Deconstructing Rim Fire Retardant Use
The Forest Service has posted its 2013 aerial fire retardant statistics. Over 12 million gallons dropped, a 50% increase over last decade’s average annual amount (page 220 of the Forest Service’s aerial retardant FEIS summarizes use for the 2000-2010 decade).
As usual, Region 5 (California) led the nation, accounting for over 7 million gallons. And the Stanislaus NF led Region 5 with over 2 million gallons dumped. Ahh, the good old Rim Fire, of course.
So what did retardant accomplish at the Rim Fire?
Obviously, retardant didn’t achieve the initial attack objective of keeping the fire below 300 acres in size. But not for lack of effort. As one informed commentator pointed out over at wildfiretoday.com “over 32,000 gallons of retardant were applied between detection (approx 1540) and dark on the first day, 65,000+ the second day and (largely due to visibility issues) 23,000 the third day.” Within 20 minutes of first detection the incident commander had decided that the steep, dry, remote canyon was too dangerous to insert boots on the ground (“CALFIRE helitack pilots refused to insert crews at the origin for lack of safety zones”), without which retardant is largely ineffective. With that sensible decision to put firefighter safety first, it’s a head scratcher why the retardant air attack continued.
But, continue it did. Not just during the next three days, but as “the fire grew, literally, exponentially for 6 days. That’s doubling in size every day. 55,000 acre runs.” Did retardant use slow that doubling, stop those runs? Of course not. The prevailing winds blew the fire across the Stanislaus, into Yosemite, untilthe fire ran out of fuel on barren granite hard surface of the Sierra mountains.
Question for readers. How would the Rim Fire’s outcome been different had retardant not been used?
FS Wants to Know What You Think . . . Just Kidding
The Forest Service wants to know what you think about its proposed new ski area/water rights rule. I know this because the Forest Service issued a press release announcing that it “is seeking public comment on a proposal addressing water provided for ski areas on national forest lands through the permitting process.”
But, what if you actually want to read the rule and comment upon it? Too bad for you. The press release offers no link to the new rule nor any means to comment.
So today I sent a note to the news release’s “contact email” —
— suggesting it might be nice to add links to the rule and comment process to its press release.
Anyone want in on our office pool for how many days it takes to get a response?
Btw, a carefully crafted Google search will find a draft of the rule’s Federal Register notice, dated June 17, to which the June 18 press release could have linked.
Anatomy of a Timber Sale Appeal Redux
Assiduous readers will recall the Bighorn National Forest’s Crater Ridge timber sale. Located high in Wyoming’s Rockies, Crater Ridge is a 400-year-old Engelmann spruce/subalpine forest that the Forest Service poked some holes into 25 years ago. Those holes remain today, complete with untreated slash piles and bare ground (click “satellite” in upper-right corner for pretty view).
When the Forest Service proposed last year to reprise its Crater Ridge silvicultural misadventures, FSEEE appealed and the Forest Service withdrew the sale.
The Forest Service, however, is not so easily dissuaded. It has re-proposed “similar” Crater Ridge logging. The only difference between the 2013 and 2014 versions are the addition of “reforestation actions such as fill-in planting.”
You can read FSEEE’s thoughts on this latest iteration. In a nutshell, the Bighorn forest plan doesn’t allow for “in-fill planting,” except to meet non-timber objectives. Worth noting also that the Bighorn promised it would plant the 1985 Crater Ridge units if nature failed to do so. Nature failed and so did the FS — it never planted a single seedling.
So what’s the Bighorn up to? Did it not get the memo that we don’t do things this way anymore?
Forest Service Sets a Personal Record
Today the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” report issued. The Forest Service, which perennially ranks near the bottom, out-did itself this year with an “index score” of 49, lowest in a decade (and perhaps ever).
Leading the charge was the agency’s “leadership” (sic) who scored an all-time low with “senior” leaders ranking 286th out of 300 agencies.
My guess . . . firefighters, who now make up about half of FS employees, were particularly brutal in their assessment, especially of senior leadership.
Anatomy of a Timber Sale Appeal
It’s been years since FSEEE appealed a timber sale. This week we did so.
The story could begin in December, 2012, when the Bighorn National Forest requested public comments on its proposed Crater Ridge sale. FSEEE responded: “How does your proposal assure regeneration of the targeted tree species within five years, as required by the National Forest Management Act?”
But, in fact, the story begins in 1985 when the Forest Service logged about 30 group selection and two shelterwood units at Crater Ridge (click on satellite view — the old units lie east of the red marker to the large meadows).
The Forest Service relied upon natural reforestation to regenerate the old Crater Ridge sale. That didn’t work out too well. In fact, the FS never did treat the slash piles in the group selection units, which show little regeneration 20+ years after logging.
So how did the Forest Service respond to our comments? It didn’t. And, once again, the Bighorn plans to let Nature regenerate the logged units.
Here’s a copy of our appeal and statements by Dr. Richard Waring (long-time Oregon State University School of Forestry tree physiology professor) and Dr. Richard Knight (University of Wyoming vegetation ecology professor).
Smokey Smack Down
The fur is flying between the Forest Service’s hired-popgun enforcer, Metis Group LLC, and Russian émigré political artist Nadia Khuzina. Like anti-fracking Occupier Lopi LaRue, Khuzina is accused of mis-appropriating Smokey’s iconic image.
What makes this tempest-in-a-teapot even more delicious, however, is that Metis Group CEO Libby Kavoulakis has posted a YouTube video in which she claims to be the real victim. Kavoulakis says that Khuzina (love that alliteration) is “being investigated for crimes involving art theft, cyber bullying and harassment” and that she “steals protected intellectual property for her amateurish art, then enlists her husband, Woody Deck, a fringe gambler with a checkered past, to attack anyone who points this out to them.”
“Stop this criminal enterprise,” she implores, calling for a “boycott” of Khuzina’s art.
Meanwhile, Smokey seems unconcerned, as he’s busy “getting his Smokey on.”
Reddy Squirrel Gives Thumbs-Up to Cathedral Pines
I’m pleased to announce that the homeowners and community of Cathedral Pines are the first recipients of the Reddy Squirrel “Forest Fires Happen, Be Ready” Award for Fire Pragmatism. As reported in the Denver Post, “El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said the Cathedral Pines area was a textbook example of fire prevention.”
Colorado’s Black Fire destroyed a record 511 homes, but although the fire swept through the Cathedral Pines development, “I think they lost one or two homes, but the fire stayed on the ground there,” Maketa said. “The reason the firefighters were able to take a stand was because these homeowners had mitigated their properties,” Maketa said.
click photo to enlarge
EarthSky, with which NPR listeners are familiar, discusses this NASA Terra satellite image taken a few days after the Black Fire, which shows the lower fire severity within Cathedral Pines. And here’s a cool site of aerial photos from the Black Fire. Note the lack of damage in this photo compared to this.
Congratulations, Cathedral Pines!
Smokey Bear Censored!
Brooklyn artist and environmental activist Lopi LaRoe grew up believing in Smokey Bear. She learned to be a careful camper from the U.S. Forest Service mascot, and took comfort in the fact that Smokey and the rangers he represented were protectors of the environment. When she learned about hydrofracking on National Forest land, she couldn't imagine that forest rangers would stand by and let it happen.
LaRoe was concerned to learn that in many areas where hydrofracking is allowed, well water had become flammable, to the extent that it could catch on fire as it came out of kitchen faucets. One day, the words "Only YOU Can Prevent Faucet Fires" popped into her head. She painted a banner of Smokey with these words under his trustworthy face and brought it with her to an anti-fracking demo in Albany, NY. People loved it. Photos of her banner went viral. Soon she started silk-screening shirts with the No Fracking Bear on them, made them available online. She sent them to Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, states that had been hard hit by fracking. She pictured her little Smokeys as peaceful warriors going out to wage an information battle on the front lines. Her Smokey shirts cheered people up and started conversations about the dangers of fracking.
Shortly thereafter, the ad agency for the U.S. Forest Service, the multi-national corporation known as the Metis Group, sent her a message: either cease and desist the use of Smokey’s image, or face six months in prison and a fine of up to $150K for violating the Smokey Bear Act. With her knowledge of what the Forest Service was planning for our National Forests, LaRoe felt there was no way she could back down. So she did what any activist would do. She wrote a press release.
The Smokey Bear Act, adopted originally by Congress in 1952, states that an act of Congress is required to change Smokey's wildfire prevention message. According to LaRoe, however, she hasn't changed the message all that much. "How is Smokey supposed to put out a forest fire with flaming water?" she asks. When faced with the option to stop speaking out and allow the government to censor her First Amendment right to Free Speech, there was no question in her mind. This was time to stand up for the forests. This was time for Smokey to do the right thing and stand up to the threats hydraulic fracturing poses to the nation’s water quality.
FSEEE agrees, and so we have joined forces with LaRoe's Smokey to say enough is enough. We will not stand idle while our natural heritage is destroyed by the very agency tasked with protecting it. Smokey has never looked so good as when he is not only protecting our national forests from careless campers, but also defending them from commercial exploitation.
You can read more about Lopi's anti-fracking fight on her blog, and find her shirts and other items at her online store. PLEASE NOTE: FSEEE is not involved in the sale or distribution of the artist's products, and receives no proceeds from the sale of t-shirts or other items.
Does One Size Fit All?
Too many years ago, I served on a timber industry committee charged, among other things, with figuring out whether it was better to advocate the calculation of “allowable sale quantities” in board or cubic feet. Board foot measure estimates how much lumber can be sawn from a log, with allowances for saw blade width (“kerf”), slabs (the left-overs after squaring off a round log), and sawing strategy. Cubic foot measure is the geometry-based volume of a log.
Ceteris paribus, the number of board feet equivalent to one cubic foot is proportional directly to log diameter. For example, a small-diameter log has a bf/cf ratio of about 4, while a large-diameter log’s ratio is about 6.
Today, almost all serious measures of timber are made in cubic feet, except for pulpwood and biomass, which are measured by weight. That’s because cubic foot measure is widely regarded as a more accurate representation of total wood volume, less subject to the vagaries of milling technology and scaling judgment.
Which measure one chooses makes a difference in how one sees the world of wood production and supply. “Everyone” knows that Oregon’s timber harvest has dropped precipitously since the early 1990s. And, so it has, measured in board feet (the blue-line curve).
But a funny thing happens when Oregon’s harvest is measured in cubic feet (the red-line curve). Not nearly so dramatic a decline. The reason is pretty simple. Oregon’s plantation forests grow a whole lot of wood, producing much more growth annually than the old forests the plantations replaced. Cubic foot measure, which is much less sensitive to tree diameter, more accurately captures that volume than does board foot measure.