Author Archive

West Braces for Active Fire Season as Scientists View Most Fires as Ecologically Beneficial

Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientist; Geos Institute
541.482.4459 x302; 541.621.7223 (cell);

Ashland, Oregon, USA; May 7, 2014

Fire scientists released a new synthesis on the ecological benefits of large wildfires, including those that kill most vegetation in fire-adapted forests, grasslands, and shrublands of the western U.S.

Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of Geos Institute, stated “Contrary to popular belief, most large wildfires are not catastrophes of nature as many plant and wildlife species depend on them to restore habitat in short supply and to replenish soil nutrients. We can co-exist with wildfires by thinning vegetation nearest homes and in fire-prone tree plantations, and allowing large fires to burn unimpeded in the backcountry under safe conditions as they are ecologically beneficial.”

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, California, southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, southern Alaska, and Oregon could experience large fires this year given dry conditions. However, dry fire-adapted regions generally have experienced substantially less fires compared to historical times due to ongoing fire suppression. Suppression costs in some years have approached $5 billion with limited effects on slowing large fires that are mostly driven by weather events. The Forest Service already has signaled that it is likely to run out of wildfire suppression funds long before the end of the fire season.

Fireside Chat presents the latest science on wildfire’s ecosystem benefits, including 9 key findings, impacts of climate change, post-fire logging, and fire suppression, and ways to help homeowners prepare for fires. It includes links to fire videos and fire researchers. Its main purpose is to serve as an information tool for the press, decision makers, and land managers interested in the ecosystem benefits of large fires that have been under-appreciated. Related to the release of Fireside Chat is an article on the ecological benefits of large wildfires posted on “Counter Punch.”

Proposed mine by wild Smith River roils Del Norte County folks

The clear, flowing Smith River is a life force in the northern corner of California, where the locals keep a sharp eye out for threats to the pristine water and thriving fish. That would explain why the folk who live along the river in Del Norte County nearly jumped out of their britches when they learned about a proposed nickel mine along a major tributary of the Smith, the last major river without a dam left in the state.

A London mining company has applied to the U.S. Forest Service to begin exploratory drilling over thousands of acres of forest lands, including Baldface Creek, in Curry County, Ore., which flows into the Smith and helps maintain one of the most abundant natural salmon runs in California. <read more>

Why Large Fires are an Ecological Necessity

by Monica L. Bond, Chad T. Hanson and Dominick A. DellaSala in CounterPunch

This winter California suffered its most severe drought in decades, with record-low rainfall and meager mountain snowpack.  Drought, high summer temperatures, and wind together make the perfect storm for what some have termed “mega” forest fires that, in spite of fire suppression activities, sweep across the landscape and end only when winds die down and weather cools off.  The western U.S. may be facing another year of large fires, as these typically follow drought.  So why aren’t we, as wildlife and forest scientists, worried?

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Celebrating Earth Day, an intergenerational guide to the future

Guest Opinion in the Medford Mail Tribune

by Dominick A. DellaSala, Camila Thorndike, and Jim Furnish

One of us is a scientist, the next a young climate activist, and the third the former Siuslaw National Forest supervisor and Evangelical Environmental Network board member. What do we share in common?

Across three generations, we deeply respect nature, love our families, and are gravely concerned by the dramatic impact of carbon dioxide pollution that is triggering climate disruptions. We have each committed our lives to common-sense solutions for climate stability. 

Our lives are enriched by the natural world. Yet no matter where we go, from the magnificent temperate rainforests of Oregon’s coast to the distant reaches of the polar ice caps, we see the world changing dangerously fast. We read the chaotic signature of deforestation in Amazonia and the view above our own Rogue Valley, where clearcuts greatly outnumber the remaining mature forests.

Op Ed: Twenty years of the Northwest Forest Plan

by Jim Furnish and Dan Chu


Twenty years ago, the Northwest Forest Plan sought to resolve the timber wars. Has it worked? We think so.

It’s important to recall that gridlock plagued the Northwest during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The old-growth forest that once covered much of the region had been decimated by clearcutting and other logging, threatening the spotted owl and other wildlife. While many stakeholders demanded protections for the remaining forests, the shutdown of logging on federal lands left others facing an uncertain future. Out of this tense situation came the Northwest Forest Plan.

Call To Keep Intact Forests Free Of Roads


Kriton Arsenis, Member of the European Parliament, RoadFree Initiative, +32 22833537,

William Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University in Australia,

Dr. Dominick DellaSala, President and Chief Scientist, Geos Institute, United States, +541-482-4459 ext. 302,

Dr. Sean Foley, Fellow & Chairman of the Board, The Samdhana Institute, Indonesia, +62 811 199-7560, +856 20 5872-0379,

Dr. Barbara Zimmerman, Director, Kayapo Project, International Conservation Fund of Canada, +1 416 487 0879,

BRUSSELS – On the eve of the 2nd International Day of Forests on Friday, March 21st, scientists join MEP Kriton Arsenis in calling for an urgent response to the threats from road development to the world’s last intact primary forests.

Less than a third of Earth’s forests remain undisturbed by human activities. Road building, often driven by industrial activities, is one of the main causes of intact forest loss. RoadFree, an initiative by Member of the European Parliament Kriton Arsenis, was specially created to address this issue.

“95% of forest loss occurs within 50 km of a road. Scientific reports and satellite imagery have demonstrated road building is a major driver of deforestation from the Amazon to Indonesian and Congo Basin forests. Keeping our last intact forests free of roads is a cost-efficient way to protect the climate, halt biodiversity loss and keep illegal traffickers at bay”, says Kriton Arsenis. <read more>


Fire severity study challenges conventional wisdom on preventing all severe fires

by Chris Turner, Boulder Weekly

The message behind the results of new wildfire research is clear.  It’s time for a new approach to managing wildfire in the West.  The study, out of the Earth Research Institute of the University of California at Santa Barbara, says that in many areas, contrary to popular belief among fire managers, there is actually a deficit of the most damaging types of fires.

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Fire suppression threatens rare Pacific fishers

by Christi Turner, High Country News

The Pacific fisher, a small, carnivorous forest-dwelling mammal, is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act this year, and big wildfire could be to blame – or rather, the lack of it. Ecologist Chad Hanson’s recent research on the fisher population of the southern Sierra Nevada shows that the animals – aptly described as “the love child of a ferret and a wolverine” – actually seek out post-fire habitat, especially areas that have burned at higher severity, where most of the trees are killed.

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Northwest Forest Plan provides co-benefits to people and wildlife in coastal rainforests

   Dominick A. DellaSala,
Ph.D. Geos Institute, 541-482-4459 x 302
   Patric Brandt, Ph.D. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Garmisch
          Partenkirchen, Germany; Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany;
          +49 4131 677 1571;

Ashland, Oregon and Lüneburg, Germany – Scientists from the Pacific Northwest and Germany released new findings in the journal Biological Conservation documenting linkages between the richness of rainforest plants and wildlife and the provisioning of key ecosystem services in coastal rainforests of North America, particularly those managed under the landmark Northwest Forest Plan.

Study questions U.S. policy of forest ‘restoration’

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC.  202/628-6500

Western forests today experience fewer high-severity wildfires than they did more than a century ago, depriving some fire-dependent species and stifling biodiversity, according to a new study. The study challenges conventional wisdom held by politicians and the Forest Service that the West is experiencing an unnatural burst in uncharacteristic wildfires as a result of a century of wildfire suppression.


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