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.”
On Friday Februray 16th the following article was posted online by the Washington Post, featuring the work of Forest Legacies director Dominick DellaSala.
The 15-year-old boy who started a wildfire that torched 48,000 acres of one of the northwest’s most coveted scenic regions entered the courtroom stoically Friday. Wearing a beige suit, a black necktie and with his hair neatly combed, he admitted to all 12 of the misdemeanor charges against him, and when he spoke to the courtroom, he apologized.
He apologized seven times.
The wildfire he admitted to sparking along the Eagle Creek Trail — in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area — started Sept. 2 when he hurled a firecracker into a dry ravine as a group of friends filmed him with a cellphone. On that scorching-hot afternoon, the state was in the midst of a burn ban.
“Every day I think about this terrible decision and its awful consequences,” said the Vancouver, Wash., boy, who is being identified by the judge only by his initials, A.B. “I know I will have to live with my bad decision for the rest of my life.”
This story from E&E News is especially timely. We’ve been pushing hard here at Forest Legacies on the fire fix funding as there are really bad logging provisions being proposed by Congress that would usher in massive logging on national forests, eliminate roadless and old growth protections on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, and bypass landmark environmental laws. We recently with law makers and the reporter below while in DC. This is a big push nationally to maintain public lands protections that we are involved with.
By Marc Heller and Geof Koss, E&E News reporters
Originally Published at E&E News on Thursday, February 8, 2018
The battle over federal wildfire funding and forest management will go on, given that a broad budget deal between Senate leaders failed to resolve the issue.
Watch a recording from January 19, 2018 from the University of Northern British Columbia “Cumulative Impacts Research Consortium Panel Presentation: Wildfire preparedness and Cumulative Impacts“.
Presenters are: Dominick DellaSala, Madeline Maley, Raina Fumerton, and Sonja Leverkus.
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.
Politicians say thinning forests will help prevent ‘catastrophic’ fires. But ecologists say this season wasn’t the worst, and logging won’t stop it from happening again.
According to peer-reviewed studies on the overall likelihood of a thinned area of forest being hit with fire and on historical fire trends, the argument that thinning is the best way to address future fire seasons like the one we just had is profoundly flawed.
For one, proposals to remove trees, or “fuels,” are based on the idea that fires burn more intensely in unlogged forests, making them more severe and quicker to spread.
But a recently published examination of the intensity of 1,500 forest fires over the past 40 years in 11 Western states found the opposite. Its authors, scientists at the Project Earth Institute, Geos Institute and Earth Island Institute, found fires burned most intensely in previously logged areas. In contrast, in wilderness, parks and roadless ares, the fires burned in mosaic patterns – which maintain healthy, resilient forests.
Both sides of the thinning debate frequently point to one-off incidents to show how thinning either is or is not effective.
“You have to be careful about anecdotal information,” warned Dominick DellaSala, a renowned fire ecologist and chief scientist at the Geos Institute. “Wind speed can change, humidity levels can change, and if you don’t account for all those factors, you could conclude either way. Either the thinning helped, or the thinning didn’t help, depending on what was going on with the fire climate.”
Read the full article at streetrootsnews.org
Geos Institute Chief Scientist speaks to packed house in Portland’s Revolution Hall on the ecology of wildfires and attempts by the Trump administration and congressional allies to radically increase logging on public lands.
Published by The Guardian, November 15, 2017
The US cashes in on timber from ‘devastated’ areas – but the land is actually ‘the rarest and most biodiverse habitat in the Sierra Nevadas’, says an expert
Less than a mile from Yosemite national park, Chad Hanson is wading through a sea of knee-high conifers that have burst from the ashes of the vast 2013 Rim fire. The US Forest Service essentially says the baby trees don’t exist.
The agency says that “catastrophic” fires have “devastated” parts of the forest, painting an eerie picture of swaths of blackened tree trunks like something out of a Tim Burton film.
But the vibrant green pines, firs and cedars surrounding Hanson among the patches burned during California’s third-largest wildfire tell a different story.
Keep reading online at The Guardian
Restoration efforts in the Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon are getting underway. While most of the area was lightly burned or even unburned, more than a third of the acreage suffered severe or moderate tree damage.
Federal forest managers are gearing up to authorize salvage logging in some of the more badly-burned areas. Local elected officials are pushing hard for cutting those trees. But others question whether the long-term costs outweigh the short term benefits.
The Chetco Bar fire in southwestern Oregon was the state’s biggest wildfire of 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres, mostly in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Seven homes were lost and hundreds of people had to evacuate from Brookings and nearby communities.
Read and listen to the November 2017 two-part series on Jefferson Public Radio:
(photo: Liam Moriarty/JPR)
By Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D.
Wildfires are greatly impacting human communities in the West that every summer face the prospects of loss of life, homeowner damages, and smoke-filled skies. Legislators and many managers believe wildfire intensity and occurrence can be greatly reduced by removing environmental safeguards to allow more logging in the backcountry to avoid wildfire “disasters.”
Wildfires are not ecological catastrophes, rather, they are a keystone natural disturbance agent that has maintained the biologically rich and fire-adapted web-of-life in forests of the western United States for millennia. Wildfire area burned, size of large wildfires (>1,000 ac), and length of the fire season have been increasing in recent decades and these increases are at least partially attributed to the emergence of a new fire-climate era that is interacting with human-caused wildfire ignitions and logging related conversion of native fire-resilient forests to flammable tree plantations.
Proposals to radically increase logging of native forests to reduce “fuels” will not achieve their desired outcomes but instead may increase wildfire risks and impair the adaptive capacity of forests to respond to cumulative disturbances in a rapidly changing climate. Responsible wildfire management and climate change policies are needed to:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning while storing more carbon in forest ecosystems;
- prioritize vegetation treatments in “fire-sheds” closest to homes;
- redesign the built environment with wildfire safety in mind, including limiting ex-urban sprawl, and
- manage wildfires for ecosystem benefits under safe conditions.
Download the full paper
(photo: Pbjamesphoto/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0)