Tag Archives: Forest Service

Bill to trim BLM/Forest Service power

Good news: A new bill has been introduced in Congress to take all law enforcement powers away from the BLM and the Forest Service on federal lands and transfer those powers to local sheriffs.

It is always better to have control and power decentralized as much as possible. Having these lands administered and controlled by a bureaucracy in Washington has never made make sense, and was always really a power play between the federal government and the states.

This bill is part of a larger movement coming from the western states to restrict the power of these environmental agencies, who happen to control a vast majority of the territories of those states. With Congress increasingly shifting to the right in recent years, expect this movement to accelerate.

Oregon forest fires blamed on federal ban on logging

We’re here to help you! The logging industry is blaming the increased number of severe forest fires in Oregon during the past three years on the federal ban on logging in federal forests.

Logging on federal lands was first limited in the early 90’s. More severe limits on logging on any roadless federal land were then passed by President Bill Clinton in 2000, essentially ending the practice on federal lands.

[Andrew Miller, CEO of Stimson Lumber, one of the state’s largest lumber companies] said this was a huge mistake. “As soon as the ban on logging took effect, fire conditions worsened,” he said. “Four or five years after the ban was put in place fires started to really ramp up.” The reason for the increase is simple, he said. When logging in these areas stopped, more and more trees began to fill the lands. These trees, particularly ones that have died and become dried out, rather than be chopped down by a logging company, give the fire easily combustible fuel. “Once logging was stopped the forests got older and older and more and more trees died off,” Miller said.

The article is well written, and includes a response by a Forest Service official, who dismissed the lack of logging as the cause and instead blamed the increase in fires to extreme weather and less snowfall in the western states.

I am willing to bet that a close look at the weather in the Northwest will find that the only extreme weather they have seen in the past three years has been snow, contradicting the Forest Service official’s claim. I do not know this, and could easily be wrong, but I am still willing to bet.

Finger Rock Fire update

During the night the fire seemed to subside somewhat, and today it is raining. I can still see smoke, but no flames. However, the cloudy weather, plus morning is a poor time of day to observe details in the Santa Catalinas because of the angle of the sun, means that this is not a certain observation.

The Forest Service has sent crews up to check on the situation and will report an update later this morning. This news report says nothing about the fire spreading into Ventana Canyon, as it appeared to do to me last night. Hopefully I was wrong and the fire only appeared larger than it was.

Forest Service clamps down on free speech

The Bill of Rights is such an inconvenient thing: The U.S. Forest Service has instituted rules requiring journalists to get a permit before they can take pictures or videos on federal land.

Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in any of the nation’s 100 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone. Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don’t get a permit could face fines up to $1,000.

First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they’d allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

The fascist nature of these new rules is revealed by this quote near the end of the article:

[T]he Forest Service is giving its supervisors discretion to decide whether a news outlet’s planned video or photo shoots would meet the Wilderness Act’s goals. “If you were engaged on reporting that was in support of wilderness characteristics, that would be permitted,” [said Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director].

But if you are reporting on something the Forest Service disagrees with they obviously believe they have the right to deny you a permit to film or videotape.

The Forest Service has seized the property and cattle of a New Mexico rancher.

The Forest Service has seized the property and cattle of a New Mexico rancher.

Read the story. It will remind you of the Bundy fight in Nevada, with the same elements of government overreach to destroy a rancher. The Forest Service might have the law on its side, but it sure sounds like the law is quite unjust in this case.

The Obama administration is shutting down small private campgrounds in Forest Service lands, but allowing big ski lodges to continue to operate.

Shutdown fascism: The Obama administration is shutting down small private campgrounds in Forest Service lands, but allowing big ski lodges to continue to operate.

The forest service is also allowing certain state parks in federal land to remain in open, which I think is the result of Scott Walker’s refusal to shut his state parks in Wisconsin. The big ski lodges have the ability to fight back, as do the states. And like all bullies, the Obama administration is going after the small and the weak, and running in fear from the strong and defiant.

We must all be defiant. Obama and the Democrats will then fold like a cheap card table.

The Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service has opened a $1.7 million pilot plant for the production of cellulose nanocrystals, which have the potential to be stronger, stiffer, and lighter than Kevlar or carbon fibers.

The Forest Products Laboratory of the U.S. Forest Service has opened a $1.7 million pilot plant for the production of cellulose nanocrystals, which have the potential to be stronger, stiffer, and lighter than Kevlar or carbon fibers.

It appears that the lab has been researching the useful properties of these nanocrystals, which is a good thing. However, I can’t help wondering why they are now building a production plant. Shouldn’t this be left to the private sector? What business is it of the Forest Service to be a producer of this product? It could be that the plant is aimed not at production but at figuring out how to make it affordable and practical, a goal that might make sense for a government agency to pursue. If not, however, it seems inappropriate for a government agency to use taxpayer dollars to run a facility aimed at selling a product to the private sector.

The article, as well as the lab’s webpage, do not make this clear.

Forbidden by the Forest Service from using powered equipment, a shovel brigade of 60 people last weekend made temporary repairs to Tombstone’s water line.

Forbidden by the Forest Service from using heavy equipment, a shovel brigade of 60 people last weekend made temporary repairs to Tombstone’s water line.

“It took 60 people two days to complete a work project that could have been done in two hours with the appropriate equipment,” Barnes said. “We have a lot more work that needs to be done up there, but we don’t have the permits from the forest service to go back.”

For reasons that only bureaucrats understand, the Forest Service decided that the use of heavy equipment like a bulldozer is more harmful to nature than 60 people with shovels, even though in the end the work done is exactly the same, and that this same work was done repeatedly in the past by heavy equipment.

Cave exploration in the western mountains

scree slope
Anthony Smith struggling up a scree mountain slope.

I have only visited Nevada twice before, and those visits had been limited to the area around Las Vegas. Thus, my impression of the state had been similar to what most other people assume: a big ostentatious urban city surrounded by boring flat deserts.

Instead what I found is that Nevada is probably one of the most beautiful states in the nation. It has many mountain ranges, interspersed with wide flat valleys, a number of which have lakes or swampy areas because the water is trapped there, draining neither to the Pacific or Atlantic.

Yet, it is desert country. The limited amount of water means that the state is lightly populated, and the few farms or ranches that you pass actually act to amplify the feeling of emptiness. This is further enhanced by the frequent mountain ranges. Every time you cross over a range, you find yourself high in the air with a spectacular view of the vast valleys below.

The Forest Service job that I was part of this past week was focused on inventorying and surveying a number of known caves covering a large area in northeastern Nevada. The work had actually started several years earlier, so that this particular week was the final wrap up, mapping the last few known caves on the list while also ridge-walking several different canyons in an effort to find some new discoveries.
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Caving in Nevada

I finally have an hour free here in Nevada.

For the past three days we have been intensely hiking up mountains over a vast area of Nevada. The goal has been to locate and map caves for the Forest Service in some of the most remote areas of the state. So far we have focused on mapping known caves, putting the possible discoveries aside for later work.
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Off to Nevada

Nevada

For the next seven days my daytime posting is going to be spotty, as I will be in some remote areas of Nevada working on an on-going Forest Service project to inventory and survey caves in an area in the northeastern area of the state. The project is mostly over, but as I have surveyed, sketched, and done the cartography for many eastern U.S. caves, the guy running the project asked if I would be interested in participating. Interested? I was thrilled.

Though we will be in a somewhat remote area, I still hope to post periodically during the week, not only about the usual topics but also about some of the caves we will have surveyed, some of which are rarely visited. I will also try to post some pictures of the spectacular country we expect to visit. (The photo on the right was provided to me by Tom Gilleland, who is running the project.) Stay tuned.

Banned from using heavy equipment by the Forest Service to repair their water supply, Tombstone residents are planning a “Shovel Brigade” in June.

Banned by the Forest Service from using heavy equipment to repair their water supply, Tombstone residents are planning an event in June where thousands will gather to do the work manually with shovels.

According to the Tombstone Shovel Brigade’s website, the group was established for several reasons, including to bring public awareness to the issues facing the city regarding repairs to its historic water system and the “limited cooperation” the city has received from the Forest Service.

“Another goal of the Tombstone Shovel Brigade is to get a lot of work done using hand tools and horses. A few workers can only make so much progress but a couple of thousand people with picks, shovels, ropes and chains can accomplish a lot and will send a loud message to the National Forest Service and the federal government,” states the website.

Last week the federal government abandoned more than a century of precedent to declare it holds senior water rights across much of Arizona’s San Pedro River riparian watershed.

We’re here to help you: Last week the federal government abandoned more than a century of precedent to declare it holds senior water rights across much of Arizona’s San Pedro River riparian watershed.

For some additional background, see this story.

The Utah legislature is about to pass a law demanding the federal government release to the state almost fifty percent of the state’s federal land.

Another state vs federal battle: The Utah legislature is about to pass a law demanding the federal government release to the state almost fifty percent of the state’s federal land.

The context here is that, for most western states, the federal government controls almost all of the real estate, and has in recent years increasingly restricted its use to the detriment of local residents. The legal maneuvering here is a push back by the state.