By Peter Aldhous, BuzzFeed News Reporter (Posted on November 20, 2018, at 4:36 p.m. ET)
Some of the news photos from the devastation in Paradise, California, show a surprising scene: Green, living trees stand near homes that have been reduced to ashes.
They reveal that wildfire is a capricious enemy, but also indicate that there’s more to preventing catastrophic loss of lives and property than the prescriptions offered by the president of the United States — whose tweets and public statements suggest that what California needs to do is hoard water, cut down trees to prevent fires spreading, and get busy raking.
While thinning forests might work in some areas, studies indicate that it’s unlikely to be an effective remedy for California or the West as a whole — and it would have done little to curb the state’s most destructive recent fires.
As BuzzFeed News reported in July, California’s escalating problems with destructive wildfires have been driven by a warming, drying climate, and a massive expansion of housing in what experts call the wildland–urban interface. This has not only put people in the line of fire but has also increased the chances of a conflagration — because power lines and other human infrastructure and activity are the main sources of ignition.
Keep reading at BuzzFeedNews.com
At the world’s first breeding centre in Langley, B.C., spotted owls are hatched in incubators, given around the clock medical care and hand fed euthanized rodents in a last-ditch effort to save the species from Canadian extinction. All the while scientists warn that the province has yet to recognize the endangered raptor as a symbol of our escalating failure to protect old-growth forests. Read the entire in-dept piece by Sarah Cox at The Narwhal.
DellaSala likened the spotted owl to the quintessential canary in a coal mine. The owl is an indicator of a “whole complex ecosystem with all the parts that are in jeopardy,” he said. “This is just one of the parts and it’s telling us we have not done a responsible job of maintaining the old-growth ecosystems upon which the owl and thousands of other species depend.”
Scientists express reservations about The Nature Conservancy’s Rogue Basin “fuels reduction strategy” that proposes to log/thin over 1 million acres of dry forests in southwest Oregon.
Read the full response here.
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 Dominick DellaSala, John Schoen and John Talberth
Originally published by the Juneau Empire, August 14, 2018
Alaskans are blessed with some of the wildest, most biologically prolific forests on the planet. Nowhere else is this more evident than the Tongass rainforest, the crown jewel of the national forest system. Unfortunately, the State of Alaska announced plans to team up with the Trump Administration to open up millions of acres to logging and road-based developments. This ill-conceived proposal would degrade the region’s pristine character and the foundation of a robust outdoor economy.
The Roadless Conservation Rule of 2001 protected over 58 million acres of the nation’s most remote places. It was the premier conservation achievement of its time that took years of careful deliberation, an unprecedented number of public meetings, over 1 million strongly (more than 95 percent) supportive public comments, and the backing of hundreds of scientists, all of who wanted the Tongass included.
While the Roadless Rule protects intact areas larger than 5,000 acres from logging, it has numerous allowances to include road connections between communities and other state highway projects, access to mining claims under the Mining Law of 1872, and access to utility corridors and hydropower projects. Some 55 projects within roadless areas in Alaska have been rapidly approved by the Forest Service. The Roadless Rule there fore is working in Alaska and plans to gut it are misguided.
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.
Comments submitted on August 1 to the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to help inform its legislative mandate (HB 5201) on the development of a statewide carbon policy framework, and to assist in presenting the best available science for forest carbon accounting. Read the full comments.
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?