Not being afraid
What I’ve learned in the past few weeks has been a reminder of the distorted view of world events we can get from just watching TV news or only reading headlines.
Before I left for France two weeks ago, a Methow friend asked me if Paris was burning. That wasn’t a case of fake news she had seen. It was simply the fact that even the best news outlets, TV especially, tend to focus on the sensational. A few police cars or an expensive boutique set on fire are much more interesting than watching people just going about their business, or even watching a peaceful demonstration. So, no, Paris isn’t burning, and I haven’t seen a single demonstration since I got here.
Two other friends asked me if I weren’t afraid to visit a country with “so many” violent demonstrations. The latest demonstrations are protesting the new laws about retirement. They don’t just increase the age of retirement. They will reduce the benefits for many workers, especially women who took some years off to raise children. In this case, the truth is worse than it appears in our news. It seems to me those are good reasons to protest.
Regardless of the reasons for the demonstrations, though, the answer to whether I was afraid to be there was easy. Take it in reverse. Should my French friends be afraid to come to the U.S. because their press makes it seem like we have so many mass murders? Simple answer to both questions is no, though the murder rate in the U.S. is four times higher per capita than in France. My friends understand this and they’ll still come.
I’m surprised that the person who removed the welcoming flag at Spring Creek Ranch didn’t replace it with a “No lives matter but mine” flag.
Fire season is here
The May 20 sound and light show presented by Mother Nature highlighted several important facts present here in the Methow Valley.
First, it’s really dry out there, folks, and fire season has arrived early and with a vengeance. It doesn’t seem that long since the last remnants of snow disappeared but now is not too soon for property owners to take necessary precautions for what could be another season of conflagration.
Secondly, those of us living in mid-valley are well-protected by our volunteer heroes at the Carlton fire station. A bright flash followed immediately by an extraordinary boom announced a lightning strike in a small pine grove on our place north of Carlton. In moments a large plume of smoke and flames engulfed the pines. My immediate call to 911 was preceded by at least one alert neighbor who, gratefully, chose to take quick action and made the call for help even faster.
Our Carlton fire heroes arrived almost as soon as I got to the bottom of our driveway. Thanks to their speed, efficiency and professionalism, what could have been a very destructive fire ended up being only a patch of charred trees and grass. In addition to extending our sincerest gratitude to the volunteers at the Carlton station, we very much appreciate our attentive neighbors who, rather than just observing this event from afar, took much-appreciated action. Yes, fire season has arrived in the Methow. Are we really ready?
Canyon Creek Ranch, Carlton
The Edelweiss Board of Directors and residents of Edelweiss would like to thank the U.S. Forest Service for taking two very important steps to help protect the community of Edelweiss from potential wildfire disasters.
First, thanks for the recent successful 800-acre Goat unit prescribed burn near Edelweiss in early May. We understand this project has been proposed for many years and helps to reduce the fuel load close to Edelweiss and the Mazama area.
Secondly, we are very grateful for the USFS’s upcoming work to fix Forest Service Road 100 (East Fawn Creek Road), and West Fawn Creek Road. Both of these roads are vital to our residents. East Fawn Creek Road is especially critical as it provides an alternate emergency egress route for approximately 175 homes and is vital should a wildfire occur in our community. In recent years, this 4WD road has fallen into disrepair and besides lack of surface material, has serious erosion and drainage issues. Once improved, this route, while it will remain narrow and steep, will once again provide direct access to the Rendezvous recreational area, thus avoiding the need for the public to use the privately maintained roads in Edelweiss.
Special thanks goes to Chris Furr, District Ranger, David Colbert, Forest Service Road Engineer, Matt Ellis, District Fire Management Officer and no doubt many others. Your support for these very important projects is very much appreciated.
President, Edelweiss Maintenance Commission Board
No to new district
Nothing to consider for a new taxing district. We have more taxing districts already that are draining our budget in the Methow Valley. Senior citizens will not use the proposed aquatic center, so why should they pay for it through another hefty special levy in an excess of $350 per year and more? So express your opinion, wake up and say no to this proposal!
We must adapt
Have you noticed increasing use of medical terms to describe human relationships to wildfire and proposed forest restoration? Terms that describe nature as the patient, with ourselves as the physicians?
Think about it:
• Hessburg’s theory of the “epidemic” of trees as the major cause of megafires.
• 80-100 short years offorest “mismanagement” cited as the cause of trends involving eons.
• Human “prescriptions” and “treatments” as the solution for nature’s disease.
• The recent statement of an environmental group that “The Midnight Restoration Project … can help adapt the forest to a changing fire regime.”
Wait a minute. Our proposed projects can help nature adapt to nature?
Ric Bailey’s recent My Turn caught my attention. We’re being asked again to comment on large, experimental projects developed by distant entities with large budgets, in an accelerated time frame. The Midnight involves removal of old, resilient trees that are part of a network of microorganisms in the soil, formed over decades and more, contributing to the health of forest communities. It proposes “treatments” of Late Successional Reserves, whose old growth was intended for observations and studies, not logging. We’re asked to suggest alternatives in a fraction of the time it took the USFS to develop these plans, without benefit of knowing what significant errors were made in the previous Mission “Restoration” project — nor what remedies will assure those mistakes aren’t repeated by the same organizations.
Considering megafires our community has survived, I suggest utilizing common sense observations we’ve all made in responding. We’ve seen lone Ponderosas scorched and dead without neighboring trees. The Carlton Complex dashed past Pateros and Brewster through areas with sparse trees — including green alfalfa fields. We’ve seen the Chiliwist, the county’s first “Firewise” community, devastated despite extensive thinning. We know few tools can halt wind-driven fire, accelerated by climate change.
We, not nature, must adapt to living with fire. Let’s focus upon causes of accelerated climate change while providing humans with the means to adapt. Why not establish alternate unpaved escape routes from the Methow, or post “Dead End” signs on agency roads while studying sensible adaptations? Nature, in the final analysis, still has the upper hand.
I was thrilled to read last week that Okanogan County Electric Cooperative received a $12 million grant to deliver high-speed internet to the upper Methow Valley. I imagine 2,599 neighbors and potential internet users were equally excited by this news.
What is less thrilling is the fact that Rep. Newhouse voted against the federal legislation (HR 1319 — the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) every time it was up for a vote in Congress. I thought our legislators were supposed to be advocating for things that are needed and valued by their constituents. It feels like he missed the memo on that one.
Actions matter. Next time you are considering which candidate will best represent you in Congress, I hope you’ll ask whether Rep. Newhouse delivered or stood in opposition to what is important to the people in this precious place.
A better approach
The column titled “Forest Service logging plans exclude public,” begins with a serious error: “The U.S. Forest Service is planning to log nearly 200,000 acres of the Methow Watershed over the next 20 years.” That is the total of the project areas but is far greater than the acreage that will be logged. For example, the Mission Project, while encompassing 50,200 acres, is treating a total of 10,103 acres. Commercial logging is being conducted on 1,794 acres accounting for 18% of the treatments and 3.6% of the project area, while noncommercial thinning will make up 82% of the treatments.
Similarly, the Twisp Restoration and Midnight projects plan treatments on a fraction of the project areas. This is called landscape management. A large area, usually based on watersheds, is analyzed; desired future conditions — including the full array of vegetation and habitat types — are identified; and treatments are developed that will evolve the landscape toward the desired conditions. This is a relatively recent approach made possible by new technologies in remote sensing, and computing power that supports sophisticated modeling to predict outcomes. It is an enormous advance over earlier planning capabilities.
Mr. Bailey writes that his organization, the North Cascades Conservation Council (CCC) in cooperation with forest scientists developed an alternative plan that the Forest Service would not consider. I would love the opportunity to review and comment on their plan, as I have done for the others. Particularly, does it account for landscape-scale dynamics and pursue desired future conditions, including reducing extreme mega-fires?
The CCC does not believe that “huge, commercially driven timber sales” are the answer. I agree. However, the Forest Service is legally mandated to conduct timber sales. If opponents of these projects aim to eliminate logging, they need to convince Congress to change the mandate.
I believe the better approach to ecologically-based landscape management is to create value from the excess fuels that feed extreme fires. Local biochar production could potentially pay the enormous costs of restoring fire resilience and help de-couple restoration from commercial timber sales.