Forestry Friday …Thinning Forest Fuels

With all the fires burning in California there has been a lot of discussion about logging to reduce forest fuel. Doing so makes our forests more fire resilient. There is fear among many people that logging of any kind will destroy our forest. The truth is the the fires are destroying our forests. This is a short video of such a logging operation from last year on the Lassen National Forest. The Forest Service prepared this project. Our company bought and logged the timber sale. The result is a healthier more resilient forest.

Wounded Sky … Carr Fire Update

Friday was another difficult day in Redding as the Carr Fire continued to spread. Overnight the fire grew toward the southwest near Igo and to the north of French Gulch.

 

Saturday morning

Our sky looks look toxic. Here are some views from the last two days.

Carr Fire smoke

The view from our backyard Thursday night

Carr Fire

The next photos were from Friday evening.

Carr Fire

Looking northwest, the major smoke cloud was moving east.

This was last nights view from the backyard.

The sun.

Looking north over the pond.

Apocalyptic Sky … Carr Fire

This morning the sky had an apocalyptic pall over it. Colors were shifted from the smoke filtered light. Ash had fallen on our property. Now our home isn’t close to the fire. We aren’t in any danger. Most of our friends are much closer. Many have had to evacuate. With Google Earth I was able to determine that we were 22 miles from the fire as the crow flies. That’s how far the ash had traveled.

Based on latest hot spot map the fire may have spread south of Highway 299 near Redding. This is a terrible development. Hopefully the firefighters can stop the spread. Fortunately, it didn’t reach the forecast high of 113 today. It just made it to 111. Nevernind, I just found out it did reach 113.

Where There’s Smoke

I was in the Trinities this week and there was thick smoke everywhere. It’s burning season in Northern California. We had quite a lot of rain in late November. I assumed that some agency was doing a large burn project. However, I couldn’t see where the smoke was coming from. It appeared to be drift smoke.

During my drive down from the mountains I heard a news report. They reported that smoke from the Thomas Fire was drifting up the coast. I checked Google Earth that evening and the smoke had drifted nearly 500 miles from the Thomas Fire in Southern California to north of Redding. The residue of so many homes and so much wildland was adrift in this smoke.

wildfire, forestry, smoke, Thomas Fire

The late afternoon sun filtering through the smoke in the Trinities.

Billys Peak, Trinity River, smoke, wildfire, Thomas Fire,

Looking north toward Billys Peak across the old dredge tailings along the Trinity River.

 

reflection, forest, sun, smoke

Smoke tinted sunlight and trees reflect on an old dredge pond.

Forestry Friday … Logging Could Actually Save Our Forest

pencil, sketch, drawing

Logging Crew Firefighters.

This story appeared on KREM2 in Spokane. I’m heartened to see a support for an active strategy to deal with the wildfire dilemma.  In defiance of popular conventional wisdom that harvesting trees is a bad thing. Finally, using harvesting as a tool for healthier forests. It too long overdue in the minds of the public.

http://www.krem.com/news/local/2-on-your-side/logging-could-it-actually-save-our-forests/484608831

Forestry Friday … Loggers To The Rescue

salvage logging

Skidding salvage logs to the landing in the King Burn.

This article appeared in The Economist and sums up the need and benefit of thinning the forests of the Sierra Nevada. I’ve added a few comments about it below.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21711930-cutting-often-preferable-burning-greater-cost-can-be-offset-payments

bark beetle, larva, Dendroctonus valens

The larval form of bark beetles are what kill the tree. The adult beetle chews a nursery gallery into the tree and lays her eggs. The larva hatch and spread out from that gallery creating more galleries as they feed. During this feeding process the larva girdle the cambium of the tree causing it to die.

I really appreciate the discussion regarding water generation through thinning. I believe this is one of the least discussed benefits of practicing forestry in the West, but in California it’s one of the biggest benefits with our constant water deficits. Thinning the Sierra forests would generate an enormous amount of water for California.

When comparing the cost of controlled burning to mechanized thinning (logging) you can’t ignored the cost incurred when controlled burns get out of control. The cost differences between doing controlled burn and fighting out of control fire is enormous. I’m not saying don’t use controlled burning, but fire suppression costs need to be included when controlled burns get out of control. Controlled burning is one tool available, but cannot come close to solving the problem of all the overstock forests.

Commercial thinning that includes merchantable (larger) trees is the only economically sustainable way to accomplish the massive level of thinning that needs to be done. The author points out 52 trees per acre was the historic density of trees in the Sierra. Research has shown that the proper density for optimal growth in fully stock mature timber stands to be between 43 and 64 trees per acre depending on the size of the trees. If we remove 236 trees per acre to reach 64 trees per acre, then some of those trees have to be big enough to make a 2 x 4.  If there is enough value in the larger trees, a timber company will pay the federal government to thin the forest instead of the government paying a contractor to clean up and dispose of the unmerchantable trees.

What’s the upside? We get healthy resilient forests that are more fire resistant. Wildfires that do start are less severe, and safer and easier to control. There is more water available to the state. The wood isn’t left to rot. It is used in wood products and to generate electricity. People doing these forest related jobs see an economic benefit, particularly in the rural communities. The practice is sustainable and wood is our great renewable resource.

Lastly, some folks are going to fret over the impacts of logging at that scale. I want you to know this, timber harvests are studiously planned to mitigate the potential negative impacts they could cause. Secondly, just imagine the negative effects of these mega-fires.  I’ve seen them and their effects are staggering. I’ve yet to see one large burn ever have it’s negative impacts fully mitigated.