Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

by George Wuerthner
     
 

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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

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.

Editorial Reviews

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."
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.
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."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781597260701
Publisher:
Island Press
Publication date:
06/01/2006
Edition description:
1
Pages:
350
Product dimensions:
11.75(w) x 13.25(h) x 1.50(d)

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