Remarkable Frankness from the USFS

Ofttimes we get the impression that the US Forest Service has no clue what their mission is or how to achieve it. But once in awhile a USFS official comes out of the fog and speaks some truth, and it is as refreshing as it is surprising.

Such was the case at a recent meeting of the Quincy Library Group (QLG) in Quincy, California.

The QLG was initiated in 1992 by a group of citizens were concerned over the demise of the timber industry and the concomitant build up of hazardous fuels in the National Forests surrounding their communities. Discussions held at the local library led to a series of proposals recommending improvements for management of the Lassen N.F., the Plumas N.F., and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe N.F., and to the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act [here].

The HFQLGFR Act directed National Forests in the QLG area to do 40 to 60 thousand acres per year of strategic fuel reduction in defensible fuelbreaks for five years and to implement group selection silviculture on an area-wide basis. Despite numerous appeals and lawsuits, some fuelbreaks and thinnings occurred, though not enough to prevent the 2007 Moonlight Fire [here] that burned 65,000 acres and destroyed old-growth and spotted owl habitat (nor numerous other fires on the Plumas NF).

Since 1992 (a tide-turning year), the trend in national forest management has been towards No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot. Almost all timber harvest has been halted, and megafires have roamed vast landscapes.

But the QLG has persisted. And recently Regional Forester Randy Moore (Region 5 - California) spoke at a QLG meeting and talked about increasing timber harvest on the Plumas NF!!!!

Forest Service wants to pick up QLG

by Joshua Sebold, Plumas News, 3/31/2011 [here]

At a recent meeting, Plumas’ Quincy Library Group (QLG) Forester Frank Stewart told the County Board of Supervisors that Forest Service Regional Forester Randy Moore wants to increase the “pace and scale” of QLG-type projects on public lands from 140,000 acres per year to a half-million acres per year.

“It’s a major commitment but they need to put their money where their mouth is on this issue,” he added. …

Yes indeed. Money talks, etc. But we salute RF Moore for at least mouthing a proper approach.

In the 12 years since passage of the HFQLGFR Act, and two extensions, never has more than 30,000 acres been treated in a single year. As of March 2011, a reported 231,770 acres have been treated [here]. But Mr. Moore’s recommendation to treat 500,000 acres per year is welcomed. [Note: Moore was evidently referring to all of California when he popped the half-million acre number, not just the Plumas NF].

From the article:

Stewart said the QLG pilot project resulted in 145 timber sales to date, which have “produced right around 400 million feet of saw log volume.

“That would go to Sierra Pacific, Collins Pine, some mills up in the Burney area and then stuff that goes to… Weaverville. They’re a small business and they come and compete.” …

Burney and Weaverville are long hauls away from the Plumas NF, but the sawmill in Quincy shut down two years ago [here]. It was strangled to death by the severe reduction since 1992 in Fed timber harvest. Mr. Moore’s recommendation to treat 500,000 acres per year is too late to save the Quincy sawmill, but his words are welcomed nonetheless.

From the article:

Stewart… explained [to the County Supervisors] the Forest Service also uses service contracts, which don’t provide timber receipts but do give work to local businesses. …

Stewart said the Forest Service is now considering long-term stewardship contracts as the third prong of its QLG-type management practices.

The forester said the problem with this tactic is the county won’t get any timber receipts as the program is currently shaping up. …

That’s kind of a slap in the face. The USFS was founded, and the land given over to the Federal Government, on the promise (written into numerous laws) that timber receipts would be shared with the counties, in lieu of property taxes, of which the Feds pay zip, nada, none, zero.

I pay property taxes. So do my neighbors. We pay handsomely, even though we are just poor individuals. But the mighty U.S. Government, the vacuum cleaner of the economy, the largest landowner in the world, pays nothing. They get a free ride. And with their clever shell gaming of the system, they never will. It’s called “stewardship” in doublespeak.

But not to fret. The mighty shell gamers are working on a “solution” to their own illegal gamesmanship:

Stewart added that Moore supports including timber receipts in that program and Congressman Wally Herger, one of the co-authors of the QLG pilot project, is working on a bill to ensure counties would receive funding from those projects.

Yes sir. No bull. They are working on a Bill which if enacted would force the U.S. Government to abide by the law. But don’t hold your breath on that.

Another interesting statement in the article:

Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher said the reasoning behind increasing the pace and scale of this type of work is that Moore’s office recently predicted: “By 2050 the Sierra will start emitting carbon.”

Meacher explained that normally forests are thought of as sequestering carbon and this prediction means the Forest Service believes, “It’s going to burn.”

Referring to the catastrophic 2007 Moonlight Fire in Plumas County, he said if current forest practices aren’t changed “you’ll have so many Moonlights out there that the trees you have left standing are negated by the carbon being emitted by the burning.”

The supervisor commented that the prediction dovetailed into rural county’s recent complaints about the Forest Service’s new travel management plan.

“Once you lose the forest who’s going to want to travel on it anyway?” he exclaimed in exasperation.

Yes sir. The USFS now (allegedly) believes that incinerating national forests in megafires emits carbon dioxide. We’re not sure Mr. Meacher is correct, but if he is then that constitutes a scientific breakthrough by the USFS, a massive clue discovery by an agency not generally thought of as Sherlock Holmesian.

By gad, Watson, there appears to be some smoke coming out of that forest fire!

So we are encouraged, and we welcome Mr. Moore’s perspicacity and frankness, and send along our kudos, and wish that his words could be turned into actions, although to be frank ourselves, our own exasperation is thinly veiled and admittedly leaks through now and again.

1 Apr 2011, 8:56am
by bear bait

I had a friend whose father dreamed of having a little cattle ranch. So my friend’s mother bought his father, her husband, a 4-H steer to start his herd.

The bureaucratic will and desire has to be matched by a political will and desire, won with a majority vote, to accomplish anything. We don’t have that now, nor do I expect it in my remaining lifetime.

I don’t know how you view the world, but what I see is wildlife control by birth control (urban idea that has yet to work for teenagers), urban wildlife celebrated as one redtail hawk pair nesting on a fire escape while subsisting on a diet of rats and pigeons and small pets, targets of opportunity. Habitat is something the public takes from private ownership, by taxation, excessive regulation, or condemnation, all processes that have been perfected to settle food fights in the pack without bloodshed. That will change. Ask Kadafi. Whenever possible, always have someone else fight your battles, and win at any cost to someone else.

This USFS ploy is just that: another ploy. We have come to expect nothing from the USFS, and they have been generous with their giving of nothing. They sit in their sandboxes, playing with the toys their minders have given them, and spend a working lifetime making truck noises, pushing sand and being nice to each other until retirement, and then go off to some fine place to spend as much time retired on our dime as they did working. The resources they were once charged with minding for the public benefit have suffered greatly in the sandbox, and the minders, the nannies of the NGOs, sit on the bench and maintain the sandbox discipline with a strong hand. And when the lights go off, and in the dark, you will find the nannies of the NGOs sleeping with your congressman, woman or senator, or any other elected official whose vote or approval can be won by offering a quick roll in the hay of political donations.

The old hook tender instructed that if it looked like a duck, walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, it was a duck, no matter what the biologist of the year claimed otherwise. The USFS duck is still what it is: a duck. They will duck every question of public good from extractive resource use, even for renewable resources. They will bob and weave on fire issues, only responding to the annual fire seasons with the money on hand which will mostly be spent of post fire “rehabilitation of fire lines and heavy use areas.” Their assessment of fire costs will be how much of the money Congress gave them that was spent. No mention, ever, of lost resources, destroyed watershed function, lost ESA habitat, killed ESA listed plants and animals.

The Quincy Group was a fantastic idea, and with great fanfare and a fantastic in house effort with able assistance from the Courts, the perpetual motion machine of enviro litigation, they accomplished nothing. The raison d’etre, the local mill, was lost and is gone. What more need we think?? What more can be said?? A tree can become a log, but that is a waste of time and energy if there is no mill to convert it to lumber. There is no mill. No there, there. Over. Finished. Done. Stick a fork in it.

All the best laid plans are just that, best laid plans. The failure of the 30 foot high tsunami sea walls on Japan’s east coast were built tall enough to fend off the highest know historical tsunamis waves. They were built correctly, and with the best of science, empirical data, and historical experience. They should not have failed. And they did. Know why??? Because the earthquake that triggered the tsunami dropped the land, and the land under the tsunami sea walls by three feet or more. Lowered the top of the seawalls by three or more feet. The earthquake did not break the sea walls, but it did lower the land under them by three feet, and so they were breached. You don’t know how far the land will drop or rise in a subduction zone earthquake, so you don’t know what the parameters of safety are. And you don’t know where and how far a fire will go as the fuels increase arithmetically each year. Only that a big fire from the untreated areas will also destroy the treated areas, so the attempts to reduce fuels is obviously a fart in the windstorm and not to be considered in the real world of mega catastrophic events.

Our public forests have been lost. It is too late to save them. And the fire tsunamis will underline that. No mills. No lumber markets in the US that can’t be serviced by existing private land timber converted to lumber and panels. No public will to change. No legal mandate to change. Management is still saddled with a plethora of public land management acts, all at cross purposes with the others, by design. No Congressional road map. No Congressional united front. No Congressional intent to solve any or all of the problems with public land management defaults mandated by succeeding court decisions based on poorly written laws from Congress. We cannot possibly get there from here, even if we knew where “there” was or is.

Own stock in whoever makes Nomex, retardant chemistry, and aviation fuels. And watch. From a safe distance. Perhaps 50 miles or more. Recognize ineptness for what it is, and ask to not be a financier of that quality. Fire, taxes, and death. The three sure things in America.

1 Apr 2011, 12:16pm
by Al


Our extension guy in Quincy says the small-log mill was restarted about a year ago. The large-log mill is only running one shift per day.

2 Apr 2011, 7:33am
by bear bait

That would be wonderful news. Most mills that were closed stayed closed until they were auctioned and the equipment scrapped.



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