5/16/22

Wildfire paranoia puts BHNF at risk

As many readers are aware the first US Forest Service timber sale took place in the Black Hills near Nemo but only after nearly all the old growth of every native tree species had been cleared for mine timbers, railroad ties and construction. Native Douglas fir and lodgepole pine are virtually extirpated from the Hills creating a dense understory of ladder fuels.

After a prescribed burn got away from the Black Hills National Forest in the 1980s and from the US Park Service in New Mexico in 2000 a moratorium on non-mechanical fuel treatments just exacerbated fuel loads on public lands.

In 2002, the National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA) named the BHNF the third most endangered; nevertheless, the Forest has been "just beat to hell" after Republican donor Jim Neiman pressured officials to overlog anyway. In Lawrence County, South Dakota where Neiman is threatening to close another sawmill, increases in sales of timber have so far been deprioritized in the BHNF's revised plan.

Neiman waited until Donald Trump was forced from the White House then shuttered his sawmill in Hill City, South Dakota and blamed the Forest Service. One needs to look no further than the BHNF for how politics has completely altered a landscape but there are plenty other public lands examples that illustrate the red state, blue state divide. Neiman purchased Montrose Forest Products in Colorado in 2012 but in 2018 after the Trump Organization gutted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Neiman shipped twelve loads of timber from the San Juan National Forest to mills in South Dakota. Neiman wants to log 20 million board feet of ponderosa pine per year in Colorado for the next 20 years. 

Knot-free old growth ponderosa pine is coveted by door and window manufacturers like Pella, Marvin and Andersen. The Biden administration has been slow to restore the NEPA rules Earth hating Republicans like South Dakota's John Thune and Wyoming's John Barrasso want to suspend. So, as expected, Hulett, Wyoming-based Neiman Enterprises could enjoy the fruits of socialism as the two Republican US Senators introduce a bill to inject taxpayer dollars into the Black Hills timber monopoly. They call the bill, The Save Jim Neiman's Ass Act

According to former US Forest Service timber cruiser Dave Mertz there haven't been any litigators to sue the Forest Service allowing Republicans to infiltrate management of the Black Hills National Forest.

The Intermountain Forest Association is a timber and wood products lobby with an office in Rapid City, South Dakota and Executive Director Ben Wudtke’s clients include Hulett, Wyoming's Neiman Enterprises. And if Tri-State Livestock News is for it, it's for industry exploitation and not at all Earth friendly.
In 2021, Wudtke testified before the Senate Ag and Natural Resources Committee in a hearing on forest management, forest products and carbon. Senator Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, questioned Wudtke about prescribed burns. “Prescribed fire plays a critical role in forest management,” said Wudtke. But he explained that prescribed fires are not safe in overgrown forests. The New Mexico senator responded, “That’s exactly what we’ve found in many of these places where it may cost $1,000 an acre to treat something. To maintain it with prescribed fire is dramatically cheaper so creating those conditions for healthy maintenance really sets the stage for decades into the future.” [Tri-State Livestock News]
If you live in the wildland-urban interface government can't always protect you from your own stupidity. Recall the 2016 Crow Peak Fire affected mostly Republican landowners who built in the WUI and begged the feds to protect their properties—same with the Schroeder Fire in March, 2021.

Today, fire managers have climate change guns to their heads so it’s usually damned if you do and damned if you don’t conduct prescriptive burns. But it’s probably a straight line from the previous administration’s Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and crashes in morale within the US Forest Service to current wildfires and conditions on the Black Hills National Forest.

ip photo: a wood lily graces the verdant forest floor near Camp 5 on the Black Hills National Forest after the 2002 Grizzly Gulch Fire.

5/15/22

Another attempt to replace 1872 Mining Law grinds through Congress



The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming are hardly the only public lands plundered by foreign companies under cover of the General Mining Law of 1872, enacted to settle Civil War debt and rob Indigenous people of their human rights.

A Canadian miner paid a settlement to mitigate and remediate portions of Colorado's San Juan County where the 2015 Gold King Mine spill occurred. 

In 2019 we motored to Oracle, Patagonia and Bisbee from Santa Fe and were shocked by the ravages of surface mining in SE Arizona where operations owned by Morenci and Miami are ravaging water supplies and reducing entire mountain ranges to piles of waste rock. 

Comexico, an American subsidiary of Australian company New World Cobalt, wants to drill test holes into the Sangre de Cristo mountain range on the Santa Fe National Forest in the Jones Hill area north of Pecos, New Mexico. 

Silver City, New Mexico became a quieter town again after strip mines there came to a grinding halt and just like during the last Great Depression Democrats are the leaders who got financial help for workers. Silver City, South Dakota is under assault from Canadian miners, too. 

Much to the frustration of locals, the US Environmental Protection Agency moved most of the contaminated soil from above Rimini, Montana to a mine in upper Basin Creek where it was encapsulated so EPA has allocated more resources to clean up sites in that state.

Today, thanks to the Trump Organization the United States is in debt to the tune of $30 TRILLION so the US encourages mining companies from outside the country to drill more holes in the Earth looking for gold and silver.

Repeal or even reform of the 1872 statute has been thwarted repeatedly and the US Forest Service is often powerless to stop the extractive industry from permanently altering sensitive watersheds because of the 1872 law.
Democrats in Congress are hoping to overhaul the nation’s 150-year-old system for mining the elements needed for battery manufacturing, as high gas prices and Russia’s war in Ukraine underline the need to transition from oil and gas to renewable energy sources. U.S. House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico have each sponsored bills that would set environmental and reclamation standards. Defunct mines can leach chemicals into the nearby water and soil, Heinrich said. He referenced the Gold King Mine wastewater spill in Colorado that turned waters in New Mexico “the color of Tang” because of heavy metals and other contaminants. [Democrats from the West push update of 150-year-old federal mining law]
ip photo: a desert sentinel near Tucson might be 300 years old.

5/14/22

Disaster fatigue hits home


The dew point is so low in parts of New Mexico the relative humidity is 1% or as dry as physically possible. Under the smoke plume of the country's largest wildfire Angel Fire was the coldest place in the lower 48 Friday morning dropping to a low temperature of 16° but it's not just New Mexico. Disaster fatigue is driving the entire globe into madness.

This scribe just did a 2000 mile loop to Vermillion, South Dakota and back again where the number of cattle feedlots in Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado draining the Ogallala Aquifer is staggering. The Arkansas River is dry at Dodge City, Kansas.

On Thursday afternoon Gaia smashed through that entire region covering much of it in dust from haboobs. 
Jim Miller, a farmer from northeast Nebraska, told Brownfield radio he was planting when a wall of dust closed in on him. "I turned the lights on the tractor and I couldn't see 20 feet in front of the tractor. I've never seen a dust storm blow in like that before. It made the whole tractor rock. I was kind of worried that I was in a tornado even," Miller told Brownfield. [Progressive Farmer]
Brookings County and my own home town of Elkton even sustained severe damage. According to the National Weather Service seven tornadoes went through northeastern South Dakota alone: two EF2s, four EF1s and one EF0. The strongest twister had an estimated peak wind gust of 135 MPH which is nearly an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

A tornado hit her home town of Castlewood and Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem praised her god for sparing her campaign war chest because science karma chickens came home to roost where the governor is a climate change denier. 


Yes, this is how Republicans who preach small gubmint fund crumbling infrastructure in red states. Recall Mrs. Noem repeatedly voted against disaster aid after Hurricane Sandy and other climate related catastrophes. She doesn’t respect self-reliance because she’s wedded to moral hazard.

Social media rumors that I personally ordered an unprecedented weather event intended to punish the inhabitants of Nebraska, Kansas and South Dakota are entirely unfounded. Ignore them.

Thoughts and prayers, indeed.