Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Forest Service Chief predictions on wildfire season

Clear your brush, pack  your bags and hope you don't have asthma!

Link article

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell presented the Forest Service forecast on the upcoming 2015 fire season in testimony today before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Forest Service researchers expect 2015 to continue the trend of above average fire activity.

"Above normal wildland fire potential exists across the north central United States and above normal wildland fire potential will threaten many parts of the West this summer," said Chief Tidwell. "We anticipate another active fire year, underscoring the need to reform our wildfire funding."

The forecast indicates there is a 90 percent chance that this year's Forest Service fire suppression costs will be between $794 million and $1.657 billion, with a median estimate of $1.225 billion, potentially forcing the diversion of funding from other vital programs to support suppression operations. Any costs above the median is greater than the "10 year average" and would force the Forest Service to leverage funding from other land management programs. Diverting funds to cover the cost of wildfire suppression affects other critical Forest Service programs and services, said Tidwell, including efforts to reduce wildfire risk through mechanical thinning, prescribed fires, and other means.

Wildfire suppression costs have increased as fire seasons have grown longer and the frequency, size, and severity of wildfires has increased due to changing climatic conditions, drought, hazardous fuel buildups, insect and disease infestations, nonnative invasive species, and other factors. Funding has not kept pace with the cost of fighting fire. Over the last 10 years, adjusting for inflation, the Forest Service has spent an average of almost $1.13 billion on suppression operations annually.

The President's Fiscal Year 2016 budget includes a proposal to reform the way that wildfire suppression is funded. Aligned with the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, these reforms are necessary to ensure the Forest Service continues to deliver the full scope of its mission.

Chief Tidwell said the Forest Service has the capability and responsibility to protect life, property, and natural resources. The responsibility to respond to wildfire is not isolated to the Forest Service. It works extensively with partners within the Department of Interior (DOI) as well as State, tribal and local firefighting organizations to support wildland fire management operations. These cooperators are essential to ensuring that every wildfire receives an appropriate, risk informed, and effective response regardless of the jurisdiction.

Within the Fiscal Year (FY) 15 appropriation for Wildland Fire Management, the Forest Service will be able to mobilize approximately 10,000 firefighters for the upcoming fire season, as well as up to 21 airtankers available for operations on exclusive use contracts, additional air tankers available through "Call When Needed" contracts, and the capability to mobilize cooperator air tankers, if available, through agreements with the State of Alaska and Canada. In coordination with the military there are also eightMobile Airborne Firefighting System-capable C-130's available to meet surge requirements, as well as an extensive fleet of more than 100 helicopters available to support operations.

The Forest Service has worked collaboratively with its partners to develop the National Cohesive Wildland Fire ManagementStrategy, of which fuel treatment is an essential component. In 2015, $32 million of the Hazardous Fuels appropriation was allocated to 50 projects in areas with a likelihood of high intensity fire within populated areas or near important watersheds for municipal water supply.

The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program also assists in the agency's work with partners to conduct hazardous fuel treatments and ecosystem restoration that encourages economic and social sustainability, leverages local resources with national and private resources, reduces wildfire management costs, and addresses the utilization of forest restoration byproducts to offset treatment costs and benefit local economies.

The mission of the Forest Service, part U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
Tavis Campbell
IAFF Local 271
406.546.2956 : campbelltavis@gmail.com
Stepping Up: A Guide to The Ridge at Bridger Bowl

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spring time

Just as in years past, I continue to speculate and watch the fire weather forecast in the spring. Why? I don't know exactly. But I usually find myself with extra time on my hands during Spring time. I also think it's some sadistic thing that carries over from my days with the Forest Service. I only did 6 seasons with them, but it left a lasting mark. I enjoy my city fire job much more than the dirty days of the FS, but somehow I still like fighting a good old fashioned forest fire. The vagrant wandering style, camp food, monotony and some hard earned cash is sometime fun.

While I am not hoping for smokey skies this summer, things are still looking a bit ominous across the West. California continues to face serious drought and lack of snow pack. As Unofficial Networks put it:  "Tahoe had one shitty season. Squaw Valley received a measly 79″ at their base this entire season. . As of today, April 23th, 2015, Lake Tahoe’s snowpack is at 0% of average. Other regions have not faired much better with Central Oregon at just 9% of average, Northern Washington’s Cascade Mountains at 6% and Utah having the statistically worst ski season in history." That is some scary shit right there. 

The spring has been nice here in Missoula. We've had some very nice weather and quite a bit of it dry. The family and I have been able to enjoy some hikes and mountain bikes rides. Make hay while the sun shines right? Will turned 3 on Easter and we celebrated with a crazy amount of candy. I ducked down to the Paradise Valley for some shed hunting with my good friends. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Showing my age?

I guess it's probably a true sign of getting old when your conversation (or writing) is dominated by weather and your kids?

The past week was another spring like nirvana. Weekend temps were pushing 60 and blue skies made for good sliding up @ Discovery. Everyone is making great progress on skis, with Will skiing off the Goldbug chair for the first time and girls now feeling confident on intermediate runs. No tears again on the mountain!

We stayed at a friend's cabin, the kids talk about every stay like it's Disneyland. It truly is a special place, modeled after a forest service lookout. A growler a  Philipsburg Brewery topped the night off and pancakes fired the morning up. We explored the woods for antler sheds, but found only decaying bones (elk?). Kids tracked the moose by the many piles of fresh scat in the area. We even snuck in some target practice with the BB gun (or if you are Payton.. the "baby gun"). It's so refreshing to look at things through your kids eyes.

My general lack of motivation towards skiing this winter was not helped by the 65 degree temps this week. I dusted off the mountain bike and dodged piles of defrosting dog poop at Blue Mountain. The lack of skiing showed up in my pedal power, out of shape. But hey, i guess that's all the more reason to get the KLR moto ready!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Summer in the Winter time

Everyone in the West is talking about the lack of winters presence with snowfall in West almost non-existant in some places. Oregon and Washington are reporting anywhere from 18 to 50 of average snowpack. Alaska is reporting around 36 percent of average. The water content of the snowpack in the Sierras, ranged from a paltry 17 to 41 percent of the average on February 26. 

Around Missoula, the lower elevations from my guess have got to be below average. The college rag ran this graphic recently. We haven't really had any substantial snow in the valley to speak of. Let' s hope this isn't a developing trend.

I rolled the dice and opted not to get a Snowbowl pass this year (did the same last year). It's been odd not to have the coveted piece of plastic to rely on when I'm bored or feel the need to stretch my legs. But I have to say, this might be one of those years to be okay missing (at least considering the total number of deep days we've had this year). I've been lucky enough to hit 2 good deep days (12" plus). 

Tracy and I also were able to con my parents (just kidding) into watching the kids while we had a insanely refreshing vacation in the Puerto Vallarta/Sayulita area. It was everything we wanted and then some. Now we have to deal with remaining dreams of buying a house down there. Anyone have a couple hundred $k you can spare? 

We've been getting out with the kids and they've been having a blast. William is wedging to a stop and we've had 2 days at Discovery so far with NO CRYING! Not a tear shed by one of them. And another milestone was reached, Payton and Gwynn got on the chair and rode it all by themselves! Almost brought a tear to dear old Dad's eye ;-0.

 I leave you with this funny little note that semi-rad.com wrote to old man Winter. 

Dear Winter:
Hey man. How’s it going? A few of us were just talking about you. And by “just,” I mean for the past two months. Wondering what you’re up to, where you’re at, if you’re going to make it out West this year, or if we should just put the skis and stuff away until December.
I saw via a couple people’s Facebook and Instagram feeds that you’ve been spending some time and precipitation in the Northeast—that’s cool, please give those folks a high-five from us and tell them to enjoy it. I don’t want to sound entitled or anything, but it seems like you’ve kind of blown your whole wad out there this year, don’t you think?
I mean, I could be wrong, but I don’t think the people in Boston are that stoked about you dropping five feet of snow on them this month. Vermont, yes. Boston, well, that’s a lot of shoveling, and not a lot of skiing.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Face shots!

We certainly haven't been getting any powder face shots around Western Montana lately. My view is a bit skewed maybe due to my lack of having a season pass and in general skiing less than normal. But the winter around W. MT seems like last year (unscientifically speaking), some decent snow in Dec, January turned into June-uary--with warm temps and rain. Now I'm just hoping that February comes in like last year!

This footage of Canadian National Railway locomotive 2304 (ES44DC) plows through huge snow drifts in Salisbury, New Brunswick was filmed yesterday. Southern New Brunswick was hit with three major blizzards in less than a week, and there is more snow in the forecast.

Friday, January 23, 2015


Way Out from Yukai Du on Vimeo.

I found this animation very interesting and saddening at the same time. I too find myself being literally sucked into my phone. Looking around at the others in your vicinity doing the same. I'm not saying I'm giving up my phone, but these sorts of things make me wonder what our future holds. This post is a bit heavy and sappy, especially for not having been active on Kneetopia as of late. The trend may continue, so many things to do, so little time. But don't give up on me yet!

However, T and I just did return from a rejuvenating and invigorating trip to Mexico, sans kids. Interestingly and sadly enough, I noticed the same thing in impoverished places in MX, adults and kids living in poverty with their faces glued to the screens. That's the age we live in i guess, cliche and all. The drones and phones will soon dominate all?

Anyway, I'll get some photos up here from our trip. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the family support network that made it possible. You all are the best and I owe you!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

First archery elk

It's been crazy around here, things have been moving at a frantic pace since summer. But I did the get chance to disengage from the electronic world for 8 days. Nothing but wind in the sage, GPS screen (don't count) and the sounds of elk. Thank you to Tracy and MO for making it possible, you don't know how much I enjoyed it! I missed the kids, but the quiet woods were nice too. I think I may have repaired a couple chips in my sanity.

 My long time and regular hunting partner and I convened in elk central and hunted our assess off. We didn't miss a morning or evening the entire time, rising at 4 am everyday and usually not getting back to camp until several hours after dark.

He helped me get onto a bull and I was able to capitalize on a 35 yard shot with my bow. The draw and hold back pushed me to over a minute, but the arrow flew true to its mark. The harvest was big and the pack out rewarding. The opportunity to kill an elk with bow was not taken lightly. I think I may like bowhunting (end cheesiness).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't be a flake

With the thought and planning for some upcoming hunting trips. I thought this cartoon might be a good reminder for any would be flakes.

Thanks semi-rad.com

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Don’t Focus On The Dog Shit

I thought this blog post provided some much needed perspective on the world's chaos as of late: 


 This little quote is pretty dang good as well, especially the last sentence.

There are a lot of things wrong with the world. There are 8 billion people on the planet, and plenty of terrible things are happening. Maybe those things are legitimate cause for worry, or action, or at least consideration. But sometimes they’re only worth consideration, and worrying isn’t going to make a bit of difference besides add to your worries in an otherwise pretty good life. Surrounding that one pile of dog shit is a beautiful park with a lot of places to set up your metaphorical picnic. [snipped from semi-rad.com]

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bison Range and Symes Hotsprings

We recently made a trip to the National Bison Range, just 45 minutes north of Missoula. A quick stop at the visitor center to learn a thing or 2 and we hit the drive that loops through the refuge. 

The picture on the left shows the disturbingly large pile of bison skulls. The death and destruction we reigned upon the American Buffalo is astounding, very hard to comprend. 

At one point their population numbered in the tens of millions, the Great Plains of North America. Hunted to near extinction by American market hunters, the once massive bison population was reduced to a mere 1,000 by the turn of the century. 

The wildlife viewing was great that day, the kids loved looking through dad's bino's. We spotted quite a few antelope, deer in velvet, lots of lone bison bulls and one newborn deer fawn. The newborn fawn was motionless on the side of the trail as we hiked to the high point on the refuge. The fawn did not move at all, we couldn't tell if it was just doing the new fawn thing, or was injured. I did find this on the web:

 Newborn fawns have almost no body odor and their reddish brown coat with white spots make young fawns almost invisible to predators. Fawns lie motionless on the ground surrounded by low vegetation. The fawn’s natural instinct is to freeze even when approached by another animal. As fawns grow and mature, they will initially freeze, but they jump up and bound away.
Despite what this picture looks like, G did not poke the fawn with the stick

3 of my favorite things: Family, Antlers and America :-)

Cool Willy

We rounded out the trip with a visit to Symes Hotsprings. Great water, just a slightly funky scene. Anybody here ever been there? What did you think?