Beyond smoke and mirrors

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.

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Roberts preps new draft bill for upcoming conference

Marc Heller, E&E News reporter

Originally Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2018 at E&E News

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said yesterday he aims to have a new draft farm bill ready by the time a House-Senate conference committee meets on the legislation next week.

The Kansas Republican told reporters the top four lawmakers on the House and Senate agriculture committees discussed the 2018 farm bill on a conference call yesterday, as they try to iron out differences on nutrition, conservation and other aspects of the five-year measure.

The 2014 farm bill expires at the end of September.

"I think that went well," Roberts said of the discussion with Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

Asked whether he expects to present a draft conference report to the panel at its first meeting Sept. 5, Roberts said: "That's the goal. We're not there yet. More meetings and more phone calls."

With the expiration of the current farm bill looming, and midterm elections weeks later, pressure is growing on the Republican-led Congress to complete a bill before a potential flip of the House to Democratic control.

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Klondike fire crews brace for 'long fight ahead'

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.

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Re: Open Statement to the Trump Administration

Date: August 16, 2018

At the Geos Institute, we take seriously the statements made by Secretary Ryan Zinke that Americans concerned about timber harvesting on public lands are “environmental terrorists.”

Like so many of our fellow Americans, we explore, fish, hike, recreate, and enjoy our public lands. We are parents, homeowners, scientists, and everyday people working to advance social and ecological causes using the public processes our democracy was founded upon.

People advocating on behalf of the environment have cleaned up our air and water and prevented irreparable harm to ecosystems across our nation. Public lands are a key part of our children’s inheritance and we are proud to defend them against ill-conceived management and resource extraction.

We do not employ violence or the threat of violence in our efforts to protect the public lands that provide essential services to our communities. We deplore the use of violence because it is immoral to harm, or threaten to harm, others in the course of advocating for a particular action.

Unfounded verbal attacks like those from the Trump Administration violate the fundamental basis of our democracy – the idea that we can passionately debate issues in the public sphere freely without fear of harm. They impede our ability to work proactively in our communities on fire preparation – the very activities that protect homes, lives, and livelihoods.

The comments made by Secretary Zinke create a wedge where there is no need to have one and put Americans at risk of violence and misdirected retaliatory actions. Addressing climate change and its effects on wildfires is a complex endeavor, one that requires people with level heads to work together. Rhetoric like this gets in the way of real solutions and moves us backward. We expect and deserve better from our leaders.

As always, we stand ready to work with the Administration on proactive community protection from wildfires and we ask that administration officials refrain from statements that could lead to violence in our communities.

Keep the Tongass wild and roadless

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. 

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