditions created by anthropogenic fire allowed individual trees to grow to great ages. Absent those conditions, fires kill all the trees, and none grow old.

OFRI’s “science” is fundamentally racist.

They deny human influences, and indeed deny a human presence (actually those are the same things). Throughout history, wherever people have been presence, and especially where people have resided, humanity has burned the landscape with frequent, seasonal, deliberate fires using tradition ecological knowledge regarding time and place of ignition.

It is as if OFRI discovered the Pyramids and then claimed that nature built them.

OFRI is also economics challenged:

The current interagency policy of fire suppression also comes at an enormous financial cost. Throughout the past two decades wildfires have increased in size, severity and destructiveness, and so have budgets to fight them.

In fact, the damages wrought by wildfires exceed suppression costs by 10 to 50 times. It’s the DAMAGES, stupid, not the suppression costs, that have crippled Oregon’s economy.

From Zybach, Bob, Michael Dubrasich, Gregory Brenner, and John Marker. 2009. U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The “One-Pager” Checklist. Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, Advances in Fire Practices, Fall 2009 [here].

The escalating frequency, severity, and costs over and above fire suppression associated with large-scale forest wildfires include losses of human lives, homes, pets, crops, livestock, and long term environmental and infrastructure damage. Many destructive megafires have made international news, such as the lingering California wildfires of 2008, or the February, 2009 Australian fires, which claimed more than 200 lives and leveled several small towns.

Yet wildfire costs and losses are often considered in terms of suppression costs only, with relatively little attention given to related losses of timber and forage values, wildlife habitat and populations (including endangered species and their critically protected habitat), air and water quality, recreational opportunities, local economies, and other resources and amenities important to all citizens. Human lives and adverse health effects are usually not considered in terms of dollar losses at all, and tallies of domestic animal or wildlife fatalities are rarely attempted or even mentioned. Rarely is there any attempt to quantify the long-term consequences of a damaged renewable resource base to provide for the needs of an ever increasing present and future human society.

You would think a bureaucracy dependent on “a dedicated harvest tax on forest products producers” would have some clue about damages from forest fires. The DAMAGES hit them right in their wallets. But no, they can’t think outside their cocoon.

We have an idea, says OFRI. Save money by defunding and cutting off fire suppression. That’ll fix the problem.

God help us. Better to drive the numbskulls out of our public buildings, with whips if necessary.

But let’s give OFRI some more credit (not that they deserve it, but we’re trying to be as generous to them as possible). The report does acknowledge that unsuppressed Federal fires might possibly impact private resources:

Fire recognizes no boundaries. With changing fire conditions and reduced federal agency funding for management activities, such as road maintenance and thinning, there is increased risk of fire spreading from federally managed lands to adjacent private lands.

The destruction of public resources is of no concern, but private resources can be damaged. It’s difficult to see, however, how more Let It Burn on Federal lands is going to fix that problem. Nor will implementing OFRI’s call to ban homes:

Another related issue is a societal trend to build primary residences or second homes at the forest edge, often abutting national forests or other federal land.

Yes, it’s a major societal problem when private property owners use their private properties in any manner. What a pain it is for gargantuan Federal bureaucracies to have to fight their own fires just because some scum of a private property owner might get burned out.

Sieg heil Karl Marx.

The solution is obvious. Commandeer the private property, drive the former owners into concentration camps, and burn baby burn.

It’s the same old solution practiced by our Government for two hundred years. But OFRI is history challenged, too.

Why is it that ethnic cleansing is still considered to be a “solution” to anything?

But let’s be fair. Slowly, inch by inch, something other than knee-jerk political correctness (based on Hitlerian politics) is seeping in:

Most scientists agree that strategies to date for creating older forests in the dry forests of the interior West have not been effective. Leaving already out-of-kilter areas with no management will, without question, leave understories crowded and overstocked, and lead to uncharacteristically intense wildfire. The result will be deteriorated habitat until large trees return hundreds of years in the future, that is, if repeated fires do not take them out as young trees.

Note the qualifier “most scientists”. OFRI did not take a poll, nor did they even consult with actual experts in forest history. Moreover, whatever “most scientists” think is not a yardstick for the truth. “Most scientists” are wrong about most things.

However, the recognition that old-growth trees die in catastrophic fires and are not replaced by natural processes is a giant leap forward for OFRI.

Tell me, OFRI, if old-growth is not created by natural processes, how did it get here in the first place? Think it through. Please don’t blame fire suppression. If you need to, try consulting with real forest scientists. Or the public:

Recent polling data indicates that the public understands enough of the problem to know that they want to see it addressed.

Meanwhile, the USFS is off in fairy land:

In some areas, the Forest Service is seeing fire do remarkable things, managing landscapes as foresters would like, [Regional Forester Mary Wagner] said.

What foresters “like” Let It Burn? This “appeal to authority” is without foundation.

OFRI is sniffing around the real solution, sort of:

Two scientists at the Forest Service’s Forest Sciences Lab in Wenatchee… championed
a strategy that would replace the reserve concept and its notion of making defined forest stands off limits to management with a new, whole-landscape approach.

Well, praise be to those guys. What OFRI failed to note is that forest restoration is now the law, and that last year Congress enacted Title IV - Forest Landscape Restoration of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, now known as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) [here, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere].

You would think that raging bureaucracy like OFRI would be aware of the law and the programs that address the problem they are most concerned about. But they are not.

Why is OFRI so completely out of touch with reality? It could be that the OSU College of Forestry is also completely out of touch, and this is a case of the blind leading the blind. Smack into a wall. Again.

Much palaver in the report cites the the Federal Forestlands Advisory Committee (FFAC) created by the Legislature in 2005 and stocked with know-nothing bureaucrats and virulent pro-holocauster groups. The FFAC came up with useless recommendations that were never implemented due to Oregon’s “budget crisis”. (Note: and how did that budget crisis arise? Could it be that cutting off all economic use of 60% of Oregon’s forest landbase for 20+ years had anything to do with it?) However, the recommendations, if they are ever implemented, will go nowhere and lead to nothing.

The report also pumps Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s Oregon Eastside Forests Restoration, Old Growth Protection and Jobs Act of 2009, a sabotage of the CFLRP and going thankfully nowhere. OEFROGPJA is a campaign stunt, not a real bill, and if it were to pass, it would scuttle forestry in Eastern Oregon forever [here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here].

OFRI also promotes “collaboration”:

Though the condition of dry, overstocked forests is severe, researchers know it is not too late for restorative management. Scientists may disagree to some extent on treatments, but there is certain agreement that we have passed the point where passive management – that is, letting nature take its course – is an option. Polling indicates the public as well wants action taken to address the problem. When it comes to on-the-ground solutions to specific forest problems, one approach showing promise is local collaboration.

That’s all well and good, but when the “collaborators are numbskulls or worse, holocauster forest killers, then not much good is going to come out of that collaboration. Not to mention, the USFS is death on collaboration. They hate it and refuse to do it.

“Collaboration” is a closed room. You are not invited. No one with any actual forest expertise is invited. It’s holocaust today, holocaust forever among the “in” crowd. True restoration based on actual forest science is so far from their understanding it might as well be on the Moon.

OFRI has made a pathetic attempt to evaluate the situation. Mired as they are in junk science and regressive leftwing politics, it is not surprising that this report was a dud and a half.

The problems are clear. They have been clear for 25 years. The solutions remain remote to bureaucracies like OFRI.

31 Aug 2010, 1:44pm
by Bob Zybach

This is a sad day for OFRI. They bought into the Franklin-Johnson goofy “wet forest/dry forest” clap-trap, and then promoted their ignorance with an expensive publication, paid for by private industry.

Pseudo-science wins another round. Maybe not for too much longer — one can only hope, and keep providing facts.

It would be good if the forestry people and educators at OFRI read “Forgotten Fires” by Omer Stewart, and particularly the introductory essays by Kat Anderson and Henry Lewis. That is real science that can be used to address these problems, and that is based on actual documentation, logical thinking, and common sense.

The Stewart book also provides some great insights as to how the pseudo-science crowd goes about their business, and why they continue to persist and remain influential despite their blatant ignorance and apparent racist bias.

31 Aug 2010, 3:36pm
by Mike

And political bias. Why is the harvest tax used to promote political candidates? OFRI has too much of other people’s money, and they operate in an extra-legal politics-first manner. It’s a travesty.



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