Oregon WildBlogOregon Wild Blog RSS
News, notes, trip reports, and the lighter side (of the wilder side) of the Oregon environmental and conservation movement.
George Wuerthner argues the relationship between bark beetles and wildfire is overblown by agencies seeking to log western forests.
Author, environmentalist, and speaker George Wuerthner recently sent out a short NASA video about the alleged relationship and cause-and-effect between western forests killed by Bark Beetle infestation and wildfire, which is the premise upon which logging projects like the proposed D-Bug timber sale have been justified.
But the connection between beetle kill and wildfire, according to Wuerthner, is non-existent.
Hysteria around forest fire runs deep but one Oregon state Senator may have taken his rhetoric a little too far.
Whenever I think of the human reaction to fire (be it forest fire or the raging inferno at the factory on the evening news) I'm always reminded of Beavis and Butthead.
Those not familiar with the seminal Mike Judge cartoon from the 1990s might not remember the reaction of the two teenage punks (Beavis in particular) whenever images of flame flashed on the TV screen the pair were perpetually glued to.
"Fire! Fire!," was the predictable and excited cry.
While anti-role models Beavis and Butthead celebrated fire in an unhealthy way, when it comes to forest fires, we have the opposite problem - an outdated and unfounded fear of all fire.
Intern Elizabeth Medford recounts a visit to The Lost Forest is south eastern Oregon
This past weekend consisted of one of the farthest and quickest road trips of my young life. Driving the 250 miles out to Christmas Valley, Oregon and back to Portland again in one weekend might not sound like a good time to everyone but what I witnessed out in Oregon’s south eastern desert made the ride well worth it.
Learn more about forests and fire here
Besides Fort Rock, Crack in the Ground, sand dunes, and a few other geologic features, one of my favorite natural occurrences that I saw was the Lost Forest. This receding 9,000 acre grove of old growth Ponderosa Pines sits in the middle of the desert 35 miles from the nearest forests.
Down a YouTube rabbit hole with a classic Smokey the Bear Ad Council campaign.
When you first watch it, you're not sure what's going on. The woman looks vaguely familiar. Her eyes are intense and her speech is so soft I had to turn my computer speakers up to see it.
Then comes the finale. With some flashy (and clearly dated) technology, the woman pulls off her mask and, voila, she's Smokey the Bear telling you how you might not have listened as well to the message if it wasn't coming from an intense Joanna Cassidy.
See it for yourself here:
A must read! Hike leader and volunteer Gabe Howe reflects on a hike to Babyfoot Lake.
Essay by Gabe Howe - Hike leader & volunteer:
Four years ago my wife and I made our first venture into the Kalmiopsis, much of the time confused and or somewhat lost in a landscape that looked very different than any of our previous, tamer outings. Despite the hardships of rough terrain, total fog-outs, and mediocre navigation skills I left knowing I had embarked on something very special. My experience leading the Oregon Wild hike around Babyfoot Lake reaffirmed four years ago I was onto something, and I’m not crazy to continue returning. I must admit I was growing somewhat worried, though not enough to care.
I briefed the participants about what they’d see on the road leading up to Babyfoot Lake. Winding its way by the Illinois river, through wild flower dotted meadows, forests dominated by sun bleached snags, clear cuts, and live old growth stands, the seventeen mile, one hour drive up $8 Mountain Road gave my hikers an idea of the terrain we were about to face. I asked them to keep an open mind when approaching burnt forests and open eyes for the differences of succession in correlation with post fire forest (mis)management techniques.
Logging in the backcountry to stop beetle outbreaks and reduce fire risk does neither.
Do you remember being in grade school and being pretty sure your antiquated old teacher was passing on some outdated information? You muttered as much to your friend, made comments in the margins of your notes, and even asked some good questions. But the teacher persisted. Then the smart kid in the room raised her hand and made the same case much more comprehensively and eloquently. Your reaction may have been to think “Man! I wish I’d said that”.
But you were glad she did, and you hoped the teacher would listen.
Sometimes similar things happen in the real world. Across the country, bark beetles are doing what they’ve been doing for millennia – reproducing and, in the process, killing trees. In response the Forest Service (the teacher in our scenario) has felt the need to address what they see as a growing “crisis”. In many cases, they’ve reflexively proposed to do what they’ve always done – log it! A new report suggests that might not be the best idea.
If only common sense was a bit more common
- Problem: Many of our National Forests are a mess because of decades of mismanagement.
- Problem: Most everyone agrees that's because of a combination of too much logging and years of fire suppression.
- Problem: The Forest service spends too much money suppressing fires & lacks the resources to adequately fund other major priorities.
It seems like there might be a pretty simple solution to this problem: Do something different!
“Rather than devoting a lot of money and manpower to fighting fires, Floch wants a more hands-off approach, allowing flames to do what they do naturally in a fire-dependant ecosystem.”
That’s an excerpt from a great article that ran in the Ravalli Republic about a fire in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho. There, the Forest Service is allowing natural fires in remote backcountry to do what they do. Click here for the full article, and continue past the jump to read more…
Walden goes for the backcountry
We’ve had a pretty mild fire season this year in Oregon. A couple of flare-ups grabbed headlines over the weekend, but it looks like the Microwave Fire near the town of Mosier (in the Columbia River Gorge) is thankfully under control.
Of course, the relatively calm fire season won’t stop folks from using the fear of fire to drum up support for some bad ideas.
We’ve seen this before. In 2003 the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA) was signed into law. The bill allowed the Forest Service to make an end-run around environmental laws to execute logging projects that would improve "forest health." Of course, "forest health" is a pretty nebulous term. And in the case of HFRA, the term was being defined with the intent of increasing forest harvest more than promoting forest health.
Old growth habitats and the fear of fire, bird watchings, a butterfly tale, wild rapids, and the political dams.
Old growth habitats provide protection
Recent studies report that spotted owl habitat is not more prone to forest fire, which the Bush administration tried to contend as reasoning for ramping up old growth logging. By looking at satellite images, scientists have decided that an increase in forest thinning may not be the answer, and the argument that the spotted owl's habitat can be ignored because logging must happen to prevent forest fires has been disproved.
Beetle outbreaks are normal, natural events. We may have made them worse with logging, fire suppression, and climate change. Forest Service answer? More logging, fire suppression (and never mind the effect of logging on climate change.)
Yesterday (July 6th) the New York Times ran a fascinating article on western bark beetles that bucked the traditional wisdom.
According to most in the Forest Service and the logging industry, a bark beetle outbreak is a natural disaster, akin to an earthquake or volcano. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been cited as the source of the sound bite that "beetle outbreaks are the hurricane Katrina of the West."
But the sound bite and the science don't quite mesh.