Sunday, August 12, 2018

SMOKE! (as in fire and in Congress)


Roadmap to Oblivion
The Words Have It
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The luxury of stepwise planning is a lovely potion.
            On Friday, most of my day was spent alone setting up the installation of two water projects that will conclude our current environmental improvement project contract with the federal government. One of the practices is the installation of a water storage unit. The other is the placement of a new trough. Both will add water storage and availability where there are none.
The installation of the storage will be done with something we have advocated for some time. Rather than sitting it out somewhere on vacant land, we are opting to place the storage in the middle of an existing trough. The trough has not been used for several years due to the loss of the well that served it. It is a relatively big trough being 18’ in diameter. I must admit that I don’t care for big troughs especially if there is no barrier around them. Desert cattle learn from an early age that standing in them is a pleasant experience, but the outcome becomes a nasty mess. A full fledge sewer is the result, and, if it is not disagreeable to the cattle, it remains disagreeable to me.
Our cattle will be offered clean water to the extent we can provide it.
The poly storage tanks that are now available can serve two purposes. Of course, the first is storage, but the second is an effective barrier to keep cattle from crawling into the open troughs. Since they don’t rust, they can be placed right in the middle of the water. If you can size them properly, a drinking area that allows unencumbered drinking access without the ability to crawl into the water is created.
Voila, an externality exists!
The second benefit is not just a subtle one. It is the avoidance of the need for an arts clearance by the federal officer to allow or disallow the placement of the tank due to discovery of a broken arrowhead or a pottery shard.
That is the life we live.
California continues to burn.
Along the banks of the Kings River in Fresno County, our friends and church family in Kingsburg are telling us they are sick to death of the air quality. The dirty haze created by the annual festival of mega-carbon releases orchestrated by the good folks protecting and managing our precious natural resources has made it unbearable. To add misery to despair, cumulative daily 100° readings is now reaching delirium.
It was with that backdrop that the announcement of the annual budget for fighting fires on federal lands was reviewed. A whopping $3.9B annual line item is the new reward for the absence of any real management of federal forest lands.
That is no token outlay.
That represents about $650 per burned acre on the basis of the annual burn rate represented by the federal government. That is what it is now costing on an annualized basis to fight these mega-carbon releases.
Of course, the hope is for rain to suppress the fires, but, what about next year? What about ten years from now? Is there a solution or shall we consider wearing a respirator 300 miles from any ongoing inferno a natural right?
The hypocrisy is stifling … the robbery of the American citizenry and the squandering of the national treasury is worse.
Roadmap to Oblivion
The question must be asked. Is there anybody out there at the helm of this thing?
The answer has to be “no”. There is not a thing in place other than the new budget reward for malfeasance and neglect of substantive duty and management.
 The plan is to spend money on smoke.
Yes, our congressman can say he tried or defer to the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (RFFA), but neither of those actions mean anything. The House passed it, but the Senate didn’t. It doesn’t exist other than in the archives of failed attempts.
There is no strategy, folks, and the Forest Service and the BLM have absolutely no plan of attack to counter this now century old debacle of utter federal failure.
If you don’t have a headache and need one, read the RFFA. It is truly an exercise in the interpretation of Swamp Talk. If it was passed in its current form, the federal land management agencies are guaranteed to grow and prosper while bowing to the alter of the National Environmental Policy Act. Rather than seeking some semblance of a plan to convert fuel in place and return sunlight to the forest floors, all such actions excluded from the throttling of any action by NEPA evaluations will be confined to 10,000 acre replicates or 30,000 acre replicates if privileged NGO partners are subscribed.
On the Gila, the Lincoln, and the Cibola Forests in New Mexico, respectively, “test” pilot demonstrations are going to be staged to see if thinning and watershed projects actually work!
Arbitrators are going to be employed to identify projects. Their requirements are to evaluate such things as forest health, habitat diversity, wildfire potential, insect/disease potential and timber production. Of course, this has to be studied and major universities are going to be contracted on the basis of shared work with the federal Forest Lab as if real conclusions will be found outside of the obvious.
Perhaps the real answer is being manifested as we watch. At the current burn rate, the entire USFS standing forest will be burned in 21 years. That will take care of the problem as it now exists, and, then … we can start over.
God Help Us!

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) payments are sprinkled across the landscape at a current rate of about $.78 per federal acre to keep the natives from uprising. Compare that to the $650 per burn acre given to the agencies to deal with their ineptness.”

It just so happens I had prepared a status report and summary of the Resilient Federal Forests Act for the Linebery Policy Center for Natural Resource Management. It is one of 25 different bills I'm tracking for the Linebery Legislative Lineup.

Linebery Legislative Lineup

Number: H.R. 2936
Title: Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017
Sponsor: Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
Status: Introduced on 06/20/17 and referred to House Natural Resources and two other Committees. Reported out of the Natural Resources Committee on 6/27/2017 (House Rept. 115-370, Part 1
Passed the House on 11/01/2017.

CRS Summary

This bill shall apply whenever the Department concerned, either the Department of Agriculture for National Forest System (NFS) lands or the Department of the Interior for public lands, prepares an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) for specified forest management activities, including those that:
  • will occur on lands identified as suitable for timber production; or
  • will occur on a landscape-scale area designated by the Department concerned as part of an insect and disease treatment program on NSF land pursuant to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, notwithstanding whether such activity is initiated before September 30, 2018.
In such an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement, the Department concerned shall study, develop, and describe only these two alternatives:
  • the forest management activity, and
  • the alternative of no action.
In the case of the alternative of no action, the Department concerned shall evaluate:
  • the effect of no action on forest health, habitat diversity, wildfire potential, insect and disease potential, and timber production; and
  • the implications of a resulting decline in forest health, loss of habitat diversity, wildfire, or insect or disease infestation on domestic water supply in the project area, wildlife habitat loss, and other economic and social factors.
The bill establishes categorical exclusions regarding certain other forest management actions
A process is established for declaration of a major disaster for wildfire on federal lands managed by specified federal land management agencies

No comments: