"Democracy in Action"
Perspectives & Opinions Expressed in the Feather
The following is a series of opinions and perspectives shared by the writers in the Opinion and Editorial section of the Feather Publishing newspapers from November to early of January of 2005. The focus of the exchange is the Meadow Valley project, but it displays the differences of opinions related to the QLG vision and those of environmental activists.
|Thank you to Feather Publishing for providing the opinions, letters and stories.|
Open to differing points of view
Feather Publishing Editorial (11/3/04)
Plumas National Forest projects are politically driven, not good for forests or communities
By Craig Thomas, Director of Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign in Sacramento (11/3/04)
Plan makes no sense
Chad Hanson, Director, John Muir Project (11/03/04)
They're just obstructionists
Rose Comstock, member of the Quincy Library Group
Who’s really playing politics with forest management?
By George Terhune, member of the Quincy Library Group (11/10/04)
Give me a break
Frank Stewart, Counties’ QLG Forester and \Quincy Library Group member (11/10/04)
The return of the ecofrauds
D. Keith Crummer, Registered Professional Forester, Chester (11/24/04)
By James Overstreet, Quincy (11/24/04)
Bring the experts here
Linda Blum, Quincy Library Group member (12/15/04)
The QLG is more than politics; it has a solution for the forest
By Mike Yost, Member, Quincy Library Group member (01/05/05)
It's no secret that this newspaper supports the Quincy Library Group and its vision of how national forests should be managed. Supporters of the QLG believe that proper management will make forests healthier, reduce the risk of wildfire, and provide jobs through the harvest of a renewable resource. To attain these goals, the QLG advocates individual and group selection tree removal. The QLG uses science to validate its position.
However, not everyone buys into the QLG theories. Environmental groups believe that the QLG goes too far, and that its real intent is to supply sawlogs for the timber companies. Their vision for national forests involves the removal of underbrush and small trees with a healthy dose of prescribed fire. Like the QLG, environmental groups pin their beliefs on science.
Recently this newspaper printed a story about a lawsuit filed by various environmental groups to stop a QLG project in Meadow Valley. Feather Publishing also published an editorial defending the QLG project and questioning the motives of those who filed the suit.
In this week's edition are a couple of responses. On the facing page, the reader will find a From Where I Stand penned by Craig Thomas, the director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. Though he asked for the opportunity to submit his opinion piece, he was surprised when it was granted. He said he knew the newspaper's position on the issue and didn't think we would be willing to print an opposing view.
His statement is one that calls for pause and an examination of our newspaper's role in this community. Our primary job is to disseminate information that affects the residents of Plumas County. We also provide a vehicle for those residents to share their points of view on that information. The recent space we have devoted to the Letters to the Editor section of this newspaper validates that fact. Those who have read the letters know that our readers have very differing points of view.
Just as our readers differ over who should be our next president, they differ over the best way to manage our natural resources. What's striking about reading opinions about presidential candidates or timber harvests is the conviction behind those beliefs.
It's highly unlikely that a QLG member is going to wake up one morning and say, "Let's only cut trees 6 inches in diameter because that is just as effective as removing larger trees." And it's just as unlikely that the president of the Sierra Club is going to say, "Let's make sure that we remove some merchantable timber to keep the sawmills open."
Ironically, the QLG was born of two such opposite viewpoints coming together. It took years of talks and concessions, but the QLG forest management plan was an attempt to balance the needs of communities with those of the environment. Now there are differing views about the QLG itself.
That's to be expected. It's also to be expected that a newspaper which prides itself on being the primary news source in this county, will provide a place to share those views.
Most people agree that a combination of past management (e.g., decades of over-harvest of large, fire-resistant old growth trees) and fire suppression have created unnaturally high fuel loads on many acres of forest in the Sierra Nevada. Unfortunately, that is where the agreement ends. How to restore the public's forests in the Sierra Nevada, has been part of a fierce, 15-year debate over resource management policy. This debate has as much to do with people's core values and how we think about and value public land as it does with logging volumes.
The Forest Service's recent Meadow Valley project, as well as several other projects in the pipeline, goes too far in support of those who advocate intensive resource extraction while ignoring current fire science and concerns for wildlife habitat and community fire protection. The Meadow Valley project represents a variety of painfully clear examples of how political pressure and decisions regarding public land management can turn good intentions into harmful results.
The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and its 86-member coalition supports the Forest Service's 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework Plan and sees no improvement in the level of protection for communities such as Meadow Valley and the Forest Service land immediately surrounding that community, when compared to the 2004 revisions. The Forest Service's own Meadow Valley fuels report at p. 21 states that the biggest contributors to fire behavior are surface fuels under 3 inches and ladder fuels less than 10-12 inches in diameter. We couldn't agree more.
Near the community of Meadow Valley, the Forest Service has already spent considerable resources to treat hazardous fuels. As recently as last fall the Forest Service completed a thinning and prescribed burn project called the Camp project adjacent to the northern portion of the Meadow Valley community. With the burning completed, the project has accomplished its goal of reducing forest fuels. Taxpayers' money and Forest Service time expended on the Camp project was money well spent. The area around this portion of the Meadow Valley community is in desired condition and is much less likely to exhibit harmful fire behavior because of those treatments.
But now in a decision that makes no sense, the Forest Service is planning to log previously treated stands of trees in the Camp project by placing over 40 small clear cuts in the heart of the thinned and burned area. After the Forest Service spent all this time and money planning and executing the Camp thinning and burning project, now they are going to log it again. And Camp isn't the only area they plan to re-log.
Also of concern, is the contradiction between the stated purpose of the Quincy Library Group plan to create a fire resilient forest and the placement of a myriad of small clear cuts in the heart of the fuels reduction zone. The result is a series of highly flammable plantation leading to a dramatic increase in fire severity. Scientists we brought on site were stunned by this lack of common sense. Add the fact that the timber sales failed to specify that the logging slash be cleaned up and it's even more of a concern.
Lastly, when the Forest Service analyzed the environmental impact of the Quincy Library Group proposal in 1999, they found that the impacts from the logging were too extreme. The 2001 Framework lessened those impacts and better balanced the benefits and risks of treatments with other equally important goals of enhancing old growth forests and protecting wildlife. The Forest Service argument that they lack the funding to treat enough acres is a hollow one. Senator Feinstein has worked hard to provide a major increase in funding for the QLG projects, to support the economics of difficult to treat areas. That is a viable solution. There is plenty of money to manage our national forests without doing more harm in the name of forest health. We need national leadership that supports ecological restoration.
Although the Bush Administration's 2004 revisions to the Framework Plan tried to make a case for increased logging to reduce fire risk, their analysis ignored the science. The Forest Service disregarded serious, short-term impacts while basing their decision on the uncertain long-term effects of intensive logging. In other words, they didn't think it through.
The harmful impacts of the Quincy plan still stand. There is no science that suggests one must log of 20-30 inch trees or the reduction of tree canopy cover to 40 percent in order to provide effective fuels treatments to protect communities. In fact, the best available science is saying the opposite. Fire hazard reduction is about treating surface and ladder fuels, while increasing canopy openings can often do more harm than good. You can leave higher canopy cover by working more intensively in the understory as shown in recent work being done at Blodgett Research Forest in the central Sierra.
Those who argue for intensive overstory logging as the only solution remain blind to the adverse impacts of that logging, not just upon wildlife but facilitation of increased fire effects from opening the forest. They are misleading the public by failing to address the mitigating effects of surface and ladder fuels treatments, which in normal Sierra Nevada fire behavior types will prevent crown fire, spotting and torching. If fire is in the crowns of trees, adequate surface and ladder fuel treatments will cause fire to drop to the ground. Anyone who reads the current fire science finds the leading researchers (Stephens, Agee, Odion, Keeley and others) saying very similar things:
• It's the surface and ladder fuels, not big trees that are the major part of the fire problem.
• Adjustments can be made for leaving higher canopy by intensified understory treatments.
• Plantations are a real threat for increased fire severity.
• Old forests with high canopy and higher crown heights are fire resilient.
• Opening forest canopies can cause increased fire effects.
• Contrary to Forest Service statements detailed CDF records show that there have not been dramatic increases in forest fires in the Sierra Nevada over time. The Forest Service only looked at the portion of the record that conveniently made their case.
The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign strongly supports fuels reduction work on public and private land. We currently have six paid people working in six different fire-safe councils to support proactive fire risk reduction work in Sierra Nevada communities. We support scientifically sound fuels treatments, whether it is burning or thinning. We do not support excessive logging in the guise of fire risk reduction. To answer QLG member Frank Stewart's question in a recent editorial, that asked what we are afraid of, only one thing: We are afraid of full implementation of a flawed plan and its long-term impacts on the health of the Sierra Nevada and its communities, and the precedent it sets for narrow views of science and forest management.
The recent reporting on the lawsuit against the Meadow Valley timber sale missed a couple of key points ("USFS pulls timber sales," Oct. 20). First, the lawsuit would not halt understory thinning of trees up to 12 inches in diameter. The Forest Service's own fire report for this project states that the fire risk reduction objectives can be met with a 12-inch limit. Second, the Forest Service claims that this logging project is being done to reduce potential for severe fire, but the decision and the timber contracts allow highly flammable logging slash debris (branches from felled trees) to be left behind. The Forest Service's own science clearly shows that this dramatically increases fire severity. Many of the proposed logging units are in areas where the undergrowth vegetation was already thinned and where prescribed burning was recently conducted. This makes no sense.
In response to Plan Makes No Sense by Chad Hanson, Director John Muir Project, points out the Bulletin "missed" a couple of points regarding the recent lawsuit opposing the Meadow Valley fuel reduction project filed by the John Muir Project and the Sierra Forest Protection Campaign.
I would agree the Bulletin did miss a couple of points. The Sierra Forest Protection Campaign and the John Muir Project action represent nothing more than obstructionists determined to undermine any responsible or legally authorized forest management action on all forests within the Quincy Library Group area, for the sole purpose of expanding a special interest agenda to stop any and all management on public lands.
The last thing either of these organizations want is for the QLG Pilot Project to succeed for fear it would logically be replicated throughout the Western United States and prove once and for all that ecological and economical needs can coexist in a sustainable manner.
Both of these organizations have been opposed to the QLG concept from the beginning regardless of the intent of the pilot project to determine how best to manage our vast timber lands to support and sustain both an economic and ecological need.
Both organizations, since passage of the HFQLG Act by Congress in 1998, appear to be determined to contribute toward the failure of the QLG Pilot Project through continual appeals and lawsuits, subjecting local communities to a larger threat of high intensity catastrophic wildfire, declining wildlife habitat and economic instability. There's no question that as year after year go by, the threat of catastrophic wildfire grows, and not only near our communities. Our forests remain choked and ready to burn, wildlife and all. Look around the Western U.S. and you'll see that over the last years, millions of acres have burned, thousands of homes have been lost, and dozens of people have died, because management has nearly stopped as a result of appeals and lawsuits much like the one filed by Hanson and Thomas.
Our turn is coming, we just don't know when.
So is it responsible and logical to implement a plan that will do multiple things to protect our environment and at the same time provide for economic stability? Absolutely.
To do otherwise would normally be considered negligent on the part of the federal government. And, in my opinion, it would seem that the John Muir Project and the Sierra Forest Protection Campaign are contributing toward that negligence by virtue of frivolous appeals and lawsuits.
These lawsuits have a direct affect on the ability of the federal government to respond within a reasonable time to a condition that is growing more and more dangerous every day. I would go so far as to wonder what approach these organizations would take if property owners and injured families were able to hold them personally responsible through civil or criminal prosecution because their actions directly contributed to the loss of life and property? It certainly is a question that I believe deserves further investigation and congressional review.
In last week’s From Where I Stand column, Craig Thomas attacked the Herger-Feinstein QLG pilot project for what he claimed were its narrow views of science and forest management. In fact, HFQLG projects have broad based long term objectives, and are supported by science developed at the University of California Blodgett Experimental Forest and elsewhere, and forest management concepts practiced by the Collins Pine Company, the first private forest in America to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
The problem with the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign is that it won’t. It won’t protect the forests, and it certainly won’t protect the communities within and around the forests.
With the HFQLG Act, Congress required the Forest Service to implement and demonstrate the effectiveness of the QLG recommendations for fuelbreak construction, group selection and individual tree selection harvest, riparian protection, and stream restoration, to achieve a desired future condition of an all-age, multistory, fire resilient forest.
Strategic fuel reduction is urgently needed, and it is a major component of the plan. But the pilot project also recognizes that these forests cannot be sustained over time unless they are restored to structures and species compositions very close to the pre-settlement forests. It would be a huge mistake to “preserve” the unnatural, unhealthy, unsustainable forests we now have.
Congress also required the Pilot project to be consistent with applicable federal law, and to be done by the most cost-effective means available. One of those applicable laws is the Organic Act that established the Forest Service more than 100 years ago. That law has been added to but not repealed, and it requires the National Forests to be managed for a sustained supply of timber and favorable conditions for water flow from the forests. The most cost-effective way to implement the Pilot project is to obey the Organic Act by using timber harvest where appropriate to achieve the other management objectives, such as fuelbreak construction and forest restructuring.
The campaign says that “opening forest canopies can cause increased fire effects.” Yes, “can” cause. But any such effect has to be balanced against the reduction in fire effects due to the removal of fuel and the lower probability of crown fire if the canopy is adequately thinned. On balance the advantage is strongly in favor of removing the fuel and thinning the canopy. But “balance” doesn’t seem to be a Forest Protection Campaign objective.
They claim that there is “plenty of money” to do it their way, but in fact the pilot project has never been fully funded, money isn’t easy to get, and that situation can only become worse, not better. There is a huge amount of forest to be thinned, and there is an urgent need to get the work done. But it can’t be done within a reasonable time unless a major part of the cost is offset by revenues from sawlogs and biomass that is removed in the process of fuel reduction, and other forest health treatments. The HFQLG program, if implemented according to the Act, would offset most or all of the costs with revenues from timber sales. The campaign wouldn’t allow any offset at all. The difference is whether it takes the Forest Service a few years, or several decades if ever, to provide adequate protection from forest fires.
The campaign also complains that the Meadow Valley project will endanger the California spotted owl. The truth is that science shows no conclusive evidence that the California spotted owl is declining. Furthermore, a recent comprehensive survey of existing owl science included a recommendation to "design landscape-scale experiments to assess the effects of silvicultural treatments designed to reduce fire risks and the owls response to controlled logging and silvicultural treatments." That landscape scale experiment is exactly what the HFQLG pilot project would provide, and the campaign is trying to stop.
In their lawsuit to stop the Meadow Valley project, the Campaign also complains that the Forest Service did not perform an adequate analysis of cumulative effects. In fact, the Forest Service did analyze the cumulative effects of this and other HFQLG projects. And the pilot project is squarely aimed at reversing the worst cumulative effect of all — the huge overstock of trees in today’s Sierra Nevada national forests, caused by decades of fire suppression instead of fuel reduction. Today’s forests are so overcrowded with white fir and incense cedars that the desirable pine component cannot regenerate and be sustained in mixed conifer forests. And the encroachment of maladapted firs and cedars into the drier pine forests has made those forests much more susceptible to fire, drought, infestation, and disease.
The main cumulative effect of the campaign would be the elimination of all timber harvest on our national forests. When Californians build a home today, only 25 percent of the wood comes from California, even though more than enough grows in our own forests. Instead of permitting the use of our home-grown timber, the campaign would pass off forest management problems to places where our strict forestry rules do not apply. Their world view is a very narrow selfish version of NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard — let somebody else take the consequences, not them, not here.
Finally, if the campaign has its way, we northern Californians will soon find ourselves in the same situation as our neighbors in San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, where tens of thousands of acres of forest have died or burned up because the overcrowded forests came up against a few years of drought. Those people are in a near hopeless situation, because there is no local capacity to remove the dead trees that have burned or the dying trees that will burn. And if they can find somebody to do the work at all, it is hugely expensive because the required equipment and expert workforce must be imported, and there are no local sawmills to pay for the logs.
Bottom line? The HFQLG pilot project is the only place in the national forest system where strategic fuel reduction can be done at a large enough scale, and on a fast enough schedule to make a real difference in our immediate exposure to catastrophic fires and our long term prospects for a healthy sustainable forest. Its success is vital to the health and safety of our communities and our forests.
In contrast, the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign is dead set against having this project go forward at anything like the intended scale or pace or effectiveness. They want to stop this project precisely because it might establish a model and set a precedent for greatly improved forest management, and that would undermine both their fund-raising efforts and their political agenda.
Here we go again. Recently, there was an opinion piece in Where I Stand by another pseudo-environmentalist representing one of the myriads of emotionally attractive forest savior groups. The gist of the article was that there was no need to cut trees larger than 12 inches in diameter in the development of effective shaded fuel breaks (defensible fuel profiles) or to achieve forest health objectives. The idea seemed to be that if you clean up the forest floor around homes and along roads, there would no longer be crown fires to threaten communities. Some names of scientists were mentioned who were, at least self-proclaimed, experts on the subject.
I have worked with some of the true fire scientists and have tried to keep up on the scientific literature on wildfire behavior, at least with regard to California forests, but have never run across any of these names. Perhaps these scientists came from some other field of investigation, such as the spread of tooth decay. No credentials were offered so I doubly suspect their credibility.
I have a degree in Forestry and Forest Ecology from UC-Berkeley and have personally spent more than 30 years in wildfire suppression. I rose through the ranks to achieving Incident Commander certification before I retired as Ecosystem Manager for the Lassen National Forest. I have been on more than 100 wildland fires ranging from small lightning fires to the holocausts of Yellowstone in size.
I have also been involved in the planning and conduct of numerous underburns and prescribed fires, both practical and experimental. These are my credentials. I would like to see the credentials of the save-the-forest through inaction piece.
One thing that is commonly observed by firefighters on crown fires, those spreading through the upper forest canopy, is that winds or steep slopes will drive these fires past the ground fire beneath. In fact, the crown fire is often independent of surface fuels and drops down through the forest canopy to ground level as it sweeps over.
This is because, in the case of wind driven fires, that the gradient wind velocity normally decreases from the tree tops to the forest floor. Anyone who has spent any time working or hiking through the woods has experienced this. The wind lays the advancing fire down over canopy, and heat conduction does the rest.
The upshot is that simply cleaning up and thinning in the lower canopy will not prevent a crown fire from passing through the upper canopy when a wildfire enters from outside the treated area. The canopy density must be reduced and the tree crowns spaced out such that crown fires do not have the continuity necessary to carry them. Incidentally, this will result in more sunlight to the forest floor, which is essential for species diversity and ecological health.
Thinning of the large trees is, therefore, a necessary tool in the fire-safe toolbox. Ground fuels cleanup, thinning and pruning are, however, very important to keeping ground fires from becoming crown fires. If a house is burning, it may help reduce its spread to neighboring houses. Likewise, fires originating along roads may be slowed from spreading into the wildlands or your neighborhood.
The true interest of the ecosavior group was revealed in the concern that trees larger than 12 inches in diameter not be removed. This prevents lumber mills from utilizing valuable material and helping offset the cost of forest protection.
Those of us who pay taxes must cover the entire cost and the results will still be ineffective. This is why I consider this group in the ecofraud category. They espouse concern for the environment, but their true concern appears to be anti business — especially anti timber industry. To this end, they are willing to sacrifice the forest environment and your homes, along with our local jobs and economy.
Rather than utilizing industry to do the planned work and return funds for other ecologically beneficial activities, they would rather import raw materials from other countries and let ours burn.
What a legacy to ignorance!
It is correct to say that Plumas National Forest projects under the Quincy Library Group Herger-Feinstein bill are driven by politics. Politics that will harm the land and fail to serve the public good over the long term.
The Quincy Library Group has billed itself as being a group of environmentalists and people from the timber industry working together for improvement of forest health plus local economic stability. In fact it is dominated by the timber industry.
Industry muscle proved one of the major reasons the bill passed at the witching hour by Congress.
The Forest Service in the past four years has been to a great extent dominated by the timber industry. The Undersecretary of Agriculture came into the Bush administration from a previous position as a timber industry lobbyist.
In 2001, The Forest Service implemented the Sierra Nevada Framework. It was a comprehensive plan for restoration of forest health – a component being a drastic reduction in logging with attention to wildlife habitat and stream restoration.
An immediate review was implemented by order of the Bush administration. This year, 2004, the Regional Forester issued revisions ripping the heart out of the Sierra Nevada Framework .
Revisions favoring the timber industry were promoted by a publication produced under professional consulting service guidance for which it got $50,000.
With new guidelines for the Sierra Nevada Framework in place, the threat to the Quincy Library Group Herger Feinstein bill was removed. The large-scale logging component of their plan could now proceed.
The lawsuit concerns Meadow Valley which is the first stage in the QLG plan allowed under the revised Sierra Nevada Framework.
The Meadow Valley project is a logging application that removes ten million board feet of larger trees of commercial grade, the type much preferred by industry.
The lawsuit challenges the QLG assumption group selection will make a fire-resistant forest. It also questions the removal of so many large fire-resistant trees. There is the question of the Forest Service not marking their trees for cutting but letting the buyer do the marking.
Allowing the timber purchaser to mark trees for cutting is like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
The Forest Service needs to address how the Meadow Valley Project would impact the environment when considered cumulatively short-term and long-term with various other QLG projects. This should be done by a complete environmental analysis. This is time-consuming but necessary from a professional standpoint serving the interests of the public and protecting the land and not one of stopping the QLG or other logging activity.
I subscribe to a mode of fire protection and forest health having a regimen of prescribed burning, brush removal and smaller diameter tree removal on a per site basis. The ideal would be duplicating nature.
The Quincy Library Group doesn't have my support because they are right and everybody else is wrong. They feel anyone not for them is against. For them there is only one way to do things and one way only. They fail to interact with other major environmental groups. Their science would be hard-pressed to pass peer review.
The negative and mean-spirited talk directed against those bringing the lawsuit by Herger, Terhune is nothing more than sour grapes. What would their action be if the tables were turned? People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
I personally am acquainted with John Preschutti of the Plumas Forest Project. I know him as an honest, intelligent and whocompetent person with great concern for the environment and knows what real science is. He can communicate with and work will all of those of good intent and will without a selfish hidden agenda. He tells it like it is and calls a spade a spade.
The lawsuit being brought by the four environmental groups is not one lacking merit or purpose, rather it is one where there is conviction that science and law are on their side and will be proven in court.
The expected delay of the Meadow Valley Project for 12-18 months or more doesn't mean the project area will disappear. It means everything will get sorted out by a judge who can, and will, make a judgment based on law.
The bottom line is that it is better to take time and get things right. Environmental mistakes are costly and damage cannot easily be repaired. Saying something was a mistake won't fix the damage.
Laws are laws and should be observed by all. There shouldn't be any one person or group above the law.
I want to thank Craig Thomas, director for the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign for clearly demonstrating to the citizens in Sierra rural communities the hypocrisy of his position, organization and allies. His Nov. 3 response in the newspaper to my “editorial question” of what his organization is afraid of is a prime example of the propaganda mission and political agenda of the campaign and its financial supporters. For 12 years Craig Thomas and the campaign have faithfully followed the instructions from the major national environmental organizations to discredit the efforts of the Quincy Library Group and stop the implementation of the Herger-Feinstein QLG Pilot Project. His anti-QLG message is the same today as it was in the $180,000 full page add that he purchased in the New York Times back in September of 1997 to influence the Senate vote on the H-F QLG legislation.
Mr. Thomas dodged the real answers to my question and fear of the campaign and its supporters:
•The fuel reduction and forest restoration activities of the QLG Pilot Project actually work and provide a cohesive strategy for other western states to address their forest health problems.
•The success of the QLG Pilot Project will discredit the agenda of the campaign and reduce their financial and political supporters.
•The Bush Administration will expedite tort reforms and eliminate the opportunity for the campaign and its allies to abuse the court system by filing frivolous lawsuits that end up costing tax payers billions of dollars annually.
•The public is catching on to the obstructionist strategy and agenda of the campaign and its supporters and will begin to hold them liable for the social, economic and environmental losses from catastrophic forest fires.
If Craig Thomas had any credibility he would have informed the readers that in addition to filing the lawsuit to stop the fuel reduction and forest restoration efforts of the Meadow Valley projects, he and his cronies also filed a lawsuit to stop the fuel reduction efforts around the community of Mineral in Tehama County (another QLG project) and several other communities in El Dorado County. Through these frivolous lawsuits he continually attacks the credibility, judgment and performance of the Forest Service professionals that conduct the environmental reviews and analysis of each of the projects and demands that they spend additional funds and resources in an endless game of analysis-paralysis.
I have the pleasure to serve on the board of directors for the California Fire Safe Council and several county fire safe councils, and I find it appalling that Craig Thomas and the campaign would go as far as to “have six paid people working in six different Fire Safe Councils” to spread their political garbage and sabotage the collaborative efforts of hard working citizens to protect their families, homes and communities from the ravages of catastrophic forest fires. Have you no shame, Craig?
After all the rhetorical jousting between Craig Thomas and Keith Crummer in recent editions of the newspaper, I want to reassure my friends and neighbors that the environmental contingent of the Quincy Library Group is alive, well, and fully engaged.
Through the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Restoration Act, old-growth forests and 466,000 acres of roadless lands are congressionally protected from logging and road building through the end of this decade – a feat the national environmental groups have been unable to accomplish for the other 58 million unroaded acres of national forests nationwide. We continue to participate in QLG's monthly public meetings with the Forest Service. We spend several days each year on field trips to project sites with Forest Service staff, evaluating both design and implementation of forest thinnings and fuels reduction treatments. We submit comments on Forest Service proposals during public comment periods, and have occasionally opposed portions of some projects that did not comply with either the HFQLG Act or the QLG's own internal agreement. We have operated on the "trust, but verify" theory of getting along in groups; doing so has taught us some valuable lessons in community and political activism.
While not every acre of every project has been treated the way we thought it should be, overall the treatments have been restorative and beneficial to the environment. I challenge Craig Thomas to bring any or all of his named fire and forestry experts to Quincy, to say publicly that the HFQLG treatments are the wrong thing to do. My hunch is that, when faced with the particulars of the QLG-area forest conditions rather than with abstract generalities, even Craig's favorite experts will agree with the QLG approach.
The QLG is more than politics; it has a solution for the forest
By Mike Yost, Member, Quincy Library Group (01/05/05)
In recent weeks several letters to this paper representing The Sierra Nevada Protection Campaign have attacked the Quincy Library Group, the U.S. Forest Service and the Meadow Valley project. They claim that the QLG is dominated by the timber industry, the Forest Service ignores current fire science and the Meadow Valley project is flawed.
If our critics would take the time to attend a QLG meeting they would realize how inaccurate their statements are. They would also learn how misguided they are about basic forest ecology and good forest practices.
The 10 years since the passage of the QLG bill have been challenging. We’ve waded through several sets of federal regulations, which effectively restricted QLG prescriptions from being implemented. There were: CASPO, HFQLG-EIS, the Mitigation, the Sierra Nevada Framework, and, finally, the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment.
The Plumas National Forest folks designed the Meadow Valley project following QLG prescriptions under this latest plan amendment, after attempts to apply framework regulations on the ground proved inadequate to accomplish management goals.
Management prescriptions for the Meadow Valley project are based on the QLG vision of a future forest that is a mosaic of small groups of all-aged, multistory, fire resistant, mixed conifers much like the forest that was here before arrival of European man.
The California mixed conifer forest is a complex biological community containing an assemblage of six tree species growing together in the same habitat: black oak, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, Douglas fir, incense cedar, and white fir. Each species has very different environmental requirements and unique survival strategies. For example, each species is host to different but specific insects and diseases and each has a different but specific complex of micorrhizal fungi, which are attached to the roots and essential for absorption of soil nutrients.
However, the long-term survival strategies which are most apparent to us (and which are the basis for management recommended by the QLG) are: the sensitivity of each species to shade, to prolonged drought, and to fire. Ponderosa pine, for example, has thick bark, deep tap roots, and the ability to drop lower limbs when no longer needed for photosynthesis. These adaptations enhance its resistant to drought and fire, but make it unable to thrive in shaded conditions. In order to grow, seedlings and young trees need full sunlight.
White fir on the other hand, has evolved to grow rapidly in dim light. It accomplishes this by maintaining a widespread, shallow root system and retaining its limbs. It has a very thin bark. The trade-off? Shallow roots and thin bark offer little protection from fire or drought and layered limbs can carry even a light fire up into the crown.
Black oak is even more intolerant of shade than ponderosa pine, and is extremely sensitive to fire.
How can all six species grow and mature in the same stand? For thousands of years a big part of the answer was frequent, low intensity fires. Fire occurrence was frequent enough to keep the forest open for pine, yet not so frequent as to eliminate other species.
This natural fire regime averaged about 15 years between fires, which is about the amount of time needed for dead material on the forest floor to accumulate enough fuel to carry fire. These fires were caused not only by lightning, but were supplemented by fires started by native Maidu people who were quite skillful in using fire to retain fire resistant stands of pines and black oak near the places where they lived.
With the arrival of European man things changed.
Nearly 100 years of fire suppression, combined with harvesting of old-growth, fire-resistant trees resulted in forests with a significant pine component remaining in the overstory, and an understory composed almost entirely of fire susceptible firs and cedars as well as high amounts of dead fuel on the ground. These fuel conditions frequently result in unnaturally intense and destructive ground fires and fuel ladders which can ignite and sustain crown fires.
Defensible Fuel Profile Zones are the QLG-recommended approach to this fuel problem. DFPZs are linear fuel breaks constructed in strategic locations — usually along roads or ridge tops — to create a defensible place for firefighters to attack a fire. They may be up to a quarter mile wide and several miles long. The forest canopy is thinned. The largest overstory trees are retained and understory fuels and ground fuels are removed or burned. The concept is to connect DFPZs so that a wildfire may be confined to an area surrounded by DFPZs. This practice is widely supported by fire ecologists, and there have been several recent wildfire incidents were DFPZs functioned as anticipated.
The steady decline of the pine component in mixed conifer forests is likely to result in unpredictable ecological problems. Data from early research on the Plumas National Forest shows that in the years between 1910 and 1990 the volume of ponderosa pine had decreased from 40 percent to 20 percent of the volume, while the volume of white fir increased from 25 percent to nearly 50 percent.
In order to promote establishment and growth of pine it is necessary to create openings in the forest where sunlight can penetrate to the ground. According to researchers at the University of California Blodgett Forest, the minimum size of these openings should be at least twice as wide as the tallest nearby tree. This kind of silviculture is called “group selection.” A whole group of trees is harvested in an area ranging in size from one-tenth acre up to an acre or two. These are the openings that QLG detractors call small clearcuts — hardly an accurate term, as clearcuts are much larger and require planting for regeneration. Ample research from forest ecologists and past experience shows that group selection silviculture is a recommended way to reestablish the ponderosa pine component in the mixed conifer ecosystem.
The Meadow Valley project includes both DFPZs and group selection silviculture.
It is unfortunate that The Sierra Nevada Protection Campaign is using the courts in an attempt to stop the Meadow Valley project. Much is at stake here. This project is an excellent opportunity for the Forest Service to demonstrate that a combination of QLG proposed group selection prescriptions in combination with DFPZs may be our best solution for the protection and restoration of the mixed conifer forest.
In fact, no one familiar with the QLG group selection prescriptions has come up with a valid scientific criticism, nor has anyone offered an alternative solution.