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There is actually a large body of scientific information, from scientists who actually understand forests, insects, fire ecology and why houses burn in wildfires. You wouldn't know it from reading the media though, or reading some of the stuff posted here, either.

Here are some of the basics ....

First, let's hear from the US Forest Service (USFS - emphasis and numbers mine):

[1] Forest conditions susceptible to mountain pine beetle infestation in pine forests were recognized by Forest Service personnel as early [2] as the mid-1990s. These conditions were noted as the rationale for vegetation treatments in Purpose and Need statements for disclosure documents required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). [3] In the 1990’s, vegetation treatments in lodgepole pine stands that would have increased resiliency to drought or insect attack (timber sales and stand improvement projects such as thinning) lacked public acceptance. These practices, which increase growth rates and vigor of individual trees by reducing competition, were routinely appealed and litigated. This hampered the ability of the Forest Service to address stand conditions susceptible to outbreak.

[4] Moreover, people were skeptical about the potential spread of the insects. Many did not believe, looking at green trees that had been attacked by bark beetles, that they had actually been killed. That realization came a year later, when the trees turned red.

[1] starts with "Forest conditions" - not climate change, not logging, not whatever your pet theory is, but forest conditions. What conditions? Lots of lodgepole pine in the range of 60-120 years old, where beetle-caused mortality is high. In this diary there's a link to a statistic that states that 87% of Colorado's lodgepole pine are over 80 years old. Beetles look for pines in that age range because a) they have enough sap wood (the outer wood just under the bark) to support beetle lifestyle and b) older trees are less able to fend off a beetle attack, especially in the high density stands where most beetle kills have occurred. On young trees with less sapwood, beetle tunnels that start by going through the bark come back out through the bark on the other end, which in beetle terms is a massive fail. Forest age, the lack of a distribution of ages, the ecology of lodgepole pine and lodgepole pine forests, and a century of fire suppression alone were sufficient to create the conditions for a massive beetle epidemic. Climate change didn't help, but it's not the sole or even dominant cause. It made the situation happen sooner, but Colorado forests would have reached this point, or even worse (more time for trees to fall, fuels to build up), without it.

[2] "mid 1990s" really should be 1980s and [3] "lack of public acceptance" killed programs that far back. I don't have the links and can't find them at the moment, but it really was that far back. Beetle problems have been studied since the late 1940s, mitigation strategies were known in the 1970s, and the "forest conditions" were also well known - people didn't do all that work back then in anticipation of climate change. They did it because beetle epidemics have always been around given the right conditions.

[4] "Moreover ..." - the foliage on beetle-killed trees turns a lighter shade of green when the beetle infestation takes hold. By then it's too late to do anything but cut the tree down. By the next summer, the needles all turn a dark orange or red. Then the needles fall off the tree, adding easily ignitable fuel to the forest floor. The loss of needles opens the canopy, allowing more wind-caused drying and more sunlight to cause grass and brush to grow, increasing fire fuels. Eventually, the tree trunk weakens and the tree snaps, often 6 to 15 feet above the ground. The tree now on the forest floor is even more fuel on the forest floor for the next fire than the standing dead tree was.

The "lack of public acceptance" is a euphemism for "USFS got a lot of complaints and lawsuits about trees being cut down", which is a well-studied, proven succesful method for reducing beetle mortality (cutting down some trees that is - not lawsuits - to about 240 lodgepole per acre;   see for example, The Mountain Pine Beetle: A Synthesis of Biology, Management, and Impacts on Lodgepole Pine which will tell you everything you want to know about pine beetles).

And the unaccepting public was not a) USFS "ologists" and fire managers, b) timber companies, c) climate change deniers, or d) the people who wrongly believe that logging solves every forest and forest fire problem (it would have solved this one though, right up to a few minutes before the first fire was ignited). You're free to speculate on what groups that leaves as responsible. Politicians is certainly one large group. People who don't like trees being cut down and oppose every kind of logging - what label might you apply to that group?

Sure, warmer winters might cause more beetles to survive (the larvae can live to -40C which by coincidence is also -40F, and my guess is that Colorado, at most altitudes, commonly has at least some winters that fail to get that cold for long enough). It's more likely that drought has increased beetle numbers because it weakens tree defenses (which rely on sap, which needs adequate water) allowing beetles to breed more successfully and only once (beetle epidemics are less likely when weather leads them to do another breeding cycle).

I'll just repeat again what I've pointed out in other diaries: climate change can be a factor in forest fires, but the state of western US forests and the kind and frequency of fires would be more or less the same even without climate change. Putting up windmills and driving electric cars does not improve or change the "forest conditions" noted above, for example. Which is not to ignore climate change, but if that's the only song you know, you're ignoring other major environmental problems, which most everybody is.

This is not a "nobody could have predicted" scenario, because people did predict and knew how to prevent it or at least reduce the severity - 25 years ago - which might have kept the fires away from highly populated areas at the very least. If you read the entire USFS article linked above, you'll find they were (finally) doing remediation - they had 18% of the acreage in the "Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI)" complete (the WUI is any place forest meets residential structures, even in rural areas). Apparently the 18% complete was not around Colorado Springs though.

By now you think I'm making shit up, maybe I'm a secret climate change denier, or just a little nuts. These people are talking about Arizona, but they're talking about a lot of the same things:

or this shorter video directly addressing climate change and wildfire (Dave Peterson - the scientist cited - contributed to the IPCC, among other credits):

Another topic is the huge loss of homes in these fires - over 600 if I'm viewing the numbers correctly (260 in the High Park Fire and 360 in Colorado Springs, I believe). People blame the lack of aircraft or other resources, or the wingnut government of Colorado Springs for cutting firefighter numbers and budget. Probably not, because it isn't flames that cause most houses to burn. 85% to 90% of homes or more could survive a crown fire (the most intense type) if prepared according to FireWise recommendations. California mandates this, and l'm pretty sure lost fewer homes, certainly fewer on a percentage basis, with larger fires of the same intensity in the last few years.

Here's why flames or the intense heat aren't the major worry in structure survival:

The presenter is Jack Cohen, the USFS researcher and physicist who quite literally wrote the book on structure survival. Here he is discussing preventing home ignitions.

Here's the tipoff from some recent news stories (sorry, no links, they were on AP or Reuters, I believe). One guy in Colorado Springs was discussing hosing his roof before he had to evacuate and lost his home. You don't hose fireproof roofs like composition shingles or metal roofs. You hose shake shingle roofs, because they're virtually guaranteed to ignite in a serious fire.

Another woman in Estes Park reported watching her deck ignite from underneath - decks should be screened so embers can't blow underneath and flammable materials, like pine needles or dry grass, shouldn't be under them in the first place.

Home ignitions are most often due to the combination of embers and some property of the home itself - a shake roof, firewood stacked near a door or near the home, pine needles in gutters or below siding, or dry vegetation too close to the house (within 30 feet). Calculations show that a home can resist a crown fire at 100 feet; experiments and actual fire data show that most often a home can resist a crown fire at 30 feet, with maybe a little scorching. But actual events show that embers can ignite shake roofs as far as 3 miles from the actual fire.

When you build a home in a high fire danger area, you have a responsibility to maintain that property in a condition that maximizes its survivability when a fire comes through. Fire is a natural and necessary part of those kinds of ecosystems, and paradoxically the more you suppress fire, the more severe the fire will be when it occurs. And it's always "when".

And if you believe climate change will cause more or larger fires, then you have an even greater responsibility to ensure your property can survive those fires, and to educate others to do the same. You can't say "nobody could have predicted ...".

Originally posted to badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  bookmarking this and saving. (19+ / 0-)

      thank you for this diary - it can't be said enough that homeowners need to do mitigation around their property if they want to protect it.

      the oakland hills fire that destroyed so many homes and lives was a perfect example of not building fire perimeters.  now, in california there are laws regarding property mitigation - laws that are routinely ignored by homeowners who think it can never happen to them.

      •  Check the Firewise link (7+ / 0-)

        They codify all of the research, and I believe that's what CA law is based on.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:07:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks, badger - i have bookmarked firewise. (5+ / 0-)

          i'm not in a fire zone personally, but i am involved in the large animal evacuation program here in norcal - my area is highly wooded with narrow roads.  i'm trying desperately to come up to speed on this and to put information together to give to the folks with homes/horses in this area BEFORE there is a major disaster.

          in june of 2008, i suddenly got desperate to move my horse from where he was boarded... to the point of borrowing against my paycheck, frantically calling around to hire a trailer and find a new location nearer work.  24 hrs after i moved him, the trabing fire was started by car exhaustfrom a driver that likely never knew what happened.

          i got sani out - the next day the fire started - and backed up to the property where he had been.  sometimes i am really grateful for being psychic.

          now, he is in a safe zone - with fire contingency plans.  and i am working with a group of volunteers in santa clara county to make sure we can get to animals that may be in the line of fire.  we have wonderful liaison reps from the fire department who are at every meeting, they ensured we were invited to the wildland fire drill held recently and are making sure the community is aware we are there.  now, what we need are more volunteers!

          •  Participation like that is what's needed (4+ / 0-)

            It makes people aware of their surroundings, what the problems are, and what can be fixed.

            When we did our Community Wildfire Protection Plan meetings (which is a formal process with a legislative basis), Forest Service people and DNR people came in to help us on their own time, and eventually took us on tours in the National Forest to demonstrate how various concepts looked or worked out in previous fires.

            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

            by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:39:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yesterday, at the LAEvac meeting, i was surprised (4+ / 0-)

              to find some of the members actually critical and resisting when i asked our fire liaison if there were materials they had regarding mitigation for home and property owners.  

              the fire liaisons, however, immediately gave me links and people to talk to about preparing information to share with those in my area.  

              i strongly hope that our "services" are NEVER needed - that i NEVER have to go out on a rescue - and what i really hope is that by helping the landowners and horse and home owners to be better prepared, we won't be needed - that they will have prepared and taken the necessary steps to keep themselves, their animals and homes safe!

              prevention - that is what i am taking away from your diary.  action and direct involvement save lives (both human and other) and property.

              as the last video in your diary shared - waiting until the disaster is upon you is too late to prepare!  by taking proactive steps before one strikes, we can help mitigate the damages!

              again, thank you for this diary!

      •  Many people in Conifer, CO (7+ / 0-)

        did all the recommended preventive actions mentioned in the article above, and they still lost their homes in the recent fire, a fire that began with a "controlled burn."  The property mitigation (vegetation removal) you speak of in California is incredibly damaging to the environment, especially in non-urban areas, and often not effective.  Furthermore, in arid climates, if you plant water needy exotics in the place of natives, you are increasing the unproductive use of water, already a scarce resource.

        The nub of the problem in Colorado, and California as well, is that residential construction is booming in areas where the homes are at risk from wildfire, regardless of mitigation or proper construction.  The Denver Post had a long article on this within the last week.  It's our equivalent of people building on the beaches in hurricane prone areas.  It's not a matter of if, but when there will be damage to the home or the home will be lost.  The DP also pointed out that something like 40% of the US FS budget now goes to fire fighting, up from a very small percentage several decades ago.

        Finally, although fires start naturally from lightning, human caused ignition is more common, deliberate or not.  So, with increasing population, ignition sources increase as well.

        •  That's mistaken on several fronts (13+ / 0-)

          First, Firewise is more than just vegetation removal. Look up Firewise (link in the diary) or view the last two videos in the diary for more info - this diary isn't meant  to be a full blown treatise on structure survival.

          Second, you don't need to remove vegetation - you need to eliminate fuel ladders. You don't need to plant "water needy exotics", since natural things like native bunch grasses, willow, Oregon grape, wild rose, ocean spray, and other dry forest ecosystem species will do just fine. They may need some maintenance.

          If planting exotics is someone's idea of Firewise, that pretty much invalidates the entire claim about Conifer, CO - that isn't what they implemented. As stated at the beginning of the diary, I wouldn't believe a media-provided story about any of this, as the media has proven totally clueless on the issues.

          In high density housing areas (like subdivisions), people are going to maintain lawns anyway. It's not something I favor, but it provides a perfectly good buffer for the 30 feet of home ignition zone protection, which is what you really need.

          Lastly, I live in a high fire danger area that has repeated large fires much more frequently than Colorado has historically. We generally don't lose homes to fire, unless the home is immediately adjacent to the point of ignition. It's true we have a lower population density, but even our subdivision dwellers were active participants in our Community Wildfire Protection Plan process, and made the best use of grant moneys generated from that process.

          The statistics on fire are that human-caused ignitions are somewhere around 75% of all fire starts. 97% of fire ignitions (including most, but not all, human starts) are extinguished before they reach something like 10 acres in size - human caused ignitions are primarily in places where fight fighting humans are nearby.

          Lightning ignited fires are a smaller percentage of total starts, but account for 75% of acres burned in most years. Even most lightning strike caused fires are put out quickly - we've had one within a mile of our house each of the last two summers, doused by helicopter water dumps. It's the late-detected starts in back-country that most often are either left to burn intentionally, or can't be contained before they reach significant size.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:34:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In San Diego County (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, Nulwee

            in some fire districts, natives higher than 12 inches were forbidden in the immediate perimeter of the home.  Even California poppies!  Irrigated exotics replaced native plants, almost exclusively.

            The mother of one of my former grad students was evacuated from the Conifer fire.  I have direct knowledge from this family, as well as familiarity with their home and neighborhood.

            I'd take you a lot more seriously if you'd get off your high horse and quit preaching.

            •  Good work, Badger. (13+ / 0-)

              Yes, HotR has reasonable points to make, but Badger has the salient ones. Mistakes - such as exotics in place of native, fire-resistant, and fire-retardant species - have been made by developers, by home owners, and by agencies.

              Firewise principles save homes in many cases in the Pacific NW (e.g., a big wildfire in the Okanagan region a few years back that left charred sticks in the forests, but by-passed the ranch homes and barns). The fires that we're seeing in the eastern Rockies, though, are 'jackpotted' by dead Lodgepole.

              I have a cousin who lives north of Fort Collins whose roofs were covered by quarter-sized pieces of charred bark, when the fire was 15 miles away to the west. By the time these pieces fell on her place, they were merely warm; but I guarantee that glowing pieces were falling nearer to the fires.

              A friend of mine retired as the District Silviculturist on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest about 9 years ago. He was warning the Ranger several years before that the Gotchen area should be thinned to fight the Pine-Bark Beetle that was beginning to invade. No action. Three years ago, we had the Cold Springs fire. It blew up to over 8,000 acres in about 2 days. The wind - fortunately - was coming from the west. It blew the fire up against WA DNR, private, and Yakama Nation timberland, where they all had been thinning to thwart the beetle. Fire went to ground, where it was easily suppressed.

              The Arizona fires last year are another perfect example. The areas that survived were primarily and clearly the stands that were thinned in the White Mountains Stewardship projects.

              The word that we use for the folks that don't want to see any trees cut is 'preservationist'. 'Preservationist' works as a label, because there is no preservation in nature, which is a dynamic system. As for the rest of us, we are almost all environmentalists.

            •  I'll get off my high horse and stop preaching (8+ / 0-)

              when people quit pretending that 2 million acres of dead trees wasn't preventable and still isn't worth dealing with, and people learn how to survive in high fire danger areas without losing their homes and threatening the homes of their neighbors and risking the lives of firefighters.

              Apparently the failure of Firewise is now down to one personal anecdote of yours. I have three neighbors who followed those practices and survived the 1994 fire here (before I built), so I lead in anecdotes 3 to 1. And I can still cite quality scientific research to support my position.

              It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

              by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:16:50 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  did you watch the 2000 video by the (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, foresterbob

          fire researcher?  he explains exactly what mitigation does and why it works.

          it has to do with the combustion point of fuel and how the contact of fuel to the home (fuel) is made.

          watch it - it is superb!  

          the fire spread from embers onto combustible services (or under) has a great deal to do with homes lost.  when fuel is against the home, the chances of losing that home increases.  

          again, watch the last video.

          as for homes on the beach, in the south, many homes survive the storms because of "mitigation" - homes on stilts that allow water to flow underneath the homes, etc.  

          also, these beachfront cottages are not built as mcmansions - they are built with knowledge that they may be lost.  it is when mega-mansions are sitting on the sand that extreme damage occurs.

          the funniest beachfront story we ever watched down at nags head was the multiple storied hotel right on the sand.  the first year, they had not one, but TWO parking lots - separated by a nice channel of water.  the old biblical adage of not building on the sand has a serious understanding of  engineering and consequences behind it!

          go read firewise, as bager suggests.  and watch that 19 minute video.  i think you'll better understand the issues.  that the denver post wrote an article doesn't mean the reporter writing it understood all the issues involved.

          personally, i trust the firefighters and fire researchers who put their lives on the line fighting these things when i want to understand how fires work.

    •  Thank you! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfdunphy, Bud Fields, ban nock, badger

      For this outstanding and educational post on wildfires.

    •  badger's braver than me. (24+ / 0-)

      I was going to write a diary like this, but I've been so busy with the season that I haven't had time to write a diary that wouldn't. piss. everything. the @#$5. off.

      "Climate change" has become the lazy man's answer to ecology.  The forests are screwed up.  Monoculture forest stands, too thick, that were never meant to remain this dense, with decades of fire suppression, are a disaster waiting to happen.  You're not going to have a lot of old growth, spotted owl habitat if the forest burns down. Food for thought.

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:51:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Would only we respond (9+ / 0-)

        to "natural" disasters like this with a drive to restore the land to its natural dynamic behavior. Restore marshes and beaches such that natural moderate erosion and flooding happen; at least do controlled burns that emulate natural cycles. With things like invasive species, it seems like we're too far gone... What're we going to do, re-locate New Orleans? Put the whole city on stilts? Recently, in San Diego:

        The City’s Plan for Sunset Cliffs Erosion: Install Pipes Through Cliffs, Install Drains at Base, and Dye Hillsides
        by FRANK GORMLIE on JUNE 29, 2012
        OB Rag

        Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

        by Simplify on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:36:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's a lot to be said for (13+ / 0-)

          working with rather than against nature, but, for instance, cutting down some woody brush isn't necessarily a lot different than it burning in a natural fire.

          Invasives are a big problem. This time of year I carry a pair of gloves on walks so I can pull out knapweed (it leaves sticky stuff on your hands, otherwise).

          I've been thinking though - we burn small areas in the spring, just after the snow is out, with a blowtorch on a propane tank. It really makes some things come back beautifully, like some of the bunch grasses, and gets rid of pine needle accumlations near the house.

          But I don't think that invasives like knapweed and cheat grass are fire adapted (they're annuals, but re-seed prolifically), so I think burning them before our burn ban goes on (Memorial Day) might be a nifty way to get rid of them. Some herbicides work, but I'd like to try burning them out (safely, of course).

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:14:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I took a LOT of heat here when I suggested (11+ / 0-)

          that New Orleans was a doomed city.

          It still is. Subsidence, a failure to allow periodic flooding to replenish the ground, massive pumping underneath, and an ever encroaching Gulf.

          NoLa used to have a strategic value, both in revolutionary war, and our most (un)civil war, but keeping it alive just for music and food is most unwise and eventually, a waste of money.

          I was hoping that the last storm would not park over NoLa, for that would have shown just how bad the new pumps were, how poorly built the new dikes were, and how susceptible the city is to massive losses. Again. Luckily, it drenched Florida instead.

          What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

          by agnostic on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:19:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Nah, we would respond well to you (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jrooth, badger, Nulwee

        You would write it in an understandable way, supported by science, with a less confrontational approach.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:03:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nope - I think the bloviation on climate change (7+ / 0-)

          as a cause for everything, and the ignoring (and ignorance) of other pressing problems requires confrontation. The climate change claims, like tying in earthquakes and volcano eruptions, often lack anywhere near the amount of substantiation this diary includes. And unfortunately, that even extends to some peer-reviewed papers.

          I've written nice little diaries explaining some feature of fire or forest ecology, and they often get 3 comments and maybe 10 reads.

          Whether I've made people comfortable, I think I've at least gotten them to think beyond dogmatic climate change-ism, or provided some support to people who already drift that way.

          Climate change is real, it's been going on for years, it's a serious problem, and solving wildfire issues would help mitigate it. It didn't cause the economic collapse (maybe the next one, though), or the Packers to lose in the playoffs last year.

          But problems in forests, totally unrelated to climate change in terms of causation, are real as well, and need to be dealt with.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:17:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks! (15+ / 0-)

    Thank you badger from this appreciative CO dweller.

    Your timely diary is packed with important facts everyone should hear before they spout off.

    "The better I know people, the more I like my dog."

    by Thinking Fella on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:49:36 PM PDT

  •  As a scientist, I really appreciate this diary (30+ / 0-)

    The lamestream media are especially lame in providing even the most rudimentary scientific facts about wildfires, wrapped in a distracting package of politics, human interest, social commentary, and self-aggrandizing ratings-gathering hype.

    Thank you for sharing this information with us.

    Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle. -- Woody Allen

    by cassandracarolina on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:55:56 PM PDT

  •  lodgepole pine fire regime (8+ / 0-)

    is infrequent, stand replacing, i.e. crown fire.
    Logging would have solved this problem?  Not necessarily.  Thinning and prescribed burning is a better solution, especially if it is ponderosa pine forests we're talking about, which is probably what was closest to the Colorado Springs WUI.

    Republicans - the party that wrecked America

    by ecologydoc on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:15:53 PM PDT

    •  2 million acres of dead trees (17+ / 0-)

      is a pretty large fuel load. Lodgepole isn't particularly amenable to prescribed burning, as it's not a fire tolerant species.

      There are a number of studies (in the Mountain Pine Beetle link) that show that reducing lodgepole density to 240 trees per acre or less is effective in limiting widespread beetle kills. By the time this was considered - first in the 1980s - tree sizes were already large enough that the distinction between thinning and selective logging would have been nil. But the mitigation efforts were abandoned due to "lack of public acceptance".

      And in fact in the 1970s, CO produced a lot of board feet of lodgepole lumber. By the 1990s that was down to next to nothing. Beetle kills were widespread at least 4 or 5 years ago, which would have allowed either logging of dead trees for lumber, or at least salvage for fire wood or pelletizing. And the beetle epidemic was already in full swing in BC - again, this wasn't a "nobody could have predicted" situation, except in the modern sense were everyone tries to evade responsibility for inaction in the face of obvious problems.

      Colorado Springs is only 1 of 11 fires burning in CO at the moment - High Park, for example, is in beetle-killed pine. However, thinning and controlled burns would have been the preferred solution in ponderosa (also susceptible to MPBs), and that wasn't done to a great extent either. It would have increased drought tolerance in that kind of forest, which is a dry forest type to begin with, but not successfully with high tree density.

      And the idea that just because crown fire stand replacement is the norm for lodgepole pine doesn't mean that that should be the preferred solution in WUI areas. Fire surrogates - like logging in the case of lodgepole - can achieve the same ends as actual fire with greater safety to residents. Or at least thin and remove ladder fuels so that fire intensity (and firebrands) is reduced significantly - which will still kill the existing forest and still enable lodgepole regeneration, which is mostly fire dependent in interior lodgepole.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:47:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed. (5+ / 0-)
      Logging would have solved this problem?  Not necessarily.  Thinning and prescribed burning is a better solution, especially if it is ponderosa pine forests we're talking about, which is probably what was closest to the Colorado Springs WUI.
      Since you're not saying logging is necessary a bad solution, under which conditions could logging be permissible or prudent?

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:52:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I heard a number (12+ / 0-)

    that 20% of Colorado homes are now in 'red zone' areas.  That is quite a few.  Of course more homes in red zone areas, the more homes will be lost.  

    My friends lost their home in the Four Mile Fire near Boulder a couple years ago.  They moved back in to their rebuilt one in May.  They did a lot more in terms of site and fire retardant building material.  Even though I think they learned some things from watching how the fire behaved as it came over the ridge right into their home, I don't think there is still enough education for those who choose to live in the mountains.

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:57:01 PM PDT

  •  Drove through (12+ / 0-)

    Rocky Mtn National Park a couple of weeks ago.   Amazing how much timber is dead standing pine.  Unless something is done I expect most of Front Range will burn over in the next few years.

  •  The problem with logging to thin forests is (18+ / 0-)

    how to do it right, and pay for it.

    In a natural fire regime ground fires kill many of the young trees, the gnarled trees, and the sick trees that aren't green enough to keep their foliage hydrated.

    A mature, healthy tree with a straight trunk will have thick bark and a well-hydrated cambium, and still be healthy even when the lower branches have died out of reach of a ground fire.

    Trees don't die of "old age" where the population favors younger individuals; it's actually the reverse. A mature tree is more likely to be around in 10 years than a young one.

    Think of the numbers like this; if there's, say, a 1% chance a seedling will live 3 years and get to be a foot high, once it does there's a 100X increase in likelihood it will live the next 3 years. Then there's a 1% chance a 1-foot seedling will live to be 10 feet high, but then a 100X increase in likelihood it will be there 3 years later. By the time you get to a mature tree, it has survived what killed hundreds of thousands of its peers.

    If you log/thin a forest, the larger, healthier trees are the most appealing to cut. But they're really the ones you should leave behind if you want a healthy forest.

    That might not be true in the specific instance of say, lodgepole pine stands, but it is certainly true for Ponderosas, which is what is burning around the edges of these populated areas in the foothills.

    •  Definitely (7+ / 0-)

      Standard logging practices - "high-grading" or taking just the big trees - don't improve forests, especially those with fire resistant tree species like ponderosa. Thinning also isn't sufficient - you also need understory burns or a lot of brush removal as a surrogate for that.

      Lodgepole pine aren't fire resistant, though, they aren't long-lived, they're susceptible to beetle-kill at 60 years old and up, and they need fire (mostly) to regenerate after fire kills an entire stand. They tend to grow in overdense stands and need thinning to extend their life.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:11:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Logging removes nitrogen (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        terrypinder, ban nock

        and other minerals from the ecosystem, but fire returns them to the soil.  There's no magic solution.

        •  That's a problem in wet forests (6+ / 0-)

          which are nutrient limited. Dry forests are limited in growth by available water long before lack of nutrients becomes a problem.

          High intensity fires remove everything from the soil, including nitrogen, mychorrizae, and most organic matter. On steep slopes they also remove everything that holds soil in place, leading to silting in streams at best and mudslides at worst.

          Logging isn't generally a solution to forest problems. Neither is a unnatural antipathy to logging.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:40:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am aware of all of this (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, JVolvo, Bud Fields

            I did some of my graduate work in an internationally acclaimed  fire ecology lab, although it's not my field.

            High intensity fires, from what I recall, are more a modern phenomenon that historic, when these systems evolved.

            As you undoubtedly know, many species are fire adapted and obligate post fire seeders.  They will eventually go, if there are no fires.  Over time, removal of organic material via logging will deplete the soil, which is why croplands require fertilizer.

            Dry shrub lands are nutrient limited, which is related to the lack of moisture for decomposition.

          •  but (0+ / 0-)

            where's the unnatural antipathy to logging?  I worked on a number of fuels reduction projects for the BLM, I never heard of any environmental groups opposing to any of them.

            The problem is that fuels reduction projects don't pay for themselves unless they're coupled with logging of mature healthy trees. Environmentalists do tend to oppose those.

            all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

            by happymisanthropy on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:46:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't keep a log (no pun intended) (0+ / 0-)

              but there have been lawsuits and campaigns against virtually every type of forest restoration activity. You  can see it in some of the comments in this diary, especially the ones that call me or others "timber industry goons'" or similar names.

              For this diary and the CO situation, read the USFS article that's linked. Keep in mind that in CO, the USFS was hesitant to remove dead trees until the public outcry over fire danger rose high enough.

              It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

              by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:50:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  bullshit (0+ / 0-)

                they aren't hesitant, they just aren't going to do it until they can couple it with a profitable commercial logging operation.  And removing the dead trees isn't profitable.

                all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                by happymisanthropy on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:53:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The USFS does a lot of unprofitable restoration (0+ / 0-)

                  work around here. They rarely do timber sales anymore.

                  I really can't say why they delayed remediation in CO, but they say "lack of public acceptance". I doubt you can say with any authority either, or you probably would have posted it.

                  I know a lot of good USFS people who don't deserve the cynical kind of comment you made. I also know one BLM forester who doesn't deserve it.

                  Didn't I make some comment about "unnatural antipathy to logging"?

                  It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                  by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:25:48 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  which means (0+ / 0-)

                    "the folks in the nearby subdivision don't want to see ugly slash piles under black plastic tarps."  But, sure, go ahead and blame environmentalists.

                    all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                    by happymisanthropy on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:56:30 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I have been where it's appropriate (0+ / 0-)

                      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                      by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:03:37 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  And the solution (0+ / 0-)

                        to building public support is to shut the public out of the process entirely.  That always works well.

                        all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                        by happymisanthropy on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 10:34:34 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  That's hilarious (0+ / 0-)

                          The biggest opponents of public involvement in forestry issues are the large environmental organizations. Just consider that they can only accomplish most of their goals through litigation, not legislation for starters.

                          Then look at large environmental group opposition to bills worked out with the involvement of local stakeholders and local environmental organizations by Tester for MT and Wyden for OR. Look at the way the large environmental organizations refuse to participate in local CWPP processes, but expect to exercise a veto over the final product of the process. Look up the history of litigation - literally hundreds of lawsuits - by large environmental organizations against the Quincy Library Group and resulting legislation and the planning it enabled.

                          Public support has nothing to do with "environmentalists", who are largely interested in fundraising and political power, and have little to do with actual improvement or restoration of forests.

                          And your attitude is typical of theirs, not of the general public's.

                          It is to laugh.

                          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                          by badger on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 11:37:38 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  well which is it? (0+ / 0-)

                            are these projects stopped by lack of public support, or by the nonexistent lawsuits?

                            The biggest opponents of public involvement in forestry issues are the large environmental organizations. Just consider that they can only accomplish most of their goals through litigation, not legislation for starters.
                            Public involvement in forestry issues began with NEPA.  Environmentalists INVENTED public involvement.  Which, I should point out, is legislation.
                            Then look at large environmental group opposition to bills worked out with the involvement of local stakeholders and local environmental organizations by Tester for MT and Wyden for OR.
                            Wait, are they getting their way through legislation or not?  You're admitting that environmentalists (who, combined, are a minority) are divided, but the fraction of them who want to completely ban logging are enough to thwart management in its tracks?  Evidence?
                            Look at the way the large environmental organizations refuse to participate in local CWPP processes, but expect to exercise a veto over the final product of the process.
                            September 2003: A GAO report (GAO-03-805, Wildland Fire Management) found that (1) federal agencies have failed to identify lands at risk of fire; (2) federal agencies have failed to make community fire protection a priority and (3) the main reasons fuel reduction projects could not proceed were due to the weather and the diversion of fuel reduction funds to fight wildfires. The report also found that opposition was not a leading factor in slowing fuel reduction projects: "While the issue of formal public resistance, such as appeals and litigation, has recently been contentious, only a few local land unit officials we visited indicated that this type of resistance had delayed particular fuels reduction treatments.”
                            I don't know about the particular CWPP you're talking about, but if a program intended to deal with urban-rural interface is dragged miles into the back country I can see how some people might object to it.
                            Look up the history of litigation - literally hundreds of lawsuits - by large environmental organizations against the Quincy Library Group and resulting legislation and the planning it enabled.
                            Hundreds?  Links please.  GAO finds ~ ten per year for fuels reduction projects nationwide.
                            Public support has nothing to do with "environmentalists", who are largely interested in fundraising and political power, and have little to do with actual improvement or restoration of forests.
                            so... which is it?  Is it "lack of support" that's stopping these projects, or is it the fucking treehuggers?

                            Or is it the fact that there's no funding for these programs, so the forest service has to fund them by clearcutting healthy trees, and that's what the environmental groups are objecting to?  

                            And your attitude is typical of theirs, not of the general public's.
                            My attitude is based on the fact that less than 10% of fuels reduction projects are subject to lawsuits, the fraction actually blocked by lawsuits is closer to 1%.

                            My attitude is a reaction against ugly misrepresentations that blame the wrong people for what is going on in our forests.

                            My attitude is based on the truth.  There are not large numbers of fuels projects being blocked by environmentalists.  There are large numbers of fuels projects waiting for funding.

                            I hate lies, even if they're lies that a majority of people believe.

                            It is to laugh.
                            Yes, you already know the answers so the idea of examining the facts and reconsidering is laughable.  Ha ha ha.  

                            all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                            by happymisanthropy on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 02:28:53 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  If you want to rest on the laurels of (0+ / 0-)

                            people like David Brower, Howard Zahniser, and Gaylord Nelson, Frank Church, Stewart Udall, and Henry Jackson, who passed the legislation you're talking about, feel free.

                            NEPA passed in 1970, most of the other significant legislation passed in LBJ's first term. Outside of adding some wilderness and national monument acreage, environmental groups have passed essentially zip in the forest and wildlands area since. You won't even find policy positions on most of their websites easily - without a search, for example. It isn't their priority any more.

                            You want evidence? Follow the links in the diary, look at my previous diaries - you've posted nothing but unsubstantiated claims the few times there's been any meaningful comments in your posts. Do your own research.

                            I know some answers because I've worked locally on forest issues and spent a lot of time discussing them with a lot of the people involved - the kind of people who are doing the hard work, that you like to insult in the comments above.

                            You're welcome to have the last word - I don't find discussing this with you useful, as you haven't much to contribute.

                            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                            by badger on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 04:30:36 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Your expertise in fire science, (0+ / 0-)

                            however relevant to the topic, does not entitle you to make up things like "hundreds of lawsuits."  But, hell, let's see.

                            From your own fucking link, the very next paragraph:

                            Funding for pre-commercial and commercial thinning to reduce green tree stocking was extremely low for
                            the decade leading up to and including the outbreak.   As the infestation progressed, appropriated funds
                            did not keep pace with the outbreak sufficiently for Region 2 to take early measures to effectively detect
                            and remove infested trees (brood trees) or to thin stands of lodgepole pines ahead of the predicted beetle
                            infestation expansion (see Appendix 2).
                            In other words, even if there were no opposition there was no money to make it work.  
                            Authorities to Remove Trees
                            Authorities available to the Forest Service to manage forests were developed in the post-war period (1960s 10
                            and 1970s) for “normal” environmental conditions and “business as usual.”
                              They are based on the assumption that the wood products available for removal have enough value to cover the cost of removal,
                            pay for reforestation, and still return money to the U.S. Treasury.
                            Current conditions are far from the “normal” conditions under which these authorities and regulations
                            were promulgated.  Today stand mortality far exceeds stand growth; current estimates are that over six
                            million acres of forests in Region 2 have some level of insect-caused tree mortality.  Dead standing trees
                            and most green standing trees in the Colorado and Wyoming outbreak area have little or no commercial
                            value due to size, condition, accessibility or marketability.        In fact, they have negative value because they
                            must be removed at a cost.
                            The obstacle is the fact that these projects don't pay for themselves, and nobody else wants to pay for them.  Isn't that exactly what I said from the beginning?

                            You omitted all the facts except the ones you could use to blame the people that you hate.  That isn't honest and it sure as fuck isn't science.

                            According to the GAO, 98% of forest service fuels reduction projects are not litigated.  If somebody offered evidence that I was 98% wrong on something, I would at least look at their argument.  But I'm not you.

                            all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                            by happymisanthropy on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:21:57 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  and no, (0+ / 0-)
                            Do your own research.
                            I don't feel the need, actually.  I'll take their word for it.
                            In conducting our review, we administered a Web-based survey to all 108 national forests that issued decisions that involved hazardous fuel reduction activities in fiscal years 2006 through 2008. The survey was used to gather information about each of the decisions, including the type of environmental analysis used, acres involved, treatment methods and contract types used, the extent to which the decisions included activities in the wildland-urban interface and inventoried roadless areas, and specific information about decisions subject to the predecisional objection process. We obtained a 100 percent response rate from the national forests. To gather specific details about appeals and litigation of decisions with hazardous fuel reduction activities, we conducted semistructured interviews with officials in each of the Forest Service’s nine regions. For both the Web-based survey and the semistructured interviews, to test the accuracy and reliability of the responses provided by officials, we verified the accuracy of a random sample of responses by comparing them with decision documents and found that the information was sufficiently reliable for our reporting purposes. Appendix I provides details on the scope and methodology of our review. Appendix XII includes a copy of the survey sent to national forests.
                            The person who cites "hundreds of lawsuits" without backing it up is telling me I should "do my own research."  Jesus.

                            all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

                            by happymisanthropy on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 05:32:05 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

          •  But do high-intensity fires... (0+ / 0-)

            necessarily cover 100% of the forest, or do they reach high temps in most areas but leave enough pockets of low-intensity burn for mycorrizae and seedlings to repopulate? In the Yellowstone fires, which were high-intensity fires, there were plenty of lodgepole seeds that weren't sterilized by the fire and began repopulating quickly. I'd imagine remnants of the mycorrhizal system would be left there too as seeds for a new system.

            But that aside, how quickly do mycorrizal systems develop from scratch - just from wind-blown spores? Sure, most of the dead vegetation that they thrive on is gone... but my understanding is that it only takes a couple months of vegetative growth with non-invasive native species that feed them to develop a new system; even a lot of annual species develop their own mycorrizal systems - even in vegetable gardens and pots.

            Invasive species are a big problem in the plains and lower foothills and my understanding is that they can inhibit mycorhizal development because they don't attach to the system and muscle out the plants that do. But the mountains here are still dominated by native species, and even major disturbances won't establish long-term populations of opportunistic invasive species because most of the invasive species here are plains species. There's a pretty stark boundary between the dry, alkaline clay soils on the plains and the acidic, rocky and moister soils in the mountains. The soil pH will be raised by the fire but I don't imagine that will tend to linger for decades - will it?

            I think that in CO the forests were already so heavily impacted by the beetle kill that the fire might do a bit of good. It will certainly kill off some beetles, and much of the area will be repopulated by fast-growing aspen trees that had been reported to be on the decline in the state 10 years ago. Plus, the grasses and vegetation that come in first will feed wildlife; there's definitely an unnatural shortage of meadows here because of fire suppression.

            I think the biggest problem with these fires is the loss of homes... that could be improved in part by better neighborhood planning that makes homes easier to protect in case of wildfire. And aside from those costs, keeping mountain towns developed in dense pockets rather than pockmarking the woods with homes provides better aesthetics, and it's better for wildlife corridors and allows for keeping larger areas undeveloped. But I doubt that the neighborhoods will be re-built any differently from how they already were.

            I'd venture to say that if the West wasn't so heavily populated by public lands that limit development, these fire disasters here would be much worse.

            •  Don't have data on soil sterilization (0+ / 0-)

              but I have some experience from brush burning and local fires. Fast moving surface fires start regrowing in a matter of weeks, small brush pile burns or slightly hotter fires in light to moderate fuels by the next spring. Big hot burn piles take years to re-establish vegetation, and invasives like cheat grass and knapweed prefer bare ground and tend to crowd out native plants.

              I think you have to look at Colorado in historical sequence. It was know by the 1980s that lodgepole has long fire return intervals and stand replacement fires and was largely even aged forest. It was also known that it's susceptible to beetles, especially at the age of most trees in CO, and that thinning dense stands (to about 240 trees/acre, which is still dense - 10X or more than what ponderosa or Douglas fire should be in dry forests) reduced beetle-killed trees and presumably beetle epidemics.

              So treatment could have made fires "patchier", less intense, and kept them away from residential areas.

              Even high intensity fires don't consume an entire forest. The Biscuit Fire, for example, was around 500,000 acres. A Wilderness Society analysis (no longer on line) indicated about 300,000 acres either didn't burn or burned a low intensity. I'd take that as a very crude estimate for most fires, although there's wide variability.

              But in CO, that means lots of dead trees are still around. And the fire acreages (which aren't that big in CO compared to other fires burning elsewhere right now) hardly make a dent in the 2 million acres of affected pine. This is far from over, although it may be moving more to the back country in the future, depending on the distribution of dead trees. Yellowstone was a successful fire because the entire landscape burned - CO is still somewhat in the fire suppression phase of fire policy (due to WUI problems, I suppose), although much better than the old 10 AM rule.

              All big fires tend to burn in a mosaic pattern, and there are some studies that indicate that treating forest in a mosaic pattern (not restoring every acre, but, again, patchy) is as good as 100% treatment. The trick is knowing which patches, I guess.

              The bottom line though, and this relates as much to climate change, given wildfire emissions, as it does to property protection, is that cutting trees in this case is a fire surrogate. You could accomplish the same ecosystem goals by removing the dead trees and then doing a controlled burn to germinate the cones.

              But somebody might make a profit, and humans would be intervening in nature - as if the original deforestation and reforestation of CO wasn't anthropogenic in the first place, and Amercian ecosystems weren't largely mediated by Native Americans long before Columbus. And those people living in proximity to forests need to be punished for that sin.

              Absence of management is still a management choice, and one that isn't beneficial in the case of forests, IMO. In other areas of endeavor, it would be called "neglect".

              It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

              by badger on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:31:04 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Pro-logging nonsense (2+ / 0-)

    Climate change contributed to the bark beetle epidemic, period. You can't cut down an entire national forest , although some have tried. To cut trees, you have to build roads,and roads increase fire risk by considerable margins. Most of the fires this year in the west were caused by man (especially idiots shooting guns). High road densities contribute to stream bed silting and unsecured habitat for grizzlies(one of the reasons why Colorado has none).

    Dead trees burn.

    This is the kind of diary I expect to see at a right wing blog, not on an enlightened site like this.

    Forest fires happen. Especially in droughts. To think you could save the forests from burning is merely a lesson in man's boundless ego and insatiable desire to try and control things he cannot.

    What we can do is properly manage the land immediately surrounding people's homes. And we start by not building homes in dry forests.

    •  Oversimplified nonsense (10+ / 0-)

      and ideological Robespierreism.

      Forest fires happen. Especially in droughts. To think you could save the forests from burning is merely a lesson in man's boundless ego and insatiable desire to try and control things he cannot.
      Forest fires like this wipe out everything with them: rare molluscs, ungulates, bears, rare plant populations.  These are extremely hot, anthropogenic fires caused by fire suppression and high fuels loads.  Natural wildfires these are not, and until you understand that you make climate scientists look bad with this nonsense.

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:56:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're right though that (7+ / 0-)

      development near national forests should be carefully managed.

      Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

      by Nulwee on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:56:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've provided support from scientists (15+ / 0-)

      and other forestry experts to support my claims. I'd like to see you do the same for your claims. You could probably locate the 2006 Westerling paper about fire and climate change, for example, which is junk science (Westerling is an economist by education).

      I didn't say climate change wasn't a factor in the beetle epidemic, but the endpoint - where we are now - would have been the same without climate change.

      Roads and anthropogenic fire starts are not the major problem with wildfire. It's true that something like 75% of fire starts are caused by humans, but humans start fires near where humans have built fire stations with well equipped fire fighters, and those fires are usually extinguished quickly. 75% of acres actually burned, on average in any given year, like the CO High Park fire, are lightning starts in back country where fires go undetected or are hard to reach before they grow.

      The purpose of restoring forests is not to prevent forests from burning (you obviously didn't watch the first video) - it's to allow fire to be re-introduced, after a century of suppression, into forests which can accommodate fire without being destroyed. That generally means low intensity fires in forests with short fire return intervals, like ponderosa/Douglas fir forests. It means preventing beetle epidemics and reducing the density of long fire return intervals, like Colorado's lodgepole forests.

      You won't find a diary like this on a right-wing blog, because, like you, most right-wingers are largely ignorant of forest and fire ecology, and while you seem to believe the invisible hand of nature will make everything alright, right-wingers share a similar dogmatic belief that god or the market will provide. Pretty much the Same Thing.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:19:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If only we could cut the forests to save them... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Heart of the Rockies, spaceshot

        Mother nature is doing what she has always done. These great forests did just fine without logging roads and chain saws. These montane ecosystems prospered for thousands upon thousands of years without focus group talk such as "common sense solutions".

        The ignorant ones are the people (usually working for or funded by resource extraction corporations) who think they can be cruising up in them thar mountains with this here chainsaw and save the day twenty years ago.

        Whenever nature delivers a big blow, you get  a certain contingent who fantasize about playing Freddy Forest Ranger:

        "If only we had our big tonka toys up in them thar woods, they dun wouldn't burn"

        "If only they dun let us log the hell outa this here place, we would dun saved it"


        You can cut all you want. It's still going to burn when it gets dry.

        Nature wins. We are ants scurrying before it. And so is this diary.

        Every time there's a big forest fire the timber industry releases their propaganda hounds to complain that they weren't allowed to log enough.

        Hows this for logging? 90+ % of the lower 48 is roaded, trailed and motorized. 99% of the northwoods old growth is gone. And here's a map of the last roadless areas in the country:

        Yeah if only we could cut down more trees and build more roads.  That's what we really need.

        •  actually (11+ / 0-)
          These great forests did just fine without logging roads and chain saws. These montane ecosystems prospered for thousands upon thousands of years without focus group talk such as "common sense solutions".
          native americans did prescribed burns all over North and South America. so, there's been a human hand in managing the ecosystem for about 15,000 years, or roughly the length of time there's been a human presense in the Americas.

          Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

          by terrypinder on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 05:09:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There's been analysis done (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            terrypinder, foresterbob, Bud Fields

            that shows these fires produced a patchwork of different aged stands and as a consequence generally didn't burn as extensively or as hot.  This view has been challenged, but I always understood it to be pretty much accepted by fire ecologists.

          •  They didn't build roads either (0+ / 0-)

            or wipe out a huge chunk of the native species. They simply mimicked what nature does with controlled burns.

            The problem with logging is you have to build roads. Road building is incredibly expensive and the single biggest potentiator  for destroying an ecosystem.

            There's a big difference between that and spending 1 Billion to carve out roads, which then silt salmon streams, and which then contribute to the decline of drinking water quality, grizzly bears, wolverine, and which then allow for transport of invasive species along cattle, ATV's, and cars, etc, etc. as you see, the cheapest and best way to manage the healthiest forest ecosystems in the country is just to leave them alone.

            There's nothing wrong with managing private timberlands for paper and wood. But leave the last, rare, roadless country alone. To suggest we would be better served by opening those areas to resource extraction is the exact position GWB takes, or Karl Rove, or Newt, or Mitch McCconnel. Yeah. Not a group I'd want to be associated with. And when people on DKos show up espousing those views, it needs to be stamped out like it would any other right wing talking point.

            After every big fire the timber industry comes out screaming that we need to log more on national forest land. It's like clockwork.

            •  Native American fire lighters did not simply mimic (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, terrypinder

              what "nature" does.  No "roads" may have existed but Native American trails provided access and played a key role in the Indigenous North American fire regime – the particular patterns in the frequency, intensity, severity, and spatial extent of fires. Travelers set fires along the trails to encourage the growth of favored plants in the meadows and forest. Setting fires along regularly traveled pathways allowed burners to spread fires into remote corners of their lands.  As Kent Lightfoot and Otis Parrish write about California:  

              a relatively modest-sized tribelet could have managed [a] region using fire ecology
              in part by
              employing multiyear rotational cycles for burning resource patches, [and] a relatively small population could have maintained a sequence of prescribed burns that would have kept resource diversity and productivity high.
              Native Americans encouraged a fire regime with a high frequency of low-severity small fires, producing
              a dynamic mosaic of ever-changing plant successions and communities even within the same basic vegetation type.
              These Indigenous burners were quite aware of their goals and of the results of their actions as they sustained specific cultural resources (not natural resources) in a way that "mimicking nature" could not. One way to look at it is that they did not so much work in harmony with nature as they sang a call-and-response song with it.  At any rate, they did not take a hands-off approach of leaving their land untouched.
            •  a book I recommend is 1491 (0+ / 0-)

              The natives didn't exactly live in harmony with the land. They built wide-reaching civilizations just like Europeans did.

              Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

              by terrypinder on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 04:20:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Anthropogenic effects have drastically changed (9+ / 0-)

          'nature' at this point.  It is no longer possible to just let 'nature take it's course' because, even in seemingly pristine and isolated systems, humans have altered the disturbance regime.  Each place has a particular type of disturbance - hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning-strike fires, floods, etc.  Without human influence, these each type of disturbance has a typical set of characteristics - size, frequency, what type of damage is done.  Ecosystem resilience research has demonstrated that ecosystems have co-evolved with the particular disturbance characteristics of each particular place.

          Change the disturbance regime, and the ecosystem won't be able to cope and at some point will experience a state change to a different ecosystem that is more in line with the new disturbance regime.

          In fire-dependent ecosystems, humans have altered the disturbance regime from frequent small fires that take out smaller trees and the dead remains of groundcovers (including invasive species) but leave the big trees and the roots and seedbank in the soil to massive, super-hot fires that kill everything and effectively sterilize the soil.

          What comes back after such a fire depends on what gets carried in, for example by winds or stuck in the dried mud on people's boots, including lots of invasive species.  What comes back is NOT what was there before.  Too often, the state change is from forest to non-forest.  In the dry west, where soils are thin, you can end up with rocky desert.

          Yes, climate change has the potential to exacerbate this problem.  But keep the time scales in mind.  The change in fire regimes has happened within the lifetimes of some of the people reading this post, the same time period during which the growth in the number of people on Earth in general, and in particular the number of people living in the wildland-urban interface, has skyrocketed.  THAT's the threshold that's been passed at this point.

          Badger is absolutely right - we didn't need climate change to get to this state, we humans did it all by ourselves.  Climate change is and will make this dynamic worse - more frequent droughts certainly aren't helpful, but it is not the most significant cause of the increased ecosystem damage being done by fires today.

          And if we want the average citizen to take climate change seriously, we need to be very careful to not cry 'wolf' and to clearly acknowledge what the science is telling us about what is and is not a result of climate change.  We need to be intellectually honest.

      •  You cannot prevent the beetle epidemic (0+ / 0-)

        It's just not going to happen, not with current technology.
        I really hope you aren't suggesting aerial spraying of pesticides, which would do more damage than any pine beetle.

        •  Pesticides are fairly useless (9+ / 0-)

          as the beetles and larvae are under the bark and largely unreachable.

          Again, if you took the time to learn something, you find that studies (see the Mountain Pine Beetle link in the diary) over 50 year periods have demonstrated that thinning lodgepole forests can reduce both epidemics and tree mortality in general.

          The timber companies you hate are smart enough to manage their forest lands to reduce both tree mortality and fire losses. It's the National Forests, whose management is influenced by people who believe in superstition instead of science, where most of the forest problems exist.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:25:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Timber companies may reduce mortality (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Gallatin, Bud Fields

            and fire losses, but they have a mega impact on ecosystems, water quality, etc.  Isn't logging implicated in the decline in salmon due to runoff from heavily logged slopes?  As just one example.

            •  Yes - logging practices are destructive (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie

              in many places, and just as much or maybe moreso on private lands than on public lands. I'm not generally advocating logging as a solution to forest problems, and where I would advocate it, I'd like to see significant improvements in logging methods and practices. In most places and most forest types, restoration should be carried out by the USFS or equivalent state organizations, although I'd still prefer to see the biomass removed utilized rather than simply destroyed.

              The fact that timber companies may eventually do destructive cutting doesn't alter the fact that their growing  practices in a lot of cases produce better quality forest and habitat than, say, wilderness areas which are left totally unmanaged.

              It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

              by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:51:37 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Can you provide citations (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                to back up this claim?  I seriously question that the entire ecosystem is better than that in undisturbed old growth forests.

                timber companies...their growing a lot of cases produce better quality forest and habitat than, say, wilderness areas which are left totally unmanaged.
                •  There's hundreds of peer-reviewed papers (5+ / 0-)

                  written by forest ecologists, not foresters, that support this claim.  However, just because a set of practices has been shown to produce ecosystem-positive effects doesn't mean that logging companies use these practices.  Thinning a stand of trees for the purpose of forest management is a VERY different thing than logging for the purpose of making the most money possible in the short-term.  Please don't lump anyone advocating good forest management in with those who want to 'mine' trees!!!  This type of knee-jerk reaction just showcases a person's lack of knowledge about a subject.

                  •  I think your reply (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Gallatin, Bud Fields, ban nock

                    was more to badger than to me.  He was the one who made the comment about timber companies producing better quality forest and habitat than unmanaged wilderness areas.  I have some familiarity with the literature and have never read that.

                    •  No, it was to you. There ARE some timber (6+ / 0-)

                      companies that use good forest management practices.  These companies have found that these ecosystem-friendly practices don't provide the same short-term profits but do maintain long-term forest productivity.  You may not have run across the peer-reviewed papers that talk about this, but I have.  I am a sustainability scientist, not a forest scientist, but I have colleagues who specialize in wildfire mitigation and response, and I have read many papers on this topic in the course of writing collaborative proposals.

                      It's really important to keep track of the complex causal relationships at play when looking at change in complex adaptive systems.  Any reductionist, simplistic view, whatever the underlying motives, will be WRONG.  Actions based on such a simplistic view will inevitably cause surprising and unintended negative consequences.

                      •  OK (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Gallatin, Bud Fields

                        Point me to some publication lists of peer-reviewed papers on how managed forests can be better than unmanaged ones, and I'll take a look.  I would assume that the size of the contiguous acreage is an important factor.  After all, forests managed themselves before humans became involved.  In my field I have not come across managed or restored ecosystems that were better than ones that took care of themselves.

                        •  Invasives are a serious problem now (8+ / 0-)

                          that was much less of a problem prior to human interference.  50 years of active fire suppression is an even larger issue - large forests that look perfectly fine are actually in a non-natural condition because for decades the USFS policy was to put out all fires, in all seasons, under all conditions.

                          I'm not at home right now, and so don't have immediate access to my list of papers.  (Ask again in a couple of weeks and I'll gladly send you a university course-worth of relevant papers.)  However, if you go to Google Scholar and use search terms like disturbance regime, resilience, forest management, selective thinning, and wildfire mitigation, you will find many papers that focus specifically on the need for ecosystem managers to mimic natural disturbance regimes to maintain ecosystem integrity, and how this applies to forest management.  These papers include examples of small forest product companies that are getting contracts from the USFS and other forest management agencies (including state-level agencies) to do fuel reduction, are selling what they remove for a modest profit, and how this is benefiting that particular ecosystem.  I've also read papers about small forest product companies that uniformly apply this type of ecosystem-based management approach to their logging practices and showing that ecysystem health is maintained as a result.

                          Basically, there is no ecosystem on Earth at this point that has not been impacted by humans.  Most of our natural lands in the US, including the big forests, have been significantly impacted, and not for the better.  If we don't actively manage natural areas now, utilizing the best available ecosystem science, those natural areas won't act as they did prior to human intervention - they are already different ecosystems.  We need to actively manage these important systems to help them maintain healthy ecosystems as they transition to a new dynamic stability.

                          For example, the Everglades will never again be the 'river of grass' that we read about - the nutrient chemistry and species composition of that ecosystem has irrevocably changed.  If we leave it alone, it will shift to an invasive-dominated system with low biodiversity.  The same thing will happen if we continue to try and get back to what it was like before human disturbance - it CAN'T return to that set of conditions.  What we ought to be doing is consider what a healthy, functioning ecosystem would look like GIVEN the changes that have already occurred, and to direct management actions towards that (hopefully!) achievable goal.

                          The same thing is true in our forests; the transitions are harder to recognize because trees live so long - the population of adult trees is a record of past conditions, whereas current conditions show in the population of younger trees and ground cover.

                          •  Hopefully I'll remember (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            kkbDIA, JVolvo

                            to ask in a few weeks.

                            BTW, invasives and their competition with natives is one of my primary research foci, but not in forest ecosystems.  My work is primarily with herbaceous species, mostly annuals.  So far as exotics invading native ecosystems, the horse went out of the barn over 150 years ago.

                          •  Can you point me to info on how to (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            badger, Bud Fields, edrie

                            manage a disturbed urban greenspace that has established invasives?  I belong to a small wateshed association that is trying to preserve nice greenspaces in a highly urbanized small watershed in the Piedmont of North Carolina.  We have purchased some riparian woodlands and a beaver pond (very rare in central NC).  Microstegium (japanese stiltgrass) is rampant anywhere there is sunlight, and the pond has Ludwigia (willow primrose) that has become fully established within the last 8 years.  We also have multiflora rose, japanese honeysuckle, etc.  Most of what I can find in the literature is focused on eliminating a new infestation of an invasive rather than what needs to be done to maintain a functioning ecosystem once the invasives are too well established to eradicate.  I haven't managed to find useful info about how to manage an urban greenspace for maximum ecosystem value over the long term.

                            Any info you can send me would be greatly appreciated!  I haven't been lucky enough to run into someone with your particular expertise since I started looking for this info.  (If you can send me a message via DKos, I can send you a real e-mail address.)

                            An exchange of citations would be a very nice (and unusual, I'm afraid) conclusion to a DKos discussion!

                          •  Composed a Kosmail message, (0+ / 0-)

                            hit send and got an error message.  I've used it before, so I don't know what the problem was.  How about you send one to me, and I will reply?

                          •  One more thing (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            kkbDIA, Bud Fields

                            Given the settlement patterns operating today, I don't think we're going to overcome or even ameliorate the fire suppression policy.  

                          •  Invasives are brought in by logging roads (0+ / 0-)

                            They attach to ATV's, vehicle undercarriages, livestock, etc.

                            Another reason why roadless forests are healthier off the bat.

                    •  Again, because it's pro-industry nonsense (0+ / 0-)

                      No ecologist in their right mind would ever say that.

                •  Where are the most severe fires? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  badger, Bud Fields, edrie

                  I could rest my case on the answer to that question, but let's look at the sedimentation question, too.

                  The Columbia River salmon runs all have seen major increases since about 1999, when the 3-year jacks returned. What happened in 1996? A 100-year rain-on-snow event that washed the smolts to the ocean - along with a helluva lot of dirt.

                  If you look for in-situ studies of the effect of sediment on anadromous fish, you ain't gonna find them. You will find lab studies in which such fish were subjected to various levels of silt, etc. in which they seemed to decline in health - by somebody's standards.

                •  I'll give you a personal anecdote (4+ / 0-)

                  My 20 acres was logged around 1988, partially burned in the 1994 Tyee Fire. We built in 1996. There was a Cat trail (fire line) east to west down the middle, so the south half was untouched, the north half burned.

                  The north half regenerated in snowbrush ceanothus ( a woody brush with serotonous seeds, millions per acre, component of chapparal). After about 5 years, it was reaching 8 feet tall. The south half wasn't heavily logged. It was smaller diameter trees - up to a foot dbh, maybe a few trees lacking lumber quality a little bigger.

                  The south half consequently was choked with ladder fuels - grasses, ocean spray, bitter cherry and a lot of small (under 6 inch) trees in the understory that were shaded and going pretty much nowhere.

                  We were lucky to have the DNR offer fire fighters to reduce our fuel loads for wildland fire fighting training and physical training (there are no state lands on our end of the county where they could do project work).

                  We ultimately got several tons per acre piled and burned cleaning up about half of the south half and 100 foot radius from the house on the north half. We also got about 3 cords of firewood.

                  Prior to thinning we almost never saw deer on our property, especially since the creek on the south border goes dry by the 4th (it died a few days ago this year). After thinning, there was more browse and more palatable browse for the deer, and we started seeing more at night, and a lot more sign in the woods. Now, I sometimes have to wait in the afternoon for deer to get out of the way in the driveway so I can park. From tracks and sign, we may have had elk this winter, too, which would be a first.

                  There is still plenty of dense cover for smaller critters or when deer want a little more privacy, plus a million acres of National Forest all around us. We also paid attention to providing habitat at different vertical levels, as the bird population needs that, including snags for cavity nesters to occupy and California quail to perch on top of. We've left ant-filled logs for bears, who have made use of some of them.

                  Where we thinned, we have more wildflowers, more variety of grasses and more biodiversity. Where we released small trees that were growing an inch or two a year,  50 to 100 took off and are now growing 2 to 3 feet every year (some of that is increased rainfall - climate change). That sequesters a lot more carbon than a woody brush like elderberry or willow, which is both smaller and considerably less dense than pine and Douglas fir. And those trees also are increasing in girth and foliage density substantially.

                  As the trees grow, they shade out more of the ceanothus, which isn't very shade tolerant, but because of the oils in the leaves is a serious fire hazard, and in turn shades out almost all competition. That leaves an understory which can accommodate fire more safely, with less intensity and lower flame heights.  

                  Some older trees are producing fewer cones, indicating less stress on them.

                  In addition, we can do small burns to reduce duff, pine needles, and I'm thinking for next year invasives, around the house.

                  And what we're doing isn't much different from the way Native Americans managed huge amounts of forest, primarily using fire, for thousands of years before Europeans even knew this continent was here. That's the historical regime that all American ecosystems developed under.

                  Except that Ted Turner owns most of the buffalo now.

                  As to "undisturbed old growth" - my comparison was to wilderness. Old growth is a successful, stable ecosystem in most instances. If you believe that's what most wilderness looks like, or will ever look like, you're mistaken.

                  It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                  by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:37:33 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Doesn't matter (0+ / 0-)

                    White-tailed deer are a mid-successional species. They're going to show up after a forest disturbance.

                    But what you're doing is taking that small aspect of management and trying to apply it to the entire national forest system, which is a mistake (and one that logging companies and their mouthpieces make time and time again). There are many more species to manage, and many more forest ecosystems than white-tailed deer. Your implication that logged, private forests are "healthier" than wilderness forests infers that you'd like to apply this white-tailed deer management to roadless areas, which would be a gigantic mistake.

                    A forest is about more than what pleases you aesthetically, or what you prefer on your own land.

                •  That's because it's nonsense (0+ / 0-)

                  Anyone who understands ecology knows that our roadless forests are of higher quality. Roadless, wilderness forests provide the highest quality water in the nation, and in that water species dependent upon the best aquatic habitat period (fish like the bull trout and the cutthroat).

                  Our wilderness forests also provide habitat for animals that can no longer survive in private, roaded, developed lands such as grizzly bear, wolverine and lynx.

              •  That is totally false (0+ / 0-)

                Private timber lands do not produce higher quality forests and habitat than wilderness areas. That is just so wrong on so many levels.

                Let me advise everyone that wilderness protection is a core principle of the Democratic philosophy. Attacking wilderness areas on this blog is no different than attacking a  woman's right to choose.

                This poster seems to be advocating a destruction of our cherished roadless and wilderness lands, which is exactly what I sniffed out in the first diary. These are his words, not mine:

                The fact that timber companies may eventually do destructive cutting doesn't alter the fact that their growing  practices in a lot of cases produce better quality forest and habitat than, say, wilderness areas which are left totally unmanaged.

                The nations wilderness areas are far more diverse and healthy than private timber lands, and afford the protection of far more rare species, bottom line.

                I suggest Badger , and anyone else not familiar with healthy forest ecosystems give these links a read:


                Road building for logging, energy exploration and other development has arguably done more damage to more fisheries than any other activity on public land.
                A measure of forest quality is water quality. Trout require the highest water quality in the country for survival. Our incredible wilderness areas provide the best trout habitat, and thus the cleanest river ecosystems in the country.


                According to the report, all three of Colorado’s native cutthroat trout species depend heavily on roadless areas for habitat and survival. For instance, 76 percent of present-day greenback cutthroat trout habitat flows through roadless areas. Also, the bulk of Rio Grande and Colorado River cutthroat habitat is in waters flowing through roadless areas (58 percent and 71 percent respectively).
                Roadless areas are equally important to big game and Colorado big-game hunters, the report notes. For example, 41 percent of all land in the state that yields the highest number of trophy mule deer bucks is roadless. For elk hunters, the importance of roadless land is apparently obvious to the hunting community—of the 15 most-hunted game-management units in the state, 14 contain at least 66,000 acres of or roadless acres, and 12 have more than 100,000 backcountry acres.

                “Hunters have figured out where the elk and deer are, and they’re wisely taking advantage of these roadless lands,” said Mike Murphy, a Durango outfitter. “Not only is hunter success greater on roadless lands, but these lands provide summer feeding and nursery grounds to ensure we’ll have good hunting come fall. The more we encroach on roadless lands, the more pressure we put on elk and deer in Colorado, and the harder it becomes to find quality hunting.”

                Some people get confused about what quality habitat means. Many seem to think that a forest managed for grouse and whitetail deer with a majority of commercialy viable timber and a network of logging roads is "healthy". It isn't. A forest that is managed for all species, including old growth species and endangered species IS healthy. It would be a disastrous mistake to open our roadless and wilderness areas to logging. These are rare jewels that present the healthiest forest ecosystem in the country.
                •  your hostility and false equivalencies do not (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  badger, foresterbob

                  further your point of view.  i understand your emotional response, but you are denying the scientific arguments brought to you as much as the climate "deniers" do.

                  you are strongly lacking on facts to support your passionate objections to proper forest management.

                  i refrained from commenting as i read your positions, trying to hold an open mind to where and on what you base your opinions - but i don't see factual or scientific support - i read emotional reactions.

                  what has finally made me dismiss your "arguments" was your statement

                  Let me advise everyone that wilderness protection is a core principle of the Democratic philosophy. Attacking wilderness areas on this blog is no different than attacking a  woman's right to choose.
                  that is YOUR opinion - not that of this blogger or this blog.

                  nowhere are badger or those discussing fire issues "attacking wilderness areas".  you are making giant assumptions and leaping to distorted conclusions about what is being discussed.

                  please don't try to speak for me or others on this blog.   you are welcomed to state your own opinions for the rest of the blog to view and agree or disagree with - but you do NOT speak for this blog!

                  now, back to the serious and excellent discussion started by badger and being debated by many here...

                  •  strange (0+ / 0-)
                    you are strongly lacking on facts to support your passionate objections to proper forest management.
                    I've provided links with up to date science on how to mange the national forests.  The Roadless Initiative was created by scientists along with Bill Clinton. Their conclusion? You don't need to manage wilderness forests. What you do need to do is leave them alone. They  are perfection. They provide the cleanest, purest habitat and water quality in the country. This is indisputable.  Now, for forests that border a subdivision? not a bid idea to muck around here and there to reduce how fast a fire can overtake the area. Buy some time, maybe. But you're not going to stop a raging fire in a drought.

                    [quote]i refrained from commenting as i read your positions, trying to hold an open mind to where and on what you base your opinions - but i don't see factual or scientific support - i read emotional reactions. [/quote]

                    You see what you want to see. I've provided numerous facts to my claims. I wouldn't bother posting otherwise.

                    We're all still waiting however for the reports that back up the claims that private timberland is a healthier ecosystem than wilderness...

                    And here's a report with 50 peer reviewed sources to support my position:


                    The analysis clearly indicates that western native trout species are highly imperiled, and
                    complete protection of roadless areas is essential to their persistence. There is a very high risk of
                    continuing loss of stronger populations due to their precarious population status, widespread habitat
                    degradation, and continuing intrusion into roadless areas
                    that is YOUR opinion - not that of this blogger or this blog.
                    Actually it's not opinion. The protection of roadless areas and wilderness is a core democratic platform. See Bill Clinton. And the official party platform going back to 1968:


                    We will continue the vigorous expansion of the public recreational domain to meet tomorrow's increasing needs, We will add national parks, recreation areas and seashores, and create national systems of scenic and wild rivers and of trails and scenic roads. We will support a growing wilderness preservation system, preservation of our redwood forests, and conservation of marshland and estuarine are
                    Again, feel free to provide the sources that claim private timberland are healthier ecosystems than wilderness.

                    Or better yet, answer the question yourself.

                    Do you advocate opening roadless areas to forest management (IE logging, let's call it what it is).

          •  Timber lands have considerbaly less biodiversity (0+ / 0-)

            Comparing national forest lands to private timber lands is a mistake. Across the board.

            The national forest lands are the wildest in the nation, and provide incredible habitat for a variety of wild species.  Species such as grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, lynx, and so forth. They are managed both for protection of rare species, water quality, and timber production.

            Private timber lands are managed for timber production. The usually offer less biodiversity, higher road densities, and once hacked away are sold to private developers for subdivisions.

            Turning national forests into private timber lands would be a tremendous loss on all levels. An ecosystem has to be managed for more than just timber production.

            Again I'm not surprised that timber industry goons are out and stomping their feet. It happens every time a big fire pops up. "We gotta cut more trees!"

            So predictable.

            •  Ya know... (7+ / 0-)

              I've read every one of your comments. I'd like to share my observations with you.

              You make reasoned, valid contributions to the discussion, like:

              The national forest lands are the wildest in the nation, and provide incredible habitat for a variety of wild species.  Species such as grizzly bears, wolves, wolverine, lynx, and so forth. They are managed both for protection of rare species, water quality, and timber production.

              Private timber lands are managed for timber production. The usually offer less biodiversity, higher road densities, and once hacked away are sold to private developers for subdivisions.

              Turning national forests into private timber lands would be a tremendous loss on all levels. An ecosystem has to be managed for more than just timber production.

              Notice I did not include your first or last paragraphs. You first summarily dismiss anyone who may have issue with what you say, as if you alone had the impetus to control the conversation. That is the role and responsibility of the diarist. You are a guest in his house. You should act like it. You did not, and I have hovered over the h/r entirely too much in your comments. Rather than do so, I thought I could prevail upon your better nature, and obvious intellect. We'll see.

              Your final paragraph was, like others in other comments you made here today, non-contributory to the discussion in my personal view (I am NOT the diary police, by the way. I'm a guest here, too. I'm just happening to be the one with the broom and dustpan to help him keep his diary as clean as possible.) It was also completely disruptive, insulting to the diarist and to the community. It was unnecessary, as well. But there is a greater result of your having posted it.

              It completely invalidated everything else you wrote. That is truly sad. l know that people comment from a perspective. Had you limited you comment to the perspective, it would really have been a great comment. Perhaps even a Top Comment.

              You made it trash, to be swept up and carried to the dumpster. Is that really what you intended? I hope not. Looking at your other comments however, I really do wonder. So, instead of an h/r (which to me is a really, really big deal), I hope you will take this response in the light in which it is offered.

              Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
              Left/Right: -7.75
              Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

              by Bud Fields on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:32:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  Unfortunately, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields

        thinning and controlled burns become ever more problematic as people move into the forests.  The recent fire near Conifer being a prime example.  And as the person above notes, road building and thinning do their own damage.

        •  One anecdote vs 75 or more years of research (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          paul spencer, Bud Fields, edrie

          and experiment, and my own experience. I'm convinced.

          From a Denver Post (a source you like) article about the Conifer fire: "The terrain, dry conditions, abundant fuels for fire and winds ..." "Abundant fuels" would seem to indicate that thinning wasn't done.

          There are articles that implicate the controlled burn as the ignition source. I don't doubt that. The guy who analyzed the situation still felt the burn was implemented correctly though, for the most part. I haven't found any link that blames thinning or faults Firewise, or says that every home that burned was perfectly prepared according to Firewise standards - perhaps you can provide those. Otherwise, empirical research (which I can cite) indicates 85% to 90% of homes can survive even a crown fire.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:10:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  this is important stuff (15+ / 0-)

    I'm not a fire scientist, but my ol' Pa was, so I got thinning, selective logging, prescribed burning and whatnot pounded into my youthful head (which is one reason I'm not a fire scientist, probably)

    Up here in PiPo country (north central WA), we're complaining about a cool, wettish year so far, while at the same time thanking FSM as we watch so much similar country burn.  I just finished wildland fire training (literally today), part of my preparation as a recruit volunteer for the county (at stretching 60, this is maybe not one of my better ideas); the trainers were all contract fire-fighters waiting for mobilization, on the edge of their seats as they anticipated a very lucrative year, while at the same time recognizing that some of their number will come back in a box, if at all.

    What became clear to me was that both forest- and fire-management in this country have gone pretty much to hell in a hand-basket, as a result both of poor understanding of the issues by much of the population (not to mention the bozos we elect) and of serious under-funding, probably at all governmental levels.  In addition,  the fact that so much fire-fighting is done on contract is, in my book, misguided, for many of the same reasons as our contracting of military and ancillary forces:    there are some great folks involved, but also more than a few greedy SOBs who are more concerned about making a buck than putting out fire or taking care of the poor schmucks who are actually on the fire-line.  

    At any rate, badger, thanks for the reality-based approach to this.  As one who has recently felled a boatload of beetle-killed pine, and who lives nextdoor to thousands of acres of spruce budworm kill (on one of the most spectacular passes in the country), I'm right there with you.  Now, if you can tell me where I can hire a thousand sawyers on a retiree's income.....

    The truth shall make ye fret... -William DeWorde

    by flagpole on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:08:36 PM PDT

    •  Chelan County here (12+ / 0-)

      Spruce budworm in Blewett or Cascade Pass? I've seen it in Blewett and heard it's been a problem up north for a long time. The good news for that is that unlike beetles, spruce budworm infested trees can recover, although there's some mortality. More mortality if the infestation continually repeats.

      I've been cutting firewood for 6 weeks in an area loaded with windthrow from a wind storm 4 or 5 years ago (on my neighbor's land, mostly for her). I only encountered one pine with blue stain. I lose about 1 pine every year to beetles, but they're almost all trees weakened in the Tyee Fire in 1994.

      Just be glad you're not a DNR fire fighter or much worse, a Hot Shot. The physical requirements are stiff and you have to pass the test when you first show up for work.

      But thanks for volunteering - all of us around here really appreciate fire fighters and the work they do. I'm 62 and a little physically beyond capable of doing it.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:33:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  up toward washington pass (7+ / 0-)

        I'm in between Winthrop and Mazama.  These firs and spruces won't be recovering:  it's wall-to-wall in the drainages below Liberty Bell, has been for a while.  

        Pine beetle appears to be backing-off a tad (I forget what their cycle is), and hasn't been epidemic, but still more than I like.

        No way I could keep up with the pros, although I'm in pretty fair shape for an incipient geezer.  I'm content to try and hold the fort until they arrive, maybe do some tender duty and structure protection while they have the "fun".

        The truth shall make ye fret... -William DeWorde

        by flagpole on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:25:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  You won't name names, but I will. (12+ / 0-)

    I happen to have saved an enormous pile of mail sent to me by environmental groups over the last 15 years or so.  The mail I kept weighs more than 5 pounds.  I have more than 50 letters from the Sierra Club alone.  They were relentless; their mailing lists identified me as an outdoorsman, and they would not take no for an answer.  Multiply that by the millions of people they solicited, and you get quite a few dead trees!

    Here are excerpts from The Wilderness Society's popular mailing from the late 1990s:

    This is a lodgepole pine.  Sixty-five feet tall.  It has grown for nearly 100 years in Idaho's Targhee National Forest.

    Timber companies have been buying trees like this from the US Forest Service for about $2.  Yes, two dollars.


    Congress can save taxpayers more than half a billion dollars over the next five years - and save our priceless National Forests - by eliminating below-cost commercial timber sales on our National Forests.

    Talk about false economy.  Lodgepole pine is one of the least valuable western species, and its relatively small size makes it expensive to handle.  

    Environmental groups loved to use lodgepole pine as their poster child, because the trees were cheap.  It was easy to gin up outrage against the Forest Service and get members to donate to the cause.  They didn't bother to tell you that other species sold for much more money.  And no way were they going to tell you that the lodgepole forests were a fire time bomb waiting to explode, because they would then have to support logging efforts.

    Now we are seeing the result of leaving those millions of acres of lodgepole pine in place.  Too bad we didn't "waste" that half-billion dollars improving forest health and reducing fire danger.

    •  So clarify this if you will? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Bud Fields

      You advocate the usfs letting timber contracts for less than what it cost to grow and maintain the trees? or is that a misunderstanding of "below cost timber sales?"

      We are the principled ones, remember? We don't get to use the black hats' tricks even when it would benefit us. Political Compass: -6.88, -6.41

      by bmcphail on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:24:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No (jumping in for Bob) (15+ / 0-)

        I'd advocate letting loggers restore forests/reduce fire danger and in some cases pay for the privilege, instead of the Federal government having to foot the entire bill and the forest products go to waste. And USFS management in DC is opposed to doing it, and especially opposed to having mandated restoration targets. FS people I know in the field are more responsible.

        If the contract isn't for some type of restoration, and isn't done under strict environmental constraints, and the timber has an active market, then the price of timber should be cost plus something.

        The discussion in the first video in the diary touches on some of that.

        Logging in general is a much broader discussion and involves a lot of other considerations beyond fire, like local economy, logging methods, slash disposal, prices and other things, and I probably wouldn't agree with Bob on some of that. But getting loggers to use small and/or less valuable timber while improving forests is worth incentivizing.

        Logging also isn't a solution to most forest problems, but it is for mature lodgepole forests, because they're going to go up in flames at 100-300 years of age, more or less. Lodgepole pine that burns in a wildfire emits thousands of tons of CO2 for no energy benefit. Even if you cut them down for firewood or pellets, you get energy for the CO2 emitted. Letting them rot emits methane and CO2. Turning them into lumber or logs for homes (3 of the 4 homes on my road are lodgepole log houses) sequesters the carbon indefinitely. Even turning them into paper is probably less carbon emitting than a fire.

        And we're talking millions of acres of dead trees right now, from CO up to BC and points in between.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 09:52:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The welfare logging program is out of control (0+ / 0-)
      •  Below cost timber sales... (6+ / 0-)

        were often in the eye of the beholder.  The timber buyers would say that the roads would also be used for other purposes.  The environmental groups would say just the opposite.  Heated rhetoric flew.  Little was accomplished.

        In light of decades of fire exclusion, many forests experienced serious fuel buildup, as shown in the video above.  A controlled burn is no longer an option.  Logging is an option.  Often the trees to be removed are marginal in terms of timber value, especially when the objective is to leave the larger trees standing.  It might cost more to thin an area than the trees are worth, but the savings in terms of fire protection make it a bargain for taxpayers.

        •  Practically speaking, (4+ / 0-)

          will this "leave the larger trees standing" logging actually happen, or will we end up with "high grading"?

          GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

          by gzodik on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:43:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A very good question - (8+ / 0-)

            it depends on involvement in the process. You can comment on almost every project that the Forest Service does.  All timber sales are public process.

            If there is a Collaborative on a Forest near you, join.

            On state and private lands, it generally depends on state regulations and the state's ability (funding) to monitor.

            Few lumber mills still have the equipment to handle or cut the big trees. Those that have survived have mostly evolved into NC systems that prefer a maximum of 24" dbh.

        •  Roadbuilding destroys ecosystems (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          That's scientific fact. Invasive species, sedimentation, access for poaching of endangered species, mining, logging, increased fire risk, etc.

          People seem to forget that you have to build roads to log.

          There is some very strange talk in this thread on what is supposedly a progressive site. Roadless protection is part of the Democratic platform.

          It's one thing to work on forests in a neighborhood. It's another to use that as an excuse to plunder the nations last, rare roadless areas.

          •  this site is both progressive AND educated. (3+ / 0-)

            that is why the discussion you keep belittling will stand up against your emotional criticism.

            and, a bit of (unsolicited) advice:  don't attempt to speak for the entire site - you can only speak for yourself.

            •  that's redundant (0+ / 0-)

              ...speaking of education.

              What I've seen from several posters in this thread:

              1. Open up wilderness and roadless areas to manage as private timberlands. This is an attack on a core democratic principle, like marriage equality or a woman's right to choose. All of these progressive issues are bound together and will move forward together. They all must be reinforced for our platform to succeed.

              This is a position held by George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Pain, and other right wing figures.

              2. Private timber lands are healthier ecosystems than wilderness areas. Untrue. And I've provided the necessary links to refute this.

            •  A few fact on roadless land health (0+ / 0-)

              With a Wyoming perspective:


                 Roadless areas nationwide support more than 280 threatened, endangered, and sensitive species. These areas provide a place for wildlife to find refuge from industrial development.
              The Roadless Rule was created by Bill Clinton in his final term. This rule protects the last 58 million roadless acres in the U.S. The roadless Rule was incredibly popular and supported by a wide range of scientists.

              The Bush admin tried to attack the Roadless Rule from various angles, under pressure from resource extraction industries like timber, gas, and mining.  A bit more about the RI:




              One-third of the National Forest System remains without roads. These roadless areas represent 45 of the 83 “eco-regions” found in the continental United States and Alaska and range from the lush temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to the extraordinarily species-diverse southern Appalachian Mountains.

              Roadless forests safeguard clean water from more than 2,000 watersheds—the source of drinking water for more than 60 million Americans—while preserving critical habitat for fish and wildlife and providing numerous opportunities for both recreation and scientific research.

    •  Logging doesn't improve forest health (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      i saw an old tree today

      This is a progressive blog, BTW. Conservation and the protection of roadless areas are a pillar of this platform.

      You coming on here and attacking environmentalists is no different than someone coming on here and attacking a woman's right to choose.

      Keep this right wing bullshit out of here.

      •  Please quit insulting posters in this diary (14+ / 0-)

        and making claims you lack the ability to substantiate.

        If you can prove something, post your own diary with references.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:27:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  you are both right (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Heart of the Rockies, RainDog2, edrie

          there wasn't one fire, nor one cause, and both viewpoints include scientific data; I understand Gallatin's frustration with your diary though

          •  hi, "i saw..." (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            my objection now growing with galllatin's posts are his/her determined efforts to try to discredit any person who doesn't agree with him/her.

            badger and many others here have presented solid scientific studies/facts/information to support this discussion.

            gallatin, on the other hand, keeps hurling insults, citing weak sources, etc. and continues to try to politicize a discussion about how to scientifically approach wildfires and forest mitigation.

            frankly, MY frustration is gallatin's attempt to derail these discussions that are well informed, even when there is disagreement.  i appreciate heart of the rockies' point of view and approach and interaction with badger.  heart keeps to the issues and does not attempt to personify those who disagree with that point of view or who hold different approaches as "less than pure".

            i think that gallatin is fast living up to kos' description of being a d*ck in someone else's home.

        •  Democratic Party platform going back to 1968 (0+ / 0-)

          We will continue the vigorous expansion of the public recreational domain to meet tomorrow's increasing needs, We will add national parks, recreation areas and seashores, and create national systems of scenic and wild rivers and of trails and scenic roads. We will support a growing wilderness preservation system, preservation of our redwood forests, and conservation of marshland and estuarine are
      •  Gallatin, you are teetering on HR territory. (14+ / 1-)

        I regard your post as an ad hominim attack.  I posted facts, including actual text from a Wilderness Society fundraising letter, and you respond with this?  Go ahead, compare me to Hitler while you're at it, and get it out of your system.

        And take the time to read some of my comments and diaries to see how progressive I am.

        It's ironic that you bring up the abortion debate.  The same name-calling and dehumanizing used by the anti-abortion crowd was also used by some environmentalists to dehumanize loggers and resource managers.

        •  Sorry, attacking environmentalism (0+ / 0-)

          is attacking progressives. Environmentalism is a pillar of progressive philosophy, and this is a progressive blog.

          It's no different than a right winger coming on here and attacking a woman's right to choose.

          Big red flag on this diary and some of these posters. No question about that.

          •  Ah, that's how the game is played. (5+ / 0-)

            The person doing the ad hominim attacks gets to toss donuts.  How sweet of you!

            I suggest you read up on the rules for doing HRs here, including this:

            Do not hide posts simply because you disagree with what the commenter is saying.
            If you can educate me on where Kos said that your particular brand of environmentalism is above dissent, I welcome the opportunity to be so educated.  This is Kos's website, not yours or mine.

            I am a lifelong environmentalist.  I happen to include actual science and actual reality in my belief system.  In a world with seven billion people, you've got to harvest trees.

            Meanwhile I shall take the high road and not return the donut.  Not because you are undeserving of it, but because there are more important things in life than pissing matches.

      •  and this is a progressive blogger who totally (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        agrees with badger and the other scientifically based arguments made here.

    •  I'm sad to see that from the Wilderness Society (5+ / 0-)

      because they generally put out good science, advocate good forestry, and aren't completely anti-logging (maybe the exception is when they're fund raising).

      I've seen environmental "save the forest" web sites where they're forest policy page was two words: "Stop logging". I'm sure all their members live in adobe homes or glass and steel skyscrapers, all with aluminum or plastic furnishings, and they read nothing but eBooks.

      I would bet that if you go to most of the top environmental web sites, you will have a hard time finding anything on forest or wildfire policy (except when fund raising, or the Nature Conservancy) without using the "Search" function, despite the fact that wildfire emits thousands of tons of CO2, and therefore encourages climate change, and everything from water to wildlife depends on forests.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:05:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  More fundraising letters... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina, Bud Fields, edrie

        From Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, mid 1990s:

        Did you realize that when loggers cut down all the trees on a hillside of a so-called "national preserve," your tax dollars build the roads for the loggers to carry away the trees they bought for a nickel apiece?
        That one had to set some sort of record for hot buttons in a single sentence.  I wrote to Public Citizen to ask them which specific timber sale they were referring to, and they would not respond.  Probably because they made it up.

        Sierra Club, late 1990s:

        ...we at the Sierra Club will redouble our efforts to stop the destruction of our National Forests.  Specifically, we've taken the lead in promoting the McKinney-Leach bipartisan National Forest Protection and Restoration Act in Congress that would stop the wasteful, subsidized destruction of our forests by ending all commercial logging in our National Forests.
        Emphasis mine.  Never cut a tree for any reason in any National Forest, if it ends up in a mill.  How's that for a dogmatic, environmentally unsound policy?
        •  The first statement is correct (0+ / 0-)

          Roadbuilding in timberlands cost taxpayers billions.

          There are numerous studies and articles that support this. also throw in GAO reports.

          It is true that stopping logging in national forests would save the country millions. The reason is because expensive roadbuilding is subsidized by the taxpayers, and you have to build roads to do most logging. Roadbuilding is also the single biggest cause of biodiversity destruction, water quality destruction and habtiat destruction in the lower 48. The national forests are riddle with 300,000 miles of subsidized logging roads.

          Even worse is that once you build these roads, you have to maintain them or they slide off into streams, destroying fisheries. The road maintenance backlog (at taxpayers expense) in 2002 for national forests was $100 million.

          In order to log national forests, you have to build roads. And roadbuilding is paid for by the taxpayer, and not only the building, but the eternal, expensive maintenance. All for private logging companies. It's poor fiscal policy,and poor conservation policy.

      •  That quote was from a fairly (4+ / 0-)

        distant past. Nowadays even the Sierra Club expresses some interest in thinning.

        •  Yes, the environmental groups (6+ / 0-)

          take a more moderate stance towards timber cutting now.  The point I was making was that we went through about 15 years of nonstop vilification from environmental groups.  It was great for fundraising, but bad for national policy.  Had that same energy been directed towards mitigating fire danger and creating more diversity in our forests, we would be in a better situation now.

          Could all the fires have been prevented?  No.  Would some fires have been less destructive?  Absolutely.

  •  A forester we know (16+ / 0-)

    has on occasion logged a lodgepole pine forest, because it was near the end of its life span, and then re-planted the land with lodgepole pine.

    Logging is site specific.  You cannot use the same prescription for a dry south facing slope to a wet north facing slope.  This goes on for soil types, elevation difference, tree species, and the like.  

    Each parcel needs its own plan that may or may not include logging.

  •  Max Moritz & other Berkeley researchers published (4+ / 0-)

    a study last month solidly linking the coming "big, fast changes" in global fire risk to climate change.

    •  Moritz (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, BachFan, Bud Fields

      says no mechanical thinning program will avert the huge fires we're in for, but I think we have to start somewhere and prescribed fire has to be central to the approach.

      •  The point of the diary is that the position (5+ / 0-)

        you ascribe to Moritz is wrong (edited for politeness).

        There's a cottage industry of economists, sociologists, oceanographers, climatologists and maybe a geologist or two who have little to no experience with forestry or fire who seem to believe that fires exist without fuels to burn, and that a fire in light fuels (surface fire) is no different than a crown fire in heavy fuels.

        Just that distinction alone has major implications for fire size, fire aftermath, and future fire occurrence.

        They're the same kind of people that believe that witches are made out of wood and float.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:20:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Moritz is a fire scientist who's dedicated (4+ / 0-)

          his research to quantitative, spatial studies of the physical dynamics of fuels and fire. But he can still be wrong.

          •  That's the first time I've seen his name (3+ / 0-)

            as far as I know.

            The opinion that thinning (usually along with an understory burn) doesn't matter is contrary to both research and empirical evidence. I've toured past fire sites with fire managers and ecologists where you could see the difference between treated and untreated patches, and there's both research and modeling to support that idea.

            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

            by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:04:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Moritz (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FishOutofWater, Bud Fields

              I checked out his web page  and his publications list.  I do not know him, but I do know many of his co-authors, all of whom are experienced and well respected in the field.

            •  Moritz knows that thinning matters, but (4+ / 0-)

              the point I heard him make at a recent symposium is that we can't possibly implement thinning programs on the scale that would avert big fires before the "big, fast" changes that climate is bringing down on us.  Steve Pyne, the historian in your Arizona video, has made similar points on the idea of reintroducing controlled burns on any significant scale:"Messed-up forests only yield messed-up fires."

              •  Pyne has also written about (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JVolvo, Bud Fields, edrie

                why or why not climate change is responsible for the big fires. Fuel accumulations, fire management practices, drought cycles and other factors all contribute.

                You can also make the same argument about CO2 and other GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. They're growing so fast and so big and we lack the will to deal with them, so just throw another million tons of coal on the fire, gas up the Hummer, and enjoy the cheap energy while it lasts. Same argument - do you buy it there?

                I'll just paraphrase what I've said in longer replies: observational studies, without a significant and honest treatment of multiple factors and causality, are effectively post hoc, ergo propter hoc arguments. They're in the "correlation is causation" class, IMO, and they don't deal with important issues like fire severity, forest type conversions, and other significant factors.

                Or as I posted elsewhere, if studies show that oatmeal prevents cancer, why do we still have cancer? Same Thing.

                It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:08:46 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  No! Witches Sink!!! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Fresno, cassandracarolina, Bud Fields

          I don't think there are many scientists out there, even geoscientists like me, who think that fuel isn't important to fire.

          After so many years of fire suppression, thinning forests is a monumental, costly job that can't be done fast enough to prevent huge crown fires across vast areas of the west that are warming and drying.

          look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

          by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:34:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  After so many years of accumulating GHGs (4+ / 0-)

            in the atmosphere, removing them is a monumental, costly job that can't be done fast enough to prevent any of the effects of climate change. Throw another million tons of coal on the fire, gas up the Hummer, and enjoy the cheap energy while it lasts.

            That's the same argument as your last paragraph, and kind of invalidates your first paragraph.

            There are websites, institutes, scientific papers, and I saw an entire book at our local library, with lots of pictures, dedicated to the proposition that fuel or fuel treatment is nearly irrelevant to forest fires.

            It's a position that defies belief, but lots of non-foresters who are wannabe forest fire prognosticators believe it. Perhaps they want self-fulfilling prophecies, but it isn't deterministically necessary to turn out that way, any more than trying to reduce GHGs is foolish.

            And large wildfires put even more GHGs into the atmosphere, notching the irony of the entire situation even higher.

            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

            by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:55:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Gotta tell you, the level of hostility you display (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          in the diary and in comments isn't helping your cause.

          I don't know you and I don't know anything about agendas, yours or anyone else's, when in comes to the issue of wildfires but you really, really ought to consider not lashing out so much if you want people to not just tune you out.

          “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

          by jrooth on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:09:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm looking for your admonitions (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BigDuck, edrie

            to people who have called me, and other posters in this diary, "timber industry goons", "climate change denialists", and other less than complimentary names, and who base their posts entirely on opinion if not pure fantasy.

            And as I've noted above, this diary has more reads and more discussion than the more user-friendly diaries I've produced. This diary also contains more useful and substantiated information. Some of the comments, not so much.

            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

            by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:25:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Congratulations. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              You've discovered the basic principle that being an asshole gets one attention.

              What it doesn't do is persuade anyone, because everyone is busy reacting to what an asshole you're being.  So if your goal is fruitless anger and controversy, by all means carry on.

              “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

              by jrooth on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:37:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Some people agree with this diary (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                edrie, paul spencer

                some people disagree. Some people have to resort to name-calling because they have no other point they're capable of making. You've now joined that group.

                Unfortunately, I have no prize but a comment rec to offer for that accomplishment.

                It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:53:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  You reap what you sow. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  By the way, I'd guess getting on the Community Spotlight did a lot more for getting this diary attention than all this hostility to every "pet theory" but your own has done.

                  Good luck to you.  I do think it's an important issue.  

                  “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                  by jrooth on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 02:01:46 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Calling someone an asshole is dickish (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                badger, edrie

                you can call his argument such, but maybe that's the problem, you can't so you direct name calling at the poster.

                The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

                by ban nock on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 02:20:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  So should I have called him dickish instead? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I fail to see any significant difference.

                  I've been known to be an asshole myself from time to time, and it has generally been unproductive.  Just though the diarist might benefit from my experience of the fruitlessness of assholery.

                  “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

                  by jrooth on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 02:31:24 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  aren't you supposed to be directing this comment (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                to gallatin?  i haven't seen that "anger or hostility" you mention - but i do see frustration at some of the ad homs directed toward this diarist and don't blame him one bit!

    •  It isn't something I'm going to debate (11+ / 0-)

      beyond what's already in the diary. I'll just post a comment, having read only the press release and paper's abstract. Believe what you want to believe.

      It's an observational/historical study, the same as the kind that says oatmeal prevents (or maybe causes) cancer. I notice cancer is still around. I also notice that people who understand how cancer works, not just its statistics, can be very successful at curing it. Oatmeal, not so much.

      Climate is a factor in fires, weather, which varies considerably within a climate regime, is a bigger factor. For example, all drought and occasional heavy rain leads to minimal fire - nothing grows back after the first fire. Heavy rain with occasional drought leads to severe fires - rain produces excessive fuels which then dry out and burn. Happens regularly in CA.

      What's unimportant is how many fires there are - actually, more would be better. But only if more combines with low intensity. What does this paper say about fire intensity? That matters considerably. What changes in fuel models in response to climate change does the paper consider? That makes a big difference - the USFS publishes papers that include that, and predicts more or less fire in different areas in the western US depending on those kinds of changes along with projected climate changes.

      High Park in CO is a serious fire right now. Under normal climate conditions, there wouldn't be another fire there for 100 years or more (Yellowstone, for example, has a documented 300-400 year fire cycle, with almost no burns in between). Climate will change, but it will also affect how soon High Park can support a huge fire again. No matter what the climate change, it probably still won't be soon. It could fall into a pattern of continually repeating brushfires, for instance, with forest not being re-established.

      And the climate data is based on models, like the one that was wrong about sea ice melt. Models aren't reality. And a model that's wrong is just that - wrong. You can't say it over-predicts or under-predicts, because if you knew that, you'd make it not wrong, or at least less wrong.

      Lastly, the paper doesn't seem to take into account any forest restoration or other mitigation that might take place. I burn some areas around my house every year (just after the snow is out). I haven't lost a tree, the house, or had the fire escape (I have a pump, fire hose and 16,000 gallons of water, too). You can achieve comparable results on landscape-wide scale if the effort is put forth.

      So in general, I don't have a lot of faith in papers that use incomplete models to predict the future based on past history that's already changed significantly. I don't believe in models of multi-factorial phenomena based on only a single factor. Doesn't seem like science to me, any more than my skill at blackjack is scientific. Banks seem to think it works.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 10:57:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A lot of good honest information here. I just (9+ / 0-)

    heard a discussion on  NPR on this very subject yesterday. What they said backs up most of what you are saying. One thing they talked about that I didn't catch in your diary ,( I may have missed it, haven't finished my first cup  yet this morning)  was the fact that the light snowfalls in many areas was also a contributing factor in that there was no compaction of the understory grasses and other small plants , thus making them a better fuel which obviously would lead to hotter and faster spreading fires. And they also mentioned the fact that in the drought ridden  areas there was often little rain with thunder storms but plenty of lightning which would also contribute to more fires. So while there are many reasons behind the many fires burning today, climate change is definitely a part of that. Not knocking your diary at all, it's very good, but just  wanted to add a couple things I'd just learned.

    Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

    by burnt out on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:42:41 AM PDT

    •  Light snow cover isn't something (4+ / 0-)

      I was aware of. I'd believe that's a problem - snow where I live flattens the previous year's grasses pretty significantly.

      Dry lightning is probably the cause of fires that burn the most acres in the western US. Lightning fires of all types start fires that burn around 75% of acres burned on average, usually backcountry fire starts.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:22:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  last year's grasses are also the ones that (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, edrie, burnt out

        when they catch a spark they continue to smolder until they also cause a crossing blade of grass to smolder then two and it then bursts into flame.

        We used to start at least one fire a year when working our way down out of the snow onto forests that hadn't leafed out yet. We were using dynamite without fire retardent for above ground explosions. We'd switch to the summer dynamite once we found smolders or before if we were thinking.

        The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

        by ban nock on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 02:57:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  brave diary (8+ / 0-)

    tipped, recced.

    Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

    by terrypinder on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 04:36:56 AM PDT

  •  Skepticism about motives for tree cutting... (9+ / 0-)

    is completely warranted, given the long and dishonorable history of the 'forest products industry', AKA Weyerhauser etc., successfully pressuring the U.S. Forest Service into permitting massive culling of perfectly healthy timber under the bogus guise of 'fire safety'.

    I regard it as another iteration of the 'boy who cried wolf' phenomenon. By ruthlessly and repeatedly exploiting legitimate reasons for cutting trees on public lands and turning it into a private bonanza, the lumber industry made such legitimate actions radioactive.

    Just my 2 cents.

    •  Specifics, please? (6+ / 0-)

      Timber companies have certainly been accused of having cozy relationships with the USFS in order to feed their mills, but I'm not aware of it being disguised as fire safety.  Most of Weyerhaeuser's mills are in locations that historically have relatively low fire danger (southern US, western Oregon and Washington).  I'm not saying that there is no fire danger in those locations, but the potential for million-acre fires is much lower.

      Whatever cozy relationship that existed, came to an abrupt halt about 20 years ago with the spotted owl controversy.  Most of the mills (and local jobs) are gone.

      It's time to use the best science available to make our western forests more healthy.  Doing nothing is one of the worst options available.

      BTW, it's generally a good idea to have a mosaic of different ages and species in order to have a thriving forest ecosystem.  Fire danger is reduced as well.  Logging is one way (not the only way) to achieve that.

    •  Weyerhaeuser cannot cut National (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie

      Forest timber. And in fact they subsidize certain preservationist groups so that the federal timberlands provide less logs to the market, making the product from their extensive private timberland more valuable.

  •  Excellent Diary (6+ / 0-)

    Tipped and rec'd

    Though while climate change has exacerbated some conditions it really is about how we take care of our forest and mitigate structural risks.

    Heard a report on NPR this morning that more or less reiterates your points.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 06:19:51 AM PDT

  •  You miss one extremely crucial point (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher, Safina, Bud Fields, badger

    Climate change exacerbates the beetle kill problem by allowing the beetles to survive the winter in a larger range.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:48:01 AM PDT

    •  I addressed that in the diary (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob, Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie

      but I'll repeat it: beetle larvae can survive to -40F/C (same number either system). Winters that don't achieve -40 are probably not outside the normal range of variation in CO or BC, which has a similar sized problem with beetles.

      Drought is the more likely culprit, as it prevents trees from producing enough sap to eject beetles, and even without drought, tree densities and age weaken lodgepole pine defenses.

      For larvae to survive the winter, there have to be conditions that produce the larvae in the first place, and the combination of drought, tree density, huge even-aged stands and fire suppression provide that.

      Focusing on winter beetle kills, IMO, is like worrying about whether the drunk driver was drinking beer or hard liquor that caused him to run off the road and fly through the windshield to his death because he wasn't wearing his seat belt. It's on the list of contributing factors, but not really up there, and most scientific sources on the problem don't give it a lot of mention, or counterbalance it against drought.

      It's a great soundbite for state and Federal public information officers, though.

      As another for instance - I have pine beetles where I live. It rarely goes below 0F here. I lose about 1 tree a year to pine beetles, and they're usually on the steep slope behind the house and trees that were weakened in the 1994 fire that burned through that part of my woods. Why do I have any pine trees left (I have lots)? The million acres of National Forest around me has very few beetle kills. All of my beetles survive the winter, presumably, and the literature indicates that predation is not effective beetle control.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:50:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Longer, deeper drought, IS Global Warming. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields, Gallatin

        The Global Warming models have been predicting for decades that we would have weather of extremes.  Long hot, dry spells followed by shorter cold spells, for the west U.S.  In 2010 I had over 17 feet of snow in my part of Colorado, this year we had one of the driest winters on record.

        Sure, we can't attribute any one severe weather event to Global Warming, but the denialists use this to deny ALL severe weather events as part of the different and changing climate we all live in.  Record breaking year after record breaking year, and still, it's sunspots, or fire suppression, or natural variation.

        How much of the land must burn, or flood, how many crops have to die, how many people will have to die, before we stop finding excuses and start trying to address this civilization ending crises?

        •  Drought is within the historical range (6+ / 0-)

          of climate variation - for example the Peshtigo Fire in 1871 that killed over 1000 people and burned a million acres, or the "Big Burn" across 3 million acres of WA, ID and MT in 1910 were both drought-related fires.

          It doesn't make much difference if it's climate change or not - it's an argument not worth having because:

          a. It would have happened anyway, because the other necessary conditions were already there and not climate related, and

          b. Putting up more windmills and driving electric cars would not have prevented this situation from occurring. It would have happened whether CO2 was above 350 ppm or below.

          c. People's homes are burning not because of climate, but because in many cases they fail to make their homes fire safe. Shutting down coal-burning plants, as much as that needs to happen, won't change that.

          Your last sentence applies as much to becoming knowledgeable and doing something about the condition of forests, irrespective of climate, as it applies to climate change.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:34:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  didn't realize this drought (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie

            wasn't all that abnormal.

            reminds me of the arguments about The Drought That Nearly Killed Atlanta. That drought too was fairly average, as Southeast droughts go, but far too many don't want to discuss land and water use, even in the "wet" Southeast. Right now they're busy crowing that Atlanta now gets to suck Lake Lanier dry neener neener neener other states (not what SCOTUS actually said, but a pretty good statement on how the media down there reported the recent decision).

            Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

            by terrypinder on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:14:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  After the first round of CA fires (5+ / 0-)

              a reporter did an analysis of historical rainfall/drought patterns (in California, rain makes the fuel grow, drought helps it burn - a cycle noted by everyone from the first Spanish settlers to John McPhee in The Control of Nature, and probably by Native Americans, who just failed to write it down).

              He found that the recent cycle was completely consistent with past cycles within normal variability.

              It's very tricky to attach climate change as the cause for any individual weather phenomenon - it's climate that's changing, after all. Weather is always variable.

              It doesn't make a lot of difference to me what you call it, as long as it's not used as an excuse for inaction, as it has been in this case. Climate change doesn't mean you're no longer responsible for disasters you could have prevented under almost any circumstances, if you'd just made the effort to do it.

              It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

              by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:04:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I would add (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ban nock, edrie, foresterbob

                that with the variations we are seeing meteorolically within the past ten years, it has become, to the reasoned scientist, impossible to base future predictions on what has quickly become outdated modeling. When, for instance, 100, 200, 300 or more year-type events have happened multiple times in the past ten years, new modelling is required. Using previous modelling is misdirection.

                I don't know how long it takes to have any sense of stability in order to create new baseline modelling platforms. I know we do not have stability enough to do so now.

                That's what change is. That's what change does. As the diarist has noted, certain climactic events, or series can be pedictied as being "usual" with a modelling cycle.

                My question, my ignorance, is:

                How effective is the model? Isn't using what is very quckly becoming an outdated model more damaging that helpful? And how effective is it to put these current weather events into ANY previous model, if the changes we are experiencing, weatherwise are not represented by their new, increased frequency and intensity--or even duration? I'm thinking here of the tornado last year, an F5 that cut a swath of destruction across a 350 (previously unheard of) path? That's just one example that leads me to wonder how useful all those models upon which we depend actually are. Not because of the models themselves, but rather because of the significant and very observable climactic changes we are experiencing right now, and (we tend to admit) will likely experience far into the future?

                Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
                Left/Right: -7.75
                Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

                by Bud Fields on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:15:49 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks for mentioning (4+ / 0-)

                The Control of Nature, by John McPhee.

                This book made me, a city dweller, think for the first time about the interaction between man and nature.  Everyone should read it.


            •  in case anyone is interested (5+ / 0-)

              Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

              by terrypinder on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:06:54 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Denialist B.S.! You've got it backward! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, Bud Fields, Gallatin

    Fire suppression has been going on in Colorado for more than 125 years, which means most of the Colorado forests were fully mature more than 75 years ago.  If fire suppression were the main cause of the beetle kill and the raging fires, it would have happened 75 years ago.

    27 of Colorado's 35 biggest forest fires have happened in the last 15 years!  In the last 30 years the U.S. has been running about 4 high temperature records broken for every 1 low temperature.

    Since the 88 fires in Yellowstone, the forest service has had an aggressive controlled fire program and logging program that tries to burn and cut small segments of the forest back to a healthy condition.  Which means the forests were in their worst condition about 20 years ago.

    Global warming is the NO. 1 reason why the west is burning today, and will be burning tomorrow, while the unhealthy condition of the forest certainly is a contributing factor, much of its poor health can be attributed to the Global Warming induced climate change of the last 40 years.

    By the way, one of the biggest fires in Colorado history occurred a couple weeks ago, NOT in the forests, but on the eastern grasslands.  And don't forget the raging fires in the TEXAS shrub lands last year, and the grass fires in Oklahoma happening now.

    •  much of CO was deforested though (7+ / 0-)

      as was much of the entire forested area of the country. I think Badger says this elsewhere in the thread.

      The mountain ridge whose foot I live at had no trees at all in 1900. It's covered today. We often find the old lumber roads when we're bushwacking. We also had some large fires east of us this spring that hadn't seen big fire in a century---there's decades of fuel on the floors of eastern forests, almost all of which are second-growth. It's a good thing drought's rare here.

      Rape apologia among progressives (well, anybody) is so very disturbing.

      by terrypinder on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:07:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not going to bother responding in detail (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob, ban nock, edrie

      to name-calling and assertions without supporting evidence.

      It's just not worth the effort - the information is in the diary. If you choose to ignore it or disbelieve it, that's entirely your problem.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:52:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Have you paid attention to Climate Science? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FishOutofWater, Bud Fields, Gallatin

        For more than 3 decades, the radically different climate we now have from the mid 20th century, was predicted by most climate models.  That change of climate has a dramatic impact on the biology of the area, including forests and grasslands.

        Please tell me why you are so quick to dismiss Global Warming as the primary cause of the dramatic events we now are witnessing, despite the mountains of evidence that this was bound to happen?  

        •  Yes, I've paid attention to climate science (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie

          Have you ever read anything about forestry and fire ecology that wasn't climate change related?

          Please tell me why you are so quick to dismiss decades of scientific research that support the idea that this would have happened regardless of climate change, and could have been substantially mitigated without changing atmospheric GHG concentrations by even 1 ppm?

          Do you believe climate change excuses the failure to take any action to prevent or minimize this problem, when it was anticipated 25 or more years ago? Should we just let the 1.5 million or so acres of dead trees in CO that haven't burned yet go up in smoke and thousands of tons of CO2 as well?

          Do you care that hundreds of people have lost their homes, and several have died, and most of that could have been prevented if people looked past climate to actually solving forest problems? Or do you think more electric cars could have averted this problem?

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:15:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Please don't do the passive aggressive act (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jrooth, happymisanthropy

        You have been pretty provocative in this post and in the comments.

        If you don't want provocative replies, tone down your approach. If you take a provocative approach, then have the integrity to defend yourself with scientific evidence.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:48:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Global warmng has a big role in beetle spread. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foresterbob, Bud Fields, edrie

      Drought-stressed trees are more susceptible to both the beetles and the fungi they spread. Thus prolonged hot weather, such as caused by global warming, vastly spread the range of the beetles and of their kills, leading to the huge fires.

      So I think the sequence is:
      Fire suppression;
      Fuel buildup;
      Global warming;
      Explosive beetle infestation;
      Tree die-off;
      Huge fires.

      Thus fire suppression started the sequence of events, but global warming has been a crucial step leading to the huge fires we have seen.

      Badger, what do you think of this?

      •  I think it's a valid chain of events. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields, edrie, Oh Mary Oh

        You certainly must begin with fire suppression.  Given the diversity found over the vast areas we're discussing, different influences are dominant in different areas.

        The farther we progress along that chain, the harder it is to find remedies that are cost effective and palatable to the public.

        And as badger has pointed out, whether the current conditions can be directly attributed to climate change is something that we can discuss and argue, but the fact remains that we have a serious fire situation across wide swaths of western North America.

        I, for one, learned about the "greenhouse effect" in college long before the issue was politicized.  I've never found any reason to doubt that humans are changing the climate.

      •  Occam's razor (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields, ban nock, edrie, foresterbob

        Don't multiply hypotheses needlessly. Can you have drought without climate change? Sure can - as I pointed out elsewhere, drought-connected fires in 1871 (Peshtigo) and 1910 (WA-ID-MT) were much worse than CO today. Same in California for all of its recorded history - cycles of rain followed by drought and fire.

        Would putting global warming in the list change what was needed to be done to avert or at least minimize what's going on now? I doubt it. More windmills wouldn't have made CO more fire safe.

        Actually, you don't need the tree die-off part either - 1.5 million acres in and around Yellowstone in a similar forest ecosystem burned in 1988 without nearly the same amount of beetle mortality - beetles have been killing old lodgepole forever, but only at epidemic rates in cycles. Yellowstone historically burns at the level every 300-400 years. Otherwise, in the 20th century, about 50,000 burned in Yellowstone, total, for 100 years, including 24 years to date, presumably subject to climate change effects.

        Fire is a natural part of forest ecosystems, not some evil human invention. Stand replacement fires (where all trees are fire-killed) is a natural part of lodgepole pine ecosystems. It's how they've always worked.

        If you want to believe global warming belongs on the list, then fine, believe that. It doesn't change what should have been done, or what the outcome will be. It might make some difference in time scale.

        That isn't climate change denialism, any more than saying climate change didn't cause the economic collapse, the Packers to lose in the playoffs last year, or someone's sister's divorce from her abusive husband. I'm sure there are people who would call me a denialist is all of those cases, but that's their problem, not mine.

        Climate change does cause sea ice to melt, glaciers to recede, sea levels to rise, oceans to acidify, forests to change their species composition eventually, temperatures to rise, crops to fail, hurricanes to be more intense and lots of other things that wouldn't happen if climate didn't change.

        But beetle epidemics, while possibly enabled by climate change, are more dependent on weather, and drought is within the range of normal weather variations, has happened, and will happen.

        It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

        by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:34:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sounds logical to me. One more point, (3+ / 0-)

          large-scale fire suppression is, like the large-scale burning of fossil fuels, a human intervention, one among many that has caused an imbalance in natural systems tending toward catastrophic results. It shouldn't surprise us when two such interventions interact (as do fire-suppression and fossil-fuel burning/global warming). Each causes problems and they can and apparently do interact in ways that multiply the total problems.

          We should be rethinking all of our large-scale activities, including large-scale livestock operations, huge cities, freeway systems, global banking, you-name-it.

          •  I think what you might find interesting (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Fresno, ban nock, edrie, Oh Mary Oh

            is some of the background on fire in America. Fire in America happens to be the title of a long and exhaustive (and somewhat exhausting) book by Stephen Pyne on the history of fire from pre-Columbus to the modern day.

            More readable are books like 1491 or The Ecological Indian which touch on Native Americans use of fire. You can find stuff on the internet too.

            The short version is that human use of fire, both intentional and unintentional, is what created American ecosystems and the species that populate them - forests, but also prairies. Native Americans used fire to drive game, improve grasslands for game, clear land for farming, for offensive and defensive purposes, to clear trails, for entertainment, to improve harvest yields of things like berries or grasses used to make things like nets, and dozens of other purposes. They also collected wood for cooking, heating, and even some manufacturing (hardening spear tips, for example).

            They burned often and everywhere, and it's the removal of Indians and their use of fire from ecosystems that led directly to fuel buildups in a progression of large fires from the east coast to the west coast, culminating in things like the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, or the Big Burn of 1910, both 30-40 years after Indian removal.

            Just about every non-riparian ecosystem is a fire adapted, fire created ecosystem, and the record indicates that natural fire causes - primarily lightning - were insufficient and too infrequent to bring that about.

            It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

            by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:36:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Shepard Krech makes some good points (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, edrie, Oh Mary Oh

              in The Ecological Indian, but he can't seem to bring himself to give American Indians credit for actually knowing what they were (and still are) doing with fire. To your list I'd add Kat Anderson's many excellent books, including Tending the Wild, and Omer C. Stewart's Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness.

              There's a great collection of articles critiquing Krech, by the way -- a book called Native Americans and the Environment: Perspectives on the Ecological Indian, edited by Harkin & Lewis, published by the U. of Nebraska Press.

              •  Thank you both for the book recs! /nt (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
              •  1491 impressed me more (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Fresno, edrie

                For all his talk in the book about Iron Eyes Cody, Krech failed to note that Iron Eyes Cody is Sicilian, and only an honorary Indian.

                I read 1491 first, which impressed me hugely with Native American development and skills, so Krech's book was kind of a footnote to confirm what I'd already read.

                The other paper that really got me interested in researching all of this stuff is Holistic Restoration Forestry by Dennis Martinez, who's a Native American ecologist and forester. He makes a lot of claims about Indian ecological knowledge and actions, which I found difficult to accept at first, but found they were all well-supported by other research.

                The paper is quite long, but about the last 1/2 is about restoring specific locations along the west coast, and not as important to the subject as the first half, which lays out the forest situation nicely. I especially learned to like this:

                Modern cultural practices which are foreign to forest ecosystems include both industrial exploitation and wilderness preservation. Putting "industrial" and "wilderness" together in the same philosophical stew may seem counter-intuitive to those of us who have grown up with the idea that they are opposites. But in fact the one is impossible without the other.

                How is this so? Both embrace the traditional Western philosophical assumption that nature is static, and that if nature is disrupted by humans, she will balance herself like a machine without the need for human assistance or restoration. E.g. Gifford Pinchot, the father of modern "scientific" forestry, held that society could harvest timber indefinitely, because nature would rebalance herself as long as the annual cut didn't exceed the annual growth of trees ("sustainable forestry"). John Muir, the father of modern wilderness preservation, believed that as long as humans did not interfere in nature, she would continue to exist in an optimally functioning "pristine" state. Thus, if suppression of human ignited fires (like Indian burning but not "natural" lightning fires) which has now been in place for a century - was practiced by industry to save trees or by advocates of wilderness preservation to preserve nature in a pristine condition, nature would continue to function optimally.

                It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

                by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 03:11:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  you make some valid points (4+ / 0-)

    but blaming these fires on tree hugging environmentalists is no better than just saying 'climate change', etc. as an explanation.

    Given the state of politics,  the government will not spend money on proper management,  proper techniques as there is not profit in it.  I think the story of the loss of elm trees, ie, proper management,  is an apt 'teaching analogy'.  If a city got up all the dead wood around the elms, and properly disposed it, the elms could survive.  But it was considered wasted money, people stopped doing it, and the elms died.

    The only kind of foresting that would happen in national forests, now or any time in the last forty years, would not be to benefit the forests but for profit of private companies.  We wouldn't have better forests, we'd have not forests.

    We need rational policy makers to accept the faults of both sides and protect us from ideology winning over science.  I don't believe we can have that.  No one will spend the money for healthy forests.  We can't even get money for healthy people or feeding people.   The only hope is to claim the beetles are islamic terrorists.   Then we could spend a fortune.

    •  As for blaming, (5+ / 0-)

      my point is that we squandered a window of opportunity to reduce fuels loads, partially because some environmental groups galvanized nationwide opposition to any and all logging on public lands.

      Going to your analogy about elms, many proposed timber sales in the West were stopped by endless litigation.  Meanwhile, the fuels continued to build up.  The fuels did not care whether there was litigation or not.

      Saying that we'd have no forests if the timber companies had their way, does not match reality.  All across the continent, forests were leveled for miles and miles during the Robber Baron days.  Hardly an acre was replanted.  But most of the forests grew back anyway.  Forests have evolved to return from near-total devastation.

      If a forest can grow back when nobody cares, think how much better it can grow when a professional resource manager oversees the timber harvest and regeneration.

      •  maybe because it was intended (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields, jrooth, Gallatin, Oh Mary Oh

        to logging for profit, not the thinning and clearing of underbrush, etc. that increased fuel load.

        The industry doesn't want to do forest management, the industry wants to log.   Only the government, charged with public purposes would manage.  But there has been no money for such waste, just as there wasn't for properly managing elms.

        Nature, left alone will cure, ie, restore balance because life wills out.    Nature is curing the problem now.  It is harsh, but the forests will regrow.   What man could have done to make nature less harsh, ie, work with nature to minimize the need for an overwhelming fire, isn't about professional resource managers overseeing harvest.

        Tell me that the proposed timber sales were management,  that proper care of stream beds, concerns for wildlife/endangered species was ever a concern without that litigation.    If the timber companies were so concerned with profit and were 'managing' there probably wouldn't have been so many successful suits.   Private interest is no substitute for public interests in the nation's parklands.

        •  I have yet to meet a forester who (6+ / 0-)

          chose that career for the purpose of pillaging and plundering.  Granted, the timber companies do a lot of things I personally disagree with, and their employees must follow company rules.  I am not employed by one, and I have no need to defend everything that they do.

          If I recall correctly, for a long time anyone could challenge a USFS timber sale.  You did not have to know anything about ecology, or even step foot on the proposed sale.

          All of the western states with substantial timber resources have forest practices laws.  Those laws have been on the books for 20 to 40 years, and they apply to private and public timberlands.  So yes, I will tell you that the proposed timber sales considered riparian quality, wildlife, and endangered species.  They had to.  Much of the debate centered on whether enough was being protected, and of course there were major disagreements about it.

          •  the changes were made because of law suits (4+ / 0-)

            not because timber companies wanted to preserve US forest lands.  

            And yes, most foresters I have met love the land, the outdoors, etc.   But the timber companies not so much.

            But again, without teeth being added because of lawsuits,  the timber companies would act just as they did in the days of the robber barons, except they might replant if they saw a future profit in that piece of land, ie, land supplies with forest tracts were dwindling, they had to make the investment.

          •  You don't need the original intent to pillage (3+ / 0-)

            and plunder in order to wind up doing that.  The logic of  corporations (profits, first, last and always) dictates that they will externalize all the costs they possibly can get away with, no matter what the societal or environmental consequences.

            Corporations are amoral - by design.  That's why one needs laws and regulations to control them.

            “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

            by jrooth on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 01:32:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Doesn't work (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy, Oh Mary Oh
        Saying that we'd have no forests if the timber companies had their way, does not match reality.  All across the continent, forests were leveled for miles and miles during the Robber Baron days.  Hardly an acre was replanted.  But most of the forests grew back anyway.  Forests have evolved to return from near-total devastation.
        Actually, what he is saying is true. Take the upper Great Lakes forests, for example. 99% of the old growth was logged out of that region by private logging companies and it has not come back. The only old growth left exists in areas that were protected from loggers such as the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness and the Sylvania wilderness. These areas serve as great examples as to what the upper Great Lakes forests truly looked like. You have thick stands of hemlock and white pine and amazing, old growth maple.  There is a distinct difference upon entering these forests, and entering the second growth, unhealthy forests that now plague much of the region. Most of the pine has been logged off. You can walk for hours in upper Michigan and not find the state tree, whch once blanketed the region. But you sure can find stunted, even-aged stands of birch and aspen.

        You can't always "grow it back".

        If a forest can grow back when nobody cares, think how much better it can grow when a professional resource manager oversees the timber harvest and regeneration.
        The forests did an amazing job before there was timber harvest and "professional resource mangers". In fact, it wasn't until they got involved that forest biodiversity crashed to the poor levels we see today.
  •  Recommended despite some reservations (7+ / 0-)

    Warming & drying of the western mountains has led to larger and hotter fires.

    Thinning forests is expensive. That a primary reason it wasn't done in the Arizona forests that had severe fires last winter. Environmentalists opposing tree cutting were not to blame.

    Over 100 years of suppressing small fires has led to a massive accumulation of fuel but now that climate is changing we can't allow small fires because they could well explode into huge fires.

    Fire is a natural part of western forests. Huge very hot fires, however, are the result of man's environmental mismanagement.

    More people are living in extremely fire prone areas, making forest management far more difficult and making fires far more dangerous.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:19:31 AM PDT

  •  Pine bark beetles caused an epidemic of (6+ / 0-)

    wood burning in Idaho Falls in the late 70s thru about mid 80s. Everybody's hobby became seeing how much pine they could bring back from the Island Park area and burn for heat in the winter (people were encouraged to come and harvest all those dead trees, but not necessarily to fell them, they preferred you used trees that were already down). You had to watch out for stray logs on the roads, too. We had frequent almost killer fog conditions most winters when the inversions would set in. The whole place smelled like creosote all winter. I never had so many sinus infections as during that time, either.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 10:47:43 AM PDT

  •  Great Post and timely too. There are a lot of (6+ / 0-)

    lessons to be learned from this years drought. Last week I went over to NW CO and things were very very dry. Much of what you say is bound to earn the ire of the "no logging under any circumstances" crowd. Wish this would make  the rec list.

    The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

    by ban nock on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 11:57:58 AM PDT

  •  This is what a Diary Should Be! (8+ / 0-)

    Reading the diary, every link, watching every video, I learned some things that I did not know.

    I even came up with some questions to ask the diarist, and I will. There are some basic definitions that I, and others do not know in order to understand the flow of the discussion, but I did get the general views expressed.

    One of the things that I take from this diary is that this is a discussion well worth having. There are many sides, represented by passionate discourse. I could well do without the personalization, attacks, and vitriol because it not only takes away from the important information the diary (to a very large degree through the comments made) presents to Kossacks.

    It's interesting to see so many diverse, yet I believe important areas of interest, expertise and influence at play here. One of the things I take away from this diary is that humans MUST understand how their interactions with nature can help, or harm both. Wilderness is precisely that. Our mandate must be to understand, respect, and mitigate our interactions with wilderness so that neither we nor the wilderness is harmed.

    Telling a forestation specialist that they do not know what they are talking about is simply ludicrous, bad form, and completely unnecessary. As this profession faces continuing challenges to the successful completion of their mission, I would believe it is in our best interests to learn all we can from them. I lived, for most of my childhood, in the middle of the Daniel Boone National Forest, in Southern Kentucky. The very first person contacted was the Superintendent of the National Forest, the local Forest Manager, and the Forest Rangers. They taught us how to live safely, with respect, in that environment.

    Logging has become a huge issue there, and you may believe me when I tell you it has microscopic value to the forest itself that brought it there. It has become an infestation that man cannot remove. Environmental and forest management may have been the entre, but the realization that private, contract logging could employ a now burgeoning industry to replace the huge numbers of dis-employed coal miners has taken over all conversations. One of my High School friends is now in charge of that Forest, and he has become an avowed opponent of forest logging.

    Environmentalists are also in this discussion. I think they should be. There is sufficient evidence that the environment is now, perhaps more than ever, a critical part of this discussion. I do not believe that this group is necessarily against all--anything. I do, however, believe that they must understand that the balance which provides the health of forests does have more than two sides. All are important players, and I do believe the diarist makes this abundantly clear.

    I am a bit taken aback, but extremely pleased to see the conversation of Fire Science in this diary. It is not the role, in my view, that this area of work is in any way superior to any other (sorry, no offense intended), but to say that Fire Science has nothing to say of value in the ongoing work of Forest Management, Environmentalism, Ecology or Conservation is to put the cart before the horse. If the main thrust of this diary is (and I believe it is) Forest Management, then all these and other disciplines are tools Foresters can (and, believe me DO) use to do their first job.

    It is we, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, who must depend on Forest Managers, the USFS in particular (For, and to whom I will forever be grateful), and those whose primary role it is to maintain and preserve our forest lands to do as this diary has done.

    To believe that we can, in any way, finally and purposefully control nature is to spout the lamenting of fools. Nature has amazing restorative abilities. Some, or most of them we happen not to care for. It is not our job to control nature. It is our job to understand nature, and to live in a cooperative spirit with nature. We just don't do that.

    When we decided to build, it was the Forest Service who told us where we could, and could not safely build without negatively impacting the forest. It was the Forsters who came, and cleared a 150-foot safety zone around our buildings. It was the Forest Service who issued our 99 year lease for the property. It was the Foresters, and Forest Rangers who checked on us, most times every two weeks.

    I could say so much more about the help we got when determining everything from basic building materials, to paint, to how we could successfully build a water supply FROM the forest, and how to safely manage that supply so we never, even accidentally, bring harm to our surroundings. Environmentalists, conservationists, ecologists, geologists, Boy/Girl Scouts, and many others helped cut the walking trails that emanated from our property to the Lake, and throughout the Forest for our enjoyment in ways that harmed nothing. It was a cooperative effort that worked.

    Our Ranger never had to knock on our door, and if he did, we got mad about it. He quit the Service out of frustration, not a lack of passion or dedication. As he was making that decision, on many occasions he was sitting on our porch, or at our table. The realities, he said, of progress were killing the Forest he loved, and has spent 28 years of his life living for, and in.

    He, and those like him, were overwhelmed with intrusion, bureaucracy, and what he considered to be corporate criminals that he simply could not counter. It became our job, to very large degrees to seriously train his replacement. The Forest lost a friend, and gained an enemy. The new Ranger knew, but did not care and, in fact, had been selected because of his willingness to overlook, or be "friendly" with those whose single mission it was to monetize Daniel Boone's Forest. In only three years, we sold.

    Now, in Eastern Kentucky, every argument stems from, in one way or another, logging. I'm not an enemy of logging, or environment, or ecology, or geology, or geography, or politics, or politicians. I am, I hope, an aware, conscientious friend of the woodlands. Smoky The Bear is my friend. I understand the powerful, yet potentially restorative nature of forest fire. It must be understood by those who would interact with it, or suffer for their lack of understanding.

    My life has been forever forged from that appreciation, respect, and love for woodlands. But I, the human, hold the key, whether I like or even recognize it or not. There is much we can do for our woodlands. Or to them. This diary points out several important areas of understanding that we, as citizens must come to grips with in these amazingly changing times, for our own sakes.

    But, first, the Forest. First, the Forest. Trumps everything. l thank Badger, and all those who are participating in this necessary discussion. As has always for me been the case, from studying the woodlands of America, I continue to learn so very much about America. The Forest has, is, and always will be my friend, and teacher.

    As this diary, and this diarist shows, our woodlands attach us to each other in ways we might never have imagined. If that is the one thing that can be learned from this diary, it could change the conversation, and the result.

    I'm all for that.

    Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
    Left/Right: -7.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

    by Bud Fields on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 12:53:37 PM PDT

    •  thank you... beautiful comment! nt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      badger, Bud Fields, Oh Mary Oh
      •  The information about pine beetle (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bud Fields, badger, edrie, Oh Mary Oh

        infestation was very interesting (I have some harvested pine beetle wood in my home; made into beadboard).

        But I am wondering; in BC we have had large pine beetle infestations, in the northern part of the province (over 18 million hectares worth).

        The winters up north have not been as cold as needs be to kill the infestation; I have a hard time believing that climate change is not in part, responsible for this.

        We have lots of experience with interface fires in the province of BC.

        In 2003, there was a huge fire, started by lightning in a park in the Kelowna area that eventually went to 26,500 hectares (over 65,000 acres) and destroyed/damaged 238 homes.

        In a city with a population of just over 100,000.

        (that's Okanagan Lake in the foreground)

        •  Same problem, just earlier (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          edrie, Oh Mary Oh

          Beetle problems started in BC, from Quesnel up to Prince George I believe (might be shaky on the geography) in the mid-90s. It's basically the same situation. There's some speculation that beetles were windblown from BC epidemic areas to the US Rockies.

          BC also geared up a lot of logging and built lumber and veneer mills to use beetle killed pine but I believe a lot of that declined with the mortgage crisis and real estate collapse.

          The Mountain Pine Beetle link above is a book available online from the Canadian Forest Service, and BC Forestry has done at least one of the major long term studies on beetle-proofing forests.

          18 million hectares is about 45 million acres!

          It's sad because a lot of our delayed honeymoon in 1981 was spent in that area of BC and a little bit over into AB. The Canadian Rockies are really impressive. Never got to Vancouver and Victoria until the late 1990s. We're in WA State now.

          I tried to get a teaching position in Prince George to avoid the Reagan years, but no luck.

          It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

          by badger on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:13:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I was just back at your old post "clearing the (0+ / 0-)

    smoke" which was kind of what I was in the mood to read this evening. Too late to comment over there but I have to say it was good writing on an interesting topic.

    Air smells of smoke all the time now, can't see the mountains. Googling provides little info on all the various fires.

    Except for the cost and loss of homes I have to say as a self interested hunter I don't mind the fires at all. Mule deer numbers have been down of late and fires provide more bushes and shrubs. Fire also opens up the canopy for grasses and there fore food for the grazers.

    The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

    by ban nock on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 07:57:00 PM PDT

    •  We got more mule deer roaming our property (0+ / 0-)

      by thinning, although a couple seem to like the clover we planted in spots. Almost the same thing as fire.

      We have a fire now about 5 miles from us as the embers fly. It was 250 acres last night, and is in sparse grass/wooded terrain. We got a little smoke last night, and with the light fuel load, the plume was pretty pathetic compared to the fire cumulus rising 30,000 feet from a big fire in heavy fuel.

      But around 6PM the winds always switch to down canyon and that clears the smoke out. I can still hear choppers dumping water this morning.

      Also, kind of opposite this diary, the USFS did a project just over the ridge from us directly in line with the path this new fire would travel to get here - reducing fuel loads, understory burn and some replanting. It's kind of an anchor point for any fire from any direction, so they pay attention to it.

      It's never too late to have a happy childhood - Tom Robbins

      by badger on Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 11:05:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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