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The politics of forest fires

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The politics of forest fires

Postby mountaineer » Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:04 pm

I didn't want to muck up the other thread with this...it was a good thread for checking on people and news about the actual fire.

This little gem was lifted from the San Diego Union Tribune site:

Of about a dozen homes on his street, Neal Cohn's was one of just two that was spared from the flames. He attributed its survival to the fact that he regularly removed fallen pine needles from his property, a practice that is banned and subject to fines by the regional planning agency, which says their removal exposes bare soil and causes erosion, a prime culprit in Lake Tahoe's declining clarity.

This guy saved his house by taking precautions that were illegal in the Tahoe Basin...think he'll be prosecuted?

There is a lot that bugs me about the tree-thinning policy of the USFS. I researched it a bit last night and couldn't find out who to blame. I know who I want to blame but haven't found the smoking gun evidence just yet.



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Postby rightstar76 » Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:23 pm

If the trees had been adequately thinned it wouldn't matter whether there were pine needles or not on people's property. Who to blame? In my opinion, I think it's a combination of environmentalism gone awry mixed with real estate greed. There's so much money in Tahoe real estate and the thicker the forest, the more it's worth. Add to that people's concern that too many trees are being cut and you have a real tinder box that's ready to explode, well it did.
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Postby hikerduane » Tue Jun 26, 2007 6:50 pm

I think the Dave that lives a little north of me had a comment about the experimental forest north of him Swain Mt I believe it is on the Lassen NF. It will be interesting how the fire went thru the thinned area today then broke out again along 89 and crossed 89 in South shore where the 4 lane changes to 2 lanes. We will be able to see for ourselves if that is the area that I am thinking of. Time will tell if environmentalists loose credibility here, where many people can view the destruction.
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Postby mountaineer » Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:10 pm

I have found that the environmentalist left has been very opposed to thinning, constantly using the argument that it is a perk to logging companies. I also found that the thinning programs that WERE in place, were not adequately funded by the Bush administration. Anybody have any more specifics on this?
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Postby dave54 » Tue Jun 26, 2007 9:26 pm

hikerduane wrote:I think the Dave that lives a little north of me had a comment about the experimental forest north of him Swain Mt I believe it is on the Lassen NF. It will be interesting how the fire went thru the thinned area today then broke out again along 89 and crossed 89 in South shore where the 4 lane changes to 2 lanes. We will be able to see for ourselves if that is the area that I am thinking of. Time will tell if environmentalists loose credibility here, where many people can view the destruction.


You must be thinking if the Blacks Fire (2003 if my memory serves right). The Blacks Mtn Experimental Forest had undergone a series of treatments, with different blocks receiving different forms and levels of thinning and subsequent followup activities. After the fire, researchers went through and documented the fire effects in each block. The results were compiled and some Lassen NF personnel went back to Washington DC and presented the findings to a Congressional Committee. It was very startling and eye-opening to the DC policy wonks who previously only dealt with the issue as an abstract concept and had no real experience.

That is not the only example, but perhaps one of the better documented ones. The Storrie Fire is a another example. Everyone 'knows' clearcuts are flammable, as the environmentalists and media tout that as scientific fact every day. After the fire I was involved in the rehab effort. The old clearcuts ranging in age up to 20 years old were islands of green on a blackened hillside. The fire stopped dead at the edge of the old clearcut blocks, burned around them in the unharvested forest, and resumed burning high intensity again on the other side. The 2002 Hayman fire in CO had the same effect.

There is no dispute among firefighters as to the benefits of good forest treatment. Thinned areas are incorporated into firefighting tactics as advantageous locations to stop the fire. Overstocked unmanaged stands are usually abandoned to let burn as futile and dangerous to try to save.
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Postby SSSdave » Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:30 pm

Many will point fingers at each other, although the blame has a number of contributers both now and from yesterday.

The population around Lake Tahoe is far greater than authorities with hindsight in consideration of its unique environment would have ever allowed. Its destruction started as soon as careless greedy silver barons and their miners long ago began clear cutting its forests for mine timbers and Nevada towns and others netted every last giant cutthroat trout spawning up its streams to feed those miners. Despite those travesties, its land was always valued highly and immediately much was manipulated out of the public domain and into private hands. Thus began many decades of thoughtless abuses during the age when few knew better. John Muir's pleas to make it a national park were quickly drowned out. The later convenient exploitation of the Nevada shores by the gambling industry was an unfortunate development that promised a legacy of decades of excessive growth.

In the latter half of last century considerable effort began to halt the destruction from continued development and growth but such grated against mighty forces of wealth and greed. Thus a continual war of growth versus environmental concern where government injection of unsatisfying pragmatic compromises resulted. One of the most ridiculous compromises was the development of Tahoe Keys, that transformed the Upper Truckee River's wonderful marshy inlet stream environment into a disgusting boat in every backyard Florida style development. Most of the battles were around all the private lands where for years speculators had bought much land usually dividing such up into small lots while expecting to sell each for future mountain home development. Decades ago where one used to just see vacant lots beside dirt roads are all pricy homes beside modern paved roads. The city has pretty much densely built out to all the national forest land boundaries.

I just backpacked out of the Fallen Leaf trailhead up Glen Alpine Creek a couple weeks ago so had a recent chance to see some of the development along that lake. Given tomorrow's forecast wind change to the southwest, the chances are homes along that lake will be in more danger too. Of course almost all those home just like the ones in the areas that already burned are densely treed on most properties with yellow, sugar, and jeffrey pines and incense cedars. All dry mountain forest trees. That area is in the rain shadow of the much higher Crystal Range to the west so precipitation is lighter. The trees are of course a source of beauty and shade so people don't prune them back per prescribed defendable fire recommendations but instead gamble that fires won't happen. And all those many selling and speculating in big time real estate, really don't care as they are here today and living at some urban country club tomorrow. One could have predicted something like this disaster might have happened just like one can predict similar fires have and will in the future occur in the urban areas of coastal California that have moved into dry chapparal covered hilly areas and neglected to prune back the pretty natural vegetation.

Fingers will point at the lack of forest thinning but I'd bet hardly any of those local people bothered to complain much about that because human nature is such that seemingly long periods of our lifetime without problems tends to lull people into a sense of false security. Thus they put their heads in the squirrel hole and ignore common sense of what long term threats might occur. The same thing occurs in hurricane prone Atlantic and Gulf cities, or along flood prone rivers, or our earthquake fault lines etc. The US Forest Service and local government officials that have an influence in doing something probably have noted some of the potential fires that might occur but usually such voices are overwhelmed by the masses only aware of the pleasantness down in their squirrel holes as life merily goes on. Thus when budgets are allocated, due to that weak pressure from constituents and media, their requests are minimally addressed. Fingers will point at them and they will point fingers back, though it is the local community that had the power to most influence their own area given pressure through their own government. So that is where a solution most lies.

The news media is currently tossing about suspicions on the source of the fire around at what is called Seneca Pond. A sandy beaver pond area surrounded by running trails directly adjacent to one of these mountain housing projects. A place where a number of illegal firepits have been noted with many likely the result of the local kids. Between illegal campfires those illegally picnicing and camping, residential homeowners tossing cigaret butts as they walk along the trail, kids playing with fires, and insane firebugs, any place where a population is dense and large, the potential for some human source of fire soars as folks in Southern California know so well today. The fact that such recently used firepits are the status quo there and also the several I saw up in Desolation Wilderness where they are also supposed to be prohibitted, reflects a societal attitude that ought to be addressed. ...David
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Norman B. Livermore

Postby Strider » Wed Jun 27, 2007 12:57 pm

Slightly off-topic, but I wanted to note the passing of a great man this January, who was intimately involved in Forest Management issues. Livermore was a major opponent of clearcutting, due to its effect on streams, and a thorn in the side of his ex-bosses at Pacific. He was instrumental in getting then Governor Reagan behind the Minaret wilderness designation.

A good example of how environmentalism transcends politics. Curious if anyone on this forum was at the Minaret hike with Reagan in 1972, or knew Livermore.
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Re: The politics of forest fires

Postby cmon4day » Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:24 pm

mountaineer wrote: I know who I want to blame but haven't found the smoking gun evidence just yet.


Lets blame the guy who started the damn fire!

Vic
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Re: The politics of forest fires

Postby mountaineer » Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:35 pm

cmon4day wrote:
mountaineer wrote: I know who I want to blame but haven't found the smoking gun evidence just yet.


Lets blame the guy who started the damn fire!

Vic


Of course! I agree. I am just looking to place blame on the folks that allowed the forest situation to fester and not enable the fire to be fought more effectively.
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Re: The politics of forest fires

Postby Foamfinger » Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:42 pm

I am just looking to place blame on the folks that allowed the forest situation to fester and not enable the fire to be fought more effectively.


The Lake Tahoe Basin may be one of the most difficult places in the country to have a controlled burn. Though frequently proposed by fire managers in the region, the scale and frequency of these moderated fires has been severely hindered by many interests. Regular opponents? Homeowners and local businesses that don't want the smoke to affect their views or business in the short term. Perhaps blame is too quickly ascribed to the "environmentalist left"?
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Postby mountaineer » Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:50 pm

Foamfinger...I agree. Some of the blame can be placed on some of the homeowners themselves. But a vast majority of the blame can be placed squarely on the doorstep of those who would not allow precautions to be taken in the name of "the environment". The Sierra Club has been resisting the thinning of forests for years. The regulation of not allowing homeowners to clear pine needles from their property is absolutely ridiculous! In my brief research, I uncovered the possibility that the Bush administration might have underfunded the thinning programs that WERE in place, further exasterbating the problem.
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Postby SteveB » Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:27 pm

mountaineer wrote:In my brief research, I uncovered the possibility that the Bush administration might have underfunded


You're kidding, right? :retard: Pointing fingers at this event belongs first and foremost at the schmuck who cast aside a ciggy, or started a fire without need, or wanted a hot weenie for lunch. Second (and finally) it belongs with a piss-poor history of forest management because of foolishness (and strident agendas) on both sides of the political isle (which you brought into the discussion). Save the righteous indignation for the Daily Kos. Why not throw in Republican blame for not going forward on the Kyoto Accords (which was soundly rejected by our Congress, by the way)?

Yeah, the Angora fire is a result of those that voted for Bush, and Bush himself. :retard:
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