Editor’s Note: Many environmentalists have long insisted that people living in rural areas should have no say in how neighboring National Forests are managed because  they have a “timber bias,” or  they lack the intellectual credentials needed to participate in the decision-making process. Let us hope that Lee Riddle has forever laid these high-minded notions to rest.
Riddle, who recently retired after 40-plus years with the Easter Lily Research Station at Brookings, Oregon, wrote me last week to ask if I was interested in reading the letter he wrote the Forest Service in response to its request for comments concerning its Chetco Bar Fire Salvage proposal.
“Of course,” I replied, “I’d be pleased to read your letter.” Mr. Riddle’s letter arrived in my email box less than five minutes later. Suffice it to say, his tour-de-force, which you can read here, left me speechless.
I’ve been reading Forest Service comment letters for more than 30 years, but never have I read a letter that even approaches this one in terms of its content, thoughtfulness or scholarship.
Mr. Riddle is a friend of Guy McMahon, another Brookings resident who is less than pleased with the Forest Service’s minimalist approach to Chetco Bar salvage and restoration. We posted his comment letter on our site last week. [See Old Scars, New Wounds]
After Mr. Riddle sent us his comment letter, he sent us three more documents we want to share with you:
An information sheet he wrote that was handed out at a public informational meeting the Forest Service hosted. You can read it here, “The Forest Service did not like it,” Riddle told me in his email.
A well-documented briefing paper describing Inventoried Roadless Areas, de-inventoried roads and trails and the 2001 Roadless Rule. These rules come into play whenever wildfire burns through an area that is roadless – or nearly so – but has not yet been designated as Wilderness by Congress. The Forest Service is very reluctant to salvage burnt timber from these areas because it involves rebuilding old roads or building new ones. You can read Riddle’s briefing here.
Mr. Riddle also sent along a copy of a 2004 Journal of Forestry essay, “Hastening the Return of Complex Forests Following Fire,” describing the restoration and salvage work the Forest Service should have done following the Biscuit Fire, a 400,000- acre conflagration that raged through southwest Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest for 54 days beginning in July of 2002.
Biscuit leveled more than 152,900 acres within the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and another 113,700 acres of Late Succession Reserve [old growth spotted owl habitat] that had been set aside under the Northwest Forest Plan.
The essay was co-authored by John Sessions, a PhD forest economist at Oregon State University; Pete Bettinger, an Associate Professor in the Daniel R. Wornell School of Forest Resources at the University of Georgia; the late Robert Buckman, former Deputy Chief of Research for the U.S. Forest Service; Jeff Hamann, PhD, HamannDonald Associates, Corvallis, Oregon and Mike Newton, PhD, Professor Emeritus, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, and a member of the Evergreen Foundation Board of Directors.
Mr. Riddle sent us the Journal of Forestry essay as a reminder that the Forest Service might want to consider the forest recovery suggestions advanced by Sessions et.al. in their 2004 essay. You can read the essay here.
We hope to meet Mr. Riddle sometime. He spends most of his time on his 160 acres of “trees and meadows” near Brookings. The Chetco Bar Fire came within a mile of his land before the wind stopped pushing the fire forward.
“Had the winds blown for another half-day, the fire would have been stopped by the ocean,” he wrote in his note to us.
Translation: the entire town of Brookings would have been lost.