Stahl calls aerial firefighting fruitless, ineffectual, and immoral

Andy Stahl has made a habit out of challenging the status quo and raising questions people considered rude.

He was one of the small group of activists who put together the campaign to save the Pacific Northwest’s old growth forests by suing the federal government to protect the northern spotted owl. Later he became one of the loudest advocates for using fire to carry out forest management in part by forcing homeowners to protect themselves.

Then he forced the federal government to do an environmental impact statement on the retardant it drops from planes to fight fire. Now, in the wake of the latest deaths of two aviators fighting the White Rock fire in Utah, Stahl, executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, is challenging the moral basis of aerial firefighting.

Stahl writings in a blog at the site, A Century of Forest Planning, that the 61 aviation deaths from 1999 to 2009 exceed every other cause. Stahl writes:

“When a firefighter risks his life rescuing a child from a burning home, we applaud his heroism. If he dies in the effort, whether successful or not, we honor his sacrifice, knowing he gave everything to save that child’s life. While we mourn his loss, our society agrees that saving a child’s life is worth the risk and the ultimate price paid.

“But, what are we to think when firefighters die trying to save sagebrush and juniper from burning? The White Rock fire threatens not a single home. It poses no danger to any person, save the firefighters themselves. The fire is burning in one of the least populated corners of our nation — the Utah/Nevada border — on federally-owned land inhabited by jack rabbits and coyotes.”

Stahl goes on to call the aerial fire war “fruitless, ineffectual,” and “immoral.” Those are strong words that will be trigger a strong response among the men and women in the firefighting community who put out 98 percent of the wild fires that start in the United States.

Stahl’s main logical challenge comes from potential listing of the sage grouse as an endangered species. Fire is listed by scientists and managers as the major threat to the sagebrush habitat on which the bird depends.

Unlike the forests where Stahl, a forester, learned his trade, fire threatens the vast sagebrush sea where the White Rock fire burned. This ecosystem is endangered by invasive species like cheatgrass that take control of the fire regime, making fires more frequent. In millions of acres across the West the productive sagebrush ecosystem is converted to desert.

Stahl is forcing a debate about firefighting morality. Firefighting aviators are not children. They know the risks. They make the choices.

But we as a nation make the choices as well. With a wildland fire management budget of more than $2.8 billion we are very invested in these decisions.


"the productive sagebrush ecosystem is converted to desert"

So the Rock is saying the sagebrush ecosystem is NOT desert?

Or he's just thinking of dessert?


The submitted budget is 3.8 TRILLION dollars.

Rocks thinks, "With a wildland fire management budget of more than $2.8 billion we are very invested in these decisions."

Very invested?

So if my paycheck is $3,802 and I spend $2 on the Sunday Statesman paper- I must be VERY INVESTED in reading the Stateman.

Junk junk junk.

You do pretty well

pimp2 based on your paycheck.


It's tough being the 1%.

Those meddling KIDS! I would have gotten away with it!


You fry wants with that?

Immoral? Really?

Was he talking the White Rock fire specifically, or aerial firefighting in general? If it's the latter, he's a goober who comes across as another clueless administrator.

As for the Spotted Owl, 25 years of "protection" and they're still in decline. I guess it's time to declare open season on the barred owl so we can again try and manipulate Darwinism. Look how well it worked with the Canadian Gray, I mean the Northern Rockies Gray Wolf!

Remember Yellowstone Park

Before they let the fire burn out of control for days? Because of a flawed "philosophy"/"idology" of "let it burn".

“fruitless, ineffectual,” and “immoral.”

I have personally watched an air tanker stop a fire near my community. Not sure what he bases his fruitless and ineffectual comments on. The fire literally stopped at the retardant line dropped by the tanker. Hand crews helped as well, but it gave them the edge they needed.


...he's never been on the line when an inversion layer prevents the aircraft from flying. It can be a pretty fruitless endeavor.


I'd give some consideration to Stahl's ulterior motives in this. It seems like every other crusade that he's embarked on has been a smokescreen for something else.

This guy's an idiot

it's the crappy, patched-together-with-duct-tape-and-bailing-wire aircraft they use.

The USFS needs to get in the game, use something like the Russian Be-200

Worked for Han Solo.


He married a princess too

Firefighting jets?

That looks like an awesome aircraft but just where in southern Idaho is an amphib jet going to do a water reload and take off? Cascade? American Falls? I don't know about that.

Aerial firefighting might be wasteful in many cases but without it then Sun Valley and Ketchum would have suffered a huge catastrophe a few years back during the Castle Rock fire. I know a lot of you hate Sun Valley but sorry, there is no way in heck the feds or the State are going to let Bald Mountain burn.

BTW Paine, where's YOUR mountain home so we can ignore it?


Yeah, I didn't think so either.

Another guy proving CRACK IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU.


With a name like an airplane crash-Glorioski, Ollie!


Firefighters who don't want to fight fires, but want to get paid for watching them burn.