William E. Simpson II replies to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley’s email, discussing the Wild Horse Fire Brigade.
TO: Senator Jeff Merkley
Dear Senator Merkley:
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Being the “son of a millwright”, as you have written in your email to me, does not provide any empirical experience.
Opinions are only as good as the experience that supports and informs any opinion.
I was a millwright, a logger and a rancher in Southern Oregon. And having been trained as a scientist, I understand forestry, physics (thermodynamics) and chemistry of combustion related to wildfire.
Unlike you, I have looked into eyes of the fiery beast and breathed it's deadly breath, which claimed my lovely wife's life during the deadly Klamathon wildfire in 2018, where I was on the fire-line for 9-days as an advisor to CAL-FIRE commanders along the Camp Creek fire-line. The effort helped save the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and possibly Ashland from total destruction.
You can talk about it all you want; that does not create any first hand experience, which is critical in understanding, considering and positing genuine solutions.
It's unfortunate, but any solution that addresses wildfires after they are already burning is not nearly as effective as preventing wildfire via the reestablished of a cash-positive native species herbivory using wild horses rewilded from BLM and USFS holding (and from roundups) into remote Wilderness Areas, where wildfires are the most difficult and costly to suppress.
The published science supports the foregoing and the Wild Horse Fire Brigade without any doubt:
"By altering the quantity and distribution of fuel supplies, large herbivores can shape the frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of fires across a landscape. There are even unique interactions among large herbivore populations that can influence fire regimes. For example, facilitative interactions between white rhinoceros and mesoherbivores result in reduced fuel loads and fuel continuity, and consequently fewer large, intense fires (71). Other factors can influence the frequency and intensity of fires, particularly in locations where the total area burned is strongly related to ungulate population size.
For example, Serengeti wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) populations irrupted after the rinderpest virus was eradicated in the 1960s, and the subsequent increase in grazing pressure led to a widespread reduction in the extent of fires and delayed recovery of tree populations (72). The removal of plant biomass by browsing also reduces fire fuel loads and decreases fire susceptibility. Thus, there is scant evidence of fire in much of Australia until the megafauna disappeared after humans arrived (5)."
Our cervid (black tail deer) populations in CA and OR are severely depleted, that is an undeniable fact. In fact OR is down about 150,000 deer (over past 10-years) and CA is down about 2,000,000 deer over the past 5-decades.
The loss of these native grazers results in about 2.5-Million tons of prodigious annual grass and brush left un-grazed across the landscape of OR and CA annually.
Grass and brush (1-hour fuels = 1/4 inch in diameter and smaller) are the key fuels that kindle (burn hotter than heavy fuels; aka trees, snags, etc.) and carry wildfires into other fuels, including homes and timber.
Removing heavy fuels does NOT change the wildfire regime as we see in CA every year where devastating grass and brush fires burn hundreds of thousands of acres costing $-Billions in losses (insured and uninsured).
You need to be properly advised in these matters. Currently you are NOT properly informed.
Naturalist-Rancher William E. Simpson II on NBC NEWS
The genesis of catastrophic wildfire on the landscape is so simple it is grossly overlooked by even some scientists.
Massive taxpayer savings is grained by implementing Wild Horse Fire Brigade (‘WHFB’: www.WHFB.us)
1) Reallocating (re-wilding) native species American wild horses from BLM custody to wildfire fuel abatement roles in select remote wilderness areas provides an instant savings related to housing and feeding horses in the realm of ~$80-million annually;
2) Based on comparable cost analysis for fuel treatment methodologies (prescribed burns & mowing where possible and allowed by law); each wild horse assigned from BLM/USFS holding and into remote forest fuel abatement (wildfire grazing via www.WHFB.us) role provides approximately $72,000.00 per horse in value over the course of its 20-year life span (average) in the wilderness. This figure is based on each wild horse grazing about 5.5 tons of grass and brush per year in wilderness areas where other treatments and methods are impractical.
3) Studies overwhelmingly prove that the removal of fine fuels from wildfire prone areas changes both the frequency and intensity of wildfire.
a) According to a study published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science: “By altering the quantity and distribution of fuel supplies, large herbivores can shape the frequency, intensity, and spatial distribution of fires across a landscape.”
b) Another published study states: “The removal of large herbivores has adverse effects on landscape structure and ecosystem functioning. In wetter ecosystems, the loss of large herbivores is associated with an increased abundance of woody plants and the development of a closed-canopy vegetation. In drier ecosystems, reductions of large grazers can lead to a high grass biomass, and thus, to an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Together, with the loss of a prey base for large carnivores, these changes in vegetation structures and fire regimes may trigger cascades of extinctions (Bakker et al., 2016; Estes et al., 2011; Hopcraft, Olff, & Sinclair, 2009; Malhi et al., 2016).”
Furthermore, a recently published economic study of the effects on costs of wildfire when prevention is implemented proves an 88% reduction of suppression costs for wildfire. The 2018 budget for USFS suppression was nearly $5-billion, so even an 80% savings on that would be $4-Billion annually; to wit:
Assessing the economic trade‐offs between prevention and suppression of forest fires; Betsy Heines, Suzanne Lenhart and Charles Sims; First published: 29 January 2018 https://doi.org/10.1111/nrm.12159
“We find that with the application of preventive fuel management, the value of the forest is greater and less variable than in the case where prevention management spending is not applied to the forest. We also find that prevention spending lowers the number of devastating large fire events.
The mean value of the forest over a 50‐year time horizon in the no prevention management case is $536M with a standard deviation of $111.7M. When prevention is determined by the successive application of our optimal control problem, we find that the mean value of the forest over 50 years to be $671M with a standard deviation of $34.0M. This result illustrates that there are real economic costs associated with using funding for fuel management to fund immediate fire suppression.
Perhaps, more surprisingly, we find that when optimal prevention management is employed, not only are high suppression costs drastically reduced, total spending on fire management (prevention and fire suppression) is less than the case without prevention management. In the case without prevention management spending, $236M was spent on average on fire suppression over the course of 50 years.
In the case with applying optimal prevention management spending, only $42M was spent on average on suppression over 50 years and $65M was spent on prevention management. By comparison, $40M–$50M was spent fighting the Las Conchas fire. In our work with unknown fire sequences, we observed an 88% reduction in suppression spending on average with prevention management, and a 55% reduction in spending overall. This result provides hope that a more careful integration of fire prevention into wildfire management plans may actually reduce the cost of these plans.”
NEWS-9: Study Reveals Solution for Range War Between Wild Horses and Cattle Ranchers
Natural Wildfire Abatement And Forest Protection Plan (aka: Wild Horse Fire Brigade - ‘WHFB’)
By: William E. Simpson II - Naturalist – Rancher – Businessman February 5, 2019
- America is faced with a growing serious problem related to catastrophic wildfire and toxic wildfire and prescribed burn smoke, not the least of which includes loss of life, property, forests and timber, grazing lands and related costs of insured and uninsured losses now growing into the hundreds of $-billions annually. Compounding these losses is the massive impact to public health posed by harmful wildfire smoke that is just now being realized by the EPA and CDC.
- The documented depletion of millions of deer in the western states over the past five decades has seriously damaged the delicate balance of the forest and grassland ecosystems. This is addition to the long-term loss of approximately 300-million large-bodied herbivores on the N. American landscape over the past 300-years, which had been controlling wildfire fuels for millennia. Today’s substitute livestock grazing across the landscape is currently largely inadequate to make-up for this depleted natural herbivory. In many cases, we have unknowingly allocated the wrong species of herbivores into the wrong areas on the landscape.
- Today, Oregon & California deer populations have been decimated. The CA deer population alone has dropped by approximately 2-million deer over the past five decades . The loss of these critically important native species grazers, also known as ‘large-bodied’ herbivores, has resulted in extreme excesses in the amount of annual grass and brush left un-grazed across the landscape during longer and hotter summer fire seasons. Regardless of ignition sources, the grass and brush fuel is what can and must be controlled, and is according to CAL-FIRE wildfire forensics, the key fuel that kindles and carries the fire to other fuels.
- This is particularly important in regard to the relatively recent evolution of catastrophic wildfire on the landscape. Wildfire is made catastrophic because of the abnormal heat generated due to excessive amounts of fast-burning fuel that projects tremendous heat energy into the landscape and all other available fuels. Rapid-burning grass and brush fuels are known as fire accelerants that in many catastrophic wildfires are also the primary fueling agents.
- When the landscape (forests & grasslands) burns catastrophically, immense quantities of greenhouse gases (including some hydrocarbon toxins) are emitted into our atmosphere. A mixed herbivory, which includes wild horses and burros located in the most difficult and remote wilderness areas, maintains carbon sequestration in the soil-plant cycle via their consumption of these fuels and recycling into soils, thus benefiting our atmosphere by reducing the hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted from burning the same vegetative materials in a catastrophic manner.
- These mega-hot wildfires are extremely harmful to watersheds, at a time when more fresh water is needed for agriculture as well as for fisheries and wildlife that also depend on quality watersheds. And as we see from empirical evidence, when winter rains comes, the train-wreck continues with catastrophic mudslides and flooding due to loss of plants that stabilize soils and help direct the absorption of precipitation into the groundwater systems (aquafir replenishment).
- Concurrently, the growing competition for industrial and livestock uses of public lands has generated serious socioeconomic issues for all stakeholders. Consumerism as a part of the American lifestyle will continue to drive demand for more gas, oil, mineral and livestock products, placing even more pressure on land use demands. The rancor from disputes is already at an all-time high and a sustainable cost-effective compromise for wild equids is urgently required.
- Interestingly, a cost-effective plan (www.WHFB.us) that addresses the disputes between the majority of stakeholders around the issue of livestock grazing and wild horses and burros on public lands also helps to mitigate $-billions in losses due to catastrophic wildfire and deadly toxic smoke via fuel abatement grazing in remote wilderness areas, many of which are now known as ‘firesheds’ due to the regularity of wildfire in such remote areas.
- The solution known as Wild Horse Fire Brigade relocates wild horses and burros away from areas of competition with livestock enterprises and back into their evolutionary roles of reducing grass and brush fuel loading in remote wilderness areas that are prone to catastrophic wildfire. This ends the ‘range war’ and eliminates the needs for brutal roundups and artificial intervention into wild horse and burro ecology using chemicals such as PZP.
- It is in these remote wilderness areas that fire suppression costs are the highest as a result of the necessity of aerial suppression efforts that can reach $1 million/hour.
- Even though such remote wilderness areas in the West have both abundant vegetation and water, they are not suited to livestock production due to remote rugged terrain, difficult access and abundant apex predators, all of which significantly reduce profitability. These conditions are nevertheless ideal for wild horses and burros that evolved on the American landscape in these ecosystems where the evolutionary process of natural selection controls equid populations and enhances equid genetics.
- Rewilding native species wild horses and burros to re-balance wilderness ecosystems is the paradigm shift needed to correctly manage wilderness landscapes of the 21st century and eliminate unnecessary conflict on multiple-use public land areas.
- One of the most innovative and exciting visions in the realm of rewilding as a landscape management tool is the Plan known as Wild Horse Fire Brigade. (www.WHFB.us)  The 2-million deer depleted from the landscape in California had a grazing capacity of approximately 2.6-million tons annually, at an average of 7-lbs/day/deer. Just to replace this lost herbivory, it would require aprox. 472,000 wild horses (based on av. grazing of 5.5 tons annually/horse).
This demonstrates that due to limited inventory, wild horses can only be allocated into the most difficult and remote wilderness terrain, where wildfires result in costly losses and massive production of greenhouse gases.
Capt. William E. Simpson II - USMM Ret.
Naturalist - Rancher
Creator: Wild Horse Fire Brigade - link here
Muck Rack: https://muckrack.com/william-e-simpson-ii
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley's email:
I’ll never forget being in southern Oregon last year, at the height of wildfire season, and looking up at a dark, hazy sky as smoke rolled overhead -- a sight Oregonians know all too well. As I’ve traveled around our state to host town halls in each of our state’s 36 counties, I’ve heard from countless communities that have been directly threatened by blazes; from Oregonians with health conditions who struggle to stay healthy amid smoky conditions; and from business owners whose products have been ruined by smoke.
While this season has so far been a welcome relief from recent years, it’s never too early to start preparing for next year’s wildfire season by redoubling our forest management strategies.
We also know we can’t fight fires without firefighters -- and that shortages of trained firefighters can put a huge squeeze on fire suppression efforts at the most critical moments. That’s why firefighter training couldn’t be more important, and why I’ve used my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure $8.5 million in new resources to train more members of our National Guard to fight wildfires, a $1.5 million increase from last year’s funding.
On behalf of all Oregonians, I thank the brave and disciplined members of our National Guard for their unwavering commitment to protecting our communities, and look forward to continuing to build upon this strong partnership to respond quickly and effectively when wildfires break out.
Between flames threatening homes and entire communities being blanketed by hazardous smoke, every Oregonian understands the threat that increasingly frequent and extreme wildfires pose to our health, our environment, and our economy. Please know that I will keep working hard to secure the funding and resources communities in Oregon need to stay safe in upcoming fire seasons.
All my best,