Wednesday, February 10, 2016

RMRS: burning slash piles a waste of fuel

An estimated 75 volunteer, career, U.S. Forest and South Dakota Wildland firefighters are currently managing burns in and around the Black Hills.

Gee, where have i read this before?
Forestry operations in the western U.S., including thinning for hazardous fuel reduction, leave behind a staggering amount of wood waste. Much of this waste is non-merchantable tree stems, branches, and tops. These materials, called forest residues or “slash,” are usually yarded into large piles andburned for disposal. In the bark-beetleaffected areas of northern Colorado alone, it is estimated that there is a backlog of 120,000 piles of woody biomass slated for burning. Not only is this a waste of a potential resource, pile burning can exacerbate air quality problems and increase greenhouse gas emissions. It also leaves long-lived burn scars on the forest floor. If slash could be economically transported, processed, and used by a bioenergy facility, it could be transformed into energy and marketable products rather than burned for disposal. This may be a more environmentally and socially appealing alternative to open burning. [excerpt, press release, Rocky Mountain Research Station]
Creeks that haven’t flowed in the Black Hills for decades are running because 400 square miles of ponderosa pine have been turned by the bark beetle from transpiring millions of acre/feet of water into standing methane generators. Looks like natural selection from this 60-year observer of the Anthropocene; the Arkansas and Platte are at bank full in mid-July for the same reason.

In the Black Hills, Weyerhaeuser analogue, Neiman Enterprises is taking the last of the old growth ponderosa pine in the name of insect control and taking federal dollars to do it while the small diameter trees are left standing. Massive piles of slash littering the forest preside over skidder trails that slice up hillsides.

Multiple mycology surveys reveal disrupted, cattle-infested tree farms where humanity has destroyed whatever remains of the preceding 11,000 years of indigenous and ungulate management. Multiply that by the countless watersheds that European immigration destroyed in the United States and Canada by the number of those exploited in the name of disaster capitalism.

The latest trip through the Hills shows the Central Hills bug kill has yet to peak, Rapid City and Vanocker Canyon seeing new eruptions. Despite its efforts to stem the bark beetle Lawrence County is probably ground zero for ponderosa pine elimination right now. Weston and Crook County, Wyoming seeing large die-offs.

The Black Hills National Forest has announced that the mountain pine beetle is erasing a century of habitat mismanagement.
“We are seeing positive results as we continue our work with partners and conservation leaders throughout the Black Hills. We will continue to perform landscape scale treatments to make the forest more resilient to insects and fire,” said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor. Results showed an overall decrease in tree mortality across the forest as a whole, but there are still several areas of significant beetle activity. Areas that have the highest current activity include the Northwest corner of the Forest around the Tinton area (approximately 8 miles west of Lead and 8 miles South of Spearfish), areas south and east of Custer and the west-central area near the South Dakota/Wyoming state line. [BHNF press release]
Ponderosa pine is not native to Black Hills.
Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), the most widely distributed pine in North America, experienced one of the most rapid and extensive of these post-glacial plant migrations. The eastern race of ponderosa pine (variety scopulorum) spread northward along the Rocky Mountains, starting at its northernmost known distribution in southern New Mexico and Arizona around 13,000 years ago, and reached central Montana only within the last millennium. The western race (variety ponderosa) experienced a parallel but less well-known migration along the Sierra Nevada, eventually mingling with the northernmost populations of the eastern race in the northern Rockies. [Climate Past as Prologue for Ponderosa Pines]
Neiman Enterprises is putting pressure on Republicans to increase logging of the old growth pine: critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

Hey, where have i read this before?
In the first study, a team made up of French researchers obtained historical data describing the numbers and types of trees in Europe going back to 1750—they then used that information to create a model that showed the impact that forests have had on climate change. That allowed them to see dramatic forest loss in the early years, which carried on for nearly a century. But then, as more food was imported into Europe, forests began to rebound—but they were managed, which meant certain types of trees were favored over others for commercial reasons. This led to the displacement of a large percentage of broad-leaf trees with conifers, which the researchers note, hold more carbon, but since they have been harvested the carbon has been released. They also found that because fir trees have needles instead of leaves, and because they are darker, there have been significant changes in evapotranspiration and albedo, causing temperatures in forested areas to rise. [Studies show impact of forest management and deforestation on climate]
Researchers are saying insect activity doesn't make wildfire potential more likely in the Rocky Mountain Complex where fires and bugs have been clearing overgrowth.
The mountain pine beetles pinned inside Diana Six's lab in the Bioresearch Building on campus are little, the size of Tic Tacs. The research the University of Montana professor of forest entomology and pathology is doing on the insects is big. Beetles can tell the difference between a strong tree and a stressed one, and they are removing trees that are less able to adapt to climate change. Now, when beetles hit an area, people have a tendency to clear-cut for salvage, Six said. But downing every tree might be counterproductive if their hypothesis is correct. [The Missoulian]
Millions of acres are being farmed for ethanol by burning diesel fuel. Logging is diesel fuel-intensive. Diesel can be distilled from wood waste ground in the landing processing some with mobile pyrolysis systems.

Get cattle off the Black Hills National Forest and make it part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

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