Secretary of Interior orders more aggressive fuel management

The directive introduces a political element to wildland fire management

Jasper Fire
The Jasper Fire approaches the Visitor Center at Jewel Cave National Monument, August 25, 2000. NPS photo by Bill Gabbert.

In a message to Directors and Managers in the Department of the Interior, Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered “more aggressive practices” to “prevent and combat the spread of catastrophic wildfires through robust fuels reduction and pre-suppression techniques”. The directive, dated September 12, 2017, attracted attention today when Mr. Zinke referred to it in a press release about the President’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019.

“In September, I directed all land managers to adopt aggressive practices to prevent the spread of
catastrophic wildfires,” said Mr. Zinke in the February 12 release. “The President’s budget request for the Wildland Fire Management program provides the resources needed for fuels management and efforts that will help protect firefighters, the public and local communities.”

The September 12 directive mentions implementing FireWise principles around government facilities:

The Department has lost historic structures in wildfires like Glacier National Park’s historic Sperry Chalet lodge. In an effort to help prevent future losses, the Secretary is also directing increased protection of Interior assets that are in wildfire prone areas, following the Firewise guidance, writing: “If we ask local communities to ‘be safer from the start’ and meet Firewise standards, we should be the leaders of and the model for ‘Firewise-friendly’ standards in our planning, development, and maintenance of visitor-service and administrative facilities.”

It is a wise move to encourage better fuel management and FireWise techniques around public structures in fire-prone areas. I have seen too many U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service facilities with nearby hazardous fuels that make them extremely vulnerable to a wildfire. An example is the photo above showing dense tree canopy very close to the visitor center at Jewel Cave National Memorial as the Jasper Fire approached in 2000. A few years after that a professional tree service was brought in to thin out the large pines within 100 feet of the headquarters building at Mount Rushmore as a large wildfire burned nearby. Firefighters took the same action at Devils Tower National Memorial when a fire was bearing down on the visitors center. Waiting until a fire is an imminent threat is not the best policy.

When the 83,000-acre Jasper Fire burned into Jewel Cave National Monument in 2000 the shake shingle roof on an isolated historic structure surrounded by ponderosa pines had just been replaced with a new roof. A reasonable person would have chosen materials that look like shakes, but are fire resistant. The new wooden shake shingles had to foamed by engine crews before they withdrew on three occasions when the fire lofted burning embers at the site and made runs at the structure.

While Mr. Zinke makes some good points about more aggressive fuel management on public lands, he attempts to reinforce his directive by introducing a political element. I don’t read every directive issued by the Secretary of the Interior, but politicizing wildland fire management is not productive.

In the third paragraph Mr. Zinke is quoted taking an unnecessary swipe at the land managers that preceded him, saying:

This Administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat.

It is an unusual but welcome tactic for the current administration to invoke science in a discussion.

The directive goes on to include quotes attributed to five senators and representatives, all Republicans, and all supposedly saying that Mr. Zinke is right. No Democrats were quoted.

One of the most egregious examples is from Rob Bishop, (R-Utah):

I’m heartened to finally have an Administration that’s focused on actively managing and addressing the on-the-ground conditions that are contributing to our historic wildfire crisis.

Mr. Bishop goes on to advocate more logging.

Politicizing wildland fire management and going out of your way to create barriers that make it more difficult to get anything done, is not the best course of action to preserve and protect our natural resources and public facilities. It brings to mind one of Mr. Zinke’s predecessors, James Watt, who served as Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

16 thoughts on “Secretary of Interior orders more aggressive fuel management”

  1. Bill Gabbert said “Politicizing wildland fire management and going out of your way to create barriers that make it more difficult to get anything done, is not the best course of action to preserve and protect our natural resources and public facilities. It brings to mind one of Mr. Zinke’s predecessors, James Watt, who served as Secretary of the Interior from 1981 to 1983.”

    I say BUNK. Wildland fire management is already politicized.

    We are stuck with the aftermath of politicization in Brookings Oregon as follows:
    Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Project ~ Scoping Comments
    comments-pacificnorthwest-siskiyou-goldbeach@fs.fed.us
    Jan 29, 2018
    Chetco Bar Fire Salvage Coordinator
    Gold Beach Ranger Station
    29279 Ellensburg Ave.
    Gold Beach , OR 97444
    Dear Ms. XXXXXXXX,

    I am disappointed with the Forest Service. The request for citizen comments and input, is a wordy, highly technical, Forest Service “speak” document, not worthy of those that live in our communities. A plain english document is what our citizens deserve, and should demand, when considering the magnitude of a proposal such as this.

    The Forest Service has not put it’s best foot forward to address the myriad of issues left behind from the results of the “let it burn policy”. Having said that, I offer the following input on the proposal to harvest fire killed trees requested in the”dear interested citizens” scoping letter of January 5, 2018.

    First and Foremost the proposal is woefully deficient and inadequate as it does not meet or fully address the SAFETY FROM FIRE needs of the citizens and communities the the Forest Service and Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest surrounds. In fact, “public safety” is mentioned only once, in the proposal, along with the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet coho salmon,flora and fauna. There Is No Parity.

    References to past fire salvage experiences under LMRP and the Northwest Forest Plan are preposterous. Past experiences with fire salvage within the Biscuit Fire and Silver Fires were minimal to non existent. There was little to no mitigation or fire salvage done on the Biscuit Fire. That fact, created the scar that provided the fuel for the Chetco Bar Fire.

    Now, we have The Chetco Bar Fire Scar. With one exception,this new SCAR is not too different from the Biscuit Fire Scar of 2002 and the Silver Fire Scar of 1987.

    That one major exception is, the citizens and communities of Curry County NOW LIVE within the scar of the Chetco Bar Fire.

    An extremely dangerous condition exists, and is being overlooked by the Forest Service proposal’s context. 2018 Fire season is only 5 months away. Along with the proposed harvest of fire killed trees, Fuel Load Reduction should be the first order of business, in order to protect our Citizens and Community. Dead and dying accumulations of surface fuels and understory vegetation, now the Chetco Bar Fire Scar, will increase the next fires intensity. That is a indisputable fact. Fires that start within OUR Scars are uncontrollable when the Forest Service is engaged to suppress them. Fact. The Forest Service record 0 wins 3 losses, to the detriment of every living thing within our forest. Fact.

    Therefore the Forest Service needs to move quickly to establish a Fuel Load Reduction Safety Zone and actually get serious about reducing the fuel load, that currently stands,only 5 miles from our Community and Citizens. The entire Matrix AND the 85% of land the fire burned that has been withdrawn from this proposal, due to congressional etc set asides, as described in the scoping letter, are now the Chetco Bar Fire Scar. Safety and Harvest are inclusive when the appropriate Fuel Load Reduction plans are initiated. I propose that Our Safety be addressed immediately.

    The context for establishing a Fuel Load Reduction Safety Zone and immediate action to begin to reduce fuels loads is as follows. The Forest Service , not only operationally under joint power agreements but legislatively, is charged with responsibilities, both within pre fire and post fire activities: Public Safety – the ability to keep people safe at all times, Proximity of the forest boundary, to private lands, Predicted Fuel Conditions – local knowledge of fuel moistures and fuel profiles in the area, Air Quality – smoke management concerns for human health and welfare, Socio-Political Climate – ongoing analysis of local, state, regional and national concerns. Safety is first and foremost.

    In an attempt to slow the march of the fire, to change course,impede or otherwise suppress the fire, the Forest Service exercised the ability and authority to torch lands by starting backburns,controlled burns, within the 85% lands reserved from this proposal, The Forest Service initiated controlled burns numerous times in those lands.

    Therefore, the Forest Service has that same ability and authority to extend the harvest to those lands as well. Indeed, the Forest Service has a lawful obligation to clean up the massive fuel load scar created by the backburns or controlled burn activities. The Forest Service has a lawful Public Safety obligation to extend the harvest to the 85% reserved set aside as well as the full 25,000 acres of burned matrix lands in order to reduce the Fuel Load and create a Fuel Load Reduction Safety Zone within the perimeter of Forest Service lands to protect the SAFETY of the citizens and communities surrounded by Forest Service lands within curry county. The Forest Service is required to implement immediate Fuel Reduction activities and incorporate same in the current proposal. I propose that action be taken immediately on establishing a Fuel Load Reduction Safety Zone. If you have the authority to burn them, you have the authority to harvest them.

  2. The author of the above is too quick to jump at the motives of Secy . Zinke and members of several Congressional delegations . To compare Secy .Zinke to James Watt is more than just insulting .
    Whenever there is disagreement from a liberal leaning person , it is always “politicizing” , sexism , racism ,etc . Why not find something positive in the discussion?
    One of the main things needed by USFS and State Agencies is more money ! That then leads to the question as to why we have fewer and fewer firefighting aircraft, and perhaps how could the current budgets be better managed ?

  3. Great comment. I agree. I live in the west side valley immediately inland from you. I watched that column rise in early June & grew continually frustrated as I watched it grow under the “fire management” regime that currently exists.

    Bill, not sure where the politicization is, but harvesting dead trees, along with reducing stand density in green stands, & fuels reduction is a common sense solution to preempt affects from our devastating western wildfires. The fact is, tree density is many times the historic pre-settlement conditions. Lack of harvest over the last few decades has contributed to an unprecedented fuel load-& unprecedented fires. A moderate harvest program could easily pay for all the services the FS offers, dramatically reduce the wildfire suppression expenditures, pad the budget for the FS, all while leaving us & our children a beautiful, GREEN forest to use & enjoy.

    Years of drought, & warm summers/dry winters have no doubt contributed, but this is where we need we need to get proactive. These dense, stressed stands provide the needed fuel for the current raging, stand replacing fires we are seeing-and choke our communities & cities in months of hazardous air quality. VW got the guillotine for a lot less. Where is the punishment to the FS?

    1. Not any expert, but just to look at it – hundreds of square miles of it – seriously, because of current density, there are enough tall straight same-size dead trees in these forests to outfit more than half the population of the United States with very sturdy, solid log cabins instead of flimsy double or single-wides. Install with metal roofs on top and there with be a lot of happy and secure people out there, plus better cleared-out forests. Why a forest-surrounded public building wasn’t re-fitted with a metal or tile roof as a matter of course begs questions. Probably won’t have much faith in humanity after hearing the excuse.

    2. Mr. Delegan wrote:

      Bill, not sure where the politicization is…

      I gave two examples of politicization, quotes from Mr. Zinke and Congressman Rob Bishop taking unnecessary swipes at the previous administration and the land managers. Intentionally insulting and stirring up anger among those on the other side of the aisle only makes a path to doing something worthwhile more difficult.

      Mr. Everts wrote:

      Whenever there is disagreement from a liberal leaning person , it is always “politicizing” , sexism , racism ,etc . Why not find something positive in the discussion?

      I said that I agreed with much of what Mr. Zinke ordered regarding reducing fuels around administrative sites and not waiting until smoke is in the air to take action to protect structures. But I did not agree with the tone of his prose.

      1. Neither still appears overtly political in nature to me. To call for proactive management, in an era when we haven’t realistically seen any in 20-30 years should be is a no-brainer to the failed policies brought on by a mis-guided environmental movement.

        Not sure how much lighter they could have phrased it.

        We are dealing with mistakes dealt from 100 years of suppression, & subsequent dense regrowth. Wildfire is a natural force of nature in the west. That I acknowledge. Wildfire in in stands of this density & size have likely not occurred for centuries.

        We are reducing timber stands to ash, rivers to silt, & lungs to soot in a futile attempt to “reclaim.” Reclamation we are not achieving. Devastation we are. Reclamation can be done on a shorter time frame, with less consequence to life, limb, & property using the scientific principles of silviculture-applied forest management. THEN we can bring the fire back in the fall, & let it do some work on keeping these stands clean.

  4. CHUCK EVERTS wrote: “One of the main things needed by USFS and State Agencies is more money!”

    Perfect! Just what they need! Give more matches to the pyromaniacs! The USFS does NOT need more money. What they NEED to do is to start actually MANAGING our forests and change their firefighting policies from ‘LET IT BURN’ to ‘PUT FIRES OUT’, BEFORE they turn into MEGAFIRES!

    Combined with ZERO-management of our wilderness forests, their ‘MIST’ (Minimal Impact Suppression Tactics) policy, better known as “Let It Burn”, is the very reason they keep running out of money every year. They ARE, in fact, creating their own financial shortfalls with their own policies. If they DIDN’T allow fires to become MEGAFIRES, and instead put them out immediately, they WOULDN’T be spending 52%-54% of their annual budget FIGHTING FIRES! DUH?

    So, how much IS the USFS spending on megafires? Their annual budget is $8.2 BILLION dollars, and 52% to 54% equates to $4.26 to $4.42 BILLION DOLLARS! Where’s all that money going? THAT is the question that needs answering!

    Point in fact; so far, the USFS has spent well in excess of $80 MILLION DOLLARS on ONE FIRE in Southwestern Oregon; the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire. Many of the Forest Service employees continue to use that same ‘charge number’ to this day; writing reports and expounding upon false conclusions, mapping roads they have no intention of ever repairing (no $$$) and developing ‘cleanup proposals’ they have NO intention of every going out for bids on. Why? BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO MONEY to pay for any of those things!

    It would appear that megafires have become a very big and highly lucrative business. I would submit a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request to ‘follow the money trail’, but I’m sure you have to be a member of Congress, a very high-up employee of the USDA/USFS or the President to get an unredacted spreadsheet of exactly WHERE all that money went AND where it continues to go.

    The Chetco Bar Fire was (supposedly) caused by a lightning strike, over the weekend of the 24th/25th of June, 2017, yet it wasn’t even noticed until July 12th, when an airline pilot saw the smoke. At that point, and after it was observed both from a helicopter and by a dropped- in (by helicopter) crew of USFS firefighters, the fire was LESS than 1/4 acre in size and was only smoldering (NO FLAMES!).

    Because the fire was in steep, rugged terrain, it was declared “unsafe for firefighters to attempt direct suppression”, and a 12-mile by 12-mile perimeter was created around the fire. I’ll do the math for you; that equates to 144 square miles or 92,160 acres. The Chetco Bare Fire eventually burned over 192,125 acres, thanks to the USFS ‘MIST’ policy and their complete lack of management of our forest.

    If you doubt the FACT that ‘MIST’ really does mean “Let It Burn”, I refer you to an intervew with USFS Incident Commander, Monty Edwards, that was published in the Curry Coastal Pilot last July – http://www.currypilot.com/news/5480944-151/chetco-bar-fire-continues-its-slow-burn

    Here are a few quotes from that article;

    “For a variety of reasons, mostly related to firefighter safety, crews have not yet begun suppression.”

    “… the area in which the fire burns is designated wilderness and falls under Minimal Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST) guidelines for fire suppression.​”

    “It is likely the fire will be allowed to burn itself out​ …”

    “… this does mean the fire will continue to grow …”

    A​n​d what part of ANY of the above implies anything OTHER than “Let It Burn”? The USFS created a 144-square mile sacrificial perimeter within the same area that had been previously burned in 1987 by the Silver Fire (150,000 acres), and again in 2002 by the Biscuit Fire (500,000 acres), and they applied the exact same ‘tactics’ (‘Let It Burn’) to those fires as well. For all intents and purposes, they just sat back and watched the show.

    In another interview in the Curry Pilot, the topic of ‘rollout’ was brought up. The term ‘rollout’ refers to what happens when you drop thousands of gallons of water on a fire that’s burning on a slope. In essence, burning embers ‘surf’ down slope on the water, causing more fires to start further down the slope.

    While that sounds like utter nonsense to me (‘fire surfing’?), I’ll accept the premise, but given that if you were to view an aerial picture of the area, at the very bottom of that slope you’ll see (drum roll please…) the Chetco River.

    It wraps around about 75% of the slope, and it would have provided a VERY good ‘home’ for any and all rollout to fall into. I suppose, though, that dumping a few million gallons of water on the fire (to put it OUT) means that the Chetco Bar Fire ‘charge number’ wouldn’t be around for very long? YOU figure that one out! They had the opportunity to put that fire out on DAY ONE, and instead chose to ‘Let It Burn’ because of POLICY.

    The Chetco Bar Fire came within 4.9 miles of our town (Brookings, Oregon), and if it weren’t for Divine Intervention, our town would have burned to the ground. The USFS did NOT put the fire out; Mother Nature did that for them. The ‘Chetco Effect’ ended and the fire was extinguished by rainfall.

    The fire driven by the ‘Chetco Effect’, which if you know about the ‘Santa Ana’ winds in Southern California, is the exact same thing; HIGH winds, HIGH temperatures and single-digit humidity. Combine that with the MEGATONS of dried and already dead, burnt fuel on the ground, along with snags everywhere (from the two previous megafires), and the conditions were MORE than ripe for yet another MEGAFIRE.

    Now we have THREE gigantic fire scars surrounding our town, and the USFS is doing WHAT to clean up that mess? That would be NOTHING! The Chetco Bar Fire started approximately 23 miles from Brookings, which is about the same distance to at least some of the ‘matrix’ parts of the forest, where salvaging of dead, burnt trees is supposed to take place. It won’t. Why?

    The ‘eco-terrorists’ have no doubt already filed lawsuits in Federal Court to BLOCK the harvesting of ANY of those dead trees. It’ll be YEARS before those cases are resolved, which means what? It means that ALL those trees won’t be worth a plug nickel because they’ll ALL be rotten and/or eaten to bits by bugs, adding even MORE fuel for the NEXT megafire!

    Last year (2017) in Oregon, about the same number of fires started on Federally managed land as started on privately owned and Oregon State managed land, yet OVER 95% of the acreage burned in Oregon last year was on FEDERAL land. And what does THAT tell you?

    Take a look at the ODF (Oregon Department of Forestry/Fire) mission statement and it reads; “ODF’s firefighting policy is straightforward: Put out fires quickly at the smallest possible size.” And if you do some research, you’ll discover that they have a 97% success rate keeping fires UNDER 10 acres in size.

    I think the USFS needs to take a few lessons from the ODF; on managing their lands and on how to put fires OUT. Another ‘DUH’ moment? Absolutely! If you think giving more money to the USFS is going to fix ANY of their REAL issues, you are deluding yourself.

    1. 1: From your comments it appears you may be unfamiliar with suppression in that kind of terrain and fuel type. Sometimes you can go direct on small fires and put them out quickly, sometimes not. On Chetco, they tried putting firefighters in there to contain it and it was a no go. The terrain was very steep, guys could barely side hill, and the fire had already rolled out and spread far below the ignition point.

      The #1 goal of any suppression event is Firefighter and Public Safety. If a situation is patently unsafe then personnel are pulled out and a new plan is developed.

      2: An overwhelming majority of fires are stopped small. This is true for the ODF and across the USFS. Little fires do not get publicity. Large fires like Chetco do, and also draw scrutiny, as they should.

      3. Historic fire suppression has boxed state and federal agencies in across the nation. Most of these forest communities are predicated upon a natural fire return interval. In the absence of fire, fuels have built to historically high levels. We’ve suppressed fires since the Big Burn and not allowed nature to regulate itself.

      When high fuel loads do burn, they’re far harder to control. During very active seasons, resources are stretched past thin and incident mangers make the best with what they have.

      4. The very fuel reduction measures you advocate for have seen their federal funds dwindle or be redirected under pressure from suppression costs in abnormally heavy fuels, fuels amongst increasing WUI, fuels in long term droughts, etc. Fires are not typically treated as natural disasters by the government, and are not eligible for Disaster Relief. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc get that kind of money, fires do not. That means agency funds for things like fuels reduction, recreation, facility maintenance, wildlife projects, etc are diverted to pay for suppression.

      Fuels reduction projects are a good thing, especially around urban interface. We need more of them, and need the money to stay stable so that they can happen. Fire borrowing has hindered that.

      The bottom line is we’re dealing with a complex situation. Personnel shortages, lack of funds for fuels reduction, large fuel loads, droughts, and past decisions have gotten us to this point. All in a forest type that needs to burn to maintain and rejuvenate itself.

  5. D Ray White wrote all kinds of things that most folks already know. That’s called ‘overstating the obvious.’

    Actually, I am very familiar with most ‘fuels’ and the methods of putting fires out. In the case of the Chetco Bar Fire, there were TWO sets of volunteers who were on site and offered to put the fire out. They contacted the Forest Service, by radio, with their offer and were promptly denied on the grounds that they were NOT ‘under contract’ with the FS. It didn’t seem to matter that one of the volunteers was a) a helicopter pilot sitting IN his helicopter and b) had immediate access to a 1000 gallon ‘bucket’.

    In the OLD days, volunteerism was considered a ‘civic duty’. Not so much anymore, or rather at least not since the Forest Service has turned putting out fires into a multi-billion-dollar industry. The only thing the Forest Service REALLY cares about these days is having a ‘charge number’ to charge their time to, hence they’re in no rush at all to put fires out. In fact, they WANT them to go on for as long as is HUMANLY possible. I believe they call that ‘job security’.

    My point remains that the Chetco Bar Fire COULD have been put out very early, albeit with a LOT of water. Given that the Chetco River lies directly below the fire’s point of origin, I’d call that THE best stroke of luck possible. And regardless of WHAT rolls or surfs down a ridge, with enough water dumped on it, it could very well end up in the Chetco River.

    The USFS didn’t even try to put the fire out, although they CLAIM they dumped 17,000 gallons of water on it, which caused rollout. No flames though. Just more smoke. I don’t care what ANYONE says; dump enough water on a fire and it WILL eventually be extinguished. If that WEREN’T true, Mother Nature would be out of a job (that ‘rain’ thing).

    THE #1 goal of ANY suppression ‘event’ (really? event?) SHOULD be to put the fire out. Not just mill about smartly and wait for it to rain. The goal of suppression is to control AND (ultimately) extinguish fires, and it does NOT take ‘boots on the ground’ to suppress a smoldering fire from the air. Mother Nature does it all the time.

    Air attacks work pretty well, and at one point during the ‘megafire’ phase of the Chetco Bar Fire, the folks who own and fly the ‘747 Super Tanker’ offered their services. They were all gassed up, the water tank was full and the pilot and copilot were sitting in their seats, ready to rock ‘n roll. Again though, the US Forest Service refused their offer, claiming they weren’t ‘certified’ to dump water on THEIR fire. Mind you, these are folks who have dumped water on fires all over the world, and they were EXTREMELY busy, all over the US, in 2017.

    Don’t EVEN get me started on all the backburns that were set during the Chetco Bar Fire and that ultimately destroyed homes. I am friends with three of the homeowners who lost their homes, and believe me, their legal case against the Forest Service is a very good one. Siting negligence, on the part of the Forest Service, is a commonly used method of beating them in court. Why? Because they ARE negligent.

    Everything else you wrote is just overstated, Forest Service hyperbole. The Forest Service has no money because they’re spending OVER half their annual budget putting out the fires their policies are encouraging. That’s fact, not hyperbole.

    There is NOTHING complex about putting out a smoldering fire;
    Step 1 – dump water on it and keep dumping water on it until it stops smoldering.
    Step 2 – go home.

    Hey … it works for Mother Nature, AND it works for man!

    Speaking of Mother Nature, the eco-terrorists claim that fire caused by “Mom” is natural and that it’s GOOD for our forests. In the same breath, they also claim that ‘climate change’ is ‘man made.’ The USFS is in bed with the eco-terrorists, and their policies reflect that fact.

    The Forest Service has a policy that states that ALL man-made fires should be extinguished immediately. Since lightning is a weather phenomenon and since our weather is (now) ‘man made’, shouldn’t they put out ALL FIRES, regardless of who or what causes them?

    They can’t, on the one hand, claim ONE thing and then deny it on the other. They absolutely do, though. You can read all about just how ‘in bed’ the USFS really is with the eco-terrorist here – https://www.fs.fed.us/climatechange/

    Those of us who have actually lived through a megafire know what it’s like. Breathing acrid, poisonous smoke for six weeks is NOT something that any of us wants to repeat. Because our drinking water (the Chetco River) flows straight through the RRSNF and was directly in the path of the Chetco Bar Fire, the long term effects on our river are currently unknown. To make matters worse, TONS of what was in the air and the massive amount of ash that fell on our town ended up in the Chetco River, and no one knows what the long term effects of that might be either. The Forest Service could certainly care less.

    What we DO know, however, is that Forest Service policies are a complete failure. Their ‘one size fits all’ approach to forest management doesn’t work because all forests are NOT the same. THEY need to change and adapt, or we’ll ALL end up living in a giant pile of ash.

  6. Hate to state the obvious and not minimalize the above comments but isn’t the above article in reference to the Dept. Of Interior (N.P.S., B.L.M. ect)? Not the Dept. Of Agriculture ( U.S. Forest Service). Quite different mandates on resource protection, conservation, preservation and budget priorites. Just saying…

      1. Apparently some commenters do just that, comment.

        The Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group is a collaborative of the USDA-Forest Service; USDI-Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service; Oregon Department of Forestry; Washington Department of Natural Resources; Washington Association of Fire Chiefs; The Oregon Fire Chiefs Association; The Oregon State Fire Marshal and the Washington State Fire Marshal.

        This group provides interagency coordinated fire responses in region 6 Pacific Northwest which includes The Chetco Bar Fire. Included in these agreements, USE OF FIRE is specifically authorized to maintain natural elements within the wilderness forests of the areas within BLM and the Forest Service jurisdiction. The Forest Service by agreement is the lead agency for fire in our region.

        The State of Oregon Department of Fire IS NOT AUTHORIZED ,by law,charter or regulation, to use fire to maintain natural elements within State forests.

        In other words, the Forest Service has the authorization to LET IT BURN, which they did with catastrophic consequences to Rogue River Siskiyou Nation Forest.

        Lets not let facts get in the way……………

        1. RE FACTS:
          AL S. AND GUY M. HAVE IT ABOUT RIGHT
          AL -“What we do know is — “that Forest Service policies are a complete failure”—
          Guy —” the F S has the authorization to LET IT BURN ,which they did with catastrophic consequences —-.
          Anyway the above thread has stimulated a very spirited discussion of current USFS policies .
          Perhaps the Inspector General should do a followup regarding some of the questions ,allegations posed ?

    1. Yes & no. Both are currently hamstrung by a NEPA process which buries them in paperwork & litigation for enough time to render any effective project worthless by the time it gets to market. I do believe something like 60% of agency time is devoted to chasing this endless wormhole…

      We live in an era when trails, campgrounds, & roads are closed because of individual trees we cannot touch without a full NEPA analysis. The people who built these facilities for OUR public use would be rolling in their graves if they saw the sorry state of disrepair our public lands have been left in.

  7. One more point to make here. The Forest Service has the authority to allow a fire to burn, and ultimately, turn into a MEGAFIRE, just like the Chetco Bar Fire did. If they have the authority to ALLOW a forest to burn, they also have the authority to ALLOW that same forest to be harvested. Obviously, that makes WAY too much sense. They’d much rather see a forest burn to the ground than allow a single stick of wood to be harvested from it.

    The clock is ticking and at a rate of 20% loss per year, those trees won’t last another three years before they are completely worthless and NOT worth the cost of harvesting them.

    For the past four months, South Coast Lumber (right here in Brookings, OR) has been harvesting all their dead, burnt trees from THEIR private land … trees that were burned by the Chetco Bar Fire. We’re talking upwards of 15,000+ acres of what once was healthy valuable, growing timber.

    They’ve been hauling out an average of 180 loads of timber a day, which unless you’ve actually SEEN that parade of trucks, is hard to imagine. You can stand on any street corner on Chetco Avenue (our ‘Main Street’) in Brookings, and watch those trucks drive by; hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month. It is a staggering amount of timber.

    If you were to drive by the South Coast Lumber sawmill, you’d see 15 to 20 flatbed trucks, stacked with dead, blackened timber, backed up onto the street and waiting to be unloaded. If you were to pull over and look inside the yard, you’d also see a GIGANTIC pile of sawdust. They are processing all that timber as fast as it’s being hauled in, and they’re mill is running 24-hours a day.

    Because the Forest Service DIDN’T put the Chetco Bar Fire out when it was still very small, they obliterated South Coast Lumber’s 20-30 year harvesting plan. Do you think MAYBE they MIGHT have a platoon of trial attorneys, all lined up and ready to slam the Forest Service in Federal Court? I’d call that a VERY safe bet.

    The USFS Chetco Bar Fire ‘Salvage Plan’ for the RRSNF (Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest) is a complete joke, and EVERYONE knows it. There will be NO seeding and NO replanting. In fact, they’re not even monitoring silt levels in the Chetco River (our drinking source). Too expensive.

    What they DID do is set aside 13,000 acres of ‘Matrix’ land, from which timber is to be harvested. It’ll never happen. It’s the same plan they had after the 2002 Biscuit Fire, which amounted to ZERO percent harvesting. And just as was the case with the Biscuit Fire, the Chetco Bar Fire will follow suit. It’s inevitable. Why?

    Because the eco-terrorists will (if they haven’t already) file a lawsuit in Federal Court to block all harvesting, which will drag on and on for years to come. Eventually, ALL those dead, burnt trees will degrade and/or be eaten by bugs to the point where they’ll ALL be worthless. And again, we’ll have yet another powder keg of fuel building up, year after year, and another megafire WILL begin the same cycle, all over again.

    As long as megafires continue to be a multi-billion-dollar business, which is exactly what they ARE, this cycle will never end. USFS policy MUST change or ALL our forests will be reduced to nothing more than giant piles of ash and snags.

    1. Good stats. All very, sadly true.

      To put 180 loaded log trucks a day in perspective-that’s roughly $300,000 income, after logging & trucking costs. On less than 10% of the land base that the Feds burnt up. In timber that is likely many times smaller (& less valuable) then the federal timber. So, we could easily be talking in the millions of dollars a day the FS could be realizing off a burned up resource. That could pay for a lot of future firefighting. Or rec. development, or road mait, etc., etc.

      Of course South Coast would have loved to have this realized over the next several decades & not all at once due to a number of trees likely far under optimal value & sustained yield projections.

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