The Jaramillo Subchron and the Domestication of Fire

Every now and again the Earth’s magnetic field flips, so that the + pole becomes - and vice versa [here].

A geomagnetic reversal is a change in the Earth’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged. The Earth’s field has alternated between periods of normal polarity, in which the direction of the field was the same as the present direction, and reverse polarity, in which the field was the opposite.

The geologic periods between polarity reversals are called chrons and subchrons [here].

Chrons are long periods during which the magnetic field remained oriented in one direction for most of the duration of the chron. The current chron, called the “Brunhes normal”, began 780,000 years ago. The immediate prior chron was the “Matuyama reverse”. … Most chrons are interrupted by shorter periods, called subchrons, during which the field flips to the opposite of the dominant orientation during the longer parent chron.

The Jaramillo Normal Subchron was a “normal” period of about 40,000 years from approximately 1.1 million years to 970,000 years ago [here].

Our mid-Pleistocene 40Ar/39Ar age recalibration of the geomagnetic polarity timescale is nearly in accord with the oxygen isotope, climate record calibration of the astronomical timescale proposed by Johnson (1982) and Shackleton et al. (1990). 40Ar/39Ar ages of a normally magnetized rhyolite dome in the Valles caldera, northern Mexico, yielded a weighted-mean age of 1.004 ± 0.019 Ma. A K-Ar age of 0.909 ± 0.019 Ma for this rock by Doell and Dalrymple (1966) was the linchpin for the recognition and calibration of the Jaramillo Normal Subchron (JNS). Other 40Ar/39Ar ages from the Valles caldera and 40Ar/39Ar ages of Ivory Coast tektites indicate that the JNS began at about 1.11 Ma and ended before 0.92 Ma, probably near 0.97 Ma.

Why is that important? Because depositions of iron-bearing sediments align with the Earth’s magnetic field and leave a permanent record of the polarity, known as post-depositional detrital remanent magnetization (pDRM) [here]. And those deposits can then be dated to within their particular chron or subchron.

In a recent paper [here]:

Francesco Berna, Paul Goldberg, Liora Kolska Horwitz, James Brink, Sharon Holt, Marion Bamford, and Michael Chazan (2012) Microstratigraphic evidence of in situ fire in the Acheulean strata of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa.

researchers discovered burned bone fragments and ashed plant remains inside a cave, and dated the silty aggregates that enclosed them to the Jaramillo Subchron.

The ashed plant remains are situated in the middle of archaeological stratum 10, which shows a normal magnetic orientation and is bracketed between two cosmogenic burial ages of 1.27 ± 0.19 Ma and 0.98 ± 0.19 Ma. The Normal event can therefore be assigned to the Jaramillo subchron (1.07–0.99 Ma), a time range that fits with current understanding of the chronological position of the early Acheulean within the ESA [Earlier Stone Age] in Southern Africa.

The Acheulean is a cultural era or tradition typified by special types of worked tools [here].

[The Acheulean] was the dominant technology for the vast majority of human history starting more than one million years ago. Their distinctive oval and pear-shaped handaxes have been found over a wide area and some examples attained a very high level of sophistication suggesting that the roots of human art, economy and social organisation arose as a result of their development.

“They” being our ancestors, Homo erectus [here].

What does all this mean? It means that proto-humans were cooking with fire at least 1,000,000 years ago. The Abstract of the Berna et al paper:

The ability to control fire was a crucial turning point in human evolution, but the question when hominins first developed this ability still remains. Here we show that micromorphological and Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (mFTIR) analyses of intact sediments at the site of Wonderwerk Cave, Northern Cape province, South Africa, provide unambiguous evidence—in the form of burned bone and ashed plant remains—that burning took place in the cave during the early Acheulean occupation, approximately 1.0 Ma. To the best of our knowledge, this is the earliest secure evidence for burning in an archaeological context.

In Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human [here] primatologist Richard Wrangham theorizes that Homo erectus was physiologically adapted to eating cooked food, and that adaptation dates to 1.8 million years ago. If proto-people could cook, if indeed cooking was a biological imperative, then ipso facto proto-people were capable of controlling fire.

And it follows that if our ancestors could cook with fire, they were certainly capable of setting fire to their environs.

Anthropogenic burning is a technology at least as old as Acheulean handaxes. Strong evidence from Wonderwerk Cave dates control of fire to 1,000,000 years ago, during the Jaramillo Subchron.

Hominids have been burning their landscapes for at least that long.

By the time the First People arrived in North America (15,000+ years ago), they had a million years of burning technology experience and practice under their belts.

If someday some fool questions you as to whether the Indians burned Oregon with skill and adroitness (as happened to me recently, by a college professor no less) you can tell him (as I did) that a million years of practice makes perfect.

5 May 2011, 8:39am
Forestry education
by admin
1 comment

Fire Cycle Regularity

I made a wrong statement the other day, and I wish to correct myself. What I said was, “there are not clockwork deterministic cycles in nature.” Of course, there are.

One example is the Ice Ages. Over the last 1.9 million years there have been 18 Ice Ages (or glaciations) each lasting ~105,000 years and 18 interglacials (like the present Holocene) each lasting ~10,000 years. The glaciations come like clockwork at long intervals which happen to correlate with perturbations in the Earth’s orbit known as Milankovitch Cycles.

Another example: human females of reproductive age have menstrual cycles of 28 to 29 days, which correlate with lunar cycles (new moon-full moon-new moon).

Not everything in nature is subject to deterministic clockwork cycles, though. The topic I was propounding on the other day was fire cycles.

Forests can burn and do burn, but not necessarily at regular intervals. Not at “natural” regular intervals, that is. Forests are not subject to pyro-menstrual cycles. There are no celestial pendulums that govern forest fires.

Forests do accumulate fuels. As fuels build-up, the likelihood of a fire increases. Eventually a fire will happen, but they do not happen at regular intervals — unless people do the fire lighting!

People are not clockwork automatons, but we sure do act like it sometimes. Witness traffic jams caused by commuters who all commute at the same time. Or take the Olympics, or elections, or leap years, or bicentennial fetes. Nothing in nature dictates those cycles; they are entirely anthropogenic.

Forest fires have been mostly anthropogenic (human set) for tens of thousands of years (perhaps for hundreds of thousands of years in Africa). Humans sometimes set fires accidentally, but most of the time there is purpose to our pyromania — humans set fires deliberately for reasons. Those reasons may or may not be rational or wise, but we have our reasons nonetheless.

Because we are human and tend to do our stuff on regular schedules, historical fire cycles do indeed display regularity. But that regularity is not something inherent to forests; it is something inherent to people.

Something else that is inherent to people is awe and wonder. We like to be thunderstruck (figuratively, not literally). We also like to blame external agents, particularly supernatural agents (God, Mother Nature, Gaia, space aliens, etc.) for whatever happens. Blaming God for everything stems from laziness of the mind, however, and is not scientific. When scientists blame God (or Mother Nature, Gaia, space aliens, etc.), they are not really doing science — they are in fact doing superstitious nonsense.

There is a tendency to be lazy that is well-established in the human genome. I have the lazy bug; so do you. Come on now, admit the truth (maybe later, when you have more energy, after your nap). Lazy thinking in particular is commonplace.

But science is no place for lazy thinking. Forest scientists who study fire cycles need to exercise their brains a little more rigorously. Take a good hard look at those fire scars. Think to yourself, what started those fires? If your answer (to yourself) is lightning, not people, then ask yourself what evidence you have one way or the other.

Because if the fire cycle you perceive is regular, that is evidence that people were responsible, Q.E.D.

Historical Anthropogenic Fire and Modern Park Management

Two recent additions to the W.I.S.E. Library deal with the confluence of historical (traditional) anthropogenic fire with modern problems (challenges) in managing large national parks.

In White, C.A., D.D.B. Perrakis, V.G. Kafka, and T. Ennis. 2011. Burning at the edge: integrating biophysical and eco-cultural fire processes in Canada’s parks and protected areas. Fire Ecology 7(1): 74-106 [here] the principal author, Clifford A. White, is Chief Scientist (emeritus) at Banff National Park in Alberta.

Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park (established in 1885) and most famous; Banff is Canada’s Yellowstone.

In “Burning at the Edge” the authors examine changes in historical fire frequency and extent. They show clearly that “climate” cannot be an explanatory factor for those changes. Instead, human ignitions or lack thereof have governed the fire regimes of Banff for thousands of years.

For more than ten millennia, First Nations of indigenous peoples have occupied almost all areas of Canada, with population density highest in more southern areas (McMillan 1995). Studies clearly show that humans set low intensity fires that burned over the long term within the larger matrix of fires (Lewis and Ferguson 1988, Turner 1999). Historically, at least in some areas, human use, not suppression, of fire was more significant. Fire was an easily available tool that could be routinely used for purposes ranging from altering wildlife habitat, to improving berry crops, to warfare (Boyd 1999, Stewart 2002). People living on the land understood fire’s role intimately, and because it was their most powerful tool to change landscapes, integrated this understanding into daily decisions for survival. …

Without traditional anthropogenic fire for 100+ years, biomass has accumulated and as a consequence, modern fires are large, destructive, and expensive. The solution to the crisis-level fire problem, argue the authors, is to restore cultural fire to the landscape.

Fire practitioners in Canadian parks and protected areas are stewards of combined eco-culturally and biophysically driven fire regimes. Similar to earlier generations of First Nations, today’s land managers face the same issue in maintaining eco-culturally important patches of relatively frequent, low-intensity fire dependent ecosystems within a landscape matrix of less frequent, large area, high-intensity fire. From the above case histories, it appears that managers are recognizing significant spatial and temporal interactions on the edge between these two general fire regimes. Moreover, managers are rediscovering First Nations’ traditional ecosystem knowledge of the human actions that were most practical for fire use in these northern regions where high-intensity fires are a dominant ecological force (Lewis and Ferguson 1988).

Management fires lit under an eco-cultural paradigm maintain an important component of the long-term regime while providing greater capacity for larger, higher intensity fires to occur with few negative ecological and socio-economic implications.

Not catastrophic “natural” fire. That’s not the solution — it is in fact the problem. Banff NP is a natural wonderland, a gift from Mother Nature, and we all love nature to beat the band. But, and it’s a big but, Banff is better off, nature at Banff is better protected, if traditional land management (anthropogenic fire and anthropogenic predation) is practiced there.

Another recent addition to our Library is: Iokiñe Rodríguez (2007) Pemon Perspectives of Fire Management in Canaima National Park, Southeastern Venezuela. Hum Ecol (2007) 35:331–343

Canaima NP is a world-class park, home to the Gran Sabana (great savanna) and tepuis (table-top mountains). The cliffs that surround the tepuis are so steep and challenging, making the plateau tops so remote, that Arthur Conan Doyle sited his novel, “The Lost World”, there.

Canaima NP is the Yellowstone of Venezuela. Canaima NP is not a lost world, however. People have been resident there for ~15,000 years. The Gran Sabana is anthropogenic — human burning practices created and maintain the anthropogenic mosaic of grasslands and tree islands.

Park managers today wish to eliminate the cultural ties and traditional management of the Pemon people. Dr. Rodríguez reports:

For more than 30 years, different institutions have striven to change or eliminate the traditional use of fire throughout the area popularly known as the Gran Sabana, in the eastern sector of the park. Fire control policies have been based on the assumption that the use of fire, particularly savanna burning, is causing a gradual reduction in forest cover (Galán, 1984; Gómez and Picón, 1994). Despite concerns over the use of fire in the park, land managers have shown little interest in understanding local fire regimes and Pemon views of fire. Instead, fire control has been based largely on preconceived ideas and unsubstantiated hypotheses of the impacts of fire, resulting in a long conflict between the State and the Pemon over the use of fire in the park.

Not only is shortsighted “natural” management destroying the Gran Sabana vegetation, the blindness of park managers is also destroying an entire culture — the culture that created the park vegetation arrangements in the first place.

An excellent slide show presentation put together by Iokiñe Rodríguez and entitled “Reframing the fire narrative in Canaima National Park, Venezuela” is [here].

The problems in both parks (and in Yellowstone, too) are more than environmental. Fire has not been eliminated; anthropogenic fire has. Cultural heritage has been denied and social injustice inflicted — to the detriment of the environment, because the culture and the environment were closely interwoven and mutually interdependent.

That’s the take home lesson.

AFE Discovers Anthropogenic Fire

It’s a breakthrough. The latest issue of Fire Ecology [here] is all about anthropogenic fire.

Fire Ecology is the ‘zine of the Association of Fire Ecologists (AFE). You may remember the AFE from their infamous 2006 3rd International Fire Ecology & Management Congress held in San Diego [here], during which they “voted” to adopt a Declaration which stated “climate plays a central role in shaping fire regimes.” The Declaration recommended Let It Burn incineration of America’s forests today (the Holocausts Now philosophy), because later on it might get warmer and then the fires will be really big, hoo boy.

The 2006 AFE Declaration (don’t you just love it when allegedly scientific organizations issue political declarations?) also blamed humanity (you and me) for messing up the “natural” fire regimes — they declared, “Human activities [recently] have significantly increased the number of ignitions in temperate, boreal, and tropical regions.”

As I pointed out at the time, that accusation is totally false. In fact, human beings (and/or our close relatives) have been the principal fire igniters on Earth for approximately 1.6 million years, and modern man is nowhere near the fire bug that we were a mere 500 years ago.

Now, nearly five years later, the AFE has seen the light. Finally they have crept out of the darkness and embraced the actual scientific truth about fire, which is that most fire on this planet has been anthropogenic for many hundreds of thousands of years, through at least 15 Ice Age glaciations (~105,000 years long each) and 15 interglacials (~10,000 years long each).

To be clear, the authors of the articles are experts who have long been cognizant of the importance of anthropogenic fire. It’s the org (AFE) that is crawling towards the light. The authors have already been in the light for decades. Surprisingly (perhaps) the org has not been run by actual fire ecologists, but instead by political operatives with limited understanding of fire ecology, although that may be changing.

Some highlights of the new Fire Ecology issue (Volume 7, Issue 1 - 2011) are

Introduction - 4th International Fire Congress: Fire as a Global Process [here] by Francisco Seijo, Robert W. Gray, and Sandra Rideout-Hanzak

Debates about the scale, ecological effects, and motivations of pre-scientific anthropogenic burning have been present since the inception of the scientific study of landscape fires as the following quotations show. Local communities have in many places burned the land for centuries. …

Fire-prone flammable ecosystems cover about 40% of the Earth’s land surface, including some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet (Bond et al. 2005). Over the last quarter of a million years [note: actually 1.6 million years, but let's not argue about it], some, and in many cases all, of the fires affecting ecosystem structure and composition in these flammable ecosystems have been ignited by humans. …

Australia - A Model System for the Development of Pyrogeography [here] by David M.J.S. Bowman and Brett P. Murphy

A growing body of research has shown that Aboriginal fire use is skillful and responsible for the functioning of ecosystems that were encountered by European colonists (Bowman 1998). A prime example of the importance of Aboriginal fire management concerns the ecological effects when this tradition of fire management is disrupted. …

The survival of cypress pine was a consequence of Aboriginal patch burning that occurred for a number of reasons, including but not limited to preserving patches of wild yams (Russell-Smith et al. 1997), managing country for spiritual obligations (Yibarbuk et al. 2001), preserving unburnt areas for fire drives of wild game later in the year (Haynes 1985), and maintaining grazing habitat for game (Murphy and Bowman 2007). It seems that the creation of habitat heterogenity was critical for the survival of a range of plants and animals that are currently undergoing precipitous declines following the cessation of Aboriginal fire management (Franklin 1999, Woinarski et al. 2010). …

European settlers have struggled to comprehend the ecology of fire in Australia and have made only halting progress toward the accommodation of fire in their environment. The extreme fire events in southern Australia since the beginning of the twenty-first century highlight the vulnerability of Australian society to catastrophic fire. There remains a heated debate about the cause of these extreme events, with a Royal Commission inquiring into the bushfires in Victoria on 7 February 2009, which saw the loss of 173 lives, 3,500 structures destroyed, and 450,000 ha burnt by over 400 individual fires. ..

[R]esearch in northern Australia has revealed an underlying logic to Aboriginal landscape burning (Lewis 1982, Head and Fullagar 1997, Russell-Smith et al. 1997, Bowman and Prior 2004, Vigilante and Bowman 2004, Murphy and Bowman 2007), although appreciation of the full complexity remains beyond our grasp.

Burning at the Edge: Integrating Biophysical and Eco-Cultural Fire Processes in Canada’s Parks and Protected Areas [here] by Clifford A. White, Daniel D.B. Perrakis, Victor G. Kafka, and Timothy Ennis


Currently, high intensity, large-area lightning fires that burn during droughts dominate Canada’s fire regimes. However, studies from several disciplines clearly show that humans historically ignited burns within this matrix of large fires. Two approaches for fire research and management have arisen from this pattern: a “large-fire biophysical paradigm” related to lightning-ignited fires, and an “eco-cultural paradigm” related to human-caused burning. Working at the edge between biophysically driven fires and eco-cultural burns, and their associated management and research paradigms, presents unique challenges to land managers. We proceed by describing fire frequency trends across Canada, and how an interaction between changing climatic and cultural factors may provide better causal explanations for observed patterns than either group of factors alone. We then describe four case histories of fire restoration into Canadian landscapes moving through evolution, or deliberate intent, towards increasing emphasis on an eco-cultural paradigm. We show that use of cultural burns maintains this facet of the long-term regime while providing greater capacity for larger, higher intensity fires to occur with fewer negative ecological and socio-economic implications. Key lessons learned by practitioners restoring fire to landscapes include: 1) fire is only one process in ecosystems that also include other complex interactions, and thus restoration of fire alone could have unintended consequences in some ecosystems; 2) recognizing long-term human roles of not only fire managers, but also hunters and gatherers is critical in restoration programs; and 3) this diversity of past, present, and future ecological and cultural interactions with fire can link managers to a broad constituency of stakeholders. Bringing this variety of people and interests into the decision-making processes is a necessary pre-requisite to successful fire management at the edge.

The latter paper is truly excellent, paradigm-shattering, and worthy of deeper study and review — and we will do so in a subsequent post. Please read it now, however, as homework, so you will be ready when we present our review. Thank you.

Score one for AFE. They are approximating relevancy at last. Kudos to all involved in the new issue.

A Cultural Practice Within a Cultural Place

Review by Mike Dubrasich of:

Pyne, Stephen J.(2011) Our Pappies Still Burn the Woods IN Florida: A Fire Mosaic (web-published here)

Right off the bat let me reveal my biases. Steve Pyne is a friend and an Honored Fellow of W.I.S.E. He is, IMHO, one our greatest contemporary writers. It is thus difficult for me to be critical of his essays. I really like them. That being the case, you will have to take the following review with some lemon to cut all the sugar.

Dr. Stephen J. Pyne (Regents Professor at Arizona State University) stumbled on some funding (from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, and Joint Fire Science Program) to grease the skids while he writes a couple of new books. Because We the Taxpayers are footing the bill, and because Pyne is a brave fellow (and competitive, eh Steve?) he decided to post the essays that will (possibly) go into his new books as he writes them. To that end he set up a blog! [here].

As a blogger myself, and speaking for all bloggers everywhere (and why shouldn’t I?) Pyne puts all of us extemporaneous blog-alists to shame. He is a pro writer, and stands out like a exceedingly healthy thumb amongst all the rest of us sore phalanges (or filangies in NewUrbText).

Just to rub our noses in it, Dr. Pyne is spitting out classic, great essays as fast (or faster) than rest of us spit out poor quality amateurish essays. (You know, for me it’s like playing catch with Willie Mays or something. I am thrilled but it’s also humbling to the core.)

One of his rapid-fire classics is entitled “Our Pappies Still Burn the Woods“, which is not an original title but one he borrowed from John P. Shea, an obscure psychologist/sociologist who wrote an essay of the same name published in 1940 in American Forests. Leave it to an historian to dredge something like that up from the depths.

According to Pyne, Shea’s essay is loathed by the “southern fire community” although I bet 99% of the community members never heard of it. But no matter. It sets the theme, because the original essay (by Shea) is (according to Pyne) an exercise in cultural bigotry and class disdain. And Pyne’s essay (of the same name) is all about cultural bigotry or something darn close to it.

Shea’s targets were the poor Southern trash who burned (without permits) their landscapes, when they felt like it, to the consternation of public officials, especially the U.S. Forest Service honchos who were often called upon to put out the fires.

Pyne’s targets are variously Shea, foresters (thanks a heap, Steve), fire scientists (heh, heh), the American fire community (touché), the general American public, and cultural bigots worldwide.

But Pyne’s writing is so good, and his thoughts so bullseye, that in the end we victims are grateful for the lessons. Even though he cites some clod who referred to foresters as morons, an unkind cut, but a lash I frequently apply to others, so it’s a just comeuppance I suppose. More than that, it’s part of the lesson, a reprimand for lousy writing and worse thinking, of which I am frequently guilty, and so I take my medicine, which Pyne somehow makes palatable and even fun, with gratitude. And after all, if your topic is shortsighted bigotry, some demonstrations are appropriate.

more »

Of Coffee and Climate: Anecdote Replaces Science

By Todd Myers, Real Clear Science, March 23, 2023 [here]

So profound is our ignorance, and so high our presumption, that we marvel when we hear of the extinction of an organic being; and as we do not see the cause, we invoke cataclysms to desolate the world, or invent laws on the duration of the forms of life! – Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

Writing more than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin identified the central problem with humanity’s ability to understand nature’s complex interactions. We believe we are intelligent enough to sort out obscure natural processes, so we invent stories that seem to explain what we are seeing. Darwin recognized, however, that we presume too much, failing to see the real causes of events.

The strength of the modern scientific method is its ability to carefully test those stories. That process, however, is often at odds with the storytelling at the center of environmental journalism. A recent story in The Seattle Times about climate change and Costa Rican coffee is an excellent example of how a compelling story can lead reporters to mistake local anecdotes for global scientific data.

Published on March 5, the story’s headline captures the tone: “Climate change takes toll on coffee growers, drinkers too”. The impact of climate change on coffee, they argue, has been significant. “Yields in Costa Rica have dropped dramatically in the last decade,” the Times wrote, “with farmers and scientists blaming climate change for a significant portion of the troubles.”

But there are factual problems with the story.

(1) According to NASA, Costa Rican temperatures during 2008-09, the years with the largest drop in production, were only 0.6 degrees warmer than the 20th century baseline. The most significant increase occurred in the fall (September-November, 2008), of just over 1 degree F. This was left out of the story.

(2) Average temperatures in 2008-09 were only 0.1 degrees warmer than 1998-2000, when Costa Rican coffee harvests were 68 percent larger. The largest difference occurred in the fall, a difference of only 0.7 degrees.

(3) Temperatures in 2008-09 are actually 0.1 degrees lower than the average annual temperature during the 1991-93 period, which marked the country’s highest coffee production.

Climate scientists also say we are not currently seeing impacts. Dr. Mike Wallace, a climate scientist at the University of Washington told me “the warming of the past 10 years is pretty small, both globally and over Costa Rica. I’m not at all sure that it’s been a factor in the decline of coffee production on this short time scale.” Ironically, Wallace is the very scientist chosen by The Times to answer climate questions in an online chat they hosted about the article.
more »

Recent Additions to the W.I.S.E. Library

In case you missed it, some papers recently added to our online Library are:

Bjorkman, Anne D. and Mark Vellend (2010) Defining Historical Baselines for Conservation: Ecological Changes Since European Settlement on Vancouver Island, Canada. Conservation Biology, Volume 24, Issue 6, pages 1559–1568, December 2010

Selected excerpts [here]

Some quotes from Bjorkman and Vellend:

… Finally, although frequent fires do not necessarily imply an anthropogenic cause, our results do indicate that the fire regime was influenced by native peoples. The observed patterns are characteristic of landscapes prone to more frequent fires than expected by lightning strikes. Experiments suggest that the unimodal tree size distribution observed on Saltspring Island occurs at a fire interval of <5 years (Fule & Covington 1994; Peterson & Reich 2001). In contrast, a study in the Douglas-fir forests of Vancouver Island estimated a fire cycle of 5700 years, on the basis of the frequency of lightning strikes between 1950 and 1992 (Pew & Larsen 2001). …

… In terms of space, the presence of both forested and open habitats historically suggests considerable spatial variability in the magnitude of human impacts, with prescribed [anthropogenic] fire likely to have maintained at least half of the landscape as open habitat (Table 1). …

… Restoration efforts are often prone to uncertainty about target conditions (Higgs 1997; Hobbs & Cramer 2008), especially in areas with no appropriate reference sites to help define historical conditions. Land managers often follow a do-nothing approach and allow land to return to its “natural” state (Hobbs & Cramer 2008). Nevertheless, our study indicates that the open nature of the endangered savannas on Vancouver Island was likely maintained by fires purposefully set by native peoples.

Thus, restoration of these habitats to their pre-European state cannot be accomplished simply by removing human influences. Achieving the goal of maintaining open savannas would almost certainly need to involve active removal of encroaching trees and shrubs, either through burning or alternative strategies (e.g., mowing, tree removal) (MacDougall et al. 2004; Gedalof et al. 2006). …

Rostlund, Erhard (1957) The Myth of a Natural Prairie Belt in Alabama: An Interpretation of Historical Records. Annals of the Association of American Geographers Volume 47, Issue 4, pages 392–411, December 1957.

Review with excerpts [here]

A quote from Rostlund’s classic paper:

[T]he cause was the Indian practice of burning the woods at frequent intervals. … Indian burning has sometimes been both misunderstood and misrepresented; it was not wantonly destructive but rather, as Gordon M. day puts it, a method of maintaining a balance in the forest favorable to their economy. The woods were burned for several reasons, but one of the most common was the belief that occasional light fires helped to increase the food supply for game, and improved conditions for hunting by keeping down the underbrush. That is, burning was primitive management of a food resource. The hunting territory of the Creeks, their “beloved bear ground” in Bullock County, Alabama, was in fact a sort of managed game preserve, and there must have been hundreds of others in the Southeast. In short, the open, parklike appearance of the woodlands, undoubtedly the most common type of forest in the ancient Southeast, was mostly the work of man. …

McGregor, Sandra, Violet Lawson, Peter Christophersen, Rod Kennett, James Boyden, Peter Bayliss, Adam Liedloff, Barbie McKaige, Alan N. Andersen (2010) Indigenous wetland burning: conserving natural and cultural heritage in Australia’s World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park. Human Ecol (2010) 38:721-729

Selected excerpts [here]

A quote from McGregor et al.:

Driven by concerns about the failure of western science and management to address ecosystem degradation and species loss, people are looking to the deep ecological understandings and management practices that have guided indigenous use of natural resources for millennia for alternative ways of sustainably managing the earth’s natural resources (De Walt 1993; Bart 2006; Berkes and Davidson-Hunt 2006). Equitable partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous researchers and managers are revealing a way of looking after the world that emphasizes human obligations to natural resource management and promotes holistic thinking about the role and impact of humans in the environment (Ross et al. 2009). This new recognition of traditional knowledge, coupled with greater control by indigenous peoples over their land and sea estates, holds great promise for better management of the world’s natural resources.

Wiese, Chuck (2011) Regarding Thermodynamics and Heat Transfer. Weatherwise Inc. Portland, Oregon.

Selected excerpts [here]

A quote from Wiese:

[Al] Gore told [Bill] O’Reilly that the snowstorms of this winter were part of the pattern of changing climate expected by scientists and result from the warming earth air masses with more moisture were running into a patch of cold air. Gore claimed: “These warmer air masses (which Gore claims result from human carbon emissions that create atmospheric CO2) act like a sponge to moisture and soak it up until they hit a patch of cold air.” Gore then claims that this “extra moisture” contained in the warmer air causes more intense precipitation and thus heavier snowfall, and is all consistent with a warming earth.

These statements by Gore are sheer nonsense. While it is true that warmer air can hold more moisture than cold air, the temperature of the air has nothing to do with how much water vapor will ultimately be evaporated (or as Gore puts it “soaked up”) into it. That is determined solely by what is called the vapor pressure gradient that exists between a sample of air that may overlie a surface of water. …

8 Mar 2011, 2:51pm
Climate and Weather Forestry education
by admin

Alaska Glaciers Cover Former Forests

Climate alarmists frequently claim that it is warmer today than anytime during the Holocene. “NASA: 2010 Meteorological Year Warmest Ever” blares the headline [here]. Because of that, entire species are disappearing [here].

Actually, in reality, that’s not true. Not only was last year not the warmest year ever, it wasn’t even the warmest year in the last 100. That honor goes to 1934. Moreover, the globe has almost always been warmer than today during the last 10,000 years (the Holocene), with the exception of the Little Ice Age (1550 AD to 1850 AD).

Holocene Temperature Variations, courtesy Global Warming Art [here]

Strong circumstantial evidence exists that indicates the Pacific Northwest was much warmer than today during the Hypsithermal period [here] from roughly 9,000 to 2,500 years ago.

An interesting study looked at the carbon-dated age of organic discharge from glacial rivers in the Gulf of Alaska.

Hood, E., Fellman, J., Spencer, R.G.M., Hernes, P.J., Edwards, R., D’Amore, D., Scott, D. 2009. Glaciers as a source of ancient, labile organic matter to the marine environment. Nature 462: 1044-1047


Riverine organic matter supports of the order of one-fifth of estuarine metabolism. Coastal ecosystems are therefore sensitive to alteration of both the quantity and lability of terrigenous dissolved organic matter (DOM) delivered by rivers. The lability of DOM is thought to vary with age, with younger, relatively unaltered organic matter being more easily metabolized by aquatic heterotrophs than older, heavily modified material. This view is developed exclusively from work in watersheds where terrestrial plant and soil sources dominate streamwater DOM. Here we characterize streamwater DOM from 11 coastal watersheds on the Gulf of Alaska that vary widely in glacier coverage (0–64 per cent). In contrast to non-glacial rivers, we find that the bioavailability of DOM to marine microorganisms is significantly correlated with increasing 14C age. Moreover, the most heavily glaciated watersheds are the source of the oldest (4kyr 14C age) and most labile (66 per cent bioavailable) DOM. …

… In the most heavily glaciated watershed, Sheridan River, 66% of the riverine DOC [dissolved organic carbon] was readily degraded by marine microbes despite having a D14C value of -386% (3,900 yr D14C age). Heterotrophic microbes in both sub-glacial and pro-glacial environments have been shown to subsist on aged carbon overrun by ice during periods of glacier advance. It is additionally possible that CO2 respired from glacially sequestered carbon may support microbial primary production in glacial ecosystems. Along the GOA [Gulf of Alaska], the last major cycle of glacier retreat and re-advance occurred during the Hypsithermal warm period between 7,000 and 2,500 yr BP. …

What does all that scientific verbiage mean? It means bits of carbon in the rivers flowing out from beneath glaciated watersheds in the Gulf of Alaska were found to be 4,000 years old.

Ergo, 4,000 years ago the watersheds were forested, not glaciated.

The glaciers that are there today formed roughly 2,500 years ago. Before then, going back 7,000 years, there were no glaciers in those watersheds, or only small ones, but there were forests.

Prior to 7,000 years ago the watersheds contained Ice Age glaciers that dated back 115,000 years (roughly), to the beginning of the Wisconsin Glaciation.

When it was warmer than today, forests grew quite nicely, thank you, in places where they won’t grow today due to accumulated ice. If the existing glaciers were to melt, forests would grow there again. Unfortunately that is very unlikely, since global temperatures have been trending downward for the last 7,000 to 8,000 years.

The “catastrophic” warming of the last 160 years has been 1 to 1.5°F. That warming has driven global temperatures up to where they were in the 1500’s before the Little Ice Age, but nowhere near warm enough to melt Gulf of Alaska glaciers and grow forests there (where they used to grow).

Regarding the extirpation of lodgepole pine: it is interesting to note that lodgepole pine invaded western Canada around 11,000 years ago, after the Wisconsin Glaciation continental ice sheets melted. Before 11,000 years ago, going back ~115,000 years, there were no lodgepole pine in western Canada due to the presence of 2 km thick ice sheets. Pine tree roots need soil; they do not grow on ice.

Lodgepole pine grew quite nicely, however, 8,000 years ago during the height of the Hypsithermal when temperatures were 2 to 3°F warmer than today. So did many other species, including all the tree species extant in the Pacific Northwest today.

Yes, it is true that so-called forest scientists want you to panic into thinking that our forests are going to disappear due to the global warming predicted by computer models. Actually, models of models of models. It’s all very theoretical.

But the reality is that forests grow better on soil, even warm soil, than they do on ice. Much better.

There is nothing to panic about, except perhaps the expenditure of $10’s of millions on useless computer models designed to induce irrational paranoia about something that isn’t going to happen. But don’t panic about that either. Vote the crazy bastards out instead.

The Demise of the University

The vilification and attacks on Art Robinson and his children by Oregon State University are more than a tempest in a teapot. OSU and indeed the American public school system, K-12 through graduate school, has degenerated into a liberal babysitting service. Real education doesn’t happen there, and if it does on rare occasion, it is because the student has figured out how to learn on his or her own.

The faculty are a hindrance to education. That’s what happens with one-party, politically-driven, public schools. The PERS salary and benefits for the teachers are exorbitant, but the students are wholly deprived. At all grade levels.

Dr. Art Robinson, Ph.D., an expert in chemistry, physics, and biomedicine, former faculty at the University of California San Diego, President and Research Professor at the Linus Pauling Institute, and currently President and Research Professor at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (which he founded) [here] is an independent scientist of high achievement and reputation. He is also an outspoken critic of public education.

After his wife Lauralee died in 1988 (of a rare disease), Art raised their six children (then ages 12, 10, 9, 7, 7, and 17 months) with home schooling, using a curriculum he wrote himself [here]. Did it work out? Today three of the Robinson children have Ph.D’s and the others are in graduate school working on their doctorates. His curriculum is now used by more than 60,000 home-schooled children.

Today Art and his three graduate student children are under attack by Oregon State University [here]. Extreme liberal professors there wish to expel Art’s kids and steal their research.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t connive and steal.

One of Art’s achievements has been to summarize peer-reviewed research into global warming. That led to the Global Warming Petition Project [here] and a petition that states in part:

There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the earth.

Controversial? Yes, but the petition has been signed by 31,487 American scientists including 9,029 Ph.D’s. They amply “demonstrate that the claim of ’settled science’ and an overwhelming ‘consensus’ in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climatological damage is wrong. No such consensus or settled science exists.”

Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) is a monumental pseudo-scientific fraud, and claims of scientific consensus regarding it are absolutely false. Why are there so many adherents? Many people are incapable of making rational judgments about the science because their public education has been such a farce, a series of propaganda indoctrination camps from age 5 on up. People actually believe what politicians and journalists tell them. Bizarre but true.

OSU and other universities brook no dissent, no questioning of the politically-motivated false consensus. Rather than being places of open investigation and debate about controversial and patently unsettled scientific questions, our universities have become closed shops where thinking is stifled rather than encouraged.

That is the diametric opposite of their mission.

The blind adherence to propagandistic falsehoods is not limited to climatology (although climate alarmism has spread to every single department on campus). Forest science has also degenerated into myth and fable, eschewing empirical evidence and the scientific method, and demanding litmus test avowals by students to politically “correct” bogosities.

The high degree of dysfunction in forest science has led to our ongoing catastrophic forest fire crisis as well as economic collapse in forest-resource-dependent states like Oregon. Junk science has resulted in junk policies, and both have been promoted and proselytized by professors from the OSU College of Forestry.

Perhaps the most egregious divergence from real science is found in wildlife biology departments, where the theories and methods taught are toxic to wildlife locally and globally. I write from personal experience. It could be that disciplines I am less familiar with, such as economics and sociology, are even more corrupted by extreme fatheadedness.

Political “correctness” has replaced rational inquiry in our universities. Ironically (and tragically) what is politically correct is invariably scientifically false and socially incorrect. The imposition of political propaganda has degraded and usurped higher education and spread like a cancer into our culture.

That which is true, decent, and valuable has been sullied by the dis-education produced in our universities.

The collapse of our education system today is reminiscent of western civilization’s slide into the Dark Ages, concurrent with or following the decline of the Roman Empire ~1650 years ago, when libraries were burned and scientific, artistic, and cultural output shrank and devolved.

My theory is that the latest general collapse of civilization began about 100 years ago. The massive bloodlettings of the 20th Century so shocked humanity that we replaced rational inquiry with delusion and neo-mythology. It is “safer” to cloud minds with falsehoods, to demand adherence to groupthink no matter how misguided, to stifle creativity and genius, than to chance the tumult that might come from freedom of thought and expression.

Of course, such stifling is not safer. It is infinitely more dangerous to march in lockstep delusion than to abide dissent and debate. Yet dissent and debate are feared more than any other cultural phenomena. Cooperation is preferred to conflict even when the cooperation is based on the blind leading the blind into catastrophe.

The latest atrocities of judgment, morality, and rationality at OSU are the barest tip of the iceberg. The rot in our universities goes deep into the core. It may be too late to rescue higher education, and all of public education, from descent into idiocy and irrelevance.

Humanity in the Americas 30,000 Years Ago?

When did human beings first arrive in the Americas? The “accepted” date keeps getting pushed back.

The Clovis Culture were mammoth hunters whose archaeological sites have been dated to ~13,000 years ago. The Clovis people are thought to have walked here over the Bering Land Bridge, Northern Alaska, and through a Canadian ice-free corridor.

But coastal archaeological sites may be much older, suggesting that people in boats arrived in the Americas as much as 30,000 years ago. Controversy on the earliest date is decades old and one of the favorites questions debated by modern archaeologists.

New evidence has surfaced that supports the maritime hypothesis:

Discovery by Oregon archaeologist looks 12,000 years into past at people who settled the West Coast

by Joe Rojas-Burke, The Oregonian , March 03, 2023 [here]

A trove of Stone-Age tools, discarded shells and animal bones unearthed by a University of Oregon anthropologist and others open a new window on lives of the long-vanished people who settled the West Coast more than 12,000 years ago.

The excavations — made on California’s northern Channel Islands — show that these early Americans were seafaring travelers adept at hunting birds and seals, in addition to catching great quantities of fish and shellfish. Their toolmaking style, especially the finely worked crescent-shaped blades found by the dozens, connects them to the first people in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Delicate barbed projectile points also found resemble stone tools found in ice age sites as far away as Japan.

Human bones uncovered in 1959 on Santa Rosa Island revealed to archaeologists that people occupied the Channel Islands very early. Those 13,000-year-old remains are the oldest human remains found in North America, but their burial site included nothing but the bones. Until now, “we really didn’t know who they were or what they were doing on the island,” says Jon Erlandson, a University of Oregon professor of anthropology and a leader of the new excavations, described in a report this week in the journal Science. …

The team found one shard of obsidian debris from toolmaking, and unlike the island chert used for all recovered tools, the obsidian was imported. Chemical analysis matched it to an obsidian source nearly 200 miles away on the mainland, which suggests long-distance trading networks in place 12,000 years ago.

One site yielded 52 stone projectile points, some with intricate barbs and serrations. Erlandson says the islanders’ projectile points are unlike those of the mammoth-stalking Clovis hunters who migrated along an ice-free inland corridor and rapidly occupied much of North America. Clovis points are famous for their fluted shape. None have ever been found on the Channel Islands. The island’s projectile points and crescents more closely fit with those common in Oregon, Washington and across the Great Basin.

Charlotte Beck, an archaeology professor at Hamilton College in New York, says the new findings support the view that the first Americans followed a coastal migration from Asia — before the Clovis hunters.

“The first colonists to arrive in the Americas probably came from Siberia, leaving that region possibly as long as 30,000 years ago,” Beck says

Erlandson shares that view. He and colleagues believe seafaring people followed a “kelp highway” from coastal Asia across the Arctic and down the West Coast, using the same technology to exploit the nearly identical marine and coastal resources along the way. … [more]

Dr. Erlandson is Executive Director of the Univ. of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The paper referenced above is:

Jon M. Erlandson, Torben C. Rick, Todd J. Braje, Molly Casperson, Brendan Culleton, Brian Fulfrost, Tracy Garcia, Daniel A. Guthrie, Nicholas Jew, Douglas J. Kennett, Madonna L. Moss, Leslie Reeder, Craig Skinner, Jack Watts, and Lauren Willis (2011) Paleoindian Seafaring, Maritime Technologies, and Coastal Foraging on California’s Channel Islands. Science 4 March 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6021 pp. 1181-1185

I haven’t read it yet, but two of his older papers on Channel Island anthropology are posted at W.I.S.E.

Torben C. Rick, Jon M. Erlandson, René L. Vellanoweth, Todd J. Braje, Paul W. Collins, Daniel A. Guthrie, and Thomas W. Stafford Jr. 2009. Origins and antiquity of the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) on California’s Channel Islands. Quaternary Research 71 (2009) 93–98. [here]

Erlandson, Jon M., Torben C. Rick, Michael Graham, James Estes, Todd Braje, and René Vellanoweth. 2005. Sea otters, shellfish, and humans: 10,000 years of ecological interaction on San Miguel Island, California. Proceedings of the Sixth California Islands Symposium, edited by D.K. Garcelon and C.A. Schwemm, pp. 58-69. Arcata: Institute for Wildlife Studies and National Park Service. [here]

W.I.S.E. member and Honored Fellow of the Institute Dr. Carl Johannessen comments:

The analysis in the article is very cautious in posing the date of 30,000 years for the entry of people to the Americas. But human activity of that vintage has already been discovered in Chile [Monte Verde, here] so it makes it highly likely that humans were in North America too by that time.

From my acquaintance with Jon Erlandson at U.O., if he says it, you can be certain that it is an honest report and can be trusted explicitly. Result: it is likely that people came down the Algae Forest Highway early, before anyone could traverse Alaska and northern Canada by foot, and entered the continent in more temperate climes. They may have been replaced when the Clovis hunters dominated the terrain for a few millennia much later.

I consider this research to be of major importance in causing us to re-think our cultural history. Perhaps now Baja California can be examined with greater confidence, and researchers there will find further evidence of people in the Americas much, much earlier than Clovis. Known sites may be re-interpreted to have been really early and not be limited to just 13,000 years of potential record based on foot travel down the ice-free corridor overland through Alaska. Brigham Arnold of Sacramento State University did marvelous work on Baja and found really ancient stone tools in place on the margins of Lake Chapala, Baja.

Note: Dr. Johannessen is the co-author of World Trade and Biological Exchanges Before 1492 [here].

There is no question that people have been living in the Americas since before the Holocene. The Holocene (our modern epoch) began ~11,750 years ago. That date marks the end of the Younger Dryas, the last stadial (cold period) of the Wisconsin Glaciation. When the great continental ice sheets started melting ~15,000 years ago, people were already here. When the modern forest species invaded the tundra and steppe that covered most of North America, people were already here.

People, and anthropogenic fire, pre-date most forests in North America. Human beings have been burning landscapes and altering vegetation and wildlife since before the trees invaded. Our forested lands of today have been experiencing human impacts and human stewardship during their entire existence as forests.

It makes one wonder just what “wilderness” really is. If people have been living on the land for that long, isn’t it rather puerile and jejune to refer to those lands as “untrammeled wilderness”? Maybe we need to exorcise the a-scientific, a-historical myths from our groupthink and get real.

Pyne Undertakes a New Fire History of America

Dr. Stephen J. Pyne of Arizona State University, a frequent contributor to W.I.S.E. and an Honored Fellow of the Institute [here], has embarked on a new project, to write a sequel to his classic work,

Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire. University of Washington Press, 1997 (First published: Princeton University Press, 1982, Received Book Award from Forest History Society, Named by Choice as among Best 100 Academic Books of 1982).

He has created a project website: A Fire History of America (1960-2010) [here] that describes his intentions (to write two new books!) and why.

Fire in America remains the most comprehensive history of America’s fire scene. But it was published in 1982, ends in the 1970s, does not adequately convey the unfolding revolution in policy and practice, and fails to create a narrative for the panoramic sweep of America’s contemporary gamut of fires fought, lit, and left alone. A recent grant from the federal fire agencies will correct that lapse by supporting a history that will examine the past 50 years.

The project, extending over four years, will depend on interviews as well as archives, and on travel as much as close reading. Two books will result. The first, Between Two Fires: A Fire History of America, 1960-2010, will serve as a play-by-play narrative of the past half century. The second, To the Last Smoke, will act as a color commentary with essays on select events, places, personalities, and ideas. These pieces will be written along the way and posted on the project website before being edited and assembled into an anthology.

The purposes behind the project are several. One is simply to update the story over a tumultuous period during which the reigning ideas of wildland fire management were challenged, overthrown, and, as yet, still under reconstruction. But another derives from an appreciation of narrative’s inherent qualities. The current narrative explains the contemporary scene as a response to the Great Fires of 1910 and so shows why the institutional landscape and geography of open burning has the form it does. That narrative, however, relegates the fire revolution to the task of dismantling the old order, not creating a new one. Restarting the story permits the narrative to allow the present its own vitality. And it points to the future.

The grant is administered through the History Office of the U.S. Forest Service, but funding comes from the Forest Service (44%), Department of Interior (44%), and Joint Fire Science Program (12%).

This is exciting news. Not only is Dr. Pyne World’s Foremost Authority on Fire, he is a masterful author of over 20 books, including a book about how to write books [here], Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction.

A self-confessed “pyromantic”, his personal author’s website is [here]

Although A Fire History of America (1960-2010) is just getting started, already nearly 20 essays have been posted, with titles such as Flaming Florida – a prolegomenon, The Red Prescribed Longleaf Cockaded Wiregrass Burning Refuge, Every Day’s a Burn Day, and Interlude: from story to history. In the last mentioned, the author stands to one side and “ponders the unexamined life of my purpose.”

In The Cash-Value of Fire History: An Apologia, Pyne explores the value of historical studies to the “applied science” of fire management.

In more cartoonish moments they [the fire community] might imagine historian-miners trudging off to dank archives like the Seven Dwarves, whistling while they work at prying out gems of wisdom.

The sad fact is, historical records were not written to satisfy existing models, and they can rarely provide the ready data that the fire community would like. … The stuff of history is dismissed as anecdotal; its cash-value is suspect or worthless.

[However]… history can create meaning. Instead of pretending it is a social science or shoehorning it into a technological matrix, this vision accepts – encourages – history’s status as a scholarship that deals with values, beliefs, personalities, and idiographic events, and with evidence that doesn’t come from controlled experiment, which is to say, it accepts history as part of the humanities. …

Historians add value when they speak to those issues of ethics, aesthetics, narrative, and perceived understanding of the world that do not reside in the sciences and in fact can help place those sciences within a social and intellectual setting. They provide meaning by comparison and context. They replace certainty with contingency, and a false positivism with pragmatism. …

Meaning is not something you pluck out of the past like nuggets. It is made. It’s not the provenance of professionals: it’s what we all do with our experiences. The value of scholarly history is that it brings a richer sense of context and philosophy. It stands to vernacular life as the Missoula fire lab does to my backyard burn pit. I think the American fire community understands and, within limits, welcomes this role for history. …

Yet in the end science verifies data, while the humanities verify meaning, and it is meaning – that most vaporous of concepts, that least commercial of enterprises – that will ultimately guide practice because we must judge what we do by what we value, and we value only what we can endow with meaning. It’s through constructed meaning that we judge best practice, and what is right and proper, and what it is we ought to aspire to.

Aficionados of fire, history, and artful literature will find A Fire History of America (1960-2010) to be goldmine filled with nuggets and gems of wisdom. You don’t need to be a pyromantic to appreciate its value.

Blame environmental groups for spread of pine beetles

Note: the following is copyrighted but I’m posting it anyway, because the piece is so excellent. If it is any consolation, I recommend that all readers send some money to the Rapid City Journal. That will make them feel better about my theft. Seriously, of all the newspapers in the country, the Rapid City (SD) Journal is one of the most readable and non-Main Stream claptrap. They have some down home common sense that other newspapers don’t.

By Jim LeMar, The Rapid City Journal Forum, February 26, 2023 [here]

In recent months, there have been many fine articles about the mountain pine beetle, but hardly a word about the elephant in the forest.

How has this situation been allowed to multiply? Every time the Forest Service proposed thinning the timber to prevent the spread of the beetle, environmentalists came out of the woodwork with letters, petitions, appeals and all sorts of legal maneuvers intended to slow or stop any action by the Forest Service. This is the elephant to which I am referring.

We hear nothing about the letters of protest, appeals, and e-mails from the Sierra Club and its approximately 800,000 members, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Friends of Norbeck and others intending to stop any attempt to prevent spread of the pine beetle.

In the mid ‘90s we heard howls of protest from these and other environmental groups criticizing the proposed Forest Service solution to the mess that was developing in the Beaver Park area south of Sturgis.

Years of valuable time were lost because of the delay tactics of the enviros, which resulted in the loss of far more timber than would have been lost had the Forest Service been able to proceed in a timely manner.

The latest example of the elephant surfaced recently when the Friends of Norbeck and the Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit against Black Hills National Forest to prevent harvesting vulnerable trees from the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. Did you know that when they file a lawsuit against the Forest Service or BLM, the U.S. government must pay for the lawyers hired by the enviros? We taxpayers have to pay for the enviro groups to sue us. This has to stop.

The government is required to pay the enviro’s attorney fees when the enviros prevail in litigation. There have been lots of problems with how that is actually implemented.

Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin was working on legislation called the Open Equal Access to Justice Act of 2010, which would have forced agencies to reveal how much money they now spend on these lawsuits.

According to her news release of March 2: “Fourteen environmental groups filed 1,200 federal cases in 19 states and the District of Columbia and collected over $37 million, not counting settlements and fees sealed from public view.”

This situation has been allowed to exist since 1995 with no oversight by anyone.

Stop all government grants to these groups. All of their income should be subject to high taxes. Contact both senators and your congresswoman and request that they pursue action against the environmental groups including taking away their 501 c-3 tax free status.

A recent article about the Friends of Norbeck quoted Brian Brademeyer, the executive director, as saying that removal of the bug-infested timber is simply a giveaway of public timber.

In my opinion, their delay tactics are grand theft and wanton destruction of public property. Do you recall that the Mount Rushmore Fourth of July fireworks display had to be canceled the last two years because of the number of beetle infested trees in and adjacent to Mount Rushmore?

We know that thinning is effective. Let’s give the USFS funds to do the job and streamline their analyses, appeals and review process. This elephant must be stopped, or there will be neither habitat nor wildlife.

This Forum piece is written by Jim LeMar, a retired businessman who lives in Rapid City.

Copyright 2011, The Rapid City Journal.

The Decline and Fall of Forest Science

The failures of the environmental sciences in our day and age are not confined to climatology. Universities and forest research institutions have squandered $billions pursuing the wrong answers to the wrong forest science questions.

The decline and fall of Western forest science can be traced back to the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s when rigorous application of the Scientific Method was abandoned along with most of the prior advancements of the 20th Century. And after 50 years of substituting mythology and political ideas for scientific ones, the forest science establishment has hit rock bottom.

Nowhere is the incompetence of modern forest science more striking than the current fad of blaming non-existent “global warming” for every forest phenomenon large and small. Case in point:

Researchers cite climate change in forest decline

AP, the Washington Examiner, 02/19/11 [here]

Aspens and white pines in the West will face worsening devastation because climate change will make them more susceptible to diseases and bugs, including an infestation of bark beetles that has already killed some 33,000 square miles of forests, researchers say.

Jim Worrall, a U.S. Forest Service plant pathologist who studies aspen deaths, told a conference Friday that “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” indicates climate change has left aspens stressed and vulnerable. …

White pines, common in Montana and parts of Wyoming, aren’t as resilient and have begun to fall victim to bark beetles because warmer temperatures allowed the bugs to move north, said Diana Six, professor of forest entomology and pathology at the University of Montana.

Previously, they were protected by temperatures too cold for bark beetles, but when temperatures rise, the trees have few defenses, Six said. …

Phillip van Mantgem, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said 87 percent of old growth stands that he and others on a research team are monitoring have shown increasing mortality rates, and that the rate doubled in the past 18 years.

“The ultimate cause behind it is probably warming,” van Mantgem said. …

Former Vice President Al Gore addressed the conference, defending climate researchers from criticism about their motives, the Aspen Daily News reported.

“I hear from some quarters that the scientists who are presenting this information to us are interested in making money and that they are making stuff up and hyping it in order to get research grants,” he said. “It is an insult to these men and women who were on this stage today.” …

The problem with all those theories are that they are demonstrably false. Winter temperatures in Colorado have been falling for 20 years.

From the National Climatic Data Center, Climate Services and Monitoring Division, Climate At A Glance [here]

Winter (Dec-Feb) Temperatures, Colorado, 1992-2010, with trend line (1901 - 2000 Average = 25.36 degF).

Note that average winter temperatures in Colorado have been below freezing in every year on record since record keeping began in 1895. Over the last 20 years winter temperatures have declined -0.76 degF per decade. In January 2011 (last month) the average temperature was 23.4 degF, one-tenth of a degree below the 1901-2011 January average and 2 degF below the 1901-2011 winter average.

Winter temperatures in Colorado have not changed significantly over the last 115 years, and they have fallen slightly over the last 20 years, the very period that the researchers above cite as so warm as to cause aspen to die off, beetle infestations to irrupt, and old growth stands to experience increased mortality.

Al Gore presents a strawman argument. Some “quarters” allegedly claim that Colorado forest scientists are “making stuff up” for mercenary reasons, according to Al (who, by the way, has made over $100 million on carbon trading and other global warming alarmism scams).

But Colorado forest scientists are not making up aspen decline, beetle epidemics, or old growth mortality increases. Those phenomena are occurring. No one disputes that.

What Colorado forest scientists are fabricating are bogus theories as to why those things are happening. They blame global warming, and specifically increasing winter temperatures in Colorado, but there have been NO increases in said temperatures.

Colorado forest scientists posit a causal link between something that has not occurred (winter temperature increase) and forest decline phenomena. If the causal factor does not exist, it cannot cause anything.

That’s basic science, indeed basic logic, upon which the Scientific Method relies. Colorado forest scientists might as well say that little green men from outer space caused Colorado forests to decline.

Wait, you say, there are no little green men from outer space. You are correct. Likewise there has been no winter temperature increase. The latter is as imaginary as the former.

Science seeks to understand cause-and-effect phenomena based upon measurable factors that exist in the real world, not on imaginary myths and illusions that do not exist.

The real world foundations of science are extremely important. Without them science becomes a fairy tale, an exercise in fiction, a joke, a waste of time, money, and effort.

If science is done by staring at the blank walls of a cubicle in some institution and making up imaginary folk tales without basis in the real world, then it is not science at all.

We pay people to do exactly that, however. We place them in cubicles in institutions and pay them to make stuff up whole cloth, and call it “science”, and to make presentations at conferences in Aspen alongside politicians, and to give off airs as if they were doing real science, and walk around and tell journo-listas that they are scientists, and generally hoax the place up.

Meanwhile forests continue to decline, and the “scientists” have no more of a clue why than your average wino living in a dumpster, who unfortunately does not get paid the big bucks to make up fanciful tales whole cloth. I say unfortunately because your average wino is an expert at delusion, self and otherwise, and would be as good or better at it than your average forest scientist in a cubicle in an institution.

Wait a second, you say, if you’re so smart tell us why forests are declining.

What? For free? On a free blog accessible by anybody (well, perhaps not by the wino in the dumpster)?

For your information, that’s exactly what we have been doing at W.I.S.E. for 3+ years. Maybe you haven’t been paying close attention.

One thing is for sure, we haven’t been offered any paid vacations to Aspen to present non-imaginary facts about forest decline. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with imaginary global warming.

Forest science is not dead. It hangs on in remote locales like W.I.S.E. But it is reeling and gasping for breath in the USFS, the University of Montana, the USGS, and other establishment government institutions.

What those outfits produce is nothing like science. It’s demonstrably false gibberish masquerading as science.

Three-Needle Pines and the Collective Unconscious

by Mike Dubrasich

My friend Svend writes:

When pine trees grows to dense, the cones on the ground will not receive enough heat from the sun to dry up and spread the seeds… the best way for many types of pine trees is a forest fire. A baby pine tree cannot survive in the darkness. A few species actually need forest fires to reproduce.

In this case mass suicide can help the problem… when the trees decide to secure the next generation of pine trees, they actually die (collectively) and then the bark beetles attack the trees… as a kind of support for the process, to remove all the conifers so the sunlight can reach the soil under the trees. It’s part of the big symbiosis system.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting for a lightning storm to start the fire.

Svend is wrong, mostly, but he inspires this teaching moment.

The preceding mini-myth about pines may hold partially true for boreal 2-needled pines: lodgepole, jack, Scots, and even pinyon. They are basically all the same species. Some (not all) have serotinous cones. They seed in like mad after a fire and grow in dense, even-aged thickets of 1,500-5,000 stems per acre or more. That’s a tree every three feet on center. Two-needled pines were the first trees to invade boreal regions after the ice sheets melted 15,000 years ago.

But then there are the 3-needled pines: ponderosa, Jeffery, Monterey, long leaf, etc.

The 3-needle pines are basically all the same species, too. Pines are epigenetic [here]. Their complex genetic code, developed over hundreds of millions of years, enables individual trees to radically change morphology in response to environmental stressors. Witness Bonsai trees. My friend Mark writes:

The world is rubbery. The governing algorithm is far more elegant and powerful than we realize, genome mapping notwithstanding.

That’s why I (and others) say the 3-needle pines are basically the same species, though different from the 2-needle pines.

The 3-needle pines invaded much of North America about 9,000 years ago, long after the ice melted, and some 6,000 years after humans arrived here. Think about that.

8,800 years later, when the first Euro-American explorers traipsed across North America, they found millions of acres of 3-needle pines. They weren’t in thickets like 2-needle pines. Instead they were in open, park-like, savanna-like forests with 5 to 20 trees per acre. The trees were all ages (uneven-aged). The 3-needle pines dominated, even though other conifers and hardwoods were often present in small numbers, and even though today firs, aspen, liquidamber, and other species dominate those same stands (proving that those species could have grown there and dominated, although they didn’t).

Open, park-like, pine savannas present an anomaly to Svend’s theory. His pine theory just doesn’t fit the real world, across MILLIONS of acres.

For that matter, neither does “forest succession” theory. That one derives from Frederic Clements, who in the 1910’s invented the idea that forests succeed — that they change species as they proceed from early seral stages to climax conditions. Freudian undertones aside, the vast 3-needle pine savannas are anomalies to Clementsian theory, too.

If forest succession is a Law of Nature, then why didn’t MILLIONS of acres of 3-needle pines succeed naturally to shade-tolerant firs and hardwoods?

It is a statement about the human condition that millions of acres of forests don’t fit the theories and yet the theories still are in place, taught in schools, are believed in by so many, including many esteemed forest scientists. The world does not fit the model, yet the model rules.

That’s not Freudian, it’s Jungian. We are a myth-making animal. We prefer myth over reality. We will blind our eyes to reality when it doesn’t comport with our treasured myths. The Collective Unconscious is asleep at the wheel.

In the case of global warming, the myth we treasure is that human beings are capable of destroying the planet, of committing original sin and sullying the Garden, and that the gods must and will punish us for our sins, and bring an End to the World in their wrath at our transgressions.

Those who question the myths of the Collective Unconscious are declared apostates and outcasts, and are stoned to death at the gates of the city.

Back to the pines. So what really happened? How did those 3-needle pine savannas arise? Or as a forest scientist might put it, if he happened to notice the anomalies to the treasured theories, what was the disturbance regime that drove the 3-needle pine forest development pathways? Here’s a corollary conundrum: why are those pine savannas NOT arising today, but instead they are disappearing? Whatever was driving ecosystem dynamics for the last 9,000 years isn’t any longer. Isn’t that curious?

Here’s the answer: anthropogenic fire. Three-needle pines in North America have not grown without human influences on the environment during the entire Holocene. The main influence, i.e. disturbance regime, was Indian burning. Not Indians on fire, but Indians setting fire frequently to the landscape on a continental scale.

Human beings entered North America ~13,500 years ago or even earlier. Their principal tool for survival and obtaining sustenance was fire. Indeed, human beings have utilized landscape fire for at least 40,000 years in Australia. Cooking fires have been utilized for at least 1.6 million years [here], originally by pre-sapiens hominids. The earliest human immigrants to the Americas had a cultural history of fire use dating back a million and a half years!

The effects of anthropogenic (human-set) fire on the environment has been profound worldwide. People have deliberately and expertly burned virtually the entire continent on every continent every year for thousands of years at a minimum. Those human practices induced 3-needle pine savannas from Florida to BC, from California to New England.

I cordially invite you to read about the effects of historical anthropogenic fire on an Oregon watershed [here]:

Dubrasich, Mike. 2010. Stand Reconstruction and 200 Years of Forest Development on Selected Sites in the Upper South Umpqua Watershed. W.I.S.E. White Paper 2010-5. Western Institute for Study of the Environment.

The burning was not just in temperate zones. People burned the tropics, too. And boreal forests. And Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. People have been burning everywhere for millennia. There are no wilderness areas where the imprint of Man has been absent, because Man has been everywhere and doing stuff, major stuff, like setting the world afire whenever he could. See [here]:

William Denevan. 1992. The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492. Annals of the American Association of Geographers v. 82 n. 3 (Sept. 1992), pp. 369-385.

All that burning altered the carbon cycle. Plants grew, fixing carbon, but then people burned that biomass, sooner rather than later, and the carbon was emitted and returned to the atmosphere. There was no (or very little) terrestrial carbon build-up. No new coal beds have formed during the Holocene.

It didn’t take many people to do all that burning. On the right day with the vegetation dry and the wind blowing, one person could easily burn a million acres. That’s an area 40 miles by 40 miles. Set the fire in Salem and let it burn up to and over the Cascade Crest. “Let it burn” is an euphemism. A thousand years ago, without fire crews and equipment, how could you stop it?

So not that many people are required to do one heck of a lot of burning. On the other hand, the best estimates were that 50 million people lived in the Americas on the day Columbus landed. That’s a lot, and they did a lot of burning. Continental-scale is not an exaggeration.

Within 100 years, however, the human population of the Americas crashed 90 to 95%, mainly from smallpox, measles, and other Old World diseases. The burning didn’t cease, but it became much less frequent. The plants still grew, fixing carbon, but they didn’t get torched off so quickly. That sudden change in the status quo reverberated through the carbon cycle. It also increased the Earth’s albedo, from charcoal black to shiny green. Wind-borne soot decreased. The entire planet became shinier. Not only did atmospheric CO2 decrease, but more incoming solar radiation (insolation) was reflected instead of absorbed.

Some folks (more friends of mine) speculate that those changes brought on the Little Ice Age. See [here]:

Robert A. Dull, Richard J. Nevle, William I. Woods, Dennis K. Bird, Shiri Avnery, and William M. Denevan. 2010. The Columbian Encounter and the Little Ice Age: Abrupt Land Use Change, Fire, and Greenhouse Forcing. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(4) 2010, pp. 1–17.

Now, you may not agree with their hypothesis. My friend Anthony Watts doesn’t. He made fun of it, at his Watts Up With That website [here] and the commenters at WUWT were very derisive.

But they are largely ignorant of the reality of human pre-history, and of anthropogenic fire, and have never even noticed the vast 3-needle pine savannas, or thought about them, or considered how anomalous they are.

Like most folks, they are locked into the Euro-American Creation Myth, that God made this Wilderness for the enjoyment of Euro immigrants, until we sullied it and forced the gods to inflict some terrible Apocalypse upon us.

The WUWT commenters are “climate skeptics”, and they think that “skeptics” are very “realistic” because they reject the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Myth. Okay, fine, I applaud them for that. But really they still suffer from all that other Medieval Jungian mythology. They are not as skeptical as they think themselves to be.

But you and I have been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late. — Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

The 3-needle pines are a key that will unlock the doors of your mind. Don’t accept theories that discomport with and blind you to reality. Bear witness to the anomalies. Question authority. Be all that you can be.

Plutocrats On Parade

We reported [here] that industrial wood products giant Georgia-Pacific has climbed into bed with radical extremist enviro groups. The “news” was acclaimed with crapastic rhetoric by the MSM [here].

Questions have arisen regarding this pusillanimous propaganda:

1. What advantage is it to GP to blacklist 600,000 acres of private timberland that does not belong to them?

2. Who funds the Dogwood Alliance? (and the Natural Resources Defense Council and Rainforest Action Network?)

And two related history questions:

3. What global giant timber company engineered the Northwest Forest Plan that halted timber harvest on 25,000,000 acres of the most productive forests in the world?

4. Why?

Here are the answers:

1. GP has blackballed 600,000 acres of private land in the hopes of bankrupting the owners of that land. GP wishes to constrain the market supply of wood fiber. They wish to halt the commercial production of wood fiber on all acres that they do not own.

2. GP funds the Dogwood Alliance and the others. They are proxies for GP. They do GP’s dirty work.

3. Weyerhaeuser dreamed up and engineered the Northwest Forest Plan. The roots go back to Arkansas when Bill Clinton was governor and a Weyerhaeuser puppet. Big W is the largest landowner in AK, in case you didn’t know. With Slick Willy as Pres, Big W seized the opportunity to shut down 25 million acres (much more than that eventually) of Fed land (esp. high site Douglas-fir land).

4. It is to the advantage of industrial forest owners like Big W, GP (the Koch Bros), et al. to constrain the wood fiber supply by bankrupting and shutting down competitors, the easiest targets being public land and small private holdings. The Big Boys use phony environmentalism to promote their Big Business agenda

There is a glut of wood fiber in the world today. Despite all the shrill and bug-eyed hysteria about “deforestation”, there are more trees on this planet and more acres with trees today than at any time during the entire Holocene.

This phenomenon (big bullying with propaganda theater) is so common and reenacted so often that I wonder why so few seem to be aware of it. Be that as it may, foresters, farmers, miners, and other natural resource producers and regions are patsies in this game. We are not doing the Big Boys any favors by maximizing wood fiber production. That’s exactly what the Big Boys don’t want. They will crush us if they can. The more land they can take out of tree production, the better. The poorer and hungrier the workforce, the better. The Big Boys want you to be landless and starving.

There are no such things as “endangered hardwood forests”. By their own admission, the Dogwood Alliance claims 90 million acres of Southern hardwoods exist. All the fear mongering is a fraud. The kept “scientists” who claim there is something special or fragile about these allegedly “endangered” forests are lying whores.

The entire Big Lie is designed to do you maximum harm. If you defy the Big Boys and their proxy enviro running dogs, they will burn you out with deliberate acts of arson. In fact, that is their intent whether you play along or not. They want your wood fiber destroyed before it ever can reach market. Hence our modern era of megafires.

Oregon’s economy is wrecked. Has been for 20 years. The cabal of Big Government, Big Business, and Big Media has used Big Lies to beat Oregon’s economy to death. We have led the Nation in unemployment, business bankruptcy, home foreclosure, alcoholism, drug abuse, broken families, ignorance, and hunger for two decades. Oregon’s motto is “We Are Pigeons and Patsies Here”. We work for peanuts for corrupt plutocrats who steal our wealth and take it elsewhere. That’s the tradition and the modern reality.

Don’t blame solely the enviro-wacko Gadarene swine. They are funded by big industrialists who wish to keep the masses poor so they can pay them starvation wages. Big government is in cahoots with the industrialists, too, with the goal of inflicting economic pain to the point of starvation. The universities are serfs of both and have so corrupted “science” that it is unrecognizable today as science. Big media purveys sensationalism for the purpose of distracting the citizenry from the truth in front of their eyes.

I invite your critique of the foregoing. Try to explain why I am wrong. Good luck, because I am right and you know I’m right. But let’s discuss it, anyway. I think we should fight back against the wholesale destruction of forests, even if our foes are giant industrialists, big government, the Main Stream Media, and other powerful plutocrats and thieves.

  • Colloquia

  • Commentary and News

  • Contact

  • Follow me on Twitter

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Meta