We Need To Learn From Past Mistakes

I live very close to a national forest–a very large national forest. Watching what has happened in California makes me wonder how safe I am here. However, I am also aware that controlled burns in the national forest here are a part of summer life. I should also mention that generally there is enough rain during the summer to make these burns safe. Unfortunately that is not always the case in California, and sometimes a controlled burn is simply not practical. However, there are other ways to clear out brush and possible fuel for a fire.

The Washington Times posted an article about the California fires on Friday. What has happened in California is horrific, and we need to do everything we can to prevent it happening in the future.

The article reports:

A national logging organization is offering support to President Trump following catastrophic wildfires in California and a political debate over the causes of the destructive blazes.

“President Trump blamed poor forest management for wildfires in California and throughout the West, and there is truth to statements he has made,” said Daniel Dructor, executive vice president of the American Loggers Council, a coalition of state and regional associations that represents independent contract loggers.

“It’s time to rise above political posturing and recognize that active forest management — including logging, thinning, grazing and controlled burning — are tools that can and must be used to reduce fire risks and help mitigate the impacts to landscapes,” Mr. Dructor said in a statement.

According to the council, some 60 million to 80 million acres of national forest are at “high, to very high, risk of catastrophic wildfire.”

Citing research from the U.S. Forest Service, the council backs such methods as thinning stressed trees and prescribed burns to reduce wildfires but said “only a small fraction of high-risk acres are being treated.”

Mr. Dructor advised the Trump administration and Congress to expand public-private partnerships to manage the problem.

The article concludes:

Loggers are America’s ‘boots on the ground’ to conserve our forests and reduce the risks of wildfire,” council president Chris Potts said in a statement.

We work in the woods every day, we understand forestry and see the dangers every day, and we know what needs to be done. Without forests, we are out of business. That’s why we’ll continue to work with Republicans and Democrats on needed reforms that will help to sustain our forests and protect our forests and communities from wildfire,” he said.

Lumber is a renewable resource. A properly managed forest can continue indefinitely. Good forest management will not only provide jobs and resources, it will create a healthy environment for wildlife and avoid the environmental catastrophe that the California forest fires have been.

When You Neglect The Obvious

The following is a December 2017 News Release from the U.S.D.A.:

VALLEJO, Calif., December 11, 2017 – The USDA Forest Service today announced that an additional 27 million trees, mostly conifers, died throughout California since November 2016, bringing the total number of trees that have died due to drought and bark beetles to an historic 129 million on 8.9 million acres. The dead trees continue to pose a hazard to people and critical infrastructure, mostly centered in the central and southern Sierra Nevada region of the state.

“The number of dead and dying trees has co ntinued to rise, along with the risks to communities and firefighters if a wildfire breaks out in these areas,” said Randy Moore, Regional Forester of the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region. “It is apparent from our survey flights this year that California’s trees have not yet recovered from the drought, and remain vulnerable to beetle attacks and increased wildfire threat. The USDA Forest Service will continue to focus on mitigating hazard trees and thinning overly dense forests so they are heal thier and better able to survive stressors like this in the future.”

Moore continued, “To increase the pace and scale of this important work, we need to fix how fire suppression is funded. Last year fire management alone consumed 56 percent of the USDA For est Service’s national budget. As fire suppression costs continue to grow as a percentage of the USDA Forest Service’s budget, funding is shrinking for non- fire programs that protect watersheds and restore forests, making them more resilient to wildfire an d drought.”

Though California received record -breaking rains in the winter of 2016-2017, the effects of five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and rising temperatures have led to historic levels of tree die-off. The Tree Mortality Task Force (TMTF), with support from the Governor’s office and comprised of more than 80 local, state and federal agencies and private utility companies, continues to remove hazardous dead trees. To date, the TMTF members have collectively felled or removed over 1 million dead trees; this includes over 480,000 dead trees felled or removed by the USDA Forest Service.

The TMTF members are using a triage approach to this tree mortality crisis, first focusing on public safety by removing dead and dying trees in high hazard areas. To further improve forest health, the USDA Forest Service and CAL FIRE have increased their pace and scale of prescribed fire. The USDA Forest Service has treated over 55,000 acres and CAL FIRE has com pleted over 33,000 acres in fuel treatment projects. By combining tree removal with prescribed fire, crews will be able to decrease overly dense stands of trees, reduce greenhouse gases, and protect communities across the state.

“Tree mortality at this magnitude takes on- going cooperation between public, non- profit and private entities,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director and California’s state forester. “California’s forests are a critical part of the State’s strategy to address climate change. By working together and using all the resources at our disposal we will be able to make more progress towards our common goal of healthier, more resilient forests that benefit all Californians.”

With record breaking levels of tree die-off, the TMTF has used t his event as an opportunity to collaborate on several fronts: from public workshops about reforestation, public outreach in urban and rural areas, and awarding over $21 million in grants aimed to protect watersheds, remove dead trees and restore our forest s. The TMTF continues to collaborate on the efficient use of resources to protect public safety and build consensus around long -term management strategies for California’s forest lands.

“The Tree Mortality Task force has provided an essential venue for co ordination of response efforts, exchange of ideas, reporting, and accountability for the ongoing statewide response to this incident,” said Supervisor Nathan Magsig of Fresno County. “Leadership from the Governor’s Office, CAL FIRE and Office of Emergency Services has helped to ensure county issues are heard and addressed. Monthly coordination of the 10 most impacted counties has resulted in a more effective use of resources and has allowed counties to share ideas and successes.”

With a staggering 129 mil lion dead trees in the state, the work of the task force is far from over. The strong foundation built will continue to be an advantage as the TMTF continues to address tree mortality and its impacts.

Learn more about tree mortality and the work to restore our forests in California at the USDA Forest Service ‘s web page Our Changing Forests . To learn about how to be prepared and protect your home against wildfire and your trees against bark beetle attacks visit CAL FIRE’s web page Ready for Wildfire.

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Media Notes:

Tree Mortality Website
2017 Tree Mortality Aerial Detection Survey Results
Tree Mortality Combined Map, 2014- 2017
Tree Mortality Progression Map, 2014- 2017
Animated Tree Mortality Progression Map, 2014- 2017
Tree Mortality Project Pictures
CAL FIRE Prescribed Fire Video B -Roll
CAL FIRE Tree Removal Video B-Roll

If you follow the link to the original article, there are multiple links in the Press Release.

Cleaning up the forests is one way to help control forest fires which can begin for a number of reasons. Some are man-made and some are the result of lightning strikes. Even in drought conditions, if the forest has been properly cleared of dead wood and potential fuel, a fire will be much more easily contained. The fires in California are tragic and the loss of property is enormous, but some of this disaster could have been avoided had the State of California cleaned some of the forests during the winter months.

This was an avoidable disaster.