Study: Protected Forests on Public Land Burn Less Severely Than Logged Areas

GR: Theodore Roosevelt formed the U. S. Forest Service to protect the forests from abusive logging and grazing practices.  Clearcutting was a major cause of problems caused by erosion and sedimentation of streams and lakes. The first head of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, fought to regulate the abuse, but he failed.  The timber and cattle industries succeeded in limiting reforms that would slow their profits.  The Forest Service routinely uses income-tax revenues to fund operations that benefit timber and cattle companies. So, for more than a century now, U. S. forests have steadily declined in both productivity and biodiversity.  The mismanagement by the nation’s foresters is typical of the other branches of public land and resource management including the largest land manager, the U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.

Map:  Location of fires >1,000 acres in pine and mixed-conifer forests with relatively frequent fire regimes in ecoregions of western United States from 1984 to 2014.

“TUCSON, Ariz.— A new study published in the scientific journal Ecosphere finds that public forests that are protected from logging burn less severely than logged forests. The study is the most comprehensive investigation of its kind, spanning more than 23 million acres and examining three decades’ of forest fire data in the West. Among the major findings were that areas undisturbed by logging experienced significantly less intensive fire compared with areas that have been logged.

“The findings come as many federal land managers and members of Congress claim that more logging will reduce wildfires. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to increase logging on vast areas of public land; these have typically been presented under the guise of addressing forest fire concerns, but eliminate most analysis of environmental impacts and reduce environmental protections.

“We were surprised to see how significant the differences were between protected areas managed for biodiversity and unprotected areas, which our data show burned more severely,” said lead author Curtis Bradley, with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“For this study scientists set out to determine whether reduced forest protections and increased logging are associated with lower fire severity. They analyzed fires that burned in pine and mixed-conifer forests starting about 30 years ago, at the earliest point for which comprehensive data were available, to compare where and how fires burned using satellite imagery and maps from the U.S. Geological Survey’s “protected areas database.” The results demonstrated that fires burned relatively cooler in areas managed for biodiversity (Gap 1 in figure below), including national parks and wilderness areas where fires are generally allowed to proceed naturally versus areas managed for multiple use (Gap 3) and areas with little to no mandate for protection (Gap 4) such as private forest lands managed for timber production.

“The study focused on forests with relatively frequent fire regimes, ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forest types; used multiple statistical models; and accounted for effects of climate, topography and regional differences to ensure the findings were robust.

“The belief that restrictions on logging have increased fire severity did not bear out in the study,” said Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist with the John Muir Project. “In fact, the findings suggest the opposite. The most intense fires are occurring on private forest lands, while lands with little to no logging experience fires with relatively lower intensity.”

Chart:  Forests with the highest level of protection (GAP 1 and 2) had the lowest levels of high severity fire — results are shown for 3 statistical models examined.

“Our findings demonstrate that increased logging may actually increase fire severity,” said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist of Geos Institute. “Instead, decision-makers concerned about fire should target proven fire-risk reduction measures nearest homes and keep firefighters out of harm’s way by focusing fire suppression actions near towns, not in the back country.”

“The authors noted that even in protected forests they found an appropriate mix of low, moderate and high-intensity fire, which is ecologically beneficial since many wildlife species depend on post-fire habitat, especially “snag forest habitat” created by patches of high-intensity fire. Many studies indicate that significant damage to wildlife habitat can result from logging of both unburned mature forests and snag-forest habitat.”

–Curtis Bradley, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 345-5710,

–Dr. Chad Hanson, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, (530) 273-9290,

–Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Geos Institute, (541) 482-4459 x 302 or (541) 621-7223 cell,

Source: Study: Protected Forests on Public Land Burn Less Severely Than Logged Areas

Environmentalists sue for more rules to protect sage grouse

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — “Environmental groups sued Thursday to force the Obama administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities blamed for the decline of greater sage grouse across the American West.

“A sweeping sage grouse conservation effort that the government announced last September is riddled with loopholes and will not be enough to protect the bird from extinction, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Idaho.

“It follows several legal challenges against the same rules from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Mining companies, ranchers and officials in Utah, Idaho and Nevada argue that the administration’s actions will impede economic development.

“The ground-dwelling sage grouse, known for their elaborate mating ritual, range across a 257,000-square-mile region spanning 11 states.  From:

GR:  Once again, private funding is required to force a public agency to do its job.  Human land use has already damaged much of the sage grouse habitat.  This lawsuit is particularly important, because protecting the bird’s full range will protect the remnants of habitat needed by it and many other species.

One of the first human land uses that will have to end is cattle grazing.  More lawsuits paid by private citizens will likely be required, but destructive grazing has already diminished the carrying capacity of the land so much that the number of cattle has declined substantially.  Wildlife has declined even more.  The reduced cattle production will dampen the desires of the livestock industry and their public government officials to fight to retain the right to continue the destruction.  One day, sage grouse and other members of its ecosystem might be safe at home on the range.

Invasive Species and the Bighorn Sheep Die-off in Montana Mountains, Nevada

Invasive Species

GarryRogersGR: Human-introduced animals, plants, and disease organisms have destroyed many species and ecosystems. This aspect of the human impact on nature became a global disaster in the 1500’s as we began crossing the oceans. In the lands we reached, we rampaged about with no thought of the seeds stuck to our boots or the diseases carried by our livestock. Then we developed nature. We cut the soil and filled it with pipes and wires and then we entombed its microorganism ecosystem with pavement. We damned streams, dried up springs, cut the forests, stripped the land with cattle and sheep, and we poisoned the water and air. Now comes our grand slam: We’ve added sufficient greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere to give our climate warmer temperatures, droughts, fires, and stronger storms.

How do we react to all that we’ve done? In the current time of competition between oil producers, for example, the temptation to burn more of the cheaper gasoline doesn’t horrify us, no, we call the lower prices a consumer blessing. Fuels Supplied

And so, in all that we do, our species appears to be striving for maximum destruction of earth ecosystems. Here are a few essays I wrote about how this works with invasive plants.

The following article is by Ken Cole on the Wildlife News website (February 19, 2016).

Bighorn sheep by Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep photo copyright by Ken Cole

“On Sunday and Monday, February 14-15, 2016, USDA Wildlife Services took to the skies and shot the remaining 24 bighorn sheep in the Montana Mountains of northwest Nevada at the request of Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“While the exact source of the disease outbreak is not known, it is not surprising that the bighorn sheep in this area are suffering this fate because there are two domestic sheep grazing allotments – the Bilk Creek allotment and the Wilder-Quinn allotment – in the middle of this area and BLM ignored the disease threat that they pose to bighorn sheep.

“In 2012 the BLM began the permit renewal process for one of the allotments – the Bilk Creek allotment – and Western Watersheds Project submitted comments notifying them of our concern about the risk that domestic sheep posed to bighorn sheep in this area. It is well know that domestic sheep are carriers of pathogens that result in deadly pneumonia to bighorn sheep and that even just one nose-to-nose contact between these related species can result in a disease outbreak that commonly kills up to 90% of a herd and kills the offspring of the remaining animals for up to a decade.

“In 2013 the BLM issued the Final Environmental Assessment that dismissed those concerns . . . . ”  Read more at:

Wildlife: Wintry weather to take toll on Colorado mule deer

“Harsh winter conditions in northwestern Colorado may take a toll on already struggling mule deer herds, state biologists said last week, explaining that they’ve started a limited feeding program to try and keep ungulates from invading cattle grazing areas.”  From:

GR:  The following was NOT overheard in a U. S. Forest Service Office:  “Deer might die, but please don’t feed them. They must not develop any dependency on us.  Moreover, you can rest assured that we will not let them eat a single weed that a cow might want.  The deer might die, but that’s nature.  They’re used to harsh winters, and we must protect the valuable cows.”

Climate Change and Wildfire

Wildfire Ecology

I’ve been interested in natural vegetation response to wildfire for more than 40 years. Most of my work involves the desert shrublands and woodlands of western North America. From the beginning of my studies, I saw that Asian weeds brought by European sheep and cattle herders had heavily infested native vegetation. It soon became clear that added fuel provided by the weeds was allowing fires to increase in size and number. During the past century and a half, the weeds have replaced vast areas of native shrublands and woodlands that could not contend with the increasing wildfires.

Fire-prone invasive plants fueled fires that converted this formerly diverse Sonoran Desert landscape of small trees and tall Saguaro cactus into an impoverished shrubland.

This is one of the study sites that Jeff Steele and I established in 1974.  Two fires (1974 and 1985), converted this formerly diverse Sonoran Desert landscape of small trees and tall Saguaro cactus into an impoverished shrubland.

Humans with their weeds and livestock led the first devastating wave of wildfire across the arid and semi-arid lands of the world. The next wave will come from human-caused global warming.

The following is from Global Warming Forecasts

[Click this link for my review of the Forecasts.  Below, I’ve include 2050 as an example of the forecasts.]

2050 Wildfires

“2050.  Forest wildfire burn area in the U.S. is projected to increase by over 50% and as much as 175% in some areas by 2050.  “The area of forest burnt by wildfires in the United States is set to increase by over 50% by 2050, according to research by climate scientists. The study [Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States], predicts that the worst affected areas will be the forests in the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains, where the area of forest destroyed by wildfire is predicted to increase by 78% and 175% respectively.

“The research is based on a conservative temperature increase of 1.6 degrees Celsius over the next 40 years [2010-2050]. Published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists also say that the increase in wildfires will lead to significant deterioration of the air quality in the western United States due to greater presence of smoke. . . . This work was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Dr. Dominick Spracklen carried out the research whilst at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) in collaboration with Jennifer Logan and Loretta Mickley.” (NASA press release, “Wildfires Set to Increase 50 Percent by 2050,” NASA Earth Observatory, Twitter NASA EO, Greenbelt, Maryland, July 28, 2009 reporting findings in D.V. Spracklen, L.J. Mickley, J.A. Logan, R.C. Hudman, R. Yevich, M.C. Flannigan, and A.L. Westerlin, “Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States,” Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 114, D20301, doi:10.1029/2008JD010966, published October 20, 2009.” Global Warming Forecasts

View Jennifer Logan’s PowerPoint presentation on wildfires.


Grazing Monitoring Report–2015

“According to a report by the Center for Biological Diversity, the federal government spent $143.6 million dollars on grazing programs in fiscal year 2014 but grazing receipts only totaled $18.5 million. The Feds pay for a lot—grazing employees, fences, corrals—but do not recoup their costs because they charge grazers 6.72 percent of fees charged by private land owners in the West.

Photo:  Cow manure in Taylor Lake.

“Ranchers are emboldened because they view our national public lands as theirs to spoil. While the standoff at Malheur has drawn considerable attention, closer to home, this sense of entitlement is also present. In the Klamath National Forest, a growing number of ranchers are not removing their cattle on time, often merely leaving them to wander home. This is met without punishment by the Forest Service, which further encourages this sense of entitlement.”

GR:  Ecologists keep saying that the way livestock grazing is managed is too destructive, and any of us can go out and see that.  Nevertheless, the U. S. Bureau of Land Management and the U. S. Forest Service keep paying the ranchers to keep on destroying the biological diversity and productivity of the public lands.  The reason is inertia–continuation of old policies, and fear–fear of reprisals from politicians supported by the livestock industry.

Rugged individualism and Independence with a government safety net

“The standoff in Harney County Oregon highlights one of the great ironies of the rural West. More than any other people, western rural residents are more heavily dependent on government (read taxpayer) largesse than any other part of America. Yet the average rural resident sees himself/herself as a “rugged and independent” individual and by the way, “hard working” to boot. They may indeed work hard—but no harder than anyone else in this country, but more than other residents, their work and lifestyles are dependent on government and subsidies.

“From the pioneer days onward, the federal government has subsidized western rural lifestyles. The earliest federal military expeditions exploring potential trade route, military roads, and railroad routes as well as the military outposts that protected the “independent” western frontier communities from the Native people to the US Army expeditions which helped to subdue the “savages” and sequester them on reservations—all done with tax money from others citizens to largely benefit the western frontier men and women.”  From:

GR:  Ranchers I’ve known often boasted about how much money they got from the federal government.  Money they could use to buy guns, hunting dogs, and vehicles for recreational killing of coyotes, mountain lions, foxes, deer, antelope, and really, anything that moved. Guns they could take to public meetings whenever the BLM tried to control grazing to preserve the public land it leased at token rates to the ranchers.

Anti-government ranchers received over $4 million in taxpayer subsidies in 2014

“Last June, the ranchers in middle-of-nowhere Battle Mountain, Nevada, stuck it to the federal government by herding cattle onto public rangeland which had been closed to grazing to protect it from the West’s blistering drought. Meanwhile, many of those protesting were collecting drought subsidies.

“This final act of hypocrisy ended two years of rancher protests against the grazing restrictions imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is responsible for thousands of miles of arid federal land in Nevada. The BLM backed down and opened the range.

“By claiming that drought regulations were personal attacks, even as they received hefty checks, the Nevada ranchers got their way. According to Reveal, who obtained records related to the entire ordeal, two ranching families at the center of the protests received over $2 million in subsidies.”  From:

GR:  I just wanted to remind everyone that American ranchers, in collusion with the U. S. Bureau of Land Management and the U. S. Forest Service, have destroyed our public lands in order to line their pockets.  They are not good stewards of the land, they are avaricious abusers that have cost us the lives of our native wildlife and vegetation.  Learn more, search for livestock grazing at


Holistically-managed, grass-fed cows can save the planet! Neat video about how mimicking nature with grazing animals can not only reverse desertification, but also global warming.

“Holistically-managed, grass-fed cows can save the planet! Neat video about how mimicking nature with grazing animals can not only reverse desertification, but also global warming. Grass-fed . . . ”


GR:  This is nonsense. We know that rotating livestock between two pastures gives each pasture time to recover during its rest period.  The idea was a sparkling innovation when the Romans applied it two thousand years ago. In fact, it was still in use in 1940 when my Range Management textbook was published. However, the idea was never sustainable.  The human population has continued to grow and we now have so many cattle that they are eating up the food needed by wildlife.  I don’t believe any us will claim that extinction of native wildlife is the way to “save the planet.”

“Garden Chic” doesn’t provide a link to the video, but I think it’s probably the phony old Ted Talk that got it’s author a lot of undeserved attention when he used the term “holistic.”  It is truly just BS.

Alberta must move away from oil-based economy, minister says

EDMONTON — Climate isn’t all that’s changing in Alberta. The province’s NDP government has arguably made bigger moves on global warming in six months than the previous Conservatives made in a generation.  From:

Thank you Shannon Phillips.  Trudeau makes it all possible.