By Dominick DellaSala; Originally published in the Ashland Daily Tidings, August 29, 2018
Just about every day someone has a quick-fix logging “solution” and scapegoat to blame for the growing wildfire problem caused by years of climate neglect and poor planning. Meanwhile, smoke and fires are damaging our local economy, forcing home evacuations and causing tragic loss of life. Everyone wants to do something. So, what do we know about wildfires and is there a simple solution, given fires are not going away, no matter how hard we try?
Climate change plus industrial logging plus human-caused fire ignitions equal fire increases
Since the 1980s, wildfire acres have been increasing, although much fewer acres burn now compared to historic times. The main culprit — dinosaur carbon used to run our cars, homes and factories is conspiring climatically with carbon released from deforestation. The consequence — the hotter/drier it gets, the more fires we see.
As scientists with backgrounds in ecological sciences and natural resources management, we are greatly concerned about proposals to speed up and expand logging on public lands in response to recent increases in wildfires in the West – proposals such as the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill. There are pragmatic, science-based solutions that can maintain biologically diverse fire-dependent ecosystems while reducing risks to communities and firefighters facing some of the most active fire seasons in recent memory. Unfortunately, such solutions are getting lost in the endless rhetoric and blaming that has characterized wildfires in the media, Congress, and the Trump administration. We the undersigned are calling on decision makers to facilitate a civil dialogue and careful consideration of the science to ensure that any policy changes will result in communities being protected while safeguarding essential ecosystem processes.
Read the full letter to Congress
BY ANNETTE MCGEE RASCH FOR THE MAIL TRIBUNE, August 18, 2018
With the Taylor Creek and Klondike fires merged at nearly 120,000 acres — and still growing — many southwestern Oregonians fear the blaze is poised to enter the record books alongside the 2002 Biscuit fire and last year’s Chetco Bar fire.
In an effort to quell that possibility, fire managers brought in reinforcements from California Saturday with the goal of full suppression.
Because of the fire’s size and complex challenges, operations have been split between two teams: Taylor Creek Klondike East based near Selma, and Taylor Creek Klondike West, now headquartered at the Curry County Fairgrounds in Gold Beach.
California’s Interagency Incident Management Team 4 took over operations on the entire west-facing flank of the fire complex Saturday. This team possesses experience with steep terrain and dry fuel types, and plans to go into “full suppression mode” to protect coastal residents.
By Henry Houston, originally published by Eugene Weekly, August 9, 2018
The state of Oregon currently faces 14 fires, affecting nearly 180,000 acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. When the fire season is over, some of what’s left is dead, burned trees.
But what happens to those burned trees?
Eastern Oregon Rep. Greg Walden is urging the U.S. Senate to adopt the House’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill, which would remove burned, dead trees from public lands “while they still have value and replant” forest — just like private timberlands do.
It’s common sense, Walden says, in an email newsletter to constituents.
That’s a problematic strategy, according to Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist at Geos Institute in Ashland.
By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter | Originally published Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at E&E News.
GROVELAND, Calif. — The Rim Fire, which burned 257,314 acres of forest in 2013, was the biggest wildfire on record for the Sierra Nevada. Forest Service officials declared large areas of the Stanislaus National Forest “nuked” into a “moonscape” where pine trees might not grow back for a generation.
But five years later, Chad Hanson — a forest ecologist who opposes logging on federal lands — can barely avoid stepping on the ponderosa pine saplings that have taken root amid the blackened trunks in one fire-damaged patch of the 898,099-acre national forest. Here, where the Rim Fire burned especially hot, one of the biggest questions about the future of America’s climate-challenged woodlands plays out around Hanson’s ankles: Are forests healthier and safer if humans mostly leave them alone?
By Dominick DellaSala, Timothy Ingalsbee, and Luke Ruediger
July 29, 2018, Medford Mail Tribune
It seems like every time there is a forest fire, the timber industry blames environmentalists for a lack of “active forest management” and presumes that contemporary fires have catastrophic ecological consequences. David Schott’s opinion piece in the Mail Tribune July 22 does just that, using the Klamathon fire as an example.
But this fire began on residential land, not in the backcountry environmentalists seek to protect. It made its largest run on private residential, ranch, and timber land, pushed by strong winds. More roads and logging advocated by Schott will not protect communities nor maintain our natural environment.
The forests of our region are some of the most biologically diverse on the planet. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, fire resets nature’s successional clock from biologically rich old growth to also rich new forest — the circle of life. Fires were historically set by Native Americans to manage culturally important wildlife habitats.
Number of fires in June double from recent years
In a recent interview with KTVZ in Central Oregon, Dr. Dominick DellaSala explains the environmental factors that lead to an increase in potential wildfires.
This May, Dominick DellaSala was part of a team of researchers and citizen scientists conducting field surveys on the Stanislaus National Forest within the world-class (biodiverse) Sierra-Nevada region of California.
The trip was on the site of the Rim Fire, California’s third largest in recent history, that burned in 2013 over 250,000 acres bordering Yosemite National Park.
What they found was an ecosystem teeming with life, new growth, and diversity, not a barren wasteland.
Read more about Dominick’s walk on the wild side here.
Last year’s fire season was bad. This year’s could be too. So why does agreement on a plan to reduce the likelihood of forest fires remain elusive?
“We keep hearing that if only we could do active management we could reduce the risk of severe fires,” said Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute, a climate change solutions advocacy group based in Ashland. “I heard that continuously when I testified before Congress last September. But when we looked at 1,500 fires, we found it’s the areas with the most active management that had the highest amount of high-severity fires. They wouldn’t believe that data.”
Read the full article by Pete Danko at the Portland Business Journal
Geos Institute and NGO comments on the Chetco Bar post-fire logging environmental assessment. The Chetco fire took place in an area of extraordinary botanical diversity, spectacular wild rivers, and a potential climate sanctuary along the Oregon-California border that benefited from the fire but will be impacted by extensive post-fire logging by the Forest Service.