Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fire: Environmentalist's Way to Thin the Forests

From Terry Anderson's editorial in today's WSJ "Environmental Protection Up in Smoke": 
Environmental laws since the 1970s require public input into federal land-use decisions including logging on national forests. This has led to lawsuits challenging efforts by the U.S. Forest Service to prevent forest fires by thinning out trees (most of which are dead or diseased) and brush by machines and carefully controlled burns. This dead wood is the fuel that feeds catastrophic wildfires. 

Removing the fuel reduces the likelihood of fires, and if fires do break out, makes them easier to fight. Meanwhile, the suppression of fires costs the federal government nearly $2.5 billion annually. 

A fuels-management project to log and thin 4,800 acres in the Bozeman, Mont., watershed exemplifies the problem. This project has been held up since 2010 on grounds that the environmental-impact assessment did not adequately protect the habitat of the Canadian lynx and the grizzly bear, both listed as threatened species. 

Now a wildfire threatens the watershed, burning over 10,000 acres and costing more than $2 million to fight. As one firefighter put it, "fire is the environmentalist's way of thinning the forests."

28 Comments:

At 9/18/2012 9:05 AM, Blogger Bruce Oksol - oksol@yahoo.com said...

... and I guess, thinning out the Canadian lynx and the grizzly bear in the process.

 
At 9/18/2012 11:12 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

It's not about saving the Canadian lynx or the grizzly bears:

Deep-pocketed environmental groups are collecting millions of dollars from the federal agencies they regularly sue under a little-known federal law, and the government is not even keeping track of the payouts, according to two new studies.

Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, or EAJA — which was signed into law by President Carter in 1980 to help the little guy stand up to federal agencies — litigants with modest means who successfully show government agencies wronged them can get their legal fees back from the taxpayer.

But the act also covers 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including environmental groups that aggressively sue the feds to enforce land-use laws, the Clean Water and Clean Air acts and laws protecting endangered species. Their lawyers are getting reimbursed at rates as high as $750 an hour, sources tell FoxNews.com.

“It was intended for helping our nation's veterans, seniors and small business owners, but environmental groups have hijacked the so-called Equal Access to Justice Act and abused it to fund their own agenda,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told FoxNews.com. “Then you have small businesses and the American taxpayers left to foot the bill.” ... -- Fox News

And their agenda is much larger than environmental protection.

 
At 9/18/2012 11:27 AM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Do not forget the human cost of the environmental lefts activism:

Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there... Months before the huge blaze erupted, the U.S. Forest Service obtained permits to burn away the undergrowth and brush on more than 1,700 acres of the Angeles National Forest. But just 193 acres had been cleared by the time the fire broke out, Forest Service resource officer Steve Bear said.

The agency defended its efforts, saying weather, wind and environmental rules tightly limit how often these "prescribed burns" can be conducted... Some critics suggested that protests from environmentalists over prescribed burns contributed to the disaster, which came after the brush was allowed to build up for as much as 40 years. "This brush was ready to explode," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich... "The environmentalists have gone to the extreme to prevent controlled burns, and as a result we have this catastrophe today."...

The blaze has destroyed more than five dozen homes, killed two firefighters and forced thousands of people to flee... Biologist Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental organization, said burn permits should be difficult to get because of the potential damage to air quality. Clearing chaparral by hand or machine must be closely scrutinized because it can hurt native species -- Yahoo News

Time Lapse Video of the Los Angeles Fires

Two dead firefighters and tens of millions of dollars in property damage. You really cannot understate just how malevolent these people are.

 
At 9/18/2012 11:39 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"You really cannot understate just how malevolent these people are"...

Excellent smack down che...

You might find this amsuing considering your moniker: EPA: Staff-wide Che Guevara email an ‘inadvertent error’

 
At 9/18/2012 11:44 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Fire suppression linked to Lynx threat:

"REASONS FOR DECLINE: Over-trapping in the 1980's caused significant declines in lynx populations. Habitat fragmentation from development and urbanization, fire suppression and some forest management practices can reduce habitat suitability."

 
At 9/18/2012 11:47 AM, Blogger Moe said...

As stated in the article:

"Federal authorities failed to follow through on plans earlier this year to burn away highly flammable brush in a forest on the edge of Los Angeles to avoid the very kind of wildfire now raging there.."

Why did they fail? they ran out of time and money.

So, who's to blame? The govt. or environmentalists?

 
At 9/18/2012 11:58 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Re: 'Fire suppression linked to Lynx threat'...

Hmmm, from the very same folks that brought us the spotted owl scam...

Interesting...

 
At 9/18/2012 12:23 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

There is an objective truth. Environmentalists are not immune to it.

Cognizant environmentalists support properly thinning the forests, using machinery and controlled burns. Painting all. Environmentalists as environmentally and economically stupid is a mistake.

True environmentalists recognize that wasting money (resources) is never green. Extremists on both sides have a high likliehood of choosing the wrong approach.

 
At 9/18/2012 12:24 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"So, who's to blame? The govt. or environmentalists?" -- Moe

The regulatory strait jacket imposed on both individual homeowners and government agencies has made it nearly impossible to address the fire threat. As this article from 2007 explains:

An example of the legal strait jacket that homeowners faced in the areas hit by the fires is the "brush management guide" on the City of San Diego web site. The confusing instructions state that vegetation within 100 feet of homes in canyon areas "must be thinned and pruned regularly." But then, the same sentence goes on to state that this must be achieved "without harming native plants, soil or habitats."

Then in fine print at the bottom of the page, the real kicker comes in:

"Brush management is not allowed in coastal sage scrub during the California gnatcatcher nesting season, from March 1st through August 15th. This small bird only lives in coastal sage scrub and is listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Any harm to this bird could result in fines and penalties."

Coastal sage scrub is a low plant ubiquitous near coastal California that grows like a weed under almost any condition. And since gnatcatcher nesting season lasts almost six months, there could be much buildup of sage scrub that becomes hard for homeowners to control. Especially since the maintenance rules severely restrict the use of mechanical brush-clearing devices even when gnat nesting season is over.

The tragedy is that this shows that not much has changed even after previous warnings from experts that environmental rules were on a collision course with fire safety in California and many other places, because they prevented the removal of "excess fuel" for fires from dense stands of trees and vegetation. Southern California homes were lost in 1993 after the federal Fish and Wildlife Service told homeowners that mechanical clearing of brush would likely violate the Endangered Species Act. The reason: it could alter the habitat of a newly-listed endangered species called the Stephens kangaroo rat. -- American Thinker

Got that? No machines unless you want to end up with massive fines and/or jail time. According to leftie logic, altering the Stephens kangaroo rats environment by means of catastrophic fire is more acceptable.

And as Hugh Hewitt points out:

"The land that has passed into ‘conserved' status is at even greater risk of fire than private land that is home to a protected species because absolutely no one cares for its fire management policy. The scrum of planners, consultants and G-11s that put together these plans should be monitoring these areas closely. Instead, they regulate and move on to savage the property rights of the next region."

 
At 9/18/2012 1:08 PM, Blogger Moe said...

Put it in perspective: Fires are a natural and very necessary phenomenon.

The media talks of the “devastation” and “expense” as if it is some controllable evil. Perhaps a “War on Wildfires” to go with our “War on Drugs”??
Have you ever seen a fire-ravaged area that never came fully back?
What are the two biggest causes of wildfires? Humans and lightening.
You can’t outlaw or blame away stupidity – if people want to build their mansions in a tinderbox (the LA Hills) – it’s a free country!

"Fire is the environmentalist's way of thinning the forests."

No, Mr. Firefighter, “Fire is mother nature’s way of thinning the forest.” The axe you have grind is clouding your better judgment.

 
At 9/18/2012 1:54 PM, Blogger hancke said...

I think you may have missed that point Moe.

 
At 9/18/2012 2:12 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The central planners believe that they can control and improve complex ecosystems in ways that are better than what nature does.

 
At 9/18/2012 2:26 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

Over the past decade, from British Columbia to New Mexico, the world’s most rapid deforestation has been underway in the North American west, with an average of nearly six million acres of forest lost per year — roughly double the three million acres per year rate in Brazil. The culprits here, however, have not been humans, but Western Pine Beetles, whose epidemic spread has turned over 60 million acres of formerly evergreen pine forests into dead red tinder, dry ammunition awaiting any spark to flare into catastrophe.

Yet while the global green movement has made a cause célèbre of the Amazon rain forest, they have done nothing to oppose those destroying our woods. Quite the contrary, they have been doing everything in their power to assist the wreckers. Indeed, over the past decade they have launched over a thousand lawsuits to block every attempt by the National Forest Service or others to take necessary counter measures. ...

Limited harvesting that would save the forest (and incidentally reduce damage to forests elsewhere, such as the Amazon, by driving down the global price of wood) is to be shunned — precisely because it would create jobs, useful products, and commerce.

Of course, there is another tactic that could be used to save the forests, and that would be to use pesticides. For example, as long ago as the 1940s, it was shown that DDT is extremely effective in countering the Western Pine Beetle. Thus on pages 287-288 of Biology and Control of the Western Pine Beetle, US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Miscellaneous Publication 800, 1960, authors J.M. Miller and F.P. Kern report on numerous studies done in the period from 1944 through 1951 that showed 90 to 96% mortality within hours among pine beetles that came into momentary contact with trees that had been sprayed with 5% dilute DDT solutions.

However, the same environmental groups that have halted western logging regard the idea of using DDT to stop the pine beetle with near hysteria.

-- Incinerating America’s West

 
At 9/18/2012 3:22 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Che

Thanks for the many excellent references.

 
At 9/18/2012 4:41 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Interesting article in Reason from June on the Rio+20....mentions the environmental movement to turn privately owned land into open access commons, but..." The fact is that in nearly every place where what most people would regard as an environmental problem is occurring, it is happening in an open access commons."

http://reason.com/archives/2012/06/26/rio-20-earth-summit-the-end-of-internati

 
At 9/18/2012 8:48 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

A lot of land in protected or conserved status is privately held. Placed in conservation easements so that wealthy estate owners can get huge federal andlocal tax benefits. These have essentially become private parks, supported by the general taxpayer and homeowners who pay higher home prices due to artificially restricted development and higher taxes due to shifting more of the tax base from estates taxed at conservation rates to ordinary taxpayers.

 
At 9/19/2012 11:33 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"A lot of land in protected or conserved status is privately held. Placed in conservation easements so that wealthy estate owners can get huge federal andlocal tax benefits"...

Really?

Note the following from a BLM site advertising for employees: The BLM is the largest landowner in the United States. The BLM administers nearly 260 million surface and 500 million subsurface acres of public lands...

It makes me wonder what the actual ratio of 'rich landowners' and the federal government is when it comes to locking up land...

Yale Law Journal March 2008: A conservation easement essentially splits the “Blackstonian bundle” of property rights, permanently extinguishing the landowner’s right to use her land in particular ways. For example, an easement might prevent building additional structures or clearcutting woodlands. The easement is granted to a conservation entity (a nonprofit organization or government agency) that is then obligated to enforce its prohibitions on development in perpetuity...

 
At 9/19/2012 5:43 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

A lot of land in protected or conserved status is privately held. Placed in conservation easements so that wealthy estate owners can get huge federal andlocal tax benefits"...

Really?

================================

In my county about one third of the land is tied up in private conservation easements. Nation wide: Number of Conservation Easements: 95,329
Total Acres: 18,029,967
Last Update: Mon. Jul. 30, 2012

http://www.conservationeasement.us/


The government owns more land than any other group, to be sure. But that does nothing to make my statements untrue. The conservation movement has been exproprated from the liberals and turned to the benefit of the wealthy, both liberals and conservatives.


Your Yale quote is correct, so far as it goes. What happens is that a large property is bought, often with numerous potential by-right building lots allowed under the zoning code. The buyer then split these building rights off and "gives them away" to a nonprofit conservation holding company. The value of the gift is calculated by comparing the per lot values had the land been subdivided with its reduced value as one parcel and with the building rights extinguished. That (sometimes inflated) value is tax deductible.

The owner gets a nice tax break for giving away something he had no intention of using. The land is still privately held and may be used for whatever is set in the agreement. Some of the building rights may be reserved to the owner, or he may be allowed extensive other construction, barns horse arenas, etc.

That covers the owners income tax deduction, sometimes for several years, with carry forwards. Then the land is taxed at a lower value which reflects the loss of building potential, in perpetuity. Usually this is the lowest agricultural rate, and it applies even if no agriculture is performed.

Oddly enough, such properties sometimes sell for more money after the conservation easement is applied, due to the percieved exclusivity. However the assessed value remains at the low agricultural tax rate.


There have been disagreements about the terms of the easement. A rancher put his land under easement and all was well for many years. Eventually he died and his son inherited the rannch. The board of dirctors of the conservation agency retired or died and were replaced.

On inspection the new board was appalled to find that the ranch used four wheelers(just as it had for decades), to manage the stock. The board felt this was abusive to the land and demanded the practice be stopped.


A farmer in Pennsylvania operated his property (purchased onder conservation easement) for years as a part time operation. On retirement from his day job he moved to make the farm full time, and put up a retirement home.

His conservation agency said no. He sued claiming that the conservation allowed for farm structures and surey a farmhouse was such a structure. The Judge agreed and the owner built his home.

The conservation agency appealed and after long delays prevailed in superiro court. The owner was in his nineties when the conservation agency finally bulldozed his home.

This seems to me to be wasteful conservation, but such disputes are not uncommon.

Conservation easements so far have proven to be quite durable, so they are employed as a defense against taking under eminent domain for power lines and the like. As such they supercede local zoning, and they amount to reaching out of the grave to control property far into the future.





 
At 9/19/2012 5:45 PM, Blogger Hydra said...


Far from being open acess commons, the conservation easements often allow the land to continue to be entirely private, although sometimes hiking trails or fishing rights are provided for. The conservation deed can be written with a wide latitude of terms.

 
At 9/19/2012 6:10 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Conservation Easements: 95,329
Total Acres: 18,029,967
"...

Hmmm, interesting numbers hydra, on average a bit under 200 acres per easement....

More than I would've guessed on a per easement basis but it sort of makes sense...

"The government owns more land than any other group, to be sure. But that does nothing to make my statements untrue"...

No, I'm not saying different...

"The conservation movement has been exproprated from the liberals and turned to the benefit of the wealthy, both liberals and conservatives"...

Utter nonsense hydra...

Conservatives have been conservationists long before there was a US of A...

Its a very old tradition in Europe for instance...

Here in Missouri conservatives and liberals have been in the game for quite awhile: Conservation gifts come in many sizes...

 
At 9/19/2012 6:11 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"On inspection the new board was appalled to find that the ranch used four wheelers(just as it had for decades), to manage the stock. The board felt this was abusive to the land and demanded the practice be stopped."

You didn't explain whether the use of four wheelers was prohibited by the original conservation easement.

 
At 9/20/2012 9:55 PM, Blogger Mkelley said...

Environmentalists, represented mostly by the Democrat Party in the US, have wiped out most of the logging industry. They have limited mining to a small fraction of what it could be and keep most of the country off-limits to oil drilling. Despite this, many still think the Democrats are looking out for the "little guy". They must mean a guy with a small trust fund.

 
At 9/21/2012 12:42 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

No the use of four wheelers was never discussed or prohibited in the poriginal plan, as I understand it. It was simply a case of a new board coming on and having different expectations as to what "conservation" meant.

To be fair about logging, the logging companies were guilty of many bad practices. What the environmentalists did was just as despicable, but the loggers have themselves to blame as much as the environmentalists.

Only now are environmentalists eginning to understand that forests need to be managed in order to be conserved.

One problem is that conservationists mean conservation is about putting stuff off limits -- forever.

 
At 9/21/2012 12:51 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Conservatives have been conservationists long before there was a US of A...


Environmentalists, represented mostly by the Democrat Party in the US.


==============================

Well, which is it? In my county it is the Republican conservationists who are responsible for most of the unintended economic consequences of their actions. Only I don;t think it is unintended at all, but a deliberate long term land grab policy.

My county supervisor told me to my face that his plan for my property was to have someone wealthy buy it so it could be put in conservation easement and nothing would ever be built there.

 
At 9/21/2012 12:55 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

My favorite is the story of a property that was placed n easement. Over the years the property areound it was developed. The owner died and the children had no interest in it. the conservation agency did not maintain it and it eventually became a surreptitious dumping site.

The county wound up with a non revenue producing property and the clean up. They tried to have teh conservation eqasement lifted (and replaced with an equivalent easement someplace else) so that the property could be developed, but the conservation easement holder wasn't having any of that.

 
At 9/22/2012 2:47 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"One problem is that conservationists mean conservation is about putting stuff off limits -- forever."

Which they are welcome to do if they own the land privately.

 
At 9/22/2012 2:50 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"My county supervisor told me to my face that his plan for my property was to have someone wealthy buy it so it could be put in conservation easement and nothing would ever be built there."

If you agree to sell it, and that means you are getting something you value more than the property, why would you care?

 
At 10/03/2012 9:38 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

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