US forest managers want judge to revisit tree-cutting ban

The U.S. Forest Service wants a federal judge to reconsider an order that halted tree-cutting across thousands of square miles of forest in the Southwest, saying efforts to address wildfire threats are hanging in the balance.

The order was issued last month in a 2013 case that alleged the agency failed to consider the effects of thinning and logging on the threatened Mexican spotted owl and its habitat. Environmentalists say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service have failed over the years to track the bird's numbers.

— San Francisco Chronicle

How the Forest Industry Changed the Bitterroot Valley

What would the economy of Ravalli County, Montana, look like today if harvests of timber from its federally owned lands had remained at levels experienced 30 years ago? In one sense, it is a moot question. Timber harvests declined, mills in the region closed and the economy grew in a different direction – changing the past is not a feasible policy option.

Yet history can teach us how past events and policy decisions have affected current economic performance, which can help inform decisions that will affect the future. It is in this spirit that researchers at the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana examined the question of “what if.” They prepared a picture of economic activity in the local economy as it might have looked if past land management decisions would have been different.

— Montana Business Quarterly

Overwhelmed or Ill Informed, 70,000 Wildfire Victims May Get Nothing

After a succession of devastating wildfires in the last four years, tens of thousands of Californians — many with broken spirits, many homeless — may now lose out on compensation from the company that was to blame.

A deadline for victims to file claims is less than three weeks away. About 30,000 have done so with the help of lawyers, along with 1,500 acting on their own. But the deadline could pass without claims from as many as 70,000 others eligible for compensation.

— The New York Times

Study: Forest Restoration Saves Carbon In Long Run

A new study by The Nature Conservancy shows forest thinning and prescribed burns cause a short-term loss of carbon to the atmosphere, but save carbon in the long run. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, that’s because healthy forests have bigger trees and experience fewer catastrophic wildfires.

— KNAU

Oregon Governor’s Council Projects Big Bill To Manage Wildfire

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown got a progress report from her Council on Wildfire Response on Thursday, and it came with a hefty price tag. The board is advising the governor on how to change the state’s wildfire policy in response to growing wildfire risks from overstocked forests, population growth and climate change.

Council Chair Matt Donegan told the governor that one of the major changes the board is recommending is increased investment in wildfire suppression. He said the state will need an estimated $4 billion in “a multi-decade initiative that will involve significant state, federal and private investment” to reduce wildfire risks through actions such as logging overstocked forestland.

— OPB

If forests go up in smoke, so can carbon offsets

Raging fires across the Amazon and the start of California’s fire season have put the heat back on a controversial method for balancing the carbon budget, called offsets. Since the onset of offsets, fires have posed a risk. They’re a threat to what scientists call “permanence.” Forest offsets are only effective if they remain intact for 100 years or so, about the amount of time that the carbon they trap would have stayed in the atmosphere.

— The Verge

Winter Isn’t Coming. Prepare for the Pyrocene.

Millions of acres are burning in the Arctic, thousands of fires blaze in the Amazon, and with seemingly endless flareups in between, from California to Gran Canaria – fire seems everywhere, and everywhere dangerous and destabilizing. With a worsening climate, the fires dappling Earth from the tropics to the tundra appear as the pilot flames of an advancing apocalypse.  To some commentators, so dire, so unprecedented are the forecast changes that they argue we have no language or narrative to express them.  

Actually, the fire scene is worse than the headlines and breathless commentaries suggest because it is not just about bad burns that crash into towns and trash countrysides.  It’s equally about the good fires that have vanished because they are suppressed or no longer lit.  More of the world suffers from a famine of good fires than from a surfeit of bad ones; the bad ones are filling a void; they are not so much wild as feral.

— History News Network

‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona

Large-scale forest restoration in northern Arizona is behind schedule. One of the major hurdles is that there are very few places for low-value logs and slash to go once it’s cut. It’s known as the “biomass bottleneck,” but a new pilot program spearheaded by Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute aims to tap wood markets on the other side of the globe, and hopefully reduce the chances catastrophic wildfire back home.

— KNAU

To save endangered species, environmentalists need to listen to their fiercest critics

The Trump administration announced in late August changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that would require the government to consider economic effects before listing a species as threatened or endangered. This move sparked stories about all the species pulled from the brink of extinction by the ESA. The law was a massive success, journalists and environmentalists claimed, and these new changes threaten to undo many of the gains in species protection made over the past four decades.

But missing from most of the coverage of the rule changes were the voices of people who had often paid a steep price for those success stories: loggers put out of work by the Spotted Owl’s ESA listing in 1990 or ranchers whose herds had been attacked by gray wolves. These men and women who work in resource extraction industries care deeply for the land and have a long and proud tradition of fighting to protect nature. Yet they are siding with the Trump Administration over the ESA rule changes. And that’s the result of decades of environmentalists ignoring the economic consequences of the ESA on these populations.

— The Washington Post