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By Jack Swift

November 18, 2007

To understand the grief and anguish being expressed by the environmental community about the BLM�s plan revision for utilization of the Oregon & California Railroad revested lands, one must understand their commitment to a core philosophy they call "Deep Ecology."

In that philosophy mankind�s needs should not be central to man�s decisions about the environment. Rather, concerns for maintaining the natural in the ecosphere in which man lives should be the guiding light. Thus man�s attempts at flood control are inherently evil because man should not attempt to live in a potential flood plain, whether flooding can be controlled or not. Similarly, man should learn to live in peaceful coexistence with wildfire. Flooding is a natural event and wildfire is a natural event. In this rationale, a world in which man shares his backyard with grizzlies, cougars, and wolves is preferable because that reflects the natural condition. All of these situations are preferred to man�s interference in the natural. "Pristine," as in natural and uncorrupted by man�s interference, is their mantra.

The Clinton-Gore Northwest Forest Management Plan (NWFMP), under the guise of protecting habitat for the northern spotted owl, established a management plan for our public forests of planned non-interference. Logging was prohibited in 80% of the lands and logging activities in the remaining 20% were so procedurally restricted that K-S Wild has been able to frustrate 90% of attempted sales in the BLM�s Medford District for the past seven years. Roads have been shut down. Fuel reduction activities curtailed. Fire suppression has been limited to initial counterstrikes. The loss and devastation of the Biscuit fire is a direct result of that management plan and is seen as preferable to logging because it is natural.

Currently the BLM with its Western Oregon Plan Revision (WOPR) is attempting to extricate the Oregon & California Railroad revested lands from the rule of the NWFMP. The O&C lands, by special act of Congress, are dedicated to permanent timber production according to the principle of sustained yield - don�t cut more than you can grow and don�t cut faster than you can regrow. The objective of the act was to provide funding for local governments through revenue sharing. It speaks to additional secondary purposes: to provide resources of value to the nation, to provide for clean water, to provide support for the local economies, to provide hydro-electric utilization where practical, and to provide for public recreation. To the dyed-in-the-wool environmentalist, this is, of course, man�s interference in the natural in the extreme.

It is a head on collision of mutually antagonistic philosophies. Should 6% of the public forests in the northwest (timber usable lands on the O&C) be used for timber production for the benefit of humankind? Or should those lands, along with the other 23 million acres of public forest, be rendered untouchable by man for the benefit of pristine nature?

The Southern Oregon Resource Alliance favors utilization. This is not because SORA desires favors for the timber industry. The timber industry is doing reasonably well operating on its own private lands. Rather SORA advocates for a responsible balanced approach to the utilization of natural resources. A percentage of our forests should be set aside for purposes of pure preservation. In balance, another percentage should be utilized but in a sustainable manner so that our progeny will have the same opportunities we enjoy. SORA believes our forests need to be managed and that it is the unique role of humankind to do that management. At the end of the day, our forests will be managed, either by man or by nature. To surrender that management to nature is to submit to a never-ending crap shoot.

Consider wildfire. Fire is by definition an exothermic chemical reaction involving oxygen, fuel, and heat. If you get the correct mix of ingredients, you have a fire. The intensity of the fire is subject to manipulation or management. Introduce a lot of oxygen, as with a bellows or in a high wind, and you will get an intense fire. Degrade the fuel as with wet wood and you will dampen or even preclude the fire.

In the absence of a scheme of fire management, the occurrence and severity of a wildfire is a function of the law of random numbers. It is a crap game played with three dice. One die represents the availability and character of fuel in a given environment. One die represents the occurrence of wind in that peculiar environment. And one die represents the occurrence of heat and drought. Under the laws of probability, from time to time the dice must roll a combination that amounts to a catastrophic fire. In the absence of a plan of fire management, man�s vulnerability to wildfire is no more than a crap shoot.

In the equation for fire, the only factor subject to man�s manipulation is fuel. We know that massive accumulations of ladder fuel (secondary brushy growth under the canopy) are the key ingredient to catastrophic, stand replacing crown fires. Fire management and protection demand that man interfere with the natural development of this ladder configuration. He must remove it, either by prescribed burns, mechanical manipulation, or herbicidal treatment.

In the pristine world this fuel reduction is accomplished by low intensity understory fires. Such understory fires have historically cleared stands in our area every 14 - 20 years. When they occur with the right roll of the dice, they will create stand replacing crown fires. In our area, this has occurred about every 240 years on average. Our problem today regarding understory fires is that for 100 years we have aggressively suppressed these fires and with nearly twenty years of non-management, we have developed massive accumulations of ladder fuel. We have made our forests fire bombs waiting to ignite.

SORA appreciates that a stand replacing fire is a natural event. It is a rebirth of the old growth which does not live forever. At the same time it is a loss of resources. If it can be prevented, it is a waste. It is a waste of resources valuable to the country and County financing. It is a waste of habitat important to the wildlife.

As a result, SORA sees the current battle over the WOPR not just as a battle between timber and taxes. It is a battle over who shall manage our forests. Shall nature rule with a never-ending crap game? Or shall man interfere and manipulate the game to his advantage?

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In the Green Wars, the Environmentalists do not have your best interests at heart.

� 2007 - Jack Swift - All Rights Reserved

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Jack H. Swift, is the Vice-Chairman, Southern Oregon Resource Alliance (SORA) and a semi-retired attorney living locally in the Grants Pass, Oregon area. He was a write-in candidate for commissioner in the 2006 election. He had a successful career in civil litigation prior to moving to Grants Pass, including successfully arguing issues of civil rights, jurisdiction, and sovereign immunity to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is currently an inactive member of the California and Oregon State Bars.

E-Mail: [email protected]











The Clinton-Gore Northwest Forest Management Plan (NWFMP), under the guise of protecting habitat for the northern spotted owl, established a management plan for our public forests of planned non-interference.