By Rob Chaney
Federal workers scrambled on Tuesday to interpret how President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze of civilian employees might affect seasonal firefighters and other part-time employees.Trump’s order, issued Monday, stated “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”
“The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” the order continued. “In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”
National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Council President Melissa Baumann said the order left her in the dark about U.S. Forest Service staffing, especially with hiring fairs for permanent firefighting professionals starting next week.
Another severe fire season has come and gone. This past year, 60,000 fires scorched nearly 5.5 million acres, destroying 5,000 homes and buildings. Most tragically, we suffered the loss of 12 federal, state and local wildland firefighters. The continuing national trend is clear — fire seasons are longer and wildfires burn bigger, hotter and faster.
As fires increase, so does the impact on the U.S. Forest Service’s budget. Responding to catastrophic fires demands a larger and larger percentage of the agency’s financial resources. The costs of firefighting were once relatively stable and could be predicted. But drought, changes in climate, longer and hotter fire seasons, and the complexity of protecting more than 44 million homes in and around forest edges are sending costs skyward.
As the new Congress convenes, Americans at large — especially those who have experienced the destruction and threats to safety, property and clean air and water firsthand — are again looking to Congress to finally approve the bipartisan relief they came short of enacting last session.
Scientists say more low-intensity wildfires are needed to clear out overgrown forests to help prevent bigger fires. Deciding where and when to let fires burn is tricky.
Dangerous wildfires made a lot of news across this country last year. But there are scientists who say we need more fires, low-intensity ones that clear out overgrown forests and help prevent the bigger fires. Deciding where and when to let fires burn is tricky, and so the U.S. Forest Service is working on a new approach.
…The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service share the job of forming a management plan for all 1.35 million acres of Bears Ears National Monument. It’s a new approach for the respective agencies in Utah, where prior monuments have been the exclusive purview of either the National Park Service, as with Natural Bridges, Timpanogos Cave, Cedar Breaks, Hovenweep, Rainbow Bridge and Dinosaur National Monuments, or the BLM with the sprawling Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The Manti-La Sal National Forest is already nine months into the process of updating a decades-old forest management plan. That process is estimated to last three to five years. The Bears Ears management plan could take just as long, though the people responsible hope to expedite the effort.
During that time, staff from both agencies will solicit public input and craft policies governing the future of all uses on the public lands within Bears Ears’ boundaries. The proclamation instructs the agencies to give special consideration to input from a tribal commission, though the Forest Service and BLM will have the final say on any decisions.
By BECKY BOHRER, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Plans for managing the nation’s largest national forest call for changes in timber harvests that one critic says will be “the demise of the timber industry as we know it right now.”
The Tongass National Forest released a management plan update Friday that it says will emphasize young-growth timber sales in the forest, which covers much of southeast Alaska, and allow for a logging rate that it says will meet projected timber demand.
This stems from a 2013 memo from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, directing Tongass managers to speed the transition from old-growth harvests toward a wood-products industry that mainly uses young-growth timber. The move was to be done in a way that preserves a viable timber industry. The transition goal was 10 years to 15 years, compared to the prior target of 32 years.
The decision released Friday calls for a full transition in 16 years and expects most timber sold by the Tongass to be young growth in 10-15 years.
Many of our national forests are in dire condition and Congress must take urgent action to address this worsening crisis.
Catastrophic wildfires have once again wreaked havoc this year, leaving nearly 5 million acres burned, destroying hundreds of homes, unleashing untold amounts of carbon dioxide into the air and, most tragically, claiming several lives. These unacceptable outcomes are hardly new; they have been harsh realities for many years running. And with tens of millions of dead and damaged trees across many national forests, the problem will only grow worse.
As Forest Service professionals who dedicated our professional lives to protecting these forests, we have closely examined the science related to the causes and facilitators of catastrophic wildfire. The science overwhelmingly shows that excessive fuel loads, overly crowded tree stands, and trees weakened by drought, insects and diseases all contribute to the severity of wildfires. In our judgment, more active management to address these factors, including more responsible and timely harvesting, is unquestionably needed.
Fires aren’t all bad. Some fires help forests become healthier, but scientists say they’re sorely lacking in California.
Sierra Nevada forests are adapted to low-intensity fires that clear the underbrush and prevent trees from getting too dense. After a century of fire suppression, many forests are overgrown, which can make catastrophic fires worse.
So forest managers are piloting a new policy designed to shift a century-old mentality about fire in the West.
The idea is to let naturally-caused fires burn when they aren’t a threat to homes or people. But actually making those decisions on the ground isn’t easy in a crowded state like California.
So that’s where your long-lost Bitterlich Averaging Instrument went.
It, or one just like it, is now in the repository of the National Museum of Forest Service History on Catlin Street (in Missoula, Montana).
In the small office at the Northern Region’s field service facility at 14th Street and Catlin are boxes and boxes of carefully archived papers, photos, and reports. The physical items – a portable radio developed in the late 1920s, an early computer, axes and Pulaskis, scaling sticks and a thousand other artifacts – take up the rest of the office and three rooms in an old streetcar barn across the way, which is now called the Forest Service Motor Pool and Equipment Inspection Facility.
Lisa Tate was hired as the National Forest Service Museum’s first executive director this summer and is in awe at the depth and breadth of the collection.
DEADWOOD — In roughly two decades, the Black Hills mountain pine beetle infestation has decimated approximately 215,000 acres of pine trees in the Black Hills, leaving drastically changed woodlands in its wake.
Designed to reduce fire hazards and promote biodiversity on more than one million acres of public land in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, the framework for the major new management plan, is set forth in a document titled the “Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project.”
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said his agency is trying to manage 60 million acres in need of restoration with 40 percent fewer staff and dollars than he had a decade ago.
“We need to focus on large landscapes, where we’re treating private land and national forest at the same time,” Tidwell said. “And we really need to focus on the outcomes we’re after – healthy, resilient forests that withstand disease outbreaks, fires, drought conditions that we’ll all face in the future. That’s the thing that produces economic activity that sustains communities and eliminates some of the conflict we’re seeing. That’s something we’ve been trying to address for decades in the agency.”