Last year, three Forest Service prescribed burns escaped and burned approaching 400,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest, several hundred homes, and other infrastructure. Sarah Hyden describes the shift in forest management policy required by the warming climate and the lack of sufficient Forest Service agency capacity. The shift starts from full analysis of what went wrong, and consideration of different strategies going forward. Counterpunch.
Thinned and repeatedly burned area near the Santa Fe watershed. Photo: Dee Blanco
The Forest Service has concluded that there is strong scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of thinning dense forests and reducing fuels through prescribed burns. However, some ecologists say that logging, thinning and other tactics that may have worked in the past are no longer useful in an era of ever hotter, larger and more frequent wildfires. More fire tragedies could be avoided by shifting wildfire management from a forest-focused approach to a homes-focused one. The Chronicle.
Last year’s Cerro Pelado FIre burned 45,000 acres in the Jemez. During 2022, the Forest Service ignited three wildfires in the Santa Fe National Forest, burning close to 400,000 acres. Counterpunch.
Last year’s Cerro Pelado FIre burned 45,000 acres in the Jemez. During 2022, the Forest Service ignited three wildfires in the Santa Fe National Forest, burning close to 400,000 acres. Albuquerque Journal.
The US Forest Service has stated that there were no significant objections to the project, and they intend to move forward with thinning and burning treatments in the forest outside of Santa Fe. Conservation organizations and a County Commissioner provide their reactions to the decision.
WIldEarth Guardians’ Dr. Lisa Markovchick and Sierra Clubs’ Teresa Seamster recommend that the Forest Service utilize a wider range of forest restoration tools in the Santa Fe Mountains Project. They discuss tools already in use in projects, such as restoring mycorrhizal fungi and protecting microclimates.
A Western landscape and its namesake bird are threatened by climate change and wildfire prevention efforts. Some bird biologists, like Peggy Darr, are sounding the alarm that today’s thinning methods degrade pinyon jay habitat.
— Sara Van Note, Santa Fe Reporter
Increasingly, scientific research indicates that trees have a range of cognitive abilities that were traditionally only associated with animals. Should we be considering the possibility that trees may be sentient when making forest management decisions?
FEMA told survivors of the largest wildfire in N.M. history that it aimed to put temporary housing on their land. But because of its strict, slow bureaucracy, that has happened only twice.
— Patrick Lohman, Source NM
Commentary by Frank Carroll, a professional wildfire analyst and former Forest Service planner. He provides evidence that drones ignited much of the Black Fire, in an effort to expand the fire for resource benefit.
“The ‘managed wildfire’ approach, adopted by the Forest Service, has granted the agency power over not just the fate of our public forests but also public and private property, wildlife and their habitats, and the lives of those residing within wildfire-prone areas.”
The Santa Fe area community and anyone else interested were invited by the Santa Fe County Commission, WildEarth Guardians and The Forest Advocate to a Zoom “listening session” on November 10, 2022. Santa Fe National Forest leadership, members of the Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition and elected representatives were present to hear the public speak about managing and protecting our local forest. Featured speaker, Dominick DellaSala.
George Wuerthner summarizes new paper by Bill Baker, Chad Hanson, Mark Williams and Dominick DellaSala challenging the dominant ecological and forest management view that the historical fire regime in western forests was almost exclusively low severity. The authors state that there is “…a broad pattern of scientific misrepresentations and omissions by government forest and wildfire scientists.”
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore has designated 250 firesheds across the west as under emergency authority, and has eliminated objections and the consideration of multiple alternatives from the NEPA analysis process. This further excludes the public and conservation organizations from fuels treatment project planning.
During a recent US House Subcommittee on the Environment hearing on wildfire prevention, conservation scientist Dominick DellaSala and environmental advocate Carole King pushed back against the widespread cutting and burning paradigm advocated by Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. Watch:
Sarah Hyden and environmental medicine physician Erica Elliott discuss the impacts of prescribed burn smoke on public health with KTRC’s Richard Eeds.
Scientists authoring a new study advocate for placing restrictive bounds on the prevailing and heavily funded command-and-control fire suppression methods and the MegaFire Active Management Approach for containing wildfire. These strategies are increasingly ineffective in our changing climate and contribute to the global biodiversity and climate crises.
A new study by conservation scientist Chad Hanson of the 2021 Antelope Fire in California shows that areas commercially thinned were associated with significantly higher overall tree mortality levels than unthinned areas. The study suggests that this is a result of tree mortality from thinning itself, prior to the occurrence of the wildfire, not generally being taken into account. This leaves unreported a potentially important source of tree loss and associated forest carbon loss.
“Presumed forest health and reduced fire severity associated with thinning are overhyped by organizations, special interest groups and industries with direct financial interests in federal lands logging, and by politicians promoting logging-related snake oil as fire-risk reduction. This, in turn, creates a false sense of security,” write Dominick DellaSala and Luke Ruediger in Ashland.news.
The Western Environmental Law Center and five other conservation groups led a petition to the Council on Environmental Quality, requesting that they disallow use of the “condition-based approach” for project analysis because it fails to provide the “where,” “when,” and “how” of project implementation. A total of 82 organizations (including The Forest Advocate) signed onto the incisive letter.
with conservation scientist
A presentation and discussion about how the Forest Service’s Santa Fe Mountains Project impacts our forest and all of us, and what we can do about it. The time for a response has come.
The Forest Service has made available comments submitted by the public on the draft environmental assessment. Read them here.
The Forest Service and collaborating agencies and organizations often state that if we don’t breathe smoke from prescribed burns, we’re going to be breathing at least as much, or likely more, from wildfire instead. The Forest Advocate finds any implication of such an equivalence to be highly misleading; please read our comments to the Forest Service about this.
Dominick DellaSala and Sarah Hyden discuss the Santa Fe Mountains Project on KTRC’s Richard Eeds Show on 10/01/2021. They explain the ecological damage that may occur to the Santa Fe National Forest from aggressive and widespread thinning and burning.
Urge them to support an Environmental Impact Statement and a much more conservationist approach for the Santa Fe Mountains Project. Contact information for representatives is here.
Chad Hanson — The U.S. Forest Service clears trees from public lands in the name of fire prevention, but it doesn’t work. There are better strategies to protect communities, but don’t expect to hear about them from the logging industry.
“We’ve seen one historic, thriving mountain town after another destroyed by fires in recent years. It’s almost entirely avoidable and preventable if we focus directly on community protection. Instead, public funds are going toward chainsaws and bulldozers in the forest. That will only make climate change worse, damage wildlife habitat, and put communities at greater risk. And that’s not protecting forests or people.”
A New York Times article describes how trees and other plants are interconnected under the forest floor though a vast network of mycorrhizal fungi, and share resources. Aggressive tree cutting disrupts and destroys the network, degrading forests.
“An old-growth forest is neither an assemblage of stoic organisms tolerating one another’s presence nor a merciless battle royale: It’s a vast, ancient and intricate society.”
George Wuerthner comments on a lawsuit declaration by atmospheric physicist Dr. Joseph Werne. Werne concludes that “By omitting atmospheric dynamics and wind-drag effects associated with vegetation treatments, fuels reductions designed to reduce fire intensity and fire spread are undoubtedly producing the opposite effect.”
To create effective fire policies, we need to face these facts — prescribed fire increases fire and smoke, is inefficient for public safety compared to home retrofits, and is inefficient for ecological restoration compared to managed wildfire.
WildEarth Guardians webinar with Executive Director John Horning and ecologists Chad Hanson and Monica Bond discussing regeneration in burned forests, the necessity of mixed-intensity fire in forest ecosystems, and the ecological issues of forest thinning and burning treatments.
The Forest Service should know how prescribed burn smoke is affecting area residents.
Explain health effects prescribed burning has had on you, and send email to Santa Fe National Forest at:
*use the below link if your email program is configured:
Jack Cohen and Dave Strohmaier explain in Wildfire Today why we must abandon our expectation that we can suppress 100% of wildfires and reject the false narrative that community protection requires wildfire control. . . Instead, let’s focus on mitigating WU fire risk where ignitions are determined – within the home ignition zone.
Does thinning and burning our forests reduce wildfire risk?
The Forest Advocate provides a balanced view of important considerations for protecting ourselves, our homes, and our forests from wildfire, and about the natural and beneficial role of fire in our forest.
How do forests recover after disturbance? This 4 minute animated film from the Old-Growth Forest Network takes you on a journey that represents 300 years in the life of a forest. See how structure and biodiversity recover naturally, and how continued management like thinning and harvesting interferes with recovery.
The Forest Advocate
Santa Fe, New Mexico