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Files and links supporting healthy forests

Prescribed burning and thinning methods can actually cause deforestation in environments suffering under severe drought conditions, where burned and clearcut forests are unlikely to regrow. Prescribed burns also adversely affect biodiversity. Forestry practices are based on agriculture (thinning to increase growth and improve timber yield) and are thus fundamentally in conflict with natural selection. Read below for more information and to see our sources  —

From the Editor

The dominant current approaches to wildfire policy promoted by the Forest Service— wildlands fire suppression and forest alteration through extensive tree-cutting—are failing to keep the public safe, with record losses of lives and homes during wildfires.

Do you ever think, “Gee, the air is really awful with smoke today but the air quality report says fine, or moderate.” That is because New Mexico uses a loophole in the Air Quality Act that subtracts air pollution impacts of “Acts of God, wildfires, etc.,” from pollution data before publishing the air quality rating. We are being told the danger of smoke pollution is much less than it really is. How misleading!

We learn more every year about the extreme toxicity and ill effects of the constant “prescribed” burning. On Aug. 13, the CNN announcer stated that the worst cases of dementia had lived near forest fires or agriculture. Yet the Forest Service refuses to do a health impact assessment.

The Forest Service won’t follow the restrictions and requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act. They “manage” many sparks into huge fires, maybe 70,000, or 100,000 acres. That is 337,000 or 481,000 tons of carbon released. That includes the radionuclides those trees absorbed from the bomb tests in the ‘40s and ‘50s. It is important to understand that when the Forest Service says it is “managing (a fire) for forest health,” it is Orwellian doublespeak for “we are dumping diesel and other fuels on a fire to make it bigger.”

How can we understand the complicated issues between the Forest Service, the community, and the forest?


After the recent tragic disasters of the Forest Service prescribed burns getting out of control, 18,000 families were displaced.  Some of them got to come home.  Many others had no home to come home to.  The acreage burned released approximately 1.6 million tons of carbon, adding to climate change.

Protecting Homes Against Wildfire

The dominant current approaches to wildfire policy promoted by the Forest Service— wildlands fire suppression and forest alteration through extensive tree-cutting—are failing to keep the public safe, with record losses of lives and homes during wildfires.

In contrast, an approach of “working from the home outward,” focusing on fire-safety home retrofits and the zone immediately around houses and communities, offers the most effective and cost-efficient tools for increasing public safety during wildfires.

Most wildfire-related government funding subsidizes forest alteration and fire suppression rather than home-outward actions, even in “all of the above” approaches to fire policy. Less than 4% of California’s 2021 fire-related budget is for “community hardening.”

A risk analyst revisits the assessment and acceptability of risk after losing his house to a US Forest Service intentional "backburn."

The Right Way to Create Defensible Space: Recommendations from CAL FIRE (now mandatory in California)

Zone 1: 30 feet of lean, clean, and green

  1. Remove all dead plants, grass, and weeds.

  2. Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof, and rain gutters.

  3. Keep tree branches 10 feet away from your chimney and other trees.

Zone 2: 30–100 feet of reduced fuel

   4. Cut or mow annual grass down to a maximum height of 4 inches.

   5. Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees.

   6. Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs, and trees.

Research has demonstrated that wildfire severity is greatest in forests that are “actively managed” which is a euphemism for logging.

The new codes require homes be built with, among other things, interior sprinklers, fire resistant roofs and sidings, decks and patios made of non-flammable materials, and heat-resistant windows. Homes built after these codes went into effect have stood a much better chance of going undamaged.

A risk analyst revisits the assessment and acceptability of risk after losing his house to a US Forest Service intentional "backburn."

Tree density, Forest "Management," and The Case Against "Thinning" and Burning

“This is a home ignition problem much more than a wildland management problem,” one fire ecologist said.

The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed a sweeping effort to identify aspects of environmental analysis and public participation to be “reduced” or “eliminated” regarding commercial logging projects in our national forests, with initial public comments due Friday. The Trump administration is attempting to spin this as an effort to promote “increased efficiency” for the expansion of forest “restoration,” but these are just euphemisms for more destructive logging.

In 2017 the Trump administration endorsed the Resilient Federal Forests Act, an extreme bill that would dramatically curtail environmental analysis and restrict public participation to increase logging of old forests and post-fire clear-cutting in our national forests. The bill passed the House of Representatives in the fall but stalled in the Senate. This new regulatory proposal is simply an effort to implement the same pro-logging agenda without going through Congress.

The proposal targets an astonishing “80 million acres of National Forest System land” for commercial logging — much of it comprising old-growth forests and remote roadless areas — based on the claim that logging and clear-cutting of these areas is needed, ostensibly to save them from fire and native bark beetles. Not so. . .

Previously burned forests burn with higher severity.

Humans and Global Warming — Not "Overgrown" Forests — are the Cause of Forest Fires

The Role of Forests in Mitigating Global Warming

A new 3-minute video from NASA allows us to witness in brilliant color how trees scrub Earth's atmosphere clean of carbon pollutants.

Massive restoration of world’s forests would cancel out a decade of CO2 emissions, analysis suggests.

Old growth forests are carbon sinks. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The sequestered carbon dioxide is stored in live woody tissues and slowly decomposing organic matter in litter and soil. Old-growth forests therefore serve as a global carbon dioxide sink, but they are not protected by international treaties . . .

Inaccuracies in Forest Service Reconstructions of Fire History

The Forest Service and entities that profit from clearcutting and prescribed burning would have us believe that low severity fires were historically more common, and that high severity fires were rare, even though the methods used to draw these conclusions have been thoroughly discredited. They use these erroneous claims to justify burning and logging as "forest restoration."  

Journal of Biogeography 34(2):251 - 269, February 2007

New research shows that western dry forests were not uniform, open forests, as commonly thought, before widespread logging and grazing, but included both dense and open forests, as well as large high-intensity fires previously considered rare in these forests. The study used detailed analysis of records from land surveys, conducted in the late-1800s, to reconstruct forest structure over very large dry-forest landscapes, often dominated by ponderosa pine forests.   Previous studies were hampered by the limitations inherent in tree-ring reconstructions from small, isolated field plots that may be unrepresentative of larger landscapes.  The study. . . does not support the idea that frequent low-intensity fires historically prevented high-intensity fires in dry forests. 

The Increasing Scale of Forest Service Burns and the Forest Service Plan to Destroy 95% of Trees on Public Lands 

ARTICLE FROM THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN, JULY 2, 2012, quoting Bill Armstrong, fuel specialist for the Santa Fe National Forest: “We have more [trees] than we know what to do with, and they are the cause of many of the problems we face. We’re going to do everything we can to get rid of about 95 percent of them.”

PAGE FROM THE CITY OF SANTA FE'S WEBSITE, stating the plan "to restore tree density to natural fire regime levels (reduced from >1,000 trees per acre to 20-50 trees per acre). From 1000 trees to 50 trees is a 95% reduction.

STATEMENT FOR THE 200,000-ACRE JEMEZ MOUNTAINS PROJECT, page 25, "Tree densities have increased 10-fold, from an average of 15-56 trees per acre to 500 trees per acre." From 500 trees to 15-56 trees is about a 95% reduction.  forestservic.akamai.pdf

Health Risks of Prescribed Burns

Fire helicopter fighting large fire

The Forest Service starts almost all prescribed burns via "aerial ignition"--and does not like to talk about what "aerial ignition" really means. They tell us that the incendiary devices are Delayed Aerial Ignition Devices (DAIDs) dropped from helicopters. The Forest Service's failure to analyze the effects violates Code of Federal Regulation § 1501.2(b), requiring each agency to identify environmental effects in adequate detail, and C.F.R. § 1508.8: Read More: Once A Forest Fact Sheet

Potassium permanganate and antifreeze are the primary active ingredients in the styrofoam "ping pong" spheres delivered by aerial firebombing and hand-held launchers to ignite prescribed burns and backburns.  The spheres are delivered directly onto trees, soil, wildlife, streams, rivers, reservoirs, and lakes in the process of prescribed burn ignitions.  The scale of the burns is often hundreds or thousands of acres, and these toxic materials are released into the air upon ignition, making smoke from prescribed burns much more toxic than smoke from a forest fire, which is itself highly toxic.


1. EYE CONTACT Potassium Permanganate is damaging to eye tissue on contact. It may cause severe burns that result in damage to the eye.

2. SKIN CONTACT Contact of solutions at room temperature may be irritating to the skin, leaving brown stains. Concentrated solutions at elevated temperature and crystals are damaging to the skin.

3. INHALATION Acute inhalation toxicity data are not available. However, airborne concentrations of potassium permanganate in the form of dust or mist may cause damage to the respiratory tract.

4. INGESTION Potassium permanganate, if swallowed, may cause severe burns to mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomachSection 3 Hazardous Ingredients MATERIAL OR COMPONENT CAS NO. EINECS % HAZARD DATA Potassium Permanganate 7722-64-7 231-760-3 >97.5% PEL/C 5 mg Mn per cubic meter of air TLV-TWA 0.2 mg Mn per cubic meter of air RISK PHRASES: 8 Contact with combustibles may case fire. 22 Harmful if swallowed. 

Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term effects in the aquatic environment.

SAFETY PHRASES: 60 This material and its container must be disposed of as hazardous waste. 61 Avoid releases to the environment. . . . Section 5 Fire Fighting Measures NEPA* HAZARD SIGNS Health Hazard 1 = Materials which under fire conditions would give off irritating combustion products. (less than 1 hour exposure) . . . Avoid inhalation and contact with eyes and skin. . .


ENVIRONMENTAL PRECAUTIONS: Do not flush into sanitary sewer system or surface water. If accidental release into the environment occurs, inform the responsible authorities. Keep the product away from drains, sewers, surface and ground water and soil. :008 2009-08-28 Annotation: combustible, organic, or easily oxidizable materials including antifreeze and hydraulic fluid. Section 8 Exposure Controls and Personal Protection

RESPIRATORY PROTECTION: where overexposure to dust may occur, the use of an approved NIOSHMSHA dust respirator or an air supplied respirator is advised. . . . When involved in a fire, potassium permanganate may liberate corrosive fumes. . . . The product may be absorbed into the body by inhalation. Major effects of exposure: respiratory disorder. . .

MEDICAL CONDITIONS GENERALLY AGGRAVATED BY EXPOSURE Potassium permanganate solution will cause further irritation of tissue, open wounds, burns or mucous membranes. . . . .


ENTRY TO THE ENVIRONMENT . . .  . AQUATIC TOXICITY The toxicity data for potassium permanganate is given below: Rainbow trout, 96 hour LC50: 1.8 mg/L Bluegill sunfish, 96 hour LC50: 2.3 mg/L Milk fish (Chanos Chanos)/ 96 hour. . . . Very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term effects in the aquatic environment.


SAFETY PHRASES: 60 This material and its container must be disposed of as hazardous waste. 61 Avoid releases to the environment. 

The Fire Industrial Complex

Burning, clearcutting, firefighting, and profit. Follow the money.

Prescribed Burns Out of Control

"With a scathing indictment of the federal response to fires that have now burned nearly 80 square miles of northern New Mexico and more than 400 housing units, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said today that the government was wholly to blame and would do whatever possible to compensate victims."

Steven GoddardMarch 4, 2011

"After the fire stopped, the government had to quickly build huge dams (ahead of the summer monsoons) to stop the spread of shallow buried WWII nuclear waste into the Rio Grande"

Rapid City Journal, April 14, 2015

Related Local & National Organizations

Santa Fe Forest Coalition Logo

Santa Fe Forest Coalition

A citizen coalition united in calling for a comprehensive environmental impact study prior to any tree cutting and burning on forested public lands above Santa Fe.

Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics logo

Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics

Think the Forest Service is serving the interests of forests and making ethical, rather than political decisions?

Think again.  

The Forest Advocate Logo

The Forest Advocate

The Forest Advocate publishes news and resources for the protection of the Santa Fe National Forest and all southwestern forests. logo

Arizona Citizen activist website.  "The U.S. Forest Service has convinced some people that prescribed burns and managed wildfires are safe methods of maintaining forest health when they are actually two of the deadliest acts known to mankind."

Tree Hugger Santa Fe Logo

Tree Hugger Santa Fe

Tree Hugger Santa Fe is a group of people living in harmony with the forest in the unique, determined landscape of the desert highlands of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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