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About the trees - Part II

By imrdkl in News
Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:20:26 PM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

President Bush visited Flagstaff, Arizona last weekend, the first time a sitting president has been there. Geographically, Flagstaff lies "up the hill" from Phoenix and most other Arizona cities, at an elevation of 7000 ft. Flagstaff is also situated in the middle of the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world.

It's the same forest that had a visit from the Four Pyres of the Apocalypse earlier this summer. You might recall the one-thousand foot flames feeding four stratospherically-cooled wells of hell which cascaded in upon themselves to splash huge waves of fire in all directions simultaneously. Also known as the Rodeo/Chediski wildfire, it managed to cause quite a stir there in Flagstaff, even though its location was "down the hill" a ways. Perhaps mindful of the devastation, the ruined lives, and the mass extermination of wildlife, the president spoke carefully while discussing his Healthy Forests plan during his visit. He even acknowledged the drought. Unfortunately, it was a bit too late to save his Healthy Forests plan from being clotured last month in the Senate.

Interestingly, the President's plan actually claims its basis in scientific and community efforts which have their origins right there in Flagstaff. In this article, the second in a series, we'll take an introductory look at the Flagstaff Plan, and take a long look at what went wrong last month with Healthy Forests. The president calls his plan "commonsensical", and perhaps it is, but the Flagstaff Plan is just good science.

Introduction to the Flagstaff Plan

While in Flagstaff, the President stumped a bit for the Republican candidate for the important new seat in congress which has recently been allocated to the Flagstaff district. Flagstaff is a very appealing place to live, and the district has finally grown enough to get it's own seat. Naturally, that same growth has steadily increased the size of the Wildland/Urban Interface of the city, that border between itself and the immense, dry forest which surrounds it.

Beginning in 1996, and after suffering a couple of bad fires within the interface boundary, the Flagstaff Area Wildfire Risk Assessment (AKA - The Flagstaff Plan) was produced. Since then, the residents of the city, including foresters and scientists from NAU, the state university located in Flagstaff - renowned for it's Forestry department, along with the city's fire department, have teamed up with a number of diverse environmental and governmental groups to form the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership. This dynamic group has been granted authority over thousands of acres of local lands, and now has in progress a number of scientifically-monitored tests of various Ecological Restoration techniques. And, they've achieved some impressive results.

In August of last year, Gale Norton, Interior Secretary, visited the city and took a look at those results. She apparently liked what she saw (NPR RealAudio), as well. While she was there, an exclusive press conference was held, with the Secretary and Senator Kyl (R.AZ), wherein she expressed her interest in the results. Sadly, as we all know, the administration's focus was largely diverted from American forests and wildlands beginning in the following month. But the Flagstaff Plan is an ongoing experiment, even if the administration deemed it enough of a success to model their own plan (Healthy Forests) after it.

While the Flagstaff model won't fit everywhere, there are many aspects of the plan which make it quite appealing as a general-purpose guide. Forest Restoration, as a practice, seeks to distinguish itself from initiatives which emphasize ecosystem management, as well as sustainable forestry, and focuses on attempting to return the forest to a state in which it might have existed long ago, when it was healthy and strong, in some cases, all the way back to pre-European settlement conditions.

The Flagstaff plan also has a strong focus on so-called biomass, the smaller trees, and duff which are cleared in the process of restoration. Dealing with biomass is one of the most important considerations when deciding how to restore any bit of forest. Recently they've begun discussions towards creation of a biomass power plant, which would provide a way to gain additional benefit, and reduce costs associated with restoration in the dense, doghair thickets of trees which burn so intensely. There are other good ideas for dealing with biomass as well, including local production of products which make use of composite lumber, such as counter-tops and other furnishings.

More Recent History

Meanwhile, last May, the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy Implementation Plan was finally approved. This plan, also called the Governor's Plan, was hailed as a great breakthrough for the country's forests, and widely trumpeted as the culmination of a long and grueling settlement process. The Governors Plan can be contrasted to the Flagstaff Plan in several ways, as can the President's plan to either one of them, but I'm not going to focus on that just yet.

A lot happened w.r.t. these plans during the September, and it's worth a look, if only to get a feel for the kind of forces which are fighting for and against them. Earlier in September, as mentioned, the President's plan stalled in the Senate, a disappointment for many, but a triumph for others. Senator Kyl, clearly among the disappointed group, stated upon it's defeat:

"We can't stand many more summers of drought before these forests are going to be all burned out,"
So, what went wrong? During late August and early September, things were looking good for Healthy Forests. In fact, right up to the time the administration sent their plan to the Hill, many organizations were calling for a truce, especially after witnessing the devastation of the summer. But after it became public, and following a period of respectful debate, the dissenting voices (NYT) began to be aired, speaking out against Healthy Forests. The plan simply lacked details, according to the critics. Even the Governor of Oregon, the state which suffered the devastating Biscuit Fire (also discussed in my previous article) is blasting the President's plan, saying,
"It definitely sets us back."
and defending the Governors Plan, linked above, to which he was also a primary contributor.

As a result the mistrust and anger, and as some will already know, when Healthy Forests finally got to the Senate floor this month, it did not find the support it needed and has been shelved, but not yet "tabled". This in spite of impassioned pleas from Senator Kyl, and other bargaining tactics which took place, right down to the last minute. The cloture which was eventually invoked on the Healthy Forests bill did not include a motion to table, so, theoretically, it's still alive. But I guess it's likely donned its emergency shelter by now, with all of the raging and flaming going on around it. And that's too bad.

So what if Healthy Forests dies?

Well, life will go on, I suppose. But I submit that, with a few more revisions, and a little less talking past each other, the Bush plan has merit and could be made worthy of some much closer consideration. Not because it is special in and of itself, but because it's based on the Flagstaff Plan. In the next article, therefore, we'll take a hard look at the Flagstaff plan, including digging into the scientific research which is its basis. In the meantime, you can compare all three plans for yourself.

Other References

There is certainly no lack of plans, it seems. Here are a few others, along with some good references. Pay particular attention to the Southwest Forest Alliance, they have some significant contentions and concerns with the Flagstaff plan, which we'll address in the next article as we consider it in depth.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
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Best Plan?
o Flagstaff 13%
o Governors 0%
o President's 0%
o Sierra Club 4%
o Pave it all and make a parking lot 18%
o Leave it alone and let it burn 63%

Votes: 22
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o visited Flagstaff, Arizona
o Ponderosa pine forest
o Four Pyres of the Apocalypse
o drought
o series
o Flagstaff Area Wildfire Risk Assessment
o Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership
o Ecological Restoration
o visited the city
o liked what she saw
o exclusive press conference
o Senator Kyl
o ecosystem management
o sustainabl e forestry
o biomass
o biomass power plant
o 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy Implementation Plan
o stalled in the Senate
o looking good
o sent their plan to the Hill
o calling for a truce
o dissenting voices
o lacked details
o previous article
o blasting the President's plan
o support it needed
o impassione d pleas
o bargaining tactics
o cloture
o invoked
o emergency shelter
o Bush plan has merit
o The Flagstaff Plan
o The President's Plan
o The Governors Plan
o National Fire Plan of 2000
o The Sierra Clubs' 7-point plan
o Yellowston e Wildland Fire Management Plan
o Forest Trust Quarterly Report
o Southwest Forest Alliance Home Page
o Also by imrdkl

Display: Sort:
About the trees - Part II | 45 comments (35 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
Sustainable Forestry (4.33 / 6) (#1)
by Talez on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 06:49:22 AM EST

Over here (Western Australia), we had a policy of sustainable forestry in place up until the new government came in. Now they've completely banned old growth logging in our state's southwest pandering to the wishes of a very loud minority of greenies.

Now we have an industry in ruin, the water catchment areas aren't working as effectively and will only get worse and to top it all off the greenies are still bitching about the amount of forest that's considered protected.

Don't be fooled by old growth propaganda. Demand a sustainable foresty plan from your leaders thats well thought out and creates jobs but still leaves something for "our children".

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est

Round up the greenies and send 'em to Mars. (1.57 / 7) (#2)
by Mr Incorrigible on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:02:28 AM EST

That's right; round up all of these incoherently wibbling assholes who like to whine about how we're defiling Nature and let them survive in nature on fucking Planet Mars. I doubt they'll last very long without the human technology that defiles their precious nature, but the sane people will get along quite well without the greenies.

I know I'm a cheeky bastard. My lady tells me so.

[ Parent ]
Mars? (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by rusty on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:30:54 AM EST

Loggers wouldn't find much to do on Mars either.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Yes, Mars. (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by CrimsonDeath on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 10:56:14 AM EST

I think the point he was trying to get at is that sending them to Mars would be a quick lesson to them. They don't want us to touch nature at all, and on Mars, there isn't much of nature to touch.

That way, they could see how hard it is to survive without taking advantage of what we can get from nature.

[ Parent ]

Or... (none / 0) (#22)
by rusty on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:21:50 PM EST

...they could just point out that this is the kind of planet we're going to end up with if we're not careful. Seems like that could easily be argued either way.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
It's a dumb thing to argue about (none / 0) (#24)
by DesiredUsername on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:20:05 PM EST

but I don't see your point. Barring discovery of an ancient Mars civilization, there's no way to blame profilgate waste or pollution for the state Mars is in.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
It is a dumb thing to argue about (none / 0) (#37)
by rusty on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:04:24 PM EST

So we should probably stop. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Keep the loggers busy... (1.66 / 3) (#21)
by Meatbomb on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 01:10:36 PM EST

..hacking the greenies to death.


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
question: (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by behindthecurtain on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:37:47 AM EST

Wouldn't the community as a whole be better served if those who are employed by the forestry industry got better jobs in some other industry? Perhaps one that isn't so dependant on the exploitation of natural resources? They would probably make more money and the wilderness could be left alone.

I remember watching a documentary about one fellow who used to cut down trees for a living. The greenies got upset and eventually convinced the government to forbid clear cutting. The company didn't think this policy to be very profitable so they packed their bags and left. The now unemployed fellow (ironically enough) got a job for the government as some sort of environmental protection supervisor for that large patch of woods. He took the camera along and showed us the amount of damage that was done, and how this translated into fucking up the fishing industry in that town. He used to get into physical confrontration with the greenies, now he was one of them.

The moral of the story? There are two very valid sides to this problem. Vilifying one and outright supporting the other is probably short-sighted.

[ Parent ]

The man's story (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by Quila on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 07:50:03 AM EST

In other words, before, he was a productive member of the economy involved in the creation of wealth, and now he's another government employee living off the taxpayers. Not that government employees are bad or useless, but that's one fewer net tax payers and one more net tax receiver because of the green actions. Still not good for the economy.

[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 0) (#18)
by behindthecurtain on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:51:42 AM EST

Where do you think he spends his money? The grand majority of the money he makes most likely goes right back into the American economy. Of course that doesn't measure up to his previous position but it's not as if his contribution is completely insignificant.

[ Parent ]
I was government (none / 0) (#30)
by Quila on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 03:13:10 AM EST

I was a U.S. government employee. You wouldn't believe the amount of support money spent on an employee in relation to the actual net paycheck that may be put back into the economy. That net paycheck could have been left in the hands of the original owners (taxpayers) to spend on goods and services in the first place, without the huge overhead stripped off.

No, trends such as this suck money out of the economy. It would have been better if he still had a contributing job.

[ Parent ]

"Contributing" job (none / 0) (#31)
by Amorsen on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 09:15:49 AM EST

No, trends such as this suck money out of the economy. It would have been better if he still had a contributing job.
Is the production of physical goods the only job that is contributing? Is that really the only thing that makes people happy?

[ Parent ]
Contributing to the economy (none / 0) (#32)
by Quila on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 09:45:37 AM EST

Every government job needs many other non-government jobs that actually contribute to the economy to support it. It doesn't matter if that job is production of physical goods or a services-based job, as long as it's a job that adds to the economy instead of taking from it.

[ Parent ]
Answers: (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by Talez on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:12:53 AM EST

The greenies took what they could get and still demanded more.

Yes there is a place for conservation but there is also a place for exploitation of a renewable, natural resource.

Banning logging in old growth forests still doesn't solve the problem of inefficient water catchment areas. With the trees not being taken out, the water runoff is starting to slow. As the new saplings grow back into forest the problem looks like its only going to worsen.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
[ Parent ]

conservation vs. preservation (4.33 / 6) (#11)
by danimal on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 09:38:46 AM EST

Most people will claim "conservation" of natural resources.  What they really mean it preservation, not touching it at all.  Conservation is going in and doing land management, cutting some trees so new ones can grow, letting a little fire burn through every now and again to clear the land (not raging fires, but the same kind that burned for hundreds of years before man set foot in the area).

I have a degree in Forestry.  It was a hard battle to fight against misguided people that have no education in biology or forestry or any natural science.  The one thing that always stuck in my craw was people claiming conservation when really they wanted to freeze the land in the state it was in forever.  The National Park Service in the USA is a perfect example of this.

The other thing that gets to me is that people with money will fight to stop logging.  Little do they know that all log sales on National Forests have to give percentages of the money to the local counties for schools and roads.  I saw several rural counties in the Southeast US that had to close schools and consolidate (meaning longer trips for students to schools) because logging had been stopped because of some bleeding-heart "environmentalist."  It made me sick.

<tin> we got hosed, tommy
<toy> clapclapclap
<tin> we got hosed

[ Parent ]

wait, you have a degree in it and you think that? (none / 0) (#33)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:26:37 AM EST

So tell me, how did forests survive and grow for millions of years without degreed Forestry graduates to go in and "conserve" out some trees and do "land management"? It's amazing that we ever had any trees at all in North America prior to logging, isn't it? Maybe the buffalo were doing it, I guess.

I find your argument ludicrous in the extreme, and if you're basing such an argument on a Forestry degree, I think you're mostly making the case that a Forestry degree isn't worth much. I agree that strict "preservation" isn't the right thing to do (entirely preventing forest fires would be "preservation", for instance). You can't hold the forest in a static state, no matter how much we would like to. But there's no reason to think that if we left nature alone, it wouldn't gradually recover from the damage that we've done (both through logging and through excessive fire prevention) on its own.

Sure, we might have a few more giant fires in the meantime as the system gets back into equilibrium; in some areas that we've harmed too much we might have to actually reintroduce the native species that we've almost eradicated there. In the places where we've done the most harm, we might actually have to do some work to make things right. But if humans could just resist the urge to tinker with whole thing for fifty or a hundred years, and would only put out fires that were actually in urban areas, we would see an ecosystem restored and operating without the need for constant human intervention. The forests worked just fine for millennia before logging and "land management"; it's the utmost hubris to think that the forest can't live without us now.


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Better explanation, maybe ... (none / 0) (#36)
by thomp on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 11:42:06 AM EST

Poor argument by the Forestry major. Maybe this will help:

The standard procedure during the 20th century was to fight all forest fires. This policy is what pushed the forests out of equilibrium. Many preservationists support this policy - protect the old growth at any cost. You're correct that the forests did just fine without us for millions of years. But you also cannot ignore the human impact on the forests. Good land management policies are necessary to balance the health of the forest with timber harvesting. Smaller, proscribed burns are proving to be a very effective forest management tool in that they simulate the effects of periodic, natural forest fires. The preservationists are not losing their precious old-growth, and the loggers are finding healthier trees to harvest.

Not an in-depth reply, but I hope it makes a little more sense. (My knowledge is limited; most of this has been culled from my sister who teaches forestry in the southern Rockies.)

[ Parent ]
that makes somewhat more sense. (none / 0) (#38)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:55:49 PM EST

Yes, I agree entirely that preventing all fires was a mistake, whether it is done in the interests of the timber industry, the tourism industry, or just people who live in near the forest.

I think the disagreements that I would have are questions of amount, rather than fact:

  • Can the balance of timber harvesting in the forests be much lower, even zero?
  • Frankly, I think we'd all be better off if timber was farmed and "natural" forests were just left alone to do their own thing. We wouldn't have to worry about logging roads opening up pristine areas, the timber industry would find it a lot easier to harvest from plantations rather than mountainsides, etc.

  • If we then don't have to get timber out of the forests, then can we just quit managing them entirely, or significantly decrease our level of management?
  • It seems like that would be the best situation - then nature is left to run entirely, well, naturally, managing itself as best it has for the past thousands of years. I question whether a natural resource under intensive human management can ever really be as wild as an area that we just leave alone and don't try to control or improve.


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

you've misinterpreted what I said (none / 0) (#40)
by danimal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:19:49 PM EST

I never said that leaving the forest alone wouldn't return it to it's natural state.  My point was that we can use the land to obtain natural resources yet still provide forest cover and have an equitable balance.

The exclusion of natural fire in forests is what has caused the massive destructive fires of the last 100 years.  The solution to that is controlled burns to take their place.    The issue is not leaving the land alone, it's that we can use it without damaging it.  We can let things mostly occur naturally, but to let things just go back is quite silly at this point.  Of course that leads to the real reason I got out of forestry, industry.  You learn great management techniques in school and then the real world is all about profits (and why shouldn't it be, that's the capitalist system).  If it was profitable for timber companies to leave forests alone and do selective harvesting if at all then they would.

I'll just say I'm much happier doing what I do now and for you to dismiss those that work hard to learn and practice forestry makes this not worth my time to go any further.  There are a lot of good foresters out there, they are just bound by stupid laws written by people that have no background in making them (and are driven by political machines) and companies that want what all companies want, profit.  All of the foresters I know work hard and do the best they can with what limitations they have.  Those that are custodians of public lands have the hardest job of all, pleasing everyone.  I doubt you can do that either.
<tin> we got hosed, tommy
<toy> clapclapclap
<tin> we got hosed

[ Parent ]

fair enough (none / 0) (#41)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:56:06 PM EST

I think it was just the assumption that we have to have manage forests and take timber out of them, and that this is somehow better for the forests, that made me unhappy. The forests would be just fine if we'd all go away; good "forest management" may make things better for the combination of forests and humanity, but I don't think it necessarily makes things better when you just consider from the perspective of the forests.

I didn't mean to denigrate your career or education; I guess if the whole point of a forestry education is to understand how to make the tradeoffs that allow human use of the forests, then you laid out that position fairly well. It's the unstated assumption behind the whole program that I have differences with.


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

ah yes. (none / 0) (#43)
by danimal on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 07:00:11 AM EST

yes, there is definatley an aspect of it all that says some of the forest should be left to it's own devices.  Allowing forests to become climax forests or sometimes burn to the ground on their own.

unfortunatley people tend to want "this forest" forever, not realizing that different species will sometimes come in and replace what is there now, and that's just the way it is.

in the past there were miles and miles of longleaf pine forests in the southern US.  Longleaf pine is a fire climax species due to several factors like shade tolerance and sapling structure.  Due to massive logging in the last two centuries and the suppression of fire they are gone.  I love the longleaf pine and would love to see forests of them again, but I doubt I ever will.

Anyway, back to the point at hand.  Yes, some forests should be left, and that includes not fighting fires in them.  On private and corporate lands you won't find that much (but I have been to some lands that timber companies won't be touching again for a long time for various reasons, magnificient trees there).  On public lands I think we should have both things as the public forests are both meant for everyone and as a source of continued natural resources for the country (but there's a whole issue of reusing things like the boards from houses that I don't feel we investigate enough, but again, it's very expensive to convert that stuff right now).  I think there's room for both points of view, but some people don't see it that way.
<tin> we got hosed, tommy
<toy> clapclapclap
<tin> we got hosed

[ Parent ]

Inefficient water catchment (4.50 / 4) (#28)
by phliar on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:16:54 PM EST

The greenies blah-blah ... .
Less of the name-calling, please.
Banning logging in old growth forests still doesn't solve the problem of inefficient water catchment areas. With the trees not being taken out, the water runoff is starting to slow.
Please elaborate. Perhaps things are different in Australia, but in the western US the thing to do is to reduce runoff. Runoff causes gully erosion and makes streams cloudy, which hurts riparian habitats. It causes rivers to swell and flood towns. We want the water to sink into the ground, into the water table (perhaps into an aquifer) so the water is released gradually and as a bonus we humans have a water supply during the dry season.

I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who says that old-growth forests are bad in some way. After all they scratched along just fine for millions of years before we started messing about.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

So, Talez, what's your problem? (none / 0) (#29)
by phliar on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 12:22:39 AM EST

I notice you rated my reply to your message a 1. Care to explain, or rebut my reply? Or do you just plan to give anyone who questions your bald assertions a rating of 1?

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

won't the water be caught by...the trees? (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:34:24 AM EST

Maybe "water catchment" is a code word for something else (like one of those amusement parks with all of the water-type rides?) but I don't see why more forest or older-growth type of forest would have a deleterious effect on drainage, etc. More biomass holds more water, has more roots to prevent the erosion during times when there are periodic floods, etc. In the worst case I guess you might have a big tree fall into a navigable waterway and need to be dragged out, but that's hardly the end of the world, is it? I don't see what the problem with old-growth forest is.

Could you explain exactly how more forest (you know, the kind that was around for thousands of years before humans ever made it to Australia) is somehow going to cause all sorts of "water catchment" problems unless we successfully implement "sustainable forestry" (come to think of it, I know that's a code word :)?


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Different types of tree (4.75 / 4) (#7)
by dachshund on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:24:58 AM EST

One of the arguments I've heard against the Bush plan is that it's an attempt to apply a successful solution in one kind of forest to a variety of different forests. For instance, while the plan may be excellent for the Ponderosa forests in Arizona, which don't recover well from fire, it might not work well for other sorts of pines that are genetically configured to require regular burning. Here's an article that makes this case.

Yes, one size won't fit all (4.50 / 2) (#10)
by imrdkl on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 08:52:20 AM EST

Your article also introduces Dr. Covington and some of the basis for the Flagstaff plan, albeit in very broad strokes. I'll be covering that in detail next time, but there are also some misconceptions in your statement. Namely, ponderosa pines, along with many other species do recover well from fire below the canopy. Covingtons (ERI) plan emphasizes natural fire to control undergrowth. There are a few species which actually benefit from so-called crown fires. These are discussed in this article.

In general, the Flagstaff plan is largely based research done in and around the forests of the Southwest, however, that's a fact. I believe it provides a good rule-of-thumb, minimally where it concerns a method for dealing with the forests in and around the urban/wildland boundary, where all species need to be dealt with. In the next article, I'll also show that the estimates given in your link for the cost of restoration, are in fact, a bit too high, even for so-called "FULL" restoration.

[ Parent ]

Ponderosa and fire (none / 0) (#26)
by phliar on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:07:14 PM EST

... the Ponderosa forests in Arizona, which don't recover well from fire
Why do you say this? Mature ponderosa is very resistant to fire due to the thick bark. (Of course it won't survive a crown fire, but nothing will.)

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Fuel reduction and thinning (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by phliar on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:00:05 PM EST

I used to live in Arizona; I spent many happy summers backpacking and winters XC skiing around Flag, as well as Payson and the Mogollon Rim.

When a politician starts talking about the environment, I just assume they're lying, and are just pushing something through that will make their cronies a lot of money. Naturally, I don't give any credence to what Kyl or Gail Norton think. Just as years ago it was Watt that I didn't care for. Perhaps I'm wrong in this case. I'm willing to be convinced.

Here's the problem: I've seen those drought stricken forests. Especially in wilderness areas, many years of aggressive fire suppression have led to very large fuel loads on the forest floor: lots of twigs and branches and miscellaneous dead undergrowth just waiting for a spark. Reducing this fuel load is key to preventing crown fires. (We don't want to prevent all fires; the forests evolved with fires, and many species -- like the lodgepole pine, Pinus contorta, require fires: the cones release the seeds due to the heat of forest fires.) Obviously this won't be cheap. When Bush airily suggests that we sell this "excess fuel" from "thinning" to lumber companies and use the money, he neglects to mention that lumber companies don't want to use this crap of micellaneous twigs, and they don't mean to carefully select a few trees and helicopter them out. It's cheapest for them to clearcut. When they talk of small trees they mean trunk diameters of up to 12" (30cm) -- that tree could be 50' (16m) high and seventy years old. In my book that's a large tree.

I look forward to your further articles on this subject. I hope you will consider less of the politics and more of the scientific merits and details of the various plans. (What do you think of the Quincy Library Group plan?)

Incidentally, the form it's is a contraction of it is; the possessive form of the third person singular pronoun is its.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

A large tree (none / 0) (#44)
by imrdkl on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 10:34:54 AM EST

doesn't necessarily mean an "old-growth" tree. Just something to think about, and I'll have more to say about that next time. Thanks for sharing about Az, we share a concern there.

Your concerns about biomass, slash, and duff are carefully considered in the process of forest restoration, as you'll also see next time.

Its, well, it's my trademark, of sorts. At least one badly contracted seems to show up in all of my articles. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll take a look at your link later, although I've got my work cut out for me introducing restoration by itself. James Watt was a clear-cutter, we both know that, but Bruce Babbitt is behind the Flagstaff plan, if that sways you at all.

[ Parent ]

George Bush is only one bad guy (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by pdrap on Wed Oct 02, 2002 at 11:14:17 PM EST

Another one is John Engler, governor of Michigan. He thinks that selling the Porcupine Mountains to loggers is going to preserve them somehow.

For those that never heard of the Porkies: They are at the very western end of the upper penninsula of Michigan. They aren't really mountains but big hills. That's because they are some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet. It's not their fault that they are small, they used to be gigantic, but nothing is eternal, not even a mountain. Erosion has weathered down the granite. The park is beautiful to hike in, and I think it's the height of stupidity to let it be logged.

"let it burn" - and why (5.00 / 3) (#35)
by ethereal on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 10:50:40 AM EST

I voted to let it burn, and my reason can be seen soaking Louisiana and Texas right now. It's a hurricane, an act of nature that humanity is (mostly) smart enough to just get the hell out of the way of. People recognize that if they live on the coast, they will get large ocean-spawned storms once in a while, they might have to evacuate, etc. My in-laws in Florida don't complain to the government to come in and "sustainably manage" the amount of heat or moisture out over the Atlantic so that they can live more safely just a few feet above the high-water mark. They do live that close to the water, but they recognize the risks and the benefits of doing so and consider it a fair trade-off. They're barely high enough to get insurance, but not nearly far enough from the water that they would have much left if the big one hits.

So it should be with forests - why should I, a guy smart enough to not buy a house in a floodplain, on an Atlantic coast, or in a tinderbox of a forest, always be paying for the government to bail out people who don't make similarly informed home-buying decisions? A lot of the bitching about the fires out West seem to be concerned with how all these people who built their homes right in the forest will be burned out when the big fire hits. Well, of course - that's how it's supposed to work. Aggressive fire prevention artificially alleviated those people's risk for what, 70 years or so, but now they have to pay the piper.

The correct solution to the problem is to let the forests burn themselves back into what they feel is equilibrium, possibly helping reseed with native species if they don't come back on their own after the conflagration, and then quit tinkering with nature so much. If people want to live in a fire-prone area, they should buy fire insurance the same way my in-laws buy hurricane insurance. Just like you can't get hurricane insurance if you're too close to the water line, you probably shouldn't be able to get wildfire insurance if you live right in the middle of a huge, dry brush pile. This does not mean that the forest needs to be "managed" somehow; it just means that you need to consider the risks and benefits of living so close to nature.

I'm not saying don't fight a fire that's marching through downtown Flagstaff; at that point it's not really in a natural area so you might as well save human lives and property. Unfortunately, buildings don't depend on high heat to release their seeds :). But I don't think we should be interfering with natural processes just so we can protect some people who like to live dangerously. 'Cause if that's the plan, my in-laws would like the President to build a seawall around Florida sometime soon :).


Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Fire Suppression (none / 0) (#39)
by phliar on Thu Oct 03, 2002 at 05:00:00 PM EST

I must say I agree. I choose to live in California for certain reasons; given that, I chose a place that minimises earthquake damage (don't live in alluvial plains or landfill), mudslides (don't live in a house on stilts over a cliff), and fires (don't live on a slope with brush). I live in a house that's reinforced against common shocks. If the big one strikes, I won't be (with high probability) killed or wiped out. I don't expect the Federal Tectonic Service to come in and reinforce the various faults around here.

It annoys me that people build vacation houses in forests -- my forests -- and then the feds go in and interrupt the normal functioning of the forest by fighting fires. Keep fighting fires that threaten vacation houses and you inevitably set the stage for the crown fire that destroys downtown Flagstaff. That make Mongo sad.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Perhaps also.. (none / 0) (#42)
by ajduk on Fri Oct 04, 2002 at 05:05:00 AM EST

Mandate that if people choose to buy/build a house up there, they should also buy enough land around it to act as a fire break, and it is their responsability to keep that area free of brush, as well as having sufficient equipment to stop sparks, etc setting their house on fire.

And the house should be built of brick, of course. Inspections would be yearly, with fines for letting too much brush grow close.

This would have the desired side-effect of discouraging most people who want to live out there, by putting the costs up to a reasonable level and spoiling the view..

[ Parent ]

Government intervention unnecessary. (none / 0) (#45)
by vectro on Sun Oct 27, 2002 at 04:18:50 AM EST

There is no public interest in ensuring that those who place themselves at risk protect themselves. Those who do protect themselves will be protected, and those who don't will burn.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
About the trees - Part II | 45 comments (35 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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