Letters to the Editor 4/29/21 | Letters to the Editor | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Letters to the Editor 4/29/21 

Guest Opinion: Fire Drought

Editor's note:

Indoor dining, you were fun. For those of us who have bought and sold the notion that having our society get vaccinated would be the key to never seeing our bars, restaurants and other establishments closed to COVID-19 ever again, the advent of another round of Extreme Risk for Crook and Deschutes and 13 other counties is nothing short of a total disappointment. Alas, so is seeing a loved one die of the virus.

A super shot of the April Super Moon! Thanks for sharing this foggy Oregon scene with us @tonitstop. Tag @sourceweekly in your photos while you are out and about for your chance to be featured here and in the Cascades Reader. - @TONITSTOP / INSTAGRAM
  • @tonitstop / Instagram
  • A super shot of the April Super Moon! Thanks for sharing this foggy Oregon scene with us @tonitstop. Tag @sourceweekly in your photos while you are out and about for your chance to be featured here and in the Cascades Reader.

As of this writing, 87,848 people—or about 45.5%—of Deschutes County is vaccinated. According to the World Health Organization, it took roughly 80% of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity for polio, and 95% for measles. While it's felt like our county leaders have moved mountains and have achieved great things through the mass vaccination clinic at the fairgrounds, the reason for getting more adults—and now, teenagers 16 and over—through that hurdle becomes all the more apparent. Endless lockdowns and reopenings are a type of whiplash none of us want to experience... and yet here we are. As your friendly, family-owned newspaper, we are feeling the crush of this as much as you are. We hope you have a safe and healthy week, and that next week brings better news on the virus.

And if you want to keep up on the daily numbers of vaccinations, hospitalizations and virus cases, be sure to subscribe to our Cascades Reader, where we aggregate new numbers from St. Charles and the Oregon Health Authority every day. Find the Reader at bendsource.com/newsletters.

Guest Opinion: Fire Drought

A recent study concluded that much of the West is experiencing the second-most severe drought recorded in the past 1200 years! Currently, 80% of Oregon is experiencing drought. Severe fire weather, of which drought is a significant factor, explains the spate of large blazes that have charred much of the West.

What drives all large blazes is extreme fire weather which consists of drought, combined with high temperatures, low humidity and most importantly wind. All these conditions are exacerbated by climate change.

One hears continuously that "fire suppression" and "fuel build up" as the prime factor in the rising acreage burned annually, but fuels do not drive large fires. If that were the case, we would expect the largest and most frequent fires on the coasts of Oregon and Washington where there is more "fuel" (biomass) than anyplace else in the West. 

Despite the assertions from the timber industry and its supporters that thinning and other forest management will reduce fire spread, most "active forest management" enhances fire spread.  

Almost all of the largest blazes in the West occurred under extreme fire weather conditions. They burned aggressively on lands that were logged, thinned or otherwise managed, whether it is the recent fires that charred the western slope of the Oregon Cascades, or the Camp Fire that destroyed 19,000 homes and killed 87 people in Paradise, California. 

All significant blazes occurred during episodes of high temperatures, low humidity, drought and high winds. Logging does nothing to change the climate/weather.

This is one reason why more than 200 scientists (whose jobs do not depend on logging) signed a letter to Congress a few years ago that said: "Thinning large trees, including overstory trees in a stand, can increase the rate of fire spread by opening up the forest to increased wind velocity, damage soils, introduce invasive species that increase flammable understory vegetation, and impact wildlife habitat."

The Congressional Research Service reached a similar conclusion: "From a quantitative perspective, the CRS study indicates a very weak relationship between acres logged and the extent and severity of forest fires. ... the data indicate that fewer acres burned in areas where logging activity was limited."

I could provide many more such quotes and conclusions. 

What this suggests is that need to focus attention on fire-safe procedures for communities, not trying to modify the forest. 

If the home cannot ignite, it won't burn. Typically, any fuel reduction that is more than 100 feet from a home provides no benefit. 

Reducing ignitions is relatively simple. Remove fine fuels like pine needles from roof and gutters. Keep flammable grass, pine needles, and dead shrubs away from the home. Get rid of combustible lawn furniture. Put screens on attic vents. These and other measures will significantly reduce the chance of home loss or fire spread through the community. 

Chainsaws don't change the climate/weather. Given that the current mega drought, we need to rehink how we adapt to the inevitable wildfires. We must start at the home and work outward. 

— George Wuerthner is an ecologist and author of 38 books dealing with environmental and natural history topics. His most recent book is "Protecting the Wild: Parks and Wilderness the Foundation for Conservation." He resides in Bend. 

RE: As Bend Transitions to a City, Be Ready to Talk More About the "Big P" Opinion, 4/15

We need to have a robust community dialogue on parking. Decisions should be based on local data that accurately describes the parking need and the parking supply. The public needs to know that potential Council decisions may cause cars to overflow into someone else's parking lot or into an adjacent residential neighborhood. The Galveston Avenue neighborhood is a perfect example of how the existing parking requirements were insufficient to provide a parking supply that matched the parking need and now, advocates of no minimum off-street parking requirements want to further reduce the provided parking? Let's deal with facts and not follow trends with little or no evidence of achieving the benefits hoped for. The author of this opinion piece is right two on points; a) theories don't always pan out and we absolutely need to have a community conversation. Meanwhile, we need effective solutions for housing that is affordable for all income levels. We need to think outside the box on housing to stop the gentrification of Bend.

—Mike Walker via bendsource.com

While many look to alleviate the parking issue with mass transit, bikes, and other laudable efforts, cars will be a problem for many years to come. Some ideas need to be discussed that have been ignored too long:

We hear about infill for housing, how about infill for parking? Parking structures utilize valuable property more efficiently than parking lots, putting more cars per square foot on land which is increasing in value every year. Structures could be designed to include exterior areas with terraced gardens, and roof coverings of solar panels.

Making downtown Bend a pedestrian only area would certainly improve the appeal. That may be too extreme for most, but at least remove one side of angle parking and widen the sidewalks. Restaurant tables now take up walking space and a stroll is now an obstacle course.

Snow, anyone? Clearing streets and parking areas and sidewalks is never adequately done in Bend. Include in planning enough space to pile snow. And include ways of dealing with the big, extra-long trucks that should be required to park in special areas.

Revenue: Parking structures could be revenue generating. As all parking could be, for Bend or for private enterprises. But please consider that not everyone has the latest smart phone that can utilize parking apps. Please provide a way for anyone to pay for parking, and keep signage updated with whatever the latest regulations are.

— Mathieu Federspiel

Letter of the Week:

Mathieu: Thanks for sharing your ideas! Come on in for your gift card to Palate.

—Nicole Vulcan

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