Thursday, December 4, 2008

The forest needs fire

The Forest Service blew it and they know it.

Failure to discuss mop up in detail, lack of clarity about who was responsible for what, maybe a little complacency, led to an escape of a prescribed burn in the Metolius Natural Research Unit this fall. The Wizard Fire ended up covering 1,840 acres and costing $4 million.

That’s a big mistake.

But this mistake can’t be allowed to send a valuable program up in smoke. We need prescribed fire in Sisters’ forests. Prescribed fire has protected local communities from destruction by wildfire. The GW Fire west of Black Butte Ranch hit a treated area and dropped down like it had been hit by a left hook. The evidence is clear on the ground.

Beyond the safety considerations, fire is a necessary natural element of the health of our forests. The more we mimic natural fire patterns, the healthier our forests will be.

Hike through any area of Sisters’ forests and you’ll find acres of land choked with vast stands of small, unhealthy trees. Those acres won’t be healthy until they burn.

Sure, you can cut trees and mow underbrush, but that’s not efficient and it’s not natural. Fire is nature’s tool and it must be ours.

Nobody likes dealing with the smoke and brown needles and blackened trunks don’t look like the picturesque forests we tout to visitors. But they’re worth putting up with for the benefits, which aren’t so long in coming.

There’s no excuse for lapses in patrols on a burn and the Wizard Fire is a violation of public trust the Sisters Ranger District has worked hard for the past decade to earn. They must do better and they owe it to us to demonstrate that they will do better.
But we need to give them the chance. Our forests need the fire.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. "We need to give them a chance" ... Oh please !! Do you honestly think anything you say, I say or a host of us say means anything to the Forest Service ? They will do what they want, when they want, period. I love Anthony's comment, something to the effect "nobody gets fired because there was no "willful wrongdoing". Maybe so but in my business if you cost me 4 million as a result of not doing your job, stupidity and or a host of other things that were not "willful wrongdoing", I would still fire you ? There was a person in charge and they should pay the price for costing the taxpayers 4 million dollars. It appears Mr. Anthony is way out of touch with reality. What's new ... Not much in that office !!

  2. The 1,800 acres that burned needed to burn, just like the entire B&B, Link, and so on.
    The Forest Service has suppressed small fires for decades, as the Dept of Ag in DC has always pressured them to protect timber revenue at all costs (including death of fire fighters). It doesn't help when a number of private homes are built in high fire risk forests, such as Black Butte Ranch.
    Because of the suppression, fuels have accumulated for half a century whereas low intensity burns would have moved through every three to seven years, leaving behind large trees and healthy soil. As a result of poor forest policy, high intensity fires now sweep through and destroy everything.
    The Forest Service should be doing many, many more prescribed burns on a much larger scale, in order to save the future of our forests.
    They've definitely learned a lesson. But we need to continue to support them in their efforts to manage forests properly, not shame them.
    Many times in the past, fire fighters have put their lives on the line to protect Sisters, Camp Sherman, and nearby communities.
    Let's acknowledge their failure to follow up, but at the same time support their efforts at prescribed burning, which is key to restoring the health, safety and productivity of our forest lands.