Our Racist President, Barry the Same

You can’t really blame him. He’s from Kenya by way of Hawaii, so he never was educated about America.

Regardless, B. Hussein Obama declared September 2009 “National Wilderness Month” today.

Barry is apparently ignorant about wilderness, including the fact that it’s a myth. People, civilized people, have been resident in the continental U.S. for upwards of 13,000 years. People, civilized people, not wild people, have hunted, fished, farmed, trod upon, roaded, modified, and inhabited every square mile of this continent for millennia.

But there’s that pesky American Creation Myth, and Barry repeats it, just so we’ll all think he’s American and one of us. You know that myth: God created a wilderness in the New World for the Euro (and African) invaders, a wild and free continent, empty of civilized people and their marks upon the land.

God made America for the invaders to mold in His image, to populate and recreate, as God so intended, and thus Wild America was blessed and anointed by God for all of us. Amen.

Of course, the 50 million or so pre-Columbian residents had to be exterminated first, and dehumanized, and then forgotten, but that is as God intended, for they were inferior and should be forgotten and never spoken of again.

Kind of racist, don’t you think? Barry wants us to erase the Amerind people from the history books, to deny their humanity and residency, and that’s about as racist as can be.

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3 Sep 2009, 3:54pm
Climate and Weather The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
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Mega Smoke in LA

The Station Fire [here] is 145,000+ acres and growing, and it has churned out smoke in unbelievably vast quantities. The smoke consists of ash and pyrolytic compounds such as carbon monoxide and dioxide. The smoke particles range in size from large embers down to a micron or less in diameter.

The fire has produced its own weather, including pyrocumulus clouds:

Time lapse pyrocumulus for the LA Station Fire

by Anthony Watts, Watts Up With That, Sept 2, 2009 [here]

Like volcanic eruptions, some fires grow large enough to make their own weather with the heat being released acting like convection. Witness this neat time lapse in HD showing the “Station” fire in the Angeles National Forest.

This video was made by photographer Brandon Riza on August 30th, 2009. It is quite well done and quite visually stunning. Click image for time lapse video.

pyrocumulus — A pyrocumulus or fire cloud is a dense cumuliform cloud associated with fire or volcanic activity.

A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud. The detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere will also produce a pyrocumulus in the form of a mushroom cloud which is made by the same mechanism. The presence of a low level jet stream can enhance its formation. Condensation of ambient moisture (moisture already present in the atmosphere) as well as moisture evaporated from burnt vegetation or volcanic outgassing occurs readily on particles of ash.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

Pyrocumuli contain severe turbulence which also results in strong gusts at the surface which can exacerbate a large conflagration. A large pyrocumulus, particularly one associated with a volcanic eruption, may also produce lightning. This is a process not fully understood as of yet, but is probably in some way associated with charge separation induced by severe turbulence, and perhaps, by the nature of the particles of ash in the cloud. Large pyrocumuli can contain temperatures well below freezing, and the electrostatic properties of any ice that forms may also play a role. A pyrocumulus which produces lightning is actually a type of cumulonimbus, a thundercloud and is called pyrocumulonimbus.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia. Click for larger image.

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1 Sep 2009, 7:13pm
Forestry education
by admin
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Insured Property Losses in Wildfires

An interesting article appeared today at News Insurances regarding the insured property damage done by large California wildfires.

How much California wildland fire could cost to insurer?

by Barbara Karouski, News Insurances, September 1, [here]

… Nine of the ten largest wildfires, in terms of insured property losses, occurred prior to 2007, according to ISO data. [Insurance Services Office, Inc. is a leading source of information about risk, here]. A 1991 wildfire in Oakland, California tops the list with $2.687 billion in insured losses in 2008 dollars. In October 2007 a series of wildfires broke out across Southern California, damaging thousands of homes and causing widespread evacuations. The largest of these fires, the October 21 Witch fire, resulted in $1.4 billion in insured losses and was the second most damaging wildfire since 1970, in 2008 dollars. …

The article included the following chart:

The ten most costly wildland fires in the United States

The losses listed are to insured private property only. They do not include public health costs, watershed damages, crop loss, or any of the myriad other categories of economic losses associated with wildfires.

In a recent paper, (Zybach, Bob, Michael Dubrasich, Gregory Brenner, and John Marker. 2009. U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The “One-Pager” Checklist. Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, Advances in Fire Practices, Fall 2009) [here] the authors claimed that wildfire costs-plus-losses can exceed suppression costs by a factor of 10 to 50 times.

I compiled from various sources the estimated suppression costs (ESC) of the five most recent fires on the list above, and divided the ISO estimated insured property loss (IPL) by the suppression costs. I used the “dollars when occurred” IPL values because the suppression costs were also given in “when incurred” dollars. Remember, the IPL is only a fraction of the total damages done by wildfires.

Witch Fire (2007) ESC: $18.0 million — IPL/ESC: 72

Cedar Fire (2003) ESC: $29.9 million — IPL/ESC: 35

Old Fire (2003) ESC:: $37.7 million — IPL/ESC: 26

Rodeo Chediski Fire (2002) ESC: $43.1 million — IPL/ESC: 3

Cerro Grande Fire (2000) ESC: $33.5 million — IPL/ESC: 4

The results confirm that the costs-plus-losses of wildfires are many times the suppression costs.

Further, the total losses in each of these fires far exceed the insured property losses. For instance, the Cerro Grande Fire is estimated to have inflicted total damages in excess of $1 billion [here].

The Rodeo Chediski Fire burned 400 insured homes, but it also consumed 467,066 acres of uninsured forest and woodland. The damages from that fire to timber, water, wildlife, and public health are not reflected in the insured property loss value. Hence the low ratio (3) is also not reflective of the total cost-plus-loss from that fire.

It appears that the estimated range of the ratio (i.e. that costs-plus-losses are 10 to 50 times suppression costs) as expressed in the paper cited is an underestimate. For some fires, the costs-plus-losses can be as much as 100 times the fire suppression expenses.

Utah Governor Slams USFS for Foofurb Disaster

Utah Governor Gary Herbert criticized the US Forest Service for the Mill Flat Fire that burned into New Harmony, destroying three homes, damaging others, and forcing the evacuation of the town.

“It appears the Forest Service started the fire,” Herbert said Sunday. “They should take responsibility.”

The Mill Flat Fire [here] ignited July 25 in the Dixie National Forest. Bevan Killpack, Pine Valley District Ranger and Rob MacWhorter, Forest Supervisor for the Dixie NF, decided the fire should be allowed to burn unchecked. One person was assigned to monitor the fire and a 29,000 acre “maximum manageable area” was designated. The Mill Flat Fire was declared a foofurb, a “fire used for resource benefit”, despite the fact that no benefits were elucidated, no EIS created, and no public involvement or hearings held.

As of August 22 the fire was 550 acres. Then last Saturday the wind came up, the fire blew up, and by Monday the fire was 10,382 acres. The fire is still only 5 percent contained and it may be another 10 to 12 days before full containment is achieved. Over 700 firefighters are engaged. The suppression costs have not been reported as yet.

No estimates of the damages have been made yet either, although Killpack warned that floods next spring could cause additional losses [here]:

One of the biggest future problems with the Mill Flat fire, Killpack said, could be flooding in the spring created from loss of vegetation. Killpack said he has already put in a request for Forest Service for funds to help mitigate flooding. Requested items might include sandbags, square baskets full of rocks to impede stream flow or other recommendations from an agency hydrologists.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s comments were reported yesterday:

Herbert views fire, criticizes federal policies

By Mark Havnes, The Salt Lake Tribune, 08/31/2009 [here]

New Harmony » Gov. Gary Herbert on Sunday joined critics questioning why the 10,000-acre Mill Flat fire that destroyed at least three structures and threatened more than 600 others was not suppressed earlier.

After flying over the blaze’s towering smoke column in a helicopter, he aimed his criticism at a decision to let the lightning-caused fire burn as a way to clear old growth and invite rejuvenation.

“A lighting strike may be a good way to manage resources but [it] may not be the best practice,” the governor said. …

“With wilderness, our hands are tied behind our backs,” Herbert said. “It sets us up for a tragedy.”

Perhaps sheep should be allowed to graze in now-restricted areas, he said.

Officials had been monitoring the fire mostly burning through dead vegetation for nearly a month before it exploded in size on Saturday as heavy winds quickly pushed it closer and closer to residential areas.

At a town meeting Sunday afternoon, Patricia Smith asked how much money would have been saved had officials opted to suppress the fire earlier. …

Jon Petersen, who lives in Las Vegas but whose family has a house in New Harmony, said the Forest Service “screwed up.”

He said he went up to a ridge top to look at the fire two weeks ago and saw tragedy coming.

“The smoke would flare up in Pine Valley and drop its ashes [and embers] on New Harmony.

His brother, Ralph Petersen, also criticized slow response to fight the flames.

“My solution is the first five days [the fire] is nature made, after that it should be treated as manmade,” he said.

Fire spokesman Kenton Call said questions about cost and the decision not to fight the fire earlier will be addressed at a later date.

For his part, Herbert said he wants to ensure state taxpayers won’t bear the cost.

“It appears the Forest Service started the fire; they should take responsibility,” he said.

Some conflicting statements: the USFS claimed the fire would “benefit” resources but never presented any explanation of what those benefits might be. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the “benefits” were to “clear old growth and invite rejuvenation.” Yet clearing old-growth is not generally recognized as a benefit. In fact, clearing old growth is something that “environmentalists” rail at length against.

The SL Tribune also reported that “the fire mostly burning through dead vegetation for nearly a month” and that the purpose of the fire was to “reduce the amount of available fuel.”

That is, a wildfire was allowed to burn unchecked in mid-summer because there was a significant threat to resources and to public health and safety from a fire in those fuels.

Next week the USFS will be driving all its vehicles over a cliff because there is a threat that the vehicles may fall off a cliff someday.

In another SL Tribune report [here] Killpack was quoted:

“We have an unhealthy ecosystem with a lot of stressed trees so bugs are able to kill them,” he said. “We have 35 percent dead trees in tight vegetation above the towns of Pine Valley, New Harmony and Leeds, and one day that will burn. It’s not if, it’s when.”

Evidently he thought the middle of summer was the best time to incinerate his Ranger District.

Environmentalists blamed the victims:

“New Harmony is no longer New Harmony,” [long-time Utah wilderness activist Dick] Carter said of building homes in fire-prone areas. “It’s out of harmony and it’s been out of harmony a long time because we have failed to understand the consequences of growth and that’s the thing Governor Herbert and others will have to deal with.”

Carter did not blame himself for insisting on wilderness designation, even though that designation precludes any sort of true restoration that might benefit resources. Indeed, wilderness designation is an invitation to catastrophic fire:

In managing wildfires in wilderness, district rangers such as Killpack must request permission from supervisors at the forest and regional level to use chain saws, land helicopters or drop water or retardants from the air in wilderness areas. For the Mill Flat fire, that permission was granted last Thursday, Killpack said.

Unfortunately, that was a little too late to save the town or the forest.

The site of the conflagration, Pine Valley, has been home to human beings for more than 10,000 years. It is not “wilderness,” not “untrammeled,” and not “pristine.” It is and has been homeland and was managed by the residents with anthropogenic fire for millennia. Traditional management precluded catastrophic fires, which would have been disastrous, would have destroyed resources, and would have compromised the survival of the residents. Hence they burned the landscape on a frequent, seasonal, regular basis with light, low intensity fires. Frequent, seasonal, anthropogenic fires engendered the pine savanna which gave the valley its name.

In the absence of traditional stewardship, and indeed in the absence of any stewardship at all, the pine savanna has been destroyed and severe damage has been done to environmental and human-built resources. And that destruction has come at great expense, far greater than common sense traditional stewardship would have cost.

The Mill Flat Fire is another forest fire tragedy and disaster that arose from fatheaded politics and unmanagement in support of a myth. Similar tragedies arising from the same causes have ravaged western landscapes in recent years, and there appears to be no light at the end of that tunnel.

Forest Carbon Emissions Model Report No. 3

W.I.S.E. is pleased and honored to announce the web publication of Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen’s Impacts of California Wildfires on Climate and Forests: A Study of Seven Years of Wildfires (2001-2007), FCEM Report No. 3. The Executive Summary and link to the full text are now posted at the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here]. The Forest Carbon And Emissions Model Reports No. 1 and 2 are [here].

For Immediate Release:

To Offset Greenhouse Gas Damage Caused From California Wildfires During 2001-2007, State’s 14 Million Cars Would Need To Be Locked In Garages For 3 1/2 Years, Study Finds

A raging wildfire can burn out of control for a long period of time, but eventually it will be extinguished. However, the effects of that wildfire can linger for years and be a prime contributor to global warming.

A study by Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen, Professor Emeritus of Forest Science at Texas A&M University, released today found that California’s increasing wildfire crisis is causing more destruction and undoing much of the progress California is making to fight global warming.

Dr. Bonnicksen, who holds a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of California, Berkeley, and has studied California forests for more than 30 years, is author of America’s Ancient Forests: from the Ice Age to the Age of Discovery (John Wiley, 2000).

This report, entitled “Impacts of California Wildfires on Climate and Forests,” chronicles how the wildfires that scorched California from 2001 to 2007 seriously degraded the forests in the state and contributed to global warming. The report notes that political and economic obstacles to managing and restoring forests contribute to causing the wildfire crisis.

Emissions from the last seven years of wildfires documented in this study are equivalent to adding an estimated 50 million more cars onto California’s highways for one year, each spewing tons of greenhouse gases. To offset this damage, all 14 million cars in California would have to be locked in garages for 3 1/2 years to make up for the global warming impact of these wildfires.

From 2001 to 2007, fires burned more than 4 million California acres and released an estimated 277 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting from combustion and the post-fire decay of dead trees. That is an average of 68 tons per acre.

This study and previous studies use a new computer model, the Forest Carbon and Emissions Model (FCEM), to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and insect infestations, and opportunities to recover these emissions and prevent future losses.

“Our most important question is: Can we recover from our mistake of letting forests become unnaturally overcrowded with trees and vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires?” said Dr. Bonnicksen, “the answer is yes, if we care about restoring our forests and fighting global warming.”

There are many other harmful effects of these wildfires as well, including killing wildlife, polluting the air and water, and stripping soil from hillsides. Ironically, the greenhouse gases they emit are wiping out much of what is being achieved to reduce emissions from fossil fuels to battle global warming.

“While California’s actions to reduce global warming are significant, reducing the number and severity of wildfires may be the single most important action we can take in the short-term to lower greenhouse gas emissions and really fight global warming,” Bonnicksen said.

Some public forests in California have more than 1,000 trees per acre when 40 to 60 trees per acre would be natural. These dense forests contain small trees that can carry fire into the canopy, and heavy concentrations of woody debris lying on the ground intensify the flames, which helps increase the size and severity of forest fires. Reducing the number of all sizes of trees per acre by thinning is effective in helping prevent crown fires in forests.

Yet that is only part of the wildfire tragedy.

During the seven years covered by this study, California wildfires deforested about 882,759 acres of public and private land. Only an estimated 120,755 acres were replanted. That means about 762,004 acres of forest was converted permanently to brush because no live trees remain standing to provide seed for a new forest. That is an average loss of 109,000 acres of forests each year, or the equivalent of nearly four times the area of San Francisco.

California’s forests are dwindling due to permanent deforestation from wildfire. In addition, the estimated 134 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by fires and the decay of dead trees from forests that were permanently converted to brush from 2001 to 2007 will continue to worsen global warming.

Harvesting dead trees to prevent them from releasing CO2 from decay, storing the carbon they contain in long-lasting wood products, and using the money from the sale of the wood to replant a young forest that absorbs CO2 through photosynthesis, is the only way to restore deforested areas and recover this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, Dr. Bonnicksen said. He added that this is done routinely on private industrial forestland but rarely on public forestland. Therefore, he said, it is critical to expedite and increase the harvesting of fire-killed trees and replanting of young trees on public forests destroyed by wildfire.

The immensity of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s wildfires and the permanent loss of huge areas of forest are a warning.

The report emphasizes that every effort must be made to reduce the amount of fuel in public and private forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires. That means managing forests to make them healthy, productive, and resistant to crown fires.

Major constraints to managing and thinning private forests are government regulations and the high cost of Timber Harvest Plans (THPs). Solving this problem by streamlining regulations and reducing THP costs on private forests, and expediting environmental reviews for thinning and timber harvesting on public forests, could dramatically reduce wildfires and greenhouse gas emissions.

Data used in this report come from a variety of government and other sources. They include the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region Ecosystem Planning Staff, U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Silviculturalist, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

For a copy of the full report please visit the Western Institute for Study of the Environment at https://westinstenv.org/ffsci

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Federal Judge Rules DOI Cannot Withdraw Regulations Without Due Process

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar unilaterally, and without prior process, withdrew the Western Oregon Plan Revisions and the 2008 Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan in July [here, here].

In a related case, a Federal judge ruled last week that the Department of the Interior may not bypass statutory procedures for repealing an agency rule. Withdrawing a regulation must follow the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The DOI cannot repeal a rule without public notice and comment:

Judge Won’t Allow Federal Agency to Withdraw Mining Rule

By Rita Cicero, FindLaw, Andrews Publications, Aug. 19, 2009 [here]

A federal judge has denied the Interior Department’s attempt to overturn a Bush administration rule allowing coal mine operators to dump waste and debris into streambeds.

Judge Henry Kennedy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s request to vacate the regulation, saying such a ruling would wrongly permit the agency to bypass statutory procedures for repealing an agency rule.

Those procedures include requirements that provide for public notice and comment periods before repealing a rule. …

In April, with a new administration in office, the Interior Department announced plans to overturn the rule. Salazar said in a statement that he had directed the Justice Department to ask the District Court to vacate the rule because it was legally defective.

Salazar said the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement erroneously failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate possible effects of the rule on threatened and endangered species.

The defendants sought dismissal, contending that a case or controversy no longer existed between the parties.

However, the National Mining Association argued that the federal government should not be allowed to bypass the Administrative Procedure Act to repeal an agency rule.

Judge Kennedy agreed.

He said granting the federal defendants’ motion would allow them to do what they cannot do under the APA: repeal a rule without public notice and comment. …

Judge Kennedy did not address the NPCA’s underlying challenge to the Bush administration rule.

National Parks Conservation Association v. Salazar et al., No. 09-00115, 2009 WL 2497393 (D.D.C. Aug. 12, 2009). Environmental Litigation Reporter Volume 30, Issue 03 08/19/2009

The same legal requirements apply to Salazar’s scuttling of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions and the 2008 Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan.

Those plans were created with full compliance to NEPA, APA, and other applicable federal laws. Years of public involvement, public hearings, and public comments were considered, as well as years of scientific investigation and analysis. The procedures followed in creating the rules were exhaustive, comprehensive, and rigorous in the extreme.

Ken Salazar cannot flush all that effort down the toilet with a slick stroke of a pen. He has to obey the law, too. He is not above the law, and he should know that. After all, he was Attorney General of Colorado and a U.S. Senator prior to his appointment as Obama’s Sec Interior.

We are a nation of laws. When our elected or appointed officials violate those laws, we are all diminished and threatened.

We hope that Attorney General John Kroger [here] will immediately file a suit to challenge Salazar’s cavalier and illegal dismissal of the Western Oregon Plan Revisions and the 2008 Northern Spotted Owl Recovery Plan. We hope that, but do not expect it.

Affected Oregon counties should file that suit on behalf of all Americans. Bring Ken Salazar to justice. Let’s put a stop to illegal activities by government officials, for the common public good.

A Sane Proposal for a Middle Path to Wilderness Fires

By Charley Fitch

It appears to me that the U.S. Forest Service took a middle path on the recent Backbone Fire. After failing to control the fire in the first few days, they decided to work on indirect firelines some distance from the actual fire. But after many days of no real movement in the actual fire, the completion of those indirect firelines and numerous local concerns about another summer of smoke choked skies, a proposal was developed that instructed the firefighters build fireline directly on the fire edge. And that is how the fire was safely contained.

In the mid-Nineties the USFS undertook a study of the Trinity Alps Wilderness to see what could be done to “allow” fire to burn in the Alps. The study concluded that there are areas in the eastern portion of the Alps where fire could be allowed to burn within certain weather parameters without becoming a major wildfire. The middle and western portions were found to be a fairly continuous green forest, which means that once a fire starts it will continue until extinguished by man or wet weather. This we have seen in three of the last ten years in the western Alps.

So the real key is the weather. Allowing a fire that starts prior to late September to burn unchecked will most always result in a long duration large fire. A midsummer fire will most always lead to a very hot, stand destroying fire before it would be extinguished naturally. A stand destroying fire is one that most fire advocates do not want to talk about. It burns off all of the live and dead woody material, the top layers of soil measured in inches, and removes all available nutrients, microbes and protective layers from the soil. The subsequent rains will continue to remove more soil and deposit it in streams that we value for clarity and purity. Lost will be several hundred years of soil formation and require several hundred years to replace what was lost. The post-fire landscape is more like a moonscape than a forest.

Here is a proposal for a middle path. No longer consider indiscriminately started natural wildfires to be good things. Instead, use the science and technology that we possess and use only fire that is “prescribed”. This means that a fire would only be ignited when the appropriate weather and fuel conditions exist to achieve the desired results.

The other condition that must exist is that fire management and firefighting must be in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and have an appropriate EA or EIS approved prior to any ignitions. The so-called environmentalists look these documents over quite extensively for any actions on National Forest lands, yet are turning blind eyes to “allowing” wildfires to burn. The law (NEPA) does not exclude the action of allowing a wildfire to burn from the requirement of documentation of effects.

All citizens could help the Forest Service prepare the appropriate documents to comply with NEPA. The NEPA process would give everyone concerned a full opportunity to present scientific assertions about the damage done by fighting a fire compared to allowing it to burn over thousands of acres, put hundreds of thousand of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere, destroy wildlife habitat, increase global warming by releasing carbon monoxide and dioxide into the air rather than keeping this carbon in a solid state in the form of woody material, destroying hundreds of years of soil formation and polluting our pristine waters that flow from our wilderness areas.

Some vocal eco-activists, whose opinions have been expressed in newspapers recently, do not live in the Klamath Mtns but rather in Eugene, OR. So it is very understandable that they are not concerned with the health effects caused by fires and smoke on residents in the Klamath Mtns. Those vocal eco-activists are not foresters or firefighters, either.

Local residents do not wish to breathe the smoke from their forests afire or to look upon the snag patch for the next many decades. Folks from the big cities should be grateful to local residents for saving forests from devastating fires and protecting watersheds and recreation opportunities.

Those who advocate the protection of communities should remember that a community is more than a group of houses. When people are protecting their rural communities we know that what lies with in the town boundaries needs protection, but so do the forests, the air, and the waters running nearby. The Klamath Mtns are as much a part of us as we are of them.

Charley Fitch, a member of the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Fire Management [here], was District Ranger on the Big Bar Ranger District, Trinity NF, for twenty years. He is a professional forester with a degree from Colorado State University in Forest Management. He has over 35 years of forest and fire management experience.

Rod Mendes: Does anyone care about our air?

By Rod Mendes, Redding Record Searchlight, August 24, 2009 [here]

For nearly four months last summer, thousands of Northern Californians sat shrouded in thick, brown smoke. Lots of people got sick. Many still have trouble breathing.

Smoke from wildfires that burned more than 200,000 acres blanketed Trinity and Humboldt counties and smothered roughly 4,000 people who live on and around the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.

No tribal lands burned, but lightning strikes ignited fires all over the national forests that surround Hoopa land. Those forests were dangerously overgrown, overstocked and choked with dead and dying trees. There was little effort made to extinguish the fires despite the public health threat. Instead, fires were encouraged to burn toward and into designated wilderness areas.

The smoke observed no such boundaries. It settled everywhere.

Vulnerable residents were evacuated, high-efficiency air filters distributed and two public clean-air facilities established. The tribe provided emergency medical treatment for tribal members, non-tribal members, firefighters and residents from nearby communities. Eventually Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and even President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency, clearing the way for the tribe to recover some of the costs incurred trying to protect its people.

While fire is part of the rural-California experience, long-term exposure to bad air need not be.

The Hoopa Tribe manages its forestland to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. It does so sustainably, relying on timber revenues to fund tribal government, support the tribal economy, and provide for its people. Watersheds and wildlife habitat are conserved, invested in and nurtured. Families work in and with the forest.

The forest management directed by the tribal commitment to sustain culture and environment together produces beautiful, healthy, resilient forests.

But the lightning storm proved it’s not enough to take care of your own lands. When tens of thousands of your neighbor’s acres are overgrown, susceptible to insect infestation and catastrophic wildfire, you stand to face long-lasting health consequences regardless of how well you’ve prepared your own forests.

Government agency resources may be strained, but policymakers must be held accountable for land management and firefighting policies that harm the public health. Wildfire smoke causes asthma and exacerbates existing heart and lung issues. Tiny particulates in the smoke can lodge deep in human lungs. For weeks on end, Hoopa residents drove with their lights on during the day because the sun never penetrated the smoke.

We knew exactly what we were breathing, we just couldn’t escape it.

The best way to lower the public health threat is to reduce the fuel loads that drive catastrophic fire and smoke events. An ounce of prevention would go a long way - not just in terms of saving dollars and forests, but in terms of avoiding human suffering.

Forests need to be thinned, and harvested trees and vegetation put to good use. Doing so can enhance biodiversity, protect soils and watersheds, improve public safety and help clear the air. Too often forest management is blocked by administrative appeals when there is overwhelming evidence of an immediate threat to people and communities.

Land-management policies on public lands, including wilderness areas, must be changed to address accumulated fuels before wildfires start, and firefighting policies must change to put greater emphasis on the public’s best interests when they inevitably do. Currently, smoke-related public-health risks are given very low priority in firefighting policies. Firefighter safety is paramount, but when fires can be fought to reduce the smoke impacts on communities, they should be.

There have been encouraging signs recently. Incident commanders in the June 2009 Backbone Fire opened new lines of communication with the community and took steps to address the concerns that were raised. Tribal air quality data was considered by the command team and the initial attack on the fire was more aggressive than originally suggested. Rather than deal with more long-term smoke exposure, our air cleared relatively quickly.

The aggressive suppression tactics used in fighting the Backbone Fire spared a community that has endured more than its share of bad air. But we witnessed the exception rather than the rule. The long- and short-term public-health impacts of smoke have to figure higher in firefighting policy so they consistently receive greater priority in firefighting practice.

Still, the focus should be on prevention and sustainability. Forestry that conserves forest resources protects forests against catastrophic wildfire and people living in those forests from excessive smoke.

Yet while many of California’s public forestlands succumb to unprecedented tree mortality and stand dangerously overcrowded, most fuel-reduction projects planned by the Forest Service are blocked by procedural delays. While ideologies are debated and courts scrutinize paperwork details, real people are breathing real bad air and millions of acres are primed to burn.

When wildfire smoke causes widespread health problems we have a responsibility to consider alternatives to letting unmanaged forests burn. It’s time to clean up our forests and clear the air.

Rod Mendes is the director of the Office of Emergency Services for the Hoopa Valley Tribe in Humboldt County. Courtesy of California Forests magazine.

24 Aug 2009, 9:05am
Forestry education
by admin
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Forest fire cost report solidly based in science, accounting

By Mike Dubrasich, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Aug 24, 2009 [here]

In an Aug. 17 Register-Guard guest viewpoint, “Report on ‘true cost’ of megafires not all it appears to be,” Jim Wells decries “shrill character assassinations with unsupported assertions.” Then he launches into one attacking me.

In his rush to cast flowery and unfounded aspersions, Wells failed to understand the substance and significance of the forest fire economics paper I co-authored.

The paper is U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project: The ‘One-Pager’ Checklist by Bob Zybach, Gregory Brenner, John Marker and myself, from Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, Advances in Fire Practices, Fall 2009. The paper reviews cost-plus-loss fire damage appraisal methods and philosophies.

Note: the paper is [here]. The U.S. Wildfire Cost-Plus-Loss Economics Project cooperators have set up a website [here] where reference material is posted.

We (the four authors) cite fire econometric studies from 1925 to 2009. All my fellow authors are recognized environmental experts with extensive schooling, experience and substantial prior achievements in forest and fire-related disciplines.

Wildfires, contrary to popular mythology, cause more harm than good, harming both natural and human environments. Damages (losses) from wildfires include watershed impacts (such as flooding, erosion and degradation of water quality); air quality degradation (smoke, carbon emissions); wildlife habitat destruction and pollution; ecosystem devastation and conversion; compromised public health and safety (health care costs, injuries and fatalities); recreation shutdowns; property losses (homes, businesses and crops); income loss to residents and businesses; and infrastructure destruction and shutdowns (power lines, highways and railroads), in addition to suppression expenses. The damages (cost-plus-loss) from wildfires are immediate and often extend into the distant future as well.

Dollars are standard units of measurement for values. Appraisal of some commodities damaged by wildfire — such as homes, timber and crops — is straightforward. Appraisal of non-commodities, such as endangered species habitat loss and scenery degradation, is more problematic.

But econometric methods (some simple, some complex) have been developed for appraisal of all natural and human resources. Those methods account for and appraise direct, indirect, short-term and long-term impacts.

The Wildfire Economics One Page Checklist presents a simplified accounting ledger (we developed a more detailed fire economics ledger, from which the one-pager was created). It is a tool to be used by fire managers, citizens, analysts, the media and various levels of government officials to quantify the economic damages of wildfires.

Accounting for all the damages that wildfires inflict will help fire suppression planning and fire management. The economic utility of fire suppression is to minimize cost-plus-loss from fires. That is why we invest in fire departments.

Accounting for all the impacts will help emergency service agencies, public health organizations, forest managers, rural and urban residents, small and large businesses, insurance companies, utility companies and local, state and federal governments understand the full scope of fire disasters through the use of reliable economic data, not subjective guesses — or worse, information vacuums.

Accounting for economic impacts informs post-fire reporting, recovery planning and future fire prevention, as well as preparation for individuals, families, communities and agencies.

If Wells, or anyone else, has (friendly) criticisms or questions about the paper, I am happy to post and discuss those at the Western Institute for Study of the Environment Web sites. The paper has been posted there for all to read and study, for free.

The Western Institute for Study of the Environment is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and a collaboration of environmental scientists, resource professionals, practitioners and the interested public. We are based in Lebanon. Our home page is westinstenv.org.

Our mission is to further advancements in knowledge and environmental stewardship across a spectrum of related environmental disciplines and professions.

We provide a free, online set of postgraduate courses in environmental studies, currently 50 topics in eight colloquia, each containing book and article reviews, original papers and essays.

In addition, we present three commentary sub-sites, a news clipping sub-site and a fire tracking sub-site. Hundreds of reviews, reprints and original articles from cutting-edge environmental science research (including forest, fire, and wildlife sciences) are archived in our library.

We strive to educate. That is our mission. Because we are Web-based, we can go into much greater detail on selected scientific issues than can a newspaper (no offense, that’s just how it is in our new digital age).

We specialize in environmental science reporting and analysis and provide interactive learning experiences for our visitors, the interested public, layman and expert alike. We hope those interactions will be informative, educational and enjoyable to all participants.

Wildfire economics is just one of dozens of environmental science investigations we sponsor and report upon. The public is cordially invited to join in, study, learn and teach at our Web sites.

Mike Dubrasich, executive director of the Western Institute for Study of the Environment, is the author of “A Guide to Innovative Tree Farming in the Pacific Northwest” and numerous scientific papers and reports.

22 Aug 2009, 6:21pm
In Memorium
by admin
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Accident Takes Life of Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Employee

NEWS RELEASE — Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, August 21, 2009 [here]

Baker City , OR – August 21, 2009: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest employee, Steven A. Uptegrove, 52, was killed Thursday morning when he was struck by a falling snag. Uptegrove was part of a forest crew assisting the Baker County Narcotics Enforcement Team with the eradication of an illegal marijuana garden on national forest lands south of Unity, Oregon.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident,” said Steve Ellis, Wallowa-Whitman Forest Supervisor. “Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Uptegrove family during this difficult time.”

The accident occurred on the West Fork of Bull Run Creek where forest crew members were bundling sling loads of trash for helicopter transport. Efforts to revive Uptegrove were unsuccessful.

“Our hearts go out to Steve’s family and friends. He is well-known and loved by many. We in the Forest Service feel a deep sense of loss,” said Mary Wagner, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester.

Uptegrove was a career Forest Service employee having worked over 30 years in the fire program. He has worked as the station lead and engine foreman in Unity since 2006. “Steve was a professional wildland firefighter, a positive, always cheerful member of the Burnt Powder Fire Zone, and a leader and teacher of firefighters at Unity,” said Noel Livingston, Fire Management Officer for the Burnt Powder Fire Zone. Prior to working in Unity, he worked on the Prairie City Ranger District on the Malhuer National Forest. He also worked for the Payette, Willamette, and Deschutes National Forests.

The accident is under investigation by Federal, state and local authorities.

Steve is survived by his wife, Hope, who currently resides in Baker County, Oregon.

For additional information contact Judy Wing, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Public Affairs Officer, 541-519-4623.

Time to Fight Back

by bear bait

I read today in the paper that a tree fell and killed a USFS employee near Baker City, Oregon, who was involved in pulling marijuana plants from a grow on the Wallowa-Whitman NF. Sad deal. Not what forest protectors and nurturers had in mind when they signed on. The family has my sincerest regrets and sympathy.

It appears this fire deal, burning up our public forests, is part of a plan to expand the Mexican Dope Cartel’s drug plantations. Get rid of the canopy, keep people out, and it all goes to dope growing. In Western Oregon, in the Coast Range, we have had two opium poppy fields discovered and pulled this summer in Yamhill county. The Trout Creek mountains of far southeastern Oregon saw a dope bust with over 30,000 plants and 8 people arrested and now indicted in Federal court in Eugene, Oregon.

The minders of the Federal Estate have become overwhelmed by their job requirements and red tape, due to extensive congressional nit-picking, poorly written law, and excessive “human resource” systems, and the local areas bear the burden of poor Congressional oversight and the disinterest of a distant absentee landlord as a matter of course.

The national enviro lobby has local shrills to keep disorder the way they want it, and willingly pay themselves well enough to warrant limousines and gracious benefits fit for kings. The Environmental Cartel is in tight control. Burning off our national forest heritage is a mindless goal, but when oligarchs of the environment are in control, it is about power, not good sense, and it is about the money they make, as per Al Gore, the newly coined billionaire of selling carbon credits, akin to trading in seines full of flatulence. Ethereal. Hard to grasp. But you know it is there by the smell.

These United States and we the people, especially states where liberal local politics rule, have lost control of our public lands. They have been systematically closed to the public by taking out roads, banning logging, and allowing fires to rage unchecked - managing to burn all too much of their charge in a mindless exercise of benign neglect.

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21 Aug 2009, 12:34am
2007 Fire Season
by admin
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Ned Pence on the Cascade Complex Fires of 2007

Note: the following essay and photographs are by Ned Pence, USFS (ret). Mr. Pence was a District Ranger on three different National Forests, including the Krassel District of the Payette NF. He is co-author (with his brother, Carl) of Lost in the Forest: A Story About the Forest Service “Four Decades of Change”. The photos in this essay have also been posted at SOSF Photo Page 1: Boise and Payette Post-2007 fires [here] where other photos by Ned Pence may be found. Some other posts about the Payette fires of 2007 may be found [here, here, here, here, here, here, here].

The Cascade Complex Fires of 2007

by Ned Pence

Below are some pictures I took on my recent trip to Yellow Pine, Idaho. It is difficult to write about the fires because, as it can be pointed out, I was not there in 2007. However, I have talked to Joe Harper the Krassel District DFR, and folks at Yellow Pine and the Zena Creek Ranch.

Harper states that the Cascade Complex was the result of a fire start in Zena Creek, another fire that started near Loon Lake on the Secesh River, and fires on the Boise NF that burned onto the Payette NF. All the fires burned together to make the Cascade Complex that burned from the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River to the confluence at Mackay Bar. The fires stared in early July 2007 from a lightning bust and burned the rest of the summer. The area is of special interest to me because I was Krassel DFR from 1971 to 1976.

The Zena Creek Fire is interesting. The pictures of the East Zena Creek fire pattern show that the fire burned intensely in strips with other areas burned only as a light ground fire until it reached the unlogged upper part where it burned as a crown fire, spreading onto the old Circle End Fire (that burned in 1949 and again burned in 1992) where it found enough ground fuel to build up a head of steam. The fire then jumped the SFSR and burned with intensity along the East Fork of the SFSR, then jumped the East Fork and South Fork and burned south, eventually joining the Boise NF fires.

East Zena Creek in 2009 (click for larger image)

Folks at Yellow Pine pointed out that fire intensity was also a result of back fires set to protect Yellow Pine in the point protection strategy. I include one picture of an intense fire area in lower West Zena Creek. I believe this fire resulted from a back fire to protect the Zena Creek Ranch. Much of the West Zena Creek area burned only as a light ground fire, but beetles subsequently killed many trees that survived the fire.

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Roadless Rule Will Harm Forests, Not Protect Them


Note: see also 9th Court Decision on Roadless Rule Is Illegitimate and Destructive [here], and Ninth Circuit ruling to reinstate Roadless Rule leaves wilderness areas vulnerable to fire [here].

Government’s Hands-Off Policy is Directly Responsible for Forest Overcrowding and Wildfires

National Center for Policy Analysis, August 20, 2009, [here]

The Obama administration’s recent decision to support the roadless rule is not only counterproductive, it is ridiculous public policy, according to NCPA Senior Fellow, H. Sterling Burnett.

“The roadless rule is bad as a matter of principle and bad as a policy,” Burnett said. “We don’t need a one-size-fits-all roadless rule. Instead, forests should be managed on an individual or regional basis, allowing roads and attendant logging to take place for economic reasons and to reduce catastrophic wildfires, enhance endangered species protection and improve the forests carbon storage capacity.”

The roadless rule, which was issued by the Clinton administration in 2001, has been a heated topic of discussion in the courts for nearly a decade. On August 5, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the roadless rule across the country.

The Obama administration has endorsed the rule, supporting the Ninth Circuit’s decision, and wants the Tenth to uphold it as well. If the Tenth Circuit also upholds the rule it will be fully reinstated, which would be bad for the health of forests and will continue to cause overcrowding and forest fires, Burnett said.

“Americans and America’s forests deserve better,” he said. “At a time when the government claims to be concerned about fighting global warming by preventing and reducing carbon emissions, clinging to the roadless rule is absurd. Forest fires account for a growing percentage of human CO2 emission each year - topping six percent of U.S. emissions, yet it seems increasingly clear that the government isn’t very concerned about decreasing CO2 emissions. Indeed, environmentalists praise the government for leaving the forests alone, but forest fires are a growing threat.”

“Government’s hands off policy is directly responsible for forest overcrowding, massive pest invasions and even larger wildfires that burn hotter and destroy more acres of forest and surrounding businesses, homes and towns every year,” Burnett said. “Letting nature take its course on our national forests is tantamount to neglect, and the roadless rule is a prime example of that. When the federal government leaves our forests to die, rot and burn, we all suffer but no one is held accountable.”

AU Royal Commission Interim Report Released

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission presented their Interim Report to the Victorian Lieutenant Governor on 17 August 2009. A copy of the report can be viewed or downloaded [here].

Last February wildfires ravaged the state of Victoria in southeastern Australia. Close to 200 people were killed and more than 2,000 homes incinerated. Termed “Black Saturday”, it was the worst fire disaster in Australian history, a history replete with fire disasters, most notably in 1939, 1944, 1969, 1977, 1983, 2003, 2005, and 2006.

A Royal Commission was formed to inquire, consult, and report on the fires and the fire suppression efforts associated with “an unprecedented loss of life, extreme property damage, and major community trauma and displacement.”

The Commission held 26 community consultations in 14 fire locations. Some 1200 people attended. Public submissions were invited and over 1200 submissions were received from people in fire-affected and unaffected areas, and from around Australia and overseas.

Interim Report contains 51 recommendations focused predominantly on changes that can be implemented prior to the 2009–10 bushfire season. An Implementation Plan will be issued by September 30, 2009, and a Delivery Report by 31 March 2010.

The Interim Report is critical of the warning and fire information system in Victoria and of the “Leave Early Or Stay And Defend” policy. That policy, which led directly to mass death, was recommended and promoted for use in this country by the US Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the National Association of State Foresters in their Quadrennial Fire Review 2009 issued last January [here].

The QFR advances new core strategies for reinforcing fire management’s role in ecosystem sustainability by developing strategic management response capabilities that are more flexible and agile and further in line with the national response framework. While continuing to promote the concept of fire-adapted human communities, the QFR outlines new strategies to realign fire governance by rethinking federal, tribal, and state and local roles and responsibilities for wildland urban interface fire prevention and protection. Tied to this mission strategy of building a new national intergovernmental wildfire policy framework, are specific strategy elements for developing community fuels reduction zones in the interface, supporting leave-early or stay-and-defend alternatives for property owners while working with communities to assure that community fire prevention regulations are in place along with adequate local response capability.

The massive failure of “Leave Early Or Stay And Defend” in Australia one month later has not yet entered into the consciousness of our federal land management agencies. It is hoped that the Royal Commission report will sink in here where it is also desperately needed. Generating mass death disasters is not good government, and our federal agencies should not barge blindly down that road.

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16 Aug 2009, 9:04pm
The 2009 Fire Season
by admin
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Mexican Drug Cartel Marijuana Operation Caused La Brea Fire

Fire Investigators Determine Cause of La Brea Fire

Incident: La Brea Wildfire

Released: 24 hrs. ago

Date: August 15, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*

FIRE INVESTIGATORS DETERMINE CAUSE OF LA BREA FIRE

GOLETA, CA… A week-long investigation by U.S. Forest Service Special Agents, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit and Fire Investigators has revealed the cause of the La Brea Fire. Investigators revealed that the La Brea Fire was started by a cooking fire in a marijuana drug trafficking operation.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit has confirmed that the camp at the origin of the fire was an illegal marijuana operation believed to be run by a Mexican National Drug Organization. The Narcotics Unit has been working in the area within the last month eradicating other nearby marijuana cultivation sites.

Although the La Brea Fire started more than one week ago, there is evidence that the unburned marijuana garden area has been occupied within the last several days. The Narcotics Unit has secured the camp area which was located in remote and rugged terrain. It is also believed that the suspects are still within the San Rafael Wilderness trying to leave the area on foot. Officials warn not to approach anyone who looks suspicious but to instead contact the nearest law enforcement agency.

Anyone with further information is urged to contact U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department or local law enforcement agencies.

The investigation continues with cooperating agencies including Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire, and other local agencies.

The La Brea Fire Tip Line is still open, and anyone with additional information helpful to this ongoing investigation is urged to contact investigators at (805) 686-5074. Your call may remain anonymous.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department will release more information regarding the Narcotics investigation on Monday. The media contact at the Sheriff’s Department is Drew Sugars, Public Information Officer, at 805.681.4192.

For media inquiries regarding the investigation of the cause and origin of the La Brea Fire, contact the U.S. Forest Service at (805) 961-5707, and an investigator will return you call.

*Jointly released with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit

The La Brea Fire [here] in Santa Barbara County is now up to 86,811 acres and is 64% contained. At last report (6:00pm this evening) 2,080 firefighters and other personnel are engaged in fighting the fire. There are 141 engines, 59 firecrews, 29 dozers, 54 water tenders, 14 helicopters, and 5 fixed wing aircraft including the Martin Mars super scooper, an aircraft with a 200 foot wingspan that can hold 7,200 gallons of water. It is the world’s largest scooping water bomber. Suppression costs to date are an estimated $18 to $20 million. The fire is in Unified Command with the USFS and Cal Fire; J. Pincha-Tulley and R. Lewin are joint Incident Commanders.

Structures threatened include 243 residences and 16 outbuildings. An evacuation order is still in effect for the 23 threatened residences on Foothill Road, 7 residences on Buckhorn Ridge, 5 Pine Canyon, and 199 in Tepusquet. The White Oaks Ranger Station has been incinerated.

The La Brea Fire ignited in Cottonwood Canyon and has spread south and east to the Cuyama Valley. Three days ago it jumped the Sisquoc River by the Manzana Schoolhouse Campground. The fire reached the edge of the Zaca Burn (2007) but instead of stopping it continued south and is burning within the old Zaca perimeter.

Flash flooding next winter is expected, as occurred after the Zaca Fire. Officials are concerned that protective levees from Santa Maria to Guadalupe may be overwhelmed due to the significant loss of soil infiltration and water holding capacity within the burned watershed.

 
  
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