Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wildfires reversing effects of the Anthropocene


Ponderosa pine only arrived in the Black Hills a little over a thousand years ago.
The wildfire that scorched nearly 600 square miles of land in Oklahoma and Kansas in March cleared out more eastern red cedars in a week than local efforts to eradicate the invasive species could have accomplished in decades, conservation experts say. "This was an ecological cleansing for the environment," said Ken Brunson, wildlife diversity coordinator with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. "That's mixed-grass prairie down there. Prairie survives with fire." [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
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]
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 are also 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]
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.

Yes, wildland fires release mercury and carbon dioxide into the biosphere but it pales compared to what has been discharged by the Anthropocene.

There was a Crow Peak Fire stopped at 135 acres in 2012 that the Forest Service should have let burn.

The Crow Peak Fire of 2016 affected mostly Republican landowners who built in the wildland urban interface now begging the feds to protect their properties. These people, white retirees from somewhere else who hate gubmint, fled Minnesota, Colorado or California then parachuted into South Dakota hoping to isolate themselves from fair taxation, African-Americans and cultural diversity.

After intense lobbying efforts from this interested party and The Dakota Progressive that fire is now being managed as a controlled burn.

If you build in fire-prone areas within the wildland/urban interface homeowners insurance should be either denied to you or be prohibitively expensive.

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

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