The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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drm
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by drm » November 26th, 2017, 9:24 am

We can't prevent explosive fire in the gorge. It is a natural feature of that forest. It can be delayed, which is what we have done, but not prevented. I support controlled burns in general where appropriate conditions exist, and I'm not sure if that is the case in the Gorge. But if the professionals who know controlled burning call for it, I would probably back them up.

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Guy
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by Guy » November 26th, 2017, 6:26 pm

drm wrote:I also think that people who choose to build a home in remote areas away from towns should be told that society will not spend millions of dollars on air tankers to save their home. If a ground team can save their home, great, but that's it.
I guess the tricky part is who decides what the deffention of "remote" is. To use our current example are there any houses that you would have considered remote Dean?
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by RobinB » November 27th, 2017, 12:09 am

Aimless wrote:We've placed a wilderness right next to communities that were there first

I knew what you meant, but I had to chuckle over the literal meaning of what you wrote.
Same here, though my first reaction was a touch less generous than a chuckle.

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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by chrisca » November 27th, 2017, 11:54 am

RobinB wrote:
Aimless wrote:We've placed a wilderness right next to communities that were there first

I knew what you meant, but I had to chuckle over the literal meaning of what you wrote.
Same here, though my first reaction was a touch less generous than a chuckle.
Let's stay on topic, please. "Wilderness" in my usage is the strict legal definition created in the Wilderness Act. Cascade Locks, Stevenson, Corbett, and Hood River all predate that act. In most parts of the country, wilderness is located quite far from major settlements. The gorge is fairly exceptional in that regard. Here we have a large wilderness area that's in some cases just a couple of miles from human settlement. In wilderness, motorized equipment is prohibited. That means some fire management tools such as chain saws, bulldozers, fire roads, etc. aren't allowed. When those communities were established, those tools were part of the status quo. Now, these places are being held to a completely different set of expectations. That's my point. Because of the way land use has evolved in the gorge, it's made it ground zero for the wildland/urban interface debate.

When we have a wilderness that's so close to major transportation routes, towns, critical electrical generation and transmission facilities, and businesses, should we treat fire in it the same way we treat fire burning in a wilderness in a remote location? Please comment.

chrisca
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by chrisca » November 27th, 2017, 12:20 pm

chrisca wrote:On the topic of education, we see these signs in many National Forests. However, I can't recall seeing any of them in the Columbia Gorge.
Fire Danger Sign.jpg
If we had them, perhaps it would make people more cautious and aware on days with high fire danger.
When I posted this on Twitter (https://twitter.com/gorgepulse/status/9 ... 4254104576) to the Forest Service, here's the response I got:
"[email protected] is a unique area w/ a mix of public, private & state land. We do not set Industrial Fire Precaution Levels as national forests but follow the strictest IFPLs @ county level, rather than a unit-wide number. This approach respects local state & county regulations."

That sounds a bit like government finger-pointing. It sidesteps the question of how the public gets informed about fire danger, especially when many users of trails come from outside the counties that set their individual fire risk levels. It seems that educating people at gorge recreation sites is something no one wants to do right now.

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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by Aimless » November 27th, 2017, 1:29 pm

To be fair, the indicators on those Fire Danger signs (Low, Moderate, High, Very High, & Extreme) are Industrial Fire Precaution Levels and they have direct legal bearing on which industrial regulations are in effect in the ranger districts where the signs are located. So, the answer you were given, while it might seem overly bureaucratic in your view, was precisely correct in terms of Forest Service rules and guidelines. You may think the purpose of the signs are to inform the general public, but to the FS, general public awareness is a secondary, bonus effect. Allowing loggers to see the current Industrial Fire Precaution Levels without their having to inquire the ranger station every day are the primary reason for the signs.

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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by BigBear » November 27th, 2017, 3:47 pm

Not sure why "wilderness" is so important in this discussion. Much of what burned in the Eagle Creek fire lay outside the wilderness boundary. Whether a tree sits within the 1964 or the 1984 wilderness boundary does not make it more or less likely to catch fire. In fact, a fair portion of acreage that burns in Oregon from wildfire is grassland (e.g. Burns area where a 1M acre blaze burned just a couple years ago).

The concept of "keeping the public safe" is the result of courts ruling that government entities are somehow responsible for the well being of the public which both seeks this protection and claims it infringes on their liberties. Gotta love the irony. I recall an article in US News & World Report (circa 1979) that included a case from Yosemite where two hikers successfully sued NPS for not posting signs as to which tree lightening would strike. It was one of many liability suits at the time that had shifted the mindset of the courts from personal responsibility to government guardianship.

Until the legal meter switches back, you can count on limited access when an area is deemed dangerous. The way the meter has changed over my life from personal responsibility, I'm surprised were allowed to hike on trails at all.

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drm
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by drm » November 27th, 2017, 4:22 pm

Guy wrote:I guess the tricky part is who decides what the deffention of "remote" is. To use our current example are there any houses that you would have considered remote Dean?
In the future any time somebody wanted to build a house outside of a city, the permit to build would include a statement, determined by the local fire authority, as to whether it qualified as remote. It wouldn't affect whether they could build, but it might affect whether they could get insurance. I'm not sure that this can be done for existing structures - unless they burn and need to be rebuilt. For the current case, the Eagle Creek fire, I doubt it applies to any since all of the homes tend to hug the river. But I'm really responding to the broader issue since any time you read about wildfire in depth, the issue of more people living in the path of wildfire always comes up.

Btw, I think something similar needs to be done wrt paying to rebuild in flood zones.

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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by RobinB » December 4th, 2017, 2:56 pm

chrisca wrote:"Wilderness" in my usage is the strict legal definition created in the Wilderness Act. Cascade Locks, Stevenson, Corbett, and Hood River all predate that act... When we have a wilderness that's so close to major transportation routes, towns, critical electrical generation and transmission facilities, and businesses, should we treat fire in it the same way we treat fire burning in a wilderness in a remote location? Please comment.
The strict legal definition strikes me as too narrow. When they were built, all of those communities were surrounded by de facto wilderness. De facto wilderness precedes literally everything else here. The question is to what extent are we willing to impinge on that wilderness for the benefit of the communities that have been built in and around it.

I guess my view would be roughly as follows. Given how little wilderness - legal and de facto - is left, we should be very careful about touching it. At the same time, there are communities that border the wilderness, and that are threatened by its natural cycles and inhabitants (fires, flooding, wildlife, etc).

In the short term, there are surely practical steps that can be taken to buffer communities while allowing the wilderness to continue being wilderness. This might include, for instance, thinning trees around communities, so that fire, when it comes, as it naturally does, will be less of a threat.

I realize that this will be unpopular, but in the very long term - like, on the scale of several hundred years - I think it makes sense to incentivize people and businesses to leave these border communities, and relocate to places more thoroughly separate from wilderness. We've already seen some of this in areas with extreme flooding, where insurance difficulties incentivize potential new residents to look elsewhere. I could imagine something similar happening with the risks posed by fires.

That's going to be a very hard to swallow proposal in these communities. But in the grand sweep of things, very few communities last forever, and if we want to keep our wild places wild indefinitely, we're going to have to adopt long-term plans that minimize the threats posed by our communities, and the artificial security they require.

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retired jerry
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Re: The Gorge's Fire Management Plan and Hiking's Future

Post by retired jerry » December 4th, 2017, 3:31 pm

maybe some properties that are isolated and on the interface with Wilderness should be encouraged to sell out to make it easier to defend against wildfire

like the Forest Service could offer to buy specific properties, and some day, maybe the owner would rather sell

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