Some Let It Burn Questions Answered

Correspondent Zeke asked some pertinent questions regarding the Oak Flat Fire [here].

Dear Zeke,

Thank you for your questions. Here are the answers:

1. This fire could indeed have been contained at 800 acres. On Aug 15 the fire grew from 600 to 800 acres. On that date there were already nearly 500 firefighting personnel on the scene, 8 helicopters, and air tankers standing by in Medford.

The area is not “wilderness” or roadless. It is well-roaded throughout. No additional dozer work was necessary to contain the fire. There have been no strong winds so far, thank goodness, or the fire would have swept into Grants Pass within hours. Allowing the fire to grow and grow for weeks on end runs the risk that winds will arise and the fire will become a major disaster, burning farms, homes, towns, and cities. The USFS has chosen to endanger tens of thousands of residents, none of whom had any say so in the matter. That increased risk is manifest right now and will be for weeks to come.

2. It was and is possible to SAFELY put this fire out by ‘going direct’ on it. Indirect attack is LESS SAFE. Right now the “plan” is to put 1,000 firefighters a day for weeks on this fire. That is 10 to 20 times the man-hours necessary to contain it. By expanding the man-hours enormously, the risk of accidents increases.

Most firefighting injuries and fatalities are not due to burning up. They are due to machine accidents and fireline accidents, such as helicopter crashes and falling trees. The chance that those kind of accidents will occur is INCREASED by extending the fire for weeks and by extending the fire perimeter 10-fold.

3. There are no “benefits” to resources from wildfire. The USFS does not claim such. The use of the term “wildland fire used for resource benefit” is kaput. You can read the memo [here].

It is important to note that the deliberate use of fire produces significant impacts to the environment. We have laws regarding federal agencies impacting the environment, such as NEPA. If you read that law, you will note that “benefit” or “detriment” do not matter. What matters is whether the impacts are “significant”. No one argues that fire effects are insignificant.

Yet the USFS did not follow the legally mandated NEPA process before deciding to expand this fire ten-fold. They broke the law. That makes them criminals. Nobody wants federal agencies to break the law. I don’t at any rate. Do you?

For more discussion on this aspect, see [here, here, here, here].

4. Instead of looking at Google Earth, you may wish to examine the forest road map. That will show you the existing road density of the area. The road network is extensive. No new roads are needed, or new dozer lines, to contain this fire.

5. 6. 7. So you think that they could have held it to this footprint? Have you ever fought fire in that country? Are you an expert on wildfire tactics? Yes, Yes, Yes.

8. Is anything about that ground worth killing a single firefighter? Hold on there, Zeke. I am not for killing anybody. As I discussed above, extending the fire in time and space INCREASES the risks to firefighters.

In 2008 over 650,000 acres were incinerated in Northern California on the Shasta-Trinity, Six Rivers, and Klamath National Forests. The fires were allowed to burn vast tracts in accord with a revised fire policy the USFS called “Appropriate Management Response” (since then the USFS has dropped that lingo term, too). Building firelines miles away from the fires and backburning hundreds of thousands of acres of private and public land alike were deemed “appropriate.” Despite the remote firefighting techniques, ostensibly intended to save money and protect firefighters, over $400 million was spent on suppression and 12 firefighters were killed.

In 2009 direct attack was used on a fire in the same area. The Backbone Fire [here] was 6,100 acres in steep un-roaded country when the decision was made to use direct attack. The fire was 100% contained within a week at 6,324 acres, with no accidents and no fatalities.

So you see, Zeke, extending this fire is far more likely to result in death to firefighters than direct attack would have. Perhaps you should aim your “killing firefighters” question at the USFS instead of at me.

9. What do you hope to accomplish with your rant? My purpose, indeed the purpose of W.I.S.E., is to educate. The “rant” characterization is impolite on your part, but whatever the literary quality, my post caught your attention. And now I am educating you further. Please read (study) the links provided. You have much to learn, and we are here to aid you in that.

Thank you again for your questions. Please feel free to ask us such good questions anytime.


Mike Dubrasich, Exec Dir W.I.S.E.

Criminal Incineration of the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF

The Oak Flat Fire [here] was reported this morning to be 1,706 acres. The plan, however, is to allow the fire to grow to 12,000 acres, either through inaction or deliberate backfiring.

The Oak Flat Fire was ignited by unknown causes in the Briggs Creek area of Rogue River-Siskiyou NF, about 10 miles west of habitations in the Rogue River Valley and 8 miles northwest of the community of Selma in the Illinois River Valley.

Oak Flat Fire Briefing Map, August 19, 2010. From InciWeb [here]. Click for larger image.

The red outlined area is the current fire perimeter. The black lines indicate the positions of the “indirect” fire lines planned by the Southern Oregon/Northern California Type II Interagency IMT Incident Commander Brett Fillis [here] in collaboration with the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF Forest Supervisor Scott Conroy, and with the approval of Region 6 Regional Forester Mary Wagner.

The black lines encompass approximately 12,000 acres. The area to be burned includes portions of the Illinois Valley Wild and Scenic River corridor. It also includes known nesting sites of the Northern Spotted Owl, a species on the Threatened and Endangered Species list.

InciWeb reported:

…[F]ire managers are planning to conduct burnout operations aimed at efficiently connecting the fire into the containment lines within the few days. Both ground and aerial ignition methods will be used, with particular attention paid to minimizing tree mortality and preserving spotted owl habitat. …

The Regional Forester reviewed the fire management plan, activities and organization on Thursday, 8/19/10.

That language implies that deliberate ignition of spotted owls stands will be occurring as the fire managers expand the footprint of the fire 10-fold. Further, those operations have been approved by Regional Forester Mary Wagner.

Deliberate incineration of endangered species habitat is a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The USFS has not conducted any NEPA analysis, such as an Environmental Impact Statement. Nor have they conducted any Section 7 (of the ESA) consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The entire area is an ancient cultural landscape, as indicated by place names such as Oak Flat and Onion Mountain. Soldier Creek was named during the Rogue River Indian Wars [here] of the 1850’s. As such the area has significant archaelogical and heritage sites. No Section 106 review (of the National Historical Preservation Act [here]) has been conducted.

The USFS is well-aware that deliberately expanding a wildfire by backburning thousands of acres of legally protected landscapes is illegal.

In March of 2008, the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest issued a notice of intent to produce a Fire Use Amendment Environmental Assessment [here] that would change the language in their Land and Resource Management Plan and Fire Management Plan to include “allowing” wildfires to burn across vast acreages.

That plan amendment has NOT been adopted. Serious objections have been raised and appeals filed. What the final outcome will be is unknown, but the Fire Use Amendment has NOT been adopted as yet.

Regardless, USFS officials are proceeding as if the laws do not apply to them.

This is not the first time the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF has ignored the law. Adjacent to the planned fire perimeter of the Oak Flat Fire is the Biscuit Burn, a 500,000 acre scar that resulted from a Let It Burn fire of 2002. The Biscuit Fire was the largest fire in Oregon state history and eventually cost over $150 million to suppress when it blew up into a 12-mile-long fire front and threatened the communities of Selma and Grants Pass (the same communities now threatened by the Oak Flat Fire).

Over 75 Northern Spotted Owl nesting sites were destroyed by the Biscuit Fire.

In 2008 the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF perpetrated another illegal Let It Burn fire, the Lonesome Complex/Middlefork Fire [here], which was allowed to grow from 500 acres to 21,000 acres, incinerating numerous old-growth and Northern Spotted Owl nesting stands.

The criminal activities by Federal government functionaries on the Oak Flat Fire will have devastating impacts to wildlife, wildlife habitat, heritage, scenery, recreation, and other natural resources. Those impacts will be long-lasting. Furthermore, allowing the fire to burn for weeks on end will pour smoke into communities and cause severe public health problems. Expanding the planned fire perimeter and backfiring thousands of acres will exacerbate those damages.

Allowing the fire to burn for weeks on end also runs the risk that a wind event could cause a fire blow-up and carry the fire to private lands and communities.

None of those communities, or their elected officials or representatives, have any influence over the USFS fire decisions. The USFS acts like an occupying army with no regard for the local residents or the law, and with the malicious intent to devastate and destroy watersheds and landscapes no matter what the impact may be resources or to the local communities.

The Oak Flat Fire is growing and will continue to grow, due to deliberate actions of the USFS, because the criminals in charge feel that they are impervious to legalities and public opinion. But there will be a denouement after this fire. Their crimes will not be swept under the rug this time.

Ninth Court Upholds Restoration in Spotted Owl Forest

In a stunning and precedent-setting decision yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court and upheld the Five Buttes Project on the Deschutes National Forest.

The Project [here, here] is planned for the Five Buttes area (near Odell and Davis Lakes) in the Crescent Ranger District approximately 50 miles south of Bend, Oregon. It includes 4,235 acres of commercial thinning, with an estimated volume of 14.4 million board feet; 4,235 acres of fuels treatments associated with commercial harvest units; 3,931 acres of fuels treatments in units (including 368 acres in Unit 435) that will not have commercial harvest at this time; and 5.9 miles of temporary road construction and rehabilitation of temporary roads when they no longer are needed.

The Five Lakes Project has been in the planning process since 2004, in part in response to the 2003 Davis Fire (21,000 acres). The League of Wilderness Defenders, Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and the Sierra Club sued to halt the Five Lakes Project, winning an injunction [here] from Michael R. Hogan, U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2008. The US Forest Service appealed, and Hogan’s decision was reversed [here] yesterday by Richard A. Paez, Richard C. Tallman, and Milan D. Smith, Jr. of the Ninth Circuit Court. Smith wrote the majority opinion, and Paez wrote a dissent.

Attorneys for Daniel Kruse, Cascadia Wildlands Project [here] and Christopher Winter and Ralph Bloemers, Crag Law Center [here] argued that another large fire in the Five Buttes Project area was highly unlikely. Interestingly, less than a week after the Hogan decision in 2008, the Royce Butte Fire [here] erupted in the Five Lakes Area, forcing evacuations of Crescent Junction.

While Judge Paez, in his dissent, argued that the risk of catastrophic fire in the Project area was “inconsistent,” the majority disagreed. Judge Paez cited John Muir, God, and Uncle Sam in his dissent:

Old-growth forest is the end result of an ancient and intricate process. Its ecosystem is rich and complex, and because we do not fully understand the inner workings of the relationships between the plants and species that inhabit them, human harm to old-growth forests remains irreversible. In the words of John Muir, a preservationist and the man largely credited for the creation of Yosemite National Park:

“It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods,—trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty. … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods, but he cannot save them from fools,—only Uncle Sam can do that.” John Muir, American Forests, Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1897, at 145, 157.

But fortunately the other judges were not so full of it. Everything Paez (and Muir) states above is false. The interjection of religious myth into judicial decisions is a clear violation of the separation of Church and State as established in the U.S. Constitution. It is kind of amazing that Federal Judge, especially a Ninth Circuit liberal judge like Paez, would base his judgment on (clearly racist) religious claptrap nonsense. But it doesn’t matter. Paez was out-voted by the rest of the judicial panel.

The Pantiffs argued that “commercial” harvest for “profit” is a terrible thing and should never be allowed. While not saying so expressly, the goal of shutting down the economy by eliminating “profit” is part of Marxist doctrine. It is remarkable how many people bad mouth “profit” these days. They prefer losses, evidently, except in their own personal finances. But that is neither here nor there.

The fanciful idea that spotted owls cannot abide thinning is debunked by numerous situations where owls have thrived in thinned forests. It is good to see that myth dashed on the rocks of reality.

The idea that removing fuels has no effect on fire risk was also debunked in this ruling. Obviously it does.

The pro-holocaust, anti-forest, super-litigious “enviros” were thumped by this precedent-setting ruling. It’s nice to see the bad guys lose once in awhile.

Ten Forest Restoration Projects Selected by USFS

The US Forest Service has selected ten landscape-scale forest restoration proposals nationally to begin implementation of Title IV - Forest Landscape Restoration of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 [here, here, here, here] (among many other posts - for the full panoply see here).

Out of the 150 national forests in the system, 31 submitted CFLRP project proposals [here]. Regional Foresters screened proposals first, so the 31 possibly represent a reduced subset of the total number proposed at the forest level.

The ten projects selected are:

* Southwestern Crown of the Continent, MT

* Uncompahgre Plateau, CO

* Colorado Front Range, CO

* 4 Forest Restoration, AZ

* Southwest Jemez Mountains, NM

* Dinkey Landscape, CA

* Tapash, WA

* Deschutes Skyline, OR

* Northeastern Florida, FL

If Congress continues to fund the CFLRP, ten more landscape-scale forest restoration proposals will be selected next year and in future years.

These first proposals are of varying quality; it is possible that future projects (and proposals) will be better, having been informed by this first go-around.

On the other hand, the language in some of the proposals is completely obnoxious. Why our government has to talk in Stalinese is beyond me. The uber Potemkin Village rhetoric is depressing.

Also, there is no discussion in any of the proposals regarding landscape history, particularly cultural landscape aspects. Even the Yakama Nation is apparently unaware that they have a heritage on the land — they certainly don’t discuss that aspect in their proposal. It is not clear what the USFS thinks it is that is to be restored.

Also, there is no discussion of the overall USFS mission and how the proposals might or might not dovetail with that.

These are fumbling, stumbling first steps. I suppose it is the best that can be expected from the competency-challenged folks we have hired.

As usual we welcome your comments. You may wish to inspect the proposals first.

All Lands Management, Government-Style

Once again the US Forest Service is blaming everybody but themselves for catastrophic megafires that arise on unkempt, fuel-laden Federal lands and are exacerbated by the USFS’ own Let It Burn policies.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack blames all those private homes, including those that haven’t been built yet, within 30 miles of the unmitigated hazards the USFS has created.

The solution: eliminate all homes with 30 miles of Federal lands. In other words, strip the Western U.S. of all residents. Heck, strip the eastern half, too.

The Federal Government can’t prevent illegal immigrants from pouring over the border, but they are all hot to get the bayonets and cattle cars out to drive legal resident humanity off the continent.

When the Station Fire burned down 89 residences, when the Angora Fire burned down 254, when the Cedar Fire burned 3,241 homes and killed 16 people, whose fault was that? Not the folks who mismanage and unmanage the Federal Estate. Nope, it was the victims who were so self-interested and disregarding of the commonweal as to build a home within 30 miles of Federal land.

Vilsack Highlights Report Showing Threats to Private Forested Lands

Forest Service study supports “All Lands” approach outlined by Vilsack last year

USDA Press Release No. 0401.10, August 11, 2010 [here]

Washington, D.C. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today held a national conference call to highlight a USDA Forest Service report entitled Private Forests, Public Benefits [here], showing that privately held forests in the U.S. are under substantial stress from development and fragmentation, and that increased housing density in forests will exacerbate other threats to forests from wildfire, insects, pathogens and pollution. These threats to the important goods and services provided by privately owned forests — which make up 56 percent of all forested lands — emphasize the importance of the collaborative, cross-boundary approach to conserving and restoring our forests as laid out by Secretary Vilsack in a major address last year.

“Americans rely on their forests for a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits, including clean water, wood products, habitat for wildlife, and outdoor recreation,” said Vilsack. “The Private Forests, Public Benefits report shows that now, more than ever, we need to take an ‘all lands’ approach to managing our nation’s forests, whether they are national forests or under the stewardship of state or private entities.” …

The study touted above is a product of the USFS Open Space Conservation Strategy [here], the brainchild of former USFS Chief Gail Kimbell.

There is no (none, zero, nada) stautory directive from Congress to engage in the Open Space Conservation Stategy. The civil servants thunked it up all by their lonesomes.

Congress did not order it, the Pipple did not order it, it has never been through any democratic process. It’s just another wild and crazy scheme drawn up by overpaid, underworked, government functionaries with too much power and too much time on their hands. With your money.

more »

9 Aug 2010, 4:58pm
Federal forest policy
by admin

Illegal USFS ESA Snap Decisions for Wildfire “Use”

The time between the discovery of a wildfire and the decision to Let It Burn is no more than 24 hours. Once the decision is made to withhold initial attack and “use” the wildfire for “resource benefit,” there is no turning back — the wildfire usually will have grown too big to contain within a small area.

How long does it take to do a fast-tracked, emergency analysis for endangered species? The USFS says two months minimum:

USFS Delays Timber Harvest After Owls Spotted In Area

by Amelia Templeton, Oregon Public Broadcasting, July 30, 2010 [here]

The Forest Service is delaying a timber harvest in the Willamette National Forest. A pair of threatened spotted owls has moved closer to the area slated for logging.

The Seneca Sawmill agreed to pay about a half million dollars to log 150 acres of National Forest land. The harvest was supposed to begin on Monday.

But last week researchers learned that a pair of spotted owls has moved closer to the site.

Forest Service spokeswoman Judy McHugh says the logging contract has been suspended for two months to allow for a study.

Judy McHugh: “U.S. Fish and Wildlife has to do their analysis and their conclusion about what activity in the area does to individual owls and the owl population as a whole.”

Think about it. The USFS has to get permission to log from the USFWS if endangered species might be impacted. That permission comes (or possibly doesn’t) via what is called a “Section 7 consultation,” which refers to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Normally the USFS will engage in a planning process (required by NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act) before a timber sale. The NEPA process includes Section 7 consultations with the USFWS, as well as public comment and appeal periods. The NEPA process typically takes years (plural) for each project.

However, in the case of the timber sale mentioned above, the situation changed after a pair of spotted owls allegedly “moved closer” to the project area.

By the way, the timber sale in question is the Trapper Project, a 155 acre harvest initially proposed in 1998 [here]! The Environmental Assessment was written in 2003. So the project has been in the planning and evaluation process for 12 years!

How fast can the USFWS turn around an emergency Section 7 consultation on a 155 acre area that has already been studied to death for 12 years?

Two months.

How much time is available to do a Section 7 consultation on a wildfire proposed for “fire use” that has not been studied, for which no spotted owl (or other T&E species) investigations have been made, for which the area to be burned is unknown but typically involves many thousands of acres?

Less than 24 hours.

The USFS is desperate to avoid doing any NEPA analysis on Let It Burn fires. They know that if they were required to obey the law and do a NEPA analysis on a lightning ignition, there is no way the NEPA process could be completed in the narrow time window between ignition and the decision to Let It Burn.

That’s why NEPA analyses, including Section 7 consultations, are never done for Let It Burn (or “allow to burn” or “fire use” or whoofoos or whatever unplanned, unfought conflagrations are called these days).

Criminal behavior on the part of the USFS?

What else would you call it?

Fire the Entire BLM

Mr. Tamper just got caught in his lies again. Sec Int Kenny Salazar has tampered with science documents relating to offshore drilling [here], he tampered with the the Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR) and the Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan (NSORP) [here], and now a document Kenny refused to provide Congress, under subpoena, has been leaked.

Kenny’s secret Treasured Landscapes blueprint for subverting democracy has been outed:

BLM document reveals big change in federal land management

By Sarah Dallof,, August 5th, 2010 [here]

SALT LAKE CITY — KSL 5 News has obtained a document that outlines a huge change in how the federal government wants to manage federal land in Utah, and one Utah congressman says it makes him furious.

Congressman Rob Bishop’s office also recently received the document. Bishop said he’s angry because it would put virtually all land management power in the hands of the White House.

“Of the 264 million acres under BLM management, some 130- to 140-million acres are worthy of consideration as treasured lands. These areas [are] roughly equivalent in size to Colorado and Wyoming combined.” - BLM’s Treasured Landscapes paper

A portion of the document was leaked back in February [here] and led to speculation about a federal land grab in Utah. It talked about the creation of a 12 new national monuments.

Now, an outside source provided KSL with the entire document [here], and it does suggest a dramatically new philosophy for managing federal land.

The Bureau of Land Management’s document is stamped with “Internal Draft. Not for release.” Titled “Treasured Landscapes,” it lays out what some consider a sweeping and detailed plan for the next 25 years.

It took Bishop months to get the document, which lays out the context for the snippets released a few months ago. …

Among the key elements in the document:

BLM-managed public lands include rugged mountains, wild deserts and America’s last vesitges of large, untamed landscapes. These landscapes first captured the pioneer spirit and cultivated America’s romantic ideals of the Wild West.

Note the paean to a myth, the American Creation Myth. The use of the words “wild”, “untamed”, “pioneer spirit”, and “romantic ideals” indicate stark denial of previous habitation over thousands of years. Not only were those inhabitants wiped out and/or marched to reservations, the perpetrators of those outrages now deny even the existence of the First Residents.

It’s a a big Wild West according to the unnamed spin-doctor mythologists who wrote this document. Except it isn’t.

The BLM estimates that 35 million acres of its current landholdings, all of which have been identified by the public as worthy of special protection, should be considered for a new and heightened conservation designation. …

Should the legislation process not prove fruitful, or if a nationally significant natural or cultural land resource were to come under the threat of imminent harm, BLM would recommend that the Administration consider using the Antiquities Act to designate new National Monuments by Presidential Proclamation.

Well, it’s Wild, except where it’s cultural. But in any case, screw the established Congressional oversight and just declare 35 million acres of new “wilderness” against the will of our elected representatives.

We don’t need no stinking democracy around here.

Better accounting for the value of public lands left in a condition closer to the land’s natural state — whether measured in the amount of carbon sequestered by a stand of trees or native grasslands …

There’s the Gloooobal Waaarming Card. The BLM is going to sequester that carbon, until they incinerate it in one their Let It Burn holocausts, that is. It’s natural.

…Congress has limited the President’s authority to designate new national monuments in Wyoming and Alaska. … The BLM therefore particularly proposes that the Administration use the BLM’s land-use planning process .. to protect sensitive resources in Wyoming and Alaska.

We don’t need no stinking Congress telling us what to do. We can shut down whole states using our internal “process” and subvert the will of Congress. We’re the BLM; we’re bigger than those stinking elected doowahs. Hahahahahaha!

Maybe the best solution is to fire the entire workforce of the BLM today. They have grown too big for their britches. Maybe a few years in the unemployment line will knock them down a peg or two. Because this country does not belong to the trough sucking functionaries. They are mere servants to the public. The public are the actual owners. We do things democratically, via our elected representatives, in this country. Our democratic system is anathema to the BLM, and unfortunately anti-democracy is an intolerable attitude in our servant class.

Or we could just fire Mr. Tamper, and let that send a message to the suckers in the trough.

It’s really up to Congress. Are they going to put up with a subversive as Sec Int, or are they going to assert democracy?

Smart money says Congress are subversives themselves, and democracy will lose. Again.

Station Fire Probe - The View From Under the Bus

The LA Times reported today that CA Congress-types are called for a “sweeping probe” into the actions (and/or inactions) of the US Forest Service during the Station Fire.

Lawmakers seek broad probe into Forest Service response to Station fire

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2010 [here]

California’s two U.S. senators and several local House members Thursday called on Congress’ investigative arm to launch a sweeping probe into the Forest Service’s response to last summer’s disastrous Station fire.

In asking for the investigation by the Government Accountability Office, which typically grants such requests, the lawmakers recommended a broad examination of the Forest Service’s decisions and tactics. Those include the use of aircraft early in the fight and the question of whether everything possible was done to protect homes that burned in Big Tujunga Canyon.

The legislators also cited the disclosure this week that telephone dispatch recordings made during the fire were withheld from a Forest Service review team and the public. The Times requested the recordings last year and again this year, but Forest Service officials said they did not exist. …

In addition to Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, the signers include Reps. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), Judy Chu (D-El Monte) and Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks). …

The aforementioned letter [here] states in part:

Both the Forest Service and Los Angeles County Fire Department have conducted reviews of the fire and the response from both of these agencies. However, we have learned today that critical Forest Service dispatch recordings from the start of the fire were withheld from federal review teams. This casts a dark cloud over the findings of the review panel and immediately warrants an independent review of the Station Fire response.

Our purpose for this review is to ensure that all actions in the response to the fire were taken swiftly, properly and competently. Our constituents must know that every possible, reasonable and proper action was taken to fight the fire, and if there were instances where the proper actions were not taken, we must know why.”
It continues:

Most important, we must establish what lessons were learned from this devastating fire. By identifying mistakes made and where different choices would have caused better outcomes, agencies tasked with preventing and fighting fires will be able to better prepare and respond in the future.

We have discussed the Station Fire previously [here, here, here, here].

We have noted how the LA Times has flip-flopped from advocating cutbacks in aerial firefighting, because it is allegedly a waste of money, to decrying the alleged failure to employ timely and expensive aerial firefighting on the Station Fire.

Now Congress is joining the critics.

The USFS made a decision years ago to kowtow to the pro-holocausters, instituting a program of allowing wildfires to burn without any effort to contain, control, or extinguish them. Many of those fires have blown up and caused devastating damage to natural and human-built resources. It must have seemed to the USFS to be the politically expedient thing to do, because there is no other justification for incinerating vast tracts of America’s heritage forests, watersheds, homes, and towns.

Now, when a wildfire has impacted the heart of pro-holocauster neighborhoods in LaLa, the political goodwill the USFS thought it was accumulating has disappeared in a puff (or plume) of smoke. Their supposed political allies have thrown the Agency under the bus.

Let that be a Lesson Learned.

Political types are fickle. They have no loyalty, especially when their policies are ignorant, malformed, and destructive. Political expediency is a slippery prey. Instead of lunging for the expedient, the USFS should remain true to their statutory mission of good stewardship, regardless of whichever way the political winds might blow.

Now the piper has come home to roost. The view from under the bus is not a happy one.

How is the USFS responding? Have they learned their lesson? Not yet. The LA Times reports:

Meanwhile, the inspector general also will examine whether the Forest Service had the legal authority to record phone calls to the Angeles dispatch center without the consent of all callers. Radio dispatch communications are routinely recorded, but the Forest Service wants the inspector general to determine whether the phone recordings violated privacy rights, agency officials said.

In an internal memorandum Wednesday that was obtained by The Times, Forest Service Deputy Chief James Hubbard ordered all dispatch centers to stop recording calls until the matter is resolved.

That is called “circling the wagons” and it is ill-advised.

The USFS has suspended recording emergency dispatch calls? Whom in those communications is a “private” party? Do we suspend recording of 911 calls because some government official screwed up in an emergency?

Is secrecy the best course of action? Has stonewalling worked to date? A famous rule of excavation is: if you find yourself in a deep hole, stop digging.

The USFS needs to realize that full transparency and honest stewardship efforts will serve them best in the long run. Otherwise they will be tire-tracked by the Big Political Bus again and again.

As Yellow As Journalism Gets

The LA Times is reporting that a federal inspector general has launched an investigation of possible negligence by the US Forest Service in fighting the Station Fire [here, here, here].

Last September the Station Fire (Angeles NF) burned 160,600 acres, and destroyed 90 homes. Two Los Angeles County firefighters were fatally injured during the fire. The Station Fire was the largest fire in LA County history, cost nearly $100 million in suppression expenses alone, and inflicted economic damages of 10 to 50 times that amount.

Shortly after the fire was contained, the LA Times charged that mistakes had been made in fighting the fire [here]. Specifically, the newspaper alleged that aerial attacks were delayed in the first hours of the Station Fire, and the delay led to the fire growing out of control.

Those charges were bolstered by questions raised by a number of retired USFS experts, including former Forest Supervisors, Regional Foresters, Deputy Chiefs, and Special Agents.

It has come to light that critical dispatch communications were recorded, but those recordings were not provided to the after-action review panel last November. The surfacing of the recordings prompted the inspector general investigation. The Obama Administration has also invited a Congressional inquiry.

Federal inspector general launches probe of Station fire

The Obama administration also invites Congress to order a broad inquiry after it is learned that dispatch recordings from the early hours of the blaze were withheld from a Forest Service review team.

By Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2010 [here]

A federal inspector general has launched an investigation and the Obama administration has invited Congress to order a broad inquiry into last summer’s disastrous Station fire after learning that dispatch recordings had been withheld from a U.S. Forest Service review team.

The telephone recordings, from the critical early hours of the blaze, also were withheld from The Times, which requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

The inspector general’s probe will focus on why the several days of recordings were not provided to The Times or turned over to the Forest Service inquiry, which concluded that the agency’s initial attack on the fire was proper.

“I find this very serious,” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said Tuesday. “I’m very concerned and troubled that this was not found earlier. … We want to get this information to learn what occurred on the Station fire.”

Tidwell said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose department runs the Forest Service, invited Congress to request the fuller investigation of the agency’s handling of the fire in the Angeles National Forest, a probe that would be conducted by the Government Accountability Office.

The content of the withheld recordings is not known. Tidwell said officials were still transcribing them and the results would be released in coming days.

He said the recordings were found after he ordered a reexamination of all records on the fire and the agency’s response to The Times’ requests for copies of audio dispatch communications, a number of which have been released. …

He said he wanted the reexamination completed before a panel of local members of Congress convened by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) holds a public meeting on the Station fire next Tuesday in Pasadena. Schiff scheduled the session after The Times reported that the Forest Service had misjudged the threat posed by the fire, scaled back the initial attack and failed to fill crucial orders for air tankers on the second morning. …

According to federal records and state officials, other tankers were available sooner, but the Forest Service failed to complete an order for them made by its own commander on the ground.

Dispatch records show that a Forest Service officer again asked for tankers about 7 a.m. Aug. 27, six hours after the initial request. Three Forest Service tankers were subsequently deployed, but did not reach the fire until after it began racing through the forest.

Most of the questions about how the fire became so destructive have focused on the absence of a fierce air attack in the hours after dawn on Day 2, as well as a decision the previous evening to reduce the number of ground crews. The flames had been nearly contained, in part because of a sustained pounding by helicopters and planes. After the aircraft returned to base at nightfall, the fire began to gather strength.

Officials said in September that they had believed enough aircraft were deployed early on Day 2. In the review conducted by the Forest Service, the agency concluded that aerial dumps during the hours after first light would have been ineffective because the blaze was burning in a canyon too steep for ground crews to safely finish extinguishing the flames.

After that finding was disputed by firefighters at the scene as well as by the Forest Service’s own records, officials told The Times and the Senate panel that the tankers were not sent sooner because of a shortage of rested pilots and relief aircraft.

Records and interviews later showed that state tankers were available. …

more »

Washington View: Federal policies helped spark California wildfires

By Don Brunell, The Columbian, August 3, 2010 [here]

Once again, dozens of wildfires are raging across California, reducing entire forests to cinders and displacing thousands of families. As they burn, these fires pump millions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) —declared by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as a dangerous pollutant — into the air.

Ironically, this environmental and human devastation is due in part to federal environmental policies.

For decades, federal forest management policy has been, in effect, not to manage forests. Because of pressure from environmental groups, many federal and state forests are off limits to harvest and even to “housekeeping” activities, such as thinning, clearing undergrowth and removing dead and diseased trees. The philosophy is, let nature take its course.

Unfortunately, nature cleans its house with fire. Undergrowth and diseased trees provide the fuel; lightning or the errant camper provides the spark. …

President George W. Bush tried to address the situation with his Healthy Forests initiative, which put people to work clearing brush and salvaging diseased trees while bringing in income from salvage logging companies. Unfortunately, the effort was stopped in its tracks by environmentalists. …

The consequences of a massive wildfire today would be catastrophic. A century ago, the Big Burn scorched three million acres of forests from Boise into Canada and from east of Spokane to west of Missoula. Today, more than 13 million people live in that area.

Even our firefighters are being handcuffed in the name of environmental protection. Recently, a federal judge rejected the way the U.S. Forest Service uses fire retardant to fight wildfires because it couldn’t ensure that the retardant wouldn’t harm threatened and endangered species. The judge did not address the harm a raging inferno would cause to those same animals.

One has only to watch the nightly news to see the devastation caused by wildfires. Add to that the human and economic cost to battle the fires and the environmental degradation that results.

Congress and the President must restore sanity and common sense to our federal forest management policy. Sensible management, clearing dead and diseased trees and reducing underbrush is a much more responsible policy than “burn, baby, burn.”

Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s chamber of commerce. Visit

State Foresters Don’t Like Federal Let It Burn Policies

On July 6 the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) released a “briefing paper” entitled “Identifying Communities at Risk and Prioritizing Risk-Reduction Projects” [here].

This paper is intended to provide national guidance for identifying communities at risk, conducting planning efforts that are consistent with national initiatives, and to reinforce the role of the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) in setting priorities, effecting progress, and measuring success toward reduction of wildfire risk for America’s communities.

The NASF is “a non-profit organization comprised of the directors of forestry agencies in the states, territories and the District of Columbia of the United States.” Ostensibly the NASF represents State Foresters. Their concerns are such things as wildfire suppression funding, sustainable forestry, forest product markets, etc.

In their briefing paper on Communities At Risk, NASF acknowledges that “communities” is a difficult thing to define and map:

Unfortunately neither definition for community nor wildland urban interface lends itself to a spatial analysis using geographic information systems. … The number of communities, community boundaries, and wildland urban interface are so dynamic that strict definitions and inventories are generally not applicable. A flexible and expandable approach to identifying communities and addressing risk may be necessary in some areas.

But they are giving it a shot. In their briefing paper NASF expresses valid concern about fire risks and is attempting to address them:

Projects, not communities, should be prioritized based on probability of success, efficiency through community involvement and collaboration, and on sustainability. However, wildfire risk will be the key principle used in identifying projects from the outset. As the challenges of addressing communities at risk increase, the process may become more focused on additional mitigation measures that address actual risk—fire prevention, forest resource management, and Firewise principles.

That was July 6th. On July 12 NASF released another briefing paper (which does not appear on their website!) entitled “State Forestry Agency Perspectives Regarding 2009 Federal Wildfire Policy Implementation” [here].

That second briefing paper is a little more hard hitting than the first one. It acknowledges that State Foresters have no say so in how the Feds fight fires that threaten communities at risk. State Foresters wish that the Feds would implement aggressive fire suppression strategies,

Safe and aggressive initial attack is the best suppression response to keep wildfires small and costs down.

but they recognize that the Feds are not doing so. They also recognize that Federal Let It Burn policies impact state fire suppression efforts when the Fed fires leap across jurisdictional boundaries and impinge on state-protected lands:

Prior to the core fire season, an extensive outreach effort should be made to explain federal fire policy to cooperators, local government representatives, and private property owners. Consistent use of terminology (i.e. “fire use, appropriate management response, or resource benefit”) and a clear explanation of related processes (i.e. WFDSS, Management Action Points, Long Term Implementation Plan, etc.) should be addressed.

The Feds are doing crazy stuff, i.e. Let It Burn, and they are not providing any sort of credible explanation for it, not to State Foresters’ satisfaction at any rate. Furthermore, the Feds are burdening States with fire suppression costs from those “escaped” fires. That is not satisfactory to NASF, either:

On incidents where the decision is made to manage a fire or portion thereof for resource benefits, the jurisdictional agency should be prepared to assume all suppression costs.

Adjacent fire protection entities, including state and local government, should be consulted regarding fire management strategies, and shared decision-making reinforced whenever possible.

Adjacent fire protection entities should provide prompt notification to agencies when concerns exist about wildfires that are managed strategically for resource benefit that have the potential to impact adjacent jurisdictions.

When conflicts regarding fire response arise at the local level, each geographic area should establish protocols for how to pursue and resolve issues at a higher level, if needed. Such a protocol should be developed and adopted at the Geographic Area level.

What the State Foresters are saying is that the Feds are out of control. The Feds are allowing wildfires to burn, allegedly for resource “benefits”, but those fires are blowing up, crossing onto state-protected land, putting communities at risk, and placing tremendous burdens on the states to put out uncontrolled fires emanating from Federal lands.

That is a serious issue in states and locales where the Feds own 50, 60 or even 90 percent of the land.

The Feds are not “cooperating” or “coordinating” with state fire agencies. They are not even communicating. There are no explanations, no notices, no consultations regarding foofurbs (fires used for resource “benefit”). And when damages to private landowners arise from Federal Let It Burn fires, the Feds are not assuming any liability or recompensing the States or the victims.

Financial and personnel impacts to other fire protection entities due to resource-benefit fire management strategies should be mitigated as much as possible.

Any available claims process for resource losses from a fire managed for resource benefit should be made known and available to all potentially affected parties.

Many National Forests have adopted Let It Burn. In the case of forests like the Rogue River-Siskiyou NF, every single acre on the Forest has been determined to be suitable for Let It Burn [here, here, here, here, here, here, here and more]. The Payette NF has deliberately incinerated over a million acres since 1993, decimating forests, watersheds, homes, and communities [here and more]. The list of “escaped” Let It Burn fires goes on and on. Every state in the West has been impacted by damaging fires that “escaped” Federal control and spread to state-protected lands.

NASF is not too pleased about that:

Broad application of modified suppression strategies—particularly within the WUI, commercially viable timber stands, or critical watersheds/wildlife habitat—is not advisable. Within these areas, federal agencies should limit the use of resource-benefit fire strategies to lands where priority areas identified in local Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) have been treated to reduce fire risk.

Expanded use of resource-benefit fire management strategies may transfer a significant amount of financial and safety risk to state and local governments. Consequently, representatives from these entities should be informed well before the fire season and directly involved with any decisions to expand use of this tool.

In areas where resource-benefit fire management strategies are appropriate, stakeholders must continue dialogue aimed at clearly conveying the roles, responsibilities and liabilities that may come with such strategies. Pre-season exercises and discussions are vital to ensure management of such fires minimizes threats to adjacent property and the frustration of affected communities.

That rhetoric is rather subdued, in my opinion. NASF should take the gloves off. Federal Let It Burn fires are NOT benefiting resources and they ARE putting communities at risk. State Foresters need to do more than politely complain — they need to DEMAND accountability. The Feds should have to prove to the States that Let It Burn is risk-free and beneficial, or else cease and desist from Let It Burn practices.

“Pre-season exercises and discussions” will not suffice. The only responsible course of action is to contain, control, and extinguish wildfires unless and until the Feds undertake legally-mandated, exhaustive and collaborative processes that demonstrate to everyone’s satisfaction that Let It Burn fires are appropriate.

Ninth Circuit Court Thumbs Nose At the Supremes

Wednesday the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, in the persons of William A. Fletcher and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges, and Michael W. Mosman, District Judge sitting in, enjoined the Rat Creek Salvage Project.

In August and September of 2007, the Rat Creek Wildfire burned about 27,000 acres in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana. On July 1, 2009, almost two years later, the Chief Forester of the Forest Service made an Emergency Situation Determination for the Rat Creek Salvage Project (”the Project”).

The Project permits salvage logging of trees on approximately 1,652 of the 27,000 acres that were burned on thirty-five units of land ranging from 3 to 320 acres in size.

Appeals court halts logging in Rat Creek Salvage project

By MATT VOLZ, Helena IR, June 26, 2010 [here]

A federal appeals court has blocked the U.S. Forest Service from logging trees on more than 1,600 acres of burned forest in southwestern Montana, but the agency says most of the timber already has been harvested.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered a preliminary injunction against the Rat Creek Salvage Project in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The injunction halts the project until a final decision is made in the case.

The project, about 15 miles west of Wisdom, calls for logging trees that have died or are likely to die as a result of a 2007 fire or due to insect attacks. It also calls for building seven miles of temporary roads that would be destroyed after the project, and reconditioning three miles of existing roads.

In a lawsuit filed last July, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council said forest managers underestimated the environmental damage that could result from the logging project. …

Forest Service spokeswoman Leona Rodreik said spring weather had halted the project, and it was unclear when it had been planned to start up again.

She said her agency is disappointed in the appeals court’s decision but that 85 percent of the 1,652 acres have been logged already.

“Until an opinion is issued, there’s really not much we can say or do,” she said. …

The Opinion was issued July 28th [here]. The 9th Court ruled:

Alliance for the Wild Rockies (”AWR”) appeals the district court’s denial of its motion for a preliminary injunction. AWR seeks to enjoin a timber salvage sale proposed by the United States Forest Service. Citing Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 129 S. Ct. 365 (2008), the district court held that AWR had not shown the requisite likelihood of irreparable injury and success on the merits. After hearing oral argument, we issued an order reversing the district court and directing it to issue the preliminary injunction. Alliance for Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, No. 09-35756, 2010 WL 2640287 (9th Cir. June 24, 2010).

more »

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, 2010 [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.

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.

A Goldman Sachs Let It Burn Fire

One thing we do here is track wildfires. W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking [here] provides daily-updated narratives of fires from ignition to containment. We don’t have access to minute-to-minute information but instead rely on daily reports from the National Geographic Area Coordination Centers [here].

Those reports are called 209’s, and they come from the incident management teams (IMT’s) on each fire. Often they are written in a sort of sparse code which requires decoding and interpretation. But we have tracked over 400 wildfires during the last two years and have gained some experience in sussing out the facts from the 209 bureaucratese.

Few things surprise us anymore. We have tracked Let It Burn fires on every type of federal land and parsed out some pretty egregious malfeasance. But today a new wrinkle caught us off guard.

The Bureau of Land Management has assigned management of a Let It Burn fire (the Twin Buttes WFU [here]) in western Colorado to The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

TNC is a quango (quasi-govermental non-governmental organization). They are a multi-billion-dollar quango, the largest in the world, and are intimately tied to the Goldman Sachs investment banking concern.

Before Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson destroyed the U.S. economy, he was Chairman of the Board of Governors of The Nature Conservancy. Before that, Paulson was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs — initiating the firm’s initial public offering in 1999.

The current president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy is Mark Tercek, also currently a managing director at Goldman Sachs.

TNC is a big business. They hold nearly $6 billion in assets, primarily real estate, and enjoyed a half billion dollars in income last year, including $130 million in government grants [here].

Evidently, TNC now contracts WFU’s (wildland fire “use”, aka Let It Burn fires) using their own “module”, a quasi-private fire monitoring team (everything TNC does is “quasi-private, quasi-government”). TNC’s WFU Module “is trained to assist federal agencies to allow natural wildland fires to burn…” [here]

The Twin Buttes Fire has thus become a Goldman Sachs Let It Burn While We Rob the U.S. Treasury fire.

TNC (and by extension Goldman Sachs) has their sticky fingers in much of what our federal land management agencies do. TNC is deeply involved in the Great Montana Land Swindel [here]. They are bagmen agents in the Pinon Canyon/Fort Carson fiasco and indeed are involved in real estate deals on every U.S. Military Base [here]. They were instigators of Gail Kimbell’s “Open Space Conservation Strategy,” the largest land grab since the Louisiana Purchase [here].

Scorched earth is part of the TNC’s strategy. They have subverted the Wildland Fire Leadership Council [here], pushing Let It Burn down the throat of America. They want the entire Federal Estate to be incinerated. They burn their own lands, too. For example, last year the TNC incinerated 14,874 acres on and off their Silver Creek Nature Preserve in Blaine County Idaho [here]. At taxpayers’ expense, of course. Everything TNC does (or is) is at taxpayers’ expense.

Goldman Sachs has a sweet deal in TNC. They buy land cheap (usually just purchase an option) and then resell the land to the Feds at inflated prices for enormous windfall profits — and pay no taxes on the deals. Goldman Sachs buys and sells Congresspersons and government officials, too. They have an unlimited backdoor to the U.S. Treasury.

And now they contract Let It Burn fires from the BLM. The amount of money changing hands will never be revealed. Sweet.

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta