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Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

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Overview

Wildfires are an awe-inspiring natural phenomenon that have shaped North America’s landscapes since the dawn of time. They are a force that we cannot really control, and thus understanding, appreciating, and learning to live with wildfire is ultimately our wisest public policy. With more than 150 dramatic photographs, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy covers the topic of wildfire from ecological, economic, and social/political perspectives while also documenting how past forest policies have hindered natural processes, creating a tinderbox of problems that we are faced with today. More than 25 leading thinkers in the field of fire ecology provide in-depth analyses, critiques, and compelling solutions for how we live with fire in our society. Using examples such as the epic Yellowstone fires of 1988, the ever-present southern California fires, and the Northwest’s Biscuit Fire of 2002, the book examines the ecology of these landscapes and the policies and practices that affected them and continue to affect them, such as fire suppression, prescribed burns, salvage logging, and land-use planning. Overall, the book aims to promote the restoration of fire to the landscape and to encourage its natural behavior so it can resume its role as a major ecological process.
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Editorial Reviews

Los Alamos Monitor

"The book is a magnificent and magisterial production...Could it be an intellectual foundation for a future national wildfire institute—in Los Alamos?"
Bloomsbury Review

"There's nothing to compare to it, making it a recommended resource."
Science

"The history of fighting fires, the authors argue convincingly, has been self-defeating and based on unscientific assumptions about the role of fire in the contintent's ecology...Equally convincing, perhaps, are the photographs on display in this volume."
Eugene Weekly

"Reader advisory: This hefty, beautifully illustrated book — about as wide as a 25-year-old Doug fir stump — is likely to piss off the following: timber companies, loggers, Forest Service firefighters, the Oregon Board of Forestry, OSU College of Forestry administrators, herbicide companies, Columbia Helicopters and everyone else invested in the Old Forestry view that people should 'manage' nature's wild forces in order to serve humanity's material needs.
 
In that line of thinking, wildfire is bad; it steals valuable timber that could have been logged and converted into useful things like paper and houses. Thus the development of a 'fire-military-industrial' complex linking the Forest Service to industry and siphoning billions of tax dollars to fight fires on public lands.
 
Today, ecologists recognize that fire suppression does incalculable damage to forests that have evolved with wildfire, hijacking their natural processes and helping turn them, slowly but surely, into tree farms. Which, not incidentally, is convenient for timber companies hankering to log in public forests, and for land grant universities such as OSU that get a cut of the timber revenue.
 
In Wildfire, a project of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, more than 25 fire ecology experts — including Eugene's Timothy Ingalsbee — propose that wildfires are good, and that people's attempts to control them ultimately backfire. "While this book is about fire policy and fire ecology, it is also a discussion of a much larger philosophical debate over the ultimate role and influence humans should have on natural landscapes," editor George Wuerthner states in the introduction.
 
EW was privy to an email string between Big Timber allies reacting to this book. 'Makes a feller retch,' former OSU forestry professor Mike Newton wrote. 'These guys have money,' replied Bob Zybach of Oregon Websites and Watersheds, a timber think tank of sorts. 'I plan to finger and smudge a copy in the bookstore, and then not buy it,' added Lebanon tree farmer Mike Dubrasich, who administers the right-wing forestry blog SOSForests.com.
 
Their reactions only confirm the deep schism in forestry circles over how to handle wildfire. Those who subscribe to the old utilitarian view are sure to hate Wildfire; those who are deep ecologists, or open to their ideas, are likely to find it a valuable reference. The photos are gorgeous, the writing passionate and the mission clear: Fire Smokey the Bear, and let the forests burn, baby."
Library Journal
Photographer Wuerthner (ecological projects director, Fdn. for Deep Ecology) was once a seasonal forest firefighter and believed he was saving the forest from the "destructive" effects of fire. Years later, he realized that in saving trees from fire, he was helping to destroy the forest's natural processes. This exquisite essay collection-illustrated by more than 150 full-color, full-page photographs-makes a forcible argument that fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem and a vital component for forest renewal. Divided into six parts, the volume presents a variety of stimulating viewpoints on fire politics and management by familiar names in environmental studies: leading fire historian Stephen J. Pyne, scientist Dominick A. DellaSala, and poet/activist Gary Snyder. The thesis here is that humans must learn to live with nature and not seek to control it. This aesthetically pleasing, well-written, and overall outstanding book is highly recommended for all collections. [See also The Wildfire Reader: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, which is being published simultaneously by this press.-Ed.]-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Eugene Weekly - Kera Abraham

Reader advisory: This hefty, beautifully illustrated book — about as wide as a 25-year-old Doug fir stump — is likely to piss off the following: timber companies, loggers, Forest Service firefighters, the Oregon Board of Forestry, OSU College of Forestry administrators, herbicide companies, Columbia Helicopters and everyone else invested in the Old Forestry view that people should "manage" nature's wild forces in order to serve humanity's material needs.

In that line of thinking, wildfire is bad; it steals valuable timber that could have been logged and converted into useful things like paper and houses. Thus the development of a "fire-military-industrial" complex linking the Forest Service to industry and siphoning billions of tax dollars to fight fires on public lands.

Today, ecologists recognize that fire suppression does incalculable damage to forests that have evolved with wildfire, hijacking their natural processes and helping turn them, slowly but surely, into tree farms. Which, not incidentally, is convenient for timber companies hankering to log in public forests, and for land grant universities such as OSU that get a cut of the timber revenue.

In Wildfire, a project of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, more than 25 fire ecology experts — including Eugene's Timothy Ingalsbee — propose that wildfires are good, and that people's attempts to control them ultimately backfire. "While this book is about fire policy and fire ecology, it is also a discussion of a much larger philosophical debate over the ultimate role and influence humans should have on natural landscapes," editor George Wuerthner states in the introduction.

EW was privy to an email string between Big Timber allies reacting to this book. "Makes a feller retch," former OSU forestry professor Mike Newton wrote. "These guys have money," replied Bob Zybach of Oregon Websites and Watersheds, a timber think tank of sorts. "I plan to finger and smudge a copy in the bookstore, and then not buy it," added Lebanon tree farmer Mike Dubrasich, who administers the right-wing forestry blog SOSForests.com.

Their reactions only confirm the deep schism in forestry circles over how to handle wildfire. Those who subscribe to the old utilitarian view are sure to hate Wildfire; those who are deep ecologists, or open to their ideas, are likely to find it a valuable reference. The photos are gorgeous, the writing passionate and the mission clear: Fire Smokey the Bear, and let the forests burn, baby.

Los Alamos Monitor - Roger Snodgrass

"The book is a magnificent and magisterial production...Could it be an intellectual foundation for a future national wildfire institute -- in Los Alamos?"

Bloomsbury Review - Toby Ankus

"there's nothing to compare to it, making it a recommended resource."

Science - Ted Steinberg

"The history of fighting fires, the authors argue convincingly, has been self-defeating and based on unscientific assumptions about the role of fire in the contintent's ecology...Equally convincing, perhaps, are the photographs on display in this volume."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597260695
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 6/11/2006
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 11.75 (w) x 13.25 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Wildfire myths
The political decision-making process
Worldview
Deep valuing of wildlands as ecosystems : learning sustainability from the integrity and resilience of natural systems
Pt. I Wildfire : perspectives and visions
Introduction : humans and fire 3
The fire of life : thinking about the biological basis for fire 5
A spiral dance : the necessity of fire to wildness 9
Fire and native peoples : a natural or humanized landscape? 13
Coyote wildfire : evolving firefighters into fire guiders 19
Hot news : media coverage of wildfire 25
Incendiary language : how language affects our perceptions 30
Don't get hosed : how political framing influences fire policy 33
Lifetimes with fire : a place in the wildland interface 37
Pt. II Fire ecology : stories and studies
Introduction : fire-adapted landscapes 45
The Yellowstone fires of 1988 : a living wilderness 46
Fire ecology of the Sierra Nevada : forests born to burn 63
Wildfire management on a human-dominated landscape : California chaparral wildfires 69
Fire in the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion : protecting and restoring the fire mosaic 77
Fire in the southwest : a historical context 87
Fire in the east : welcoming back a native son 95
Applied historical ecology : using the past to manage for the future 99
Fire and succession : a critical process for forest bird populations 111
Pt. III The phoenix rises from the ashes : fire and its paradoxes
Introduction : fire and rebirth 121
How to look and see 122
Pt. IV (Un)healthy forest policy : suppression, salvage, and scurrilous solutions
Introduction : vested interests as purveyors of forest health 177
Logging and wildfire : ecological differences and the need to preserve large fires 179
After the smoke clears : ecological impacts of salvage logging 185
Conventional salvage logging : the loss of ecological reason and economic restraint 191
Pyro cows : the role of livestock grazing in worsening fire severity 197
Pt. V The new gravy train : the emergence of the fire-military-industrial complex
Introduction : the flawed economics of fire suppression 203
Avoiding a new "conspiracy of optimism" : the economics of forest fuel reduction strategies 205
Money to burn : wildfire and the budget 217
The war on wildfire : firefighting and the militarization of forest fire management 223
Pt. VI Eliminating the smokescreen : toward an intelligent fire policy
Introduction : learning to live with fire-dependent ecosystems 235
Ecological restoration of southwestern ponderosa pine ecosystems : a broad perspective
Keep the greenfire burning : deep ecology and prescribed fire 249
Sprawling into disaster : the growing impact of rural residential development on wildland fire management in the greater yellowstone area 255
Burning down the house : the role of disaster aid in subsidizing catastrophe 261
The community protection zone : defending homes and communities from the threat of forest fire 265
Pt. VII Time to retire smokey bear
The ultimate firefight : changing hearts and minds 273
Smokey the bear sutra 278
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