Over 200 scientists sign letter to Congress about proposals to “fix” funding for Wildland Fire Management

Congress has included 90 anti-environmental riders on the Omnibus Appropriations bill that it is rushing to pass next week. Measures to address runaway wildfire suppression spending, for instance, include destructive riders to eliminate protections for old-growth forests and roadless areas in Alaska, expand Categorical Exclusions (no environmental review) on logging projects up to 6,000 acres, and weaken protections for endangered species.

I am excited to report that over 200 scientists have signed on so far. The letter will be delivered to Capitol Hill staffers on Friday morning DC time; however, we will continue to accept signatories through Tuesday of next week as we update the final count and resubmit the letter later.

View the letter delivered Friday, March 16, 2018.

Alaska’s old-growth forests are our climate-change insurance policy

Originally published March 15, 2018, available online at Seattle Times

There is no better place to experience old-growth forests than the Tongass and Chugach national forests. Here, all five species of Pacific salmon line up to spawn like rush-hour traffic, spruce and hemlock trees tower like skyscrapers, and bears and wolves still run free.

By Gordon Orians and Dominick A. DellaSala

The Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the crown jewel of our national forest system, is facing an unprecedented threat.

At the end of last year, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced two legislative budget riders aimed at allowing thousands of acres of pristine, roadless old-growth rain forest on the Tongass and the Chugach National Forest to be clear-cut.

We recently joined more than 220 of our fellow scientists from Alaska and across the country in sending a letter to Congress urging members to reject these backdoor efforts to undermine long-standing roadless and old-growth forest protections.

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Aftermath of the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire

Commissioners hit Forest Service with vote of "no confidence," but they stand alone

By Curtis Hayden

Originally published in Sneak Preview on March 1, 2018 (Grants Pass and Medford) and April 1 (Ashland)

The timing was impeccable. A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were visited by some friends from Portland, Tom and Laura, and when I mentioned that I was writing a story about the Josephine County commissioners and their vote of no-confidence in the ability of the U.S. Forest Service to handle catastrophic forest fires, Tom went out to his car and returned with a book he was reading, Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn.

I figured the book was about the Tillamook Fire of 1933 because I’d heard a lot about that Mother of All Fires over the years.

“The Tillamook Fire was nothing,” Tom said. “It only burned 300,000 acres. This book is about the fire that took place in northern Idaho, Montana and Washington in 1910, which burned over three million acres.”

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Guest Opinion: All the king’s horses can’t make wildfires go away

Published in the Medford Mail Tribune on December 31, 2017

By Dominic DiPaolo, Dominick A. DellaSala and Dennis Odion

State Sen. Alan DeBoer recently convened town hall meetings in Medford and Ashland on last summer’s wildfires and actions under consideration at the state Legislature. What we hoped would be an informed discussion became a venue for DeBoer to promote unfounded theories, point fingers and dismiss real dialogue. As ecologists who have studied forest ecosystems for decades, we realize that wildfire is alarming, smoke unhealthy, and everyone is looking for solutions. However, we take issue with DeBoer’s unhelpful ideas and offer caution about using forest thinning as a panacea to all issues surrounding wildfires.

DeBoer started both meetings by giving the floor to William Simpson, who proposes introducing feral horses to control flammable vegetation in the Siskiyou Mountains. In doing so, DeBoer privileged a position that is not only unscientific and unworkable, but already proven ineffective. In the 1910s, the Forest Service studied livestock use of shrub-dominated areas in the Siskiyous and found that livestock were unsuccessful at converting large swaths of shrubs to grass. Simpson’s proposal is unlikely to pass the federal permitting process and valuable time should not be wasted on it. Yet, Congressman Greg Walden and Curry County Commissioner Court Boice have endorsed it.

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