Sunday, July 02, 2017
Burn, Baby Burn!
Burn, Baby Burn!
This has been a bad week for the Forest Service.
Actually, it has been a bad century. If it wasn’t such an institutional and national disgrace and tragedy, the cumulative ineptness of the United States Forest Service would be a great comic relief. Growing and harvesting timber on the basis of about one to .08%, and, then limiting any form of substantive fuel reduction, they have rewritten the definition of arson. In fact, arson is no longer adequate to describe the greatest growth industry in the West and that certainly isn’t a suggestion of any sequestration of carbon, either. They are releasing carbon in the millions of tons per year. They are managing and surpassing volcanic detonations. Sure, they have a standard excuse.
Global warming …
The question must be asked, though. Don’t the idiots who now administer that once supposed grand institution understand that if they grow their hair and or facial hair long enough it will eventually impact the plate from which they eat?
Burn, Baby Burn
I don’t know Mike Noel (R-Kanab) personally, but I know enough about him to advocate that he be reconsidered for an agency dictatorship in the Trump administration. Mr. Noel is a rancher and a state legislator from Utah. Beyond that, he can be categorized and arrayed in an ever diminishing class of Americans that have retained the genetic tendency to display and employ common sense. We must all realize that is an ever more infrequent display of human pro forma much less one that is employed or on government subsistence, but he is one.
Speaking on the gross mismanagement of the Dixie National Forest that has resulted in the current Brian Head Fire, Representative Noel will forever be enshrined with the creation of the term “rock-lickers” which is so appropriate and accurate that it must be elevated into use. The new term was employed when he was describing the current state of the Forest Service.
“When we turned the Forest Service over to the bird and bunny lovers and tree-huggers and rock-lickers, we turn our history over,” he eloquently deducted during the press conference whereby officials were updating the public on the inferno that threatens some $700 million of Garfield County tax base. He couched his remarks on photos taken of the fire and comparisons made in logged and unlogged portions of the fire. Where the fuel load was reduced, the impact of the fire was substantially less devastating.
The problem is the Forest Service with its resident rock-lickers and its institutional rock-licker advocates, “The Friends of the Dixie National Forest” either drank wine over the idea or sued in U.S. District Court to stop the logging that would have moderated the current conflagration or avoided the outcome completely. As to the whereabouts of the “Friends” in the midst of the towering flames, they were no doubt ensconced somewhere in safe confines reading the anti Trump blogs or plotting the next major exercise to save their ultra black world. They certainly weren’t present at the press conference.
They expect the minions to take care of incidental collateral damage created from their good works.
In another chapter under the same story line but under a different name, the Arizona Frye Fire was a classic demonstration of agency adherence to self preservation. In this case, the Forest Service management determined that walking six fire fighters to put out what was then a small fire and spending $50,000 was too hazardous. By foregoing something practical, they were very soon spending a million dollars a day of tax payer money, putting 1000 fire fighters at risk in much worse conditions, and flying 20 aircraft to suppress a full blown inferno.
Reading an opinion piece on the fire by an expert reveals that even the language of fire suppression has changed since the days of yore and fighting fire on the Gila. We used to get to the fire and the first guy there was the fire boss. We then put a line around it, mopped it up, and called for a ride or walked out depending on where it was. Today, there are resource or suppression burn categories. There are nutrient recycle considerations (that is short for smoke), a checklist called Wildland Fire Complexity Analysis, Type 1, 2 and even 3 management teams, BAER teams, and, along with district rangers, there are fire management officers and they have assistants termed, surprise, assistant fire management officers.
A full blown industry has arisen out of poor management and less reality.
“Life First” will be the mantra if an investigation is done and nobody can disagree with that on face value, but when does national treasure and treasury actually get some substantive attention? Are the rock-lickers so powerful that modern day infernos have become standard summer viewing events? And, do these agency induced fires get a free pass forever in the liability and disregard for federal law they represent? Any citizen found guilty of such catastrophic destruction would be cast into prison. As the Arizona expert so accurately suggests, these managers will be lauded with cash awards, promotions, and be offered sympathy for working under such stressful conditions.
It is an upside down world in which we live.
Without fail, the federal government is on track to reward the Forest Service in a new attempt to get the agency to do the work it was always expected to perform. The agency will likely receive new funds in the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 to address the forest health decline they have created. That goes along with another bill, H.R. 2936, which directs the clearing of overgrown vegetation on federal lands near electrical grids.
On cue, opponents of H.R. 2936, including the tedious global warming advocates and a truck load of House democrats argue the measure will endanger key environmental protections and blamed the whole mess on climate change, improper fire suppression tactics, and bark beetles.
The Forest Service would do well with a good dose of generational stewardship and the requirement to be self supporting. Not that they were ever the correct stewards, but social science and biologists have replaced forestry and timber cruisers.
That goes along with their view of make believe and the shoe horning of real world and the consequences of unchecked federalism.
In its midst, nobody has to face the results of his or her actions. Like other heritage enterprises, the bulk of the real forestry business has been transported to private lands or shipped offshore where trees are actually grown and cultured for economic benefit and the good of the natural system. What has taken place in its vacuum is layered chaos. Each new iteration of management is glimpsing the forest world as it exists as if that is the way it has always been or should be.
There is no patriarch of substance who cultures competence and continuity with an iron fist. There is no steward who understands the business from dirt to shelf. There is no caretaker who dedicates his life to the rhythms of his actions rather than to the sum of his retirement package.
The Forest Service is broken and nonfunctional. It is a money pit and the resource it was created to serve is lost in the smoke and the tangle.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “On this one I disagree. Throwing money at this dysfunctional bureaucracy is insane.”