Forestry Friday … “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

Trinity County, wildfire, smokeIt’s August in California, with our typical forecast for this time of year, “sunny with 100% chance of SMOKE!” Large forest fires are burning up and down the state. The smoke is inescapable.

smoke, smoky, air quality

I was in the Northern Sierra near Stirling City earlier in the week. Smoky there too.

Air quality is often terrible this time of year due to the wildfires. Lighting, drought, denser forests and changing fire fighting tactics have created conditions that foster massive wildfires. Resistance to harvesting timber on our federal forests has made it difficult to thin the National Forests. Thinning forests to reduce fuels isn’t being accomplished at the level that is needed. That in turn has caused the Forest Service to adopt a “manage the fire” approach to fire fighting. These fires burn at such higher intensity that the fire crews are forced to back way off in order to keep safe. Direct attack is nearly impossible. This makes the fires grow even bigger.

drought, wildfire, Trinity Lake

Drought is making our immediate problem much worse. Trinity Lake is somewhere back there.

Thinning these forests over large tracts of land would solve several problems. It reduces the amount of fuel that feeds these huge fires. It lowers the burn intensity of the fires making them easier to fight. Fewer trees on the landscape increases the ground and surface water by reducing demand on the water table. God knows we need more water in California. Trees have less competitive stress, which reduces tree mortality from drought and insect attack. With fewer weakened trees dying there is less dry, heavy fuel created in the form of snags and downed logs.

snag, forestry, wildfire

That snag is a lightening rod just waiting for a bolt.

In many ways were are loving these forests to death. The forests are set up to burn because we don’t want to manage them. Too many people don’t want any trees cut down. The conventional wisdom that “leaving the forest untouched” creates a healthy ecosystem is wrong. Would you not weed your garden? We are the stewards of these forests and it’s our responsibility to care for them. Otherwise, we are creating a forest of dead trees.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

Looking toward the Trinity Alps.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

This is how the view is on a clear day.

Bliss says after a smoky day in the woods there’s nothing like a dip in a cool mountain stream.

golden retriever, Bliss

A pool made for a puppy!

Bliss says, "much better."

Bliss says, “much better.”

Forestry Friday … Too Many Trees!

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

After years of fire suppression efforts, our forest have become very dense.

One of the biggest problems in the western forests of the United States is that we have too many trees. It used to be, frequent fires kept the undergrowth clear without killing the older mature trees. Fuel loads weren’t allowed to get too high. With less fuel built up in the forests, fires burned at low intensity.

Much of our forestland is choked with thickets of trees. Timber stands have grown dense from a century of full fire suppression. These thickets are susceptible to insect attack and drought stress mortality. Fuel loads in the forest are huge. The fires of today burn at such high intensity that it is difficult for firefighters to fight them safely. We are now having larger and more destructive fires, such as the Rim Fire that burned into Yosemite National Park.

Thinning so many small trees was slow and expensive, but with today’s modern logging technology we now have the ability to thin these timber stands efficiently.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thickets like this provide ladder fuels that cause crown fires.

First, the sawlogs are harvested for lumber. Next, the biomass is harvested and put into doodles.  Biomass are the trees or tops of trees that are too small for products like lumber, poles or veneer. Doodles are harvested bundles of small trees.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Doodles

The trees marked in white are the “save” trees that won’t be harvested.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thinning out the excess trees.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Skidding logs.

Sawlogs being skidded into the landing.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Log processor

The log processor manufactures the trees into logs.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Chipper

The small trees are chipped into a van to be hauled to the co-generation plant and turned into electricity.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Thinned stand

Thinning these timber stands leaves them more resistant to fire and insect attack. A healthy fire is the goal.

forests, forestry, forester artist, biomass, harvesting

Blitz, the canine wood chipper, says, “I’ll chip this doodle myself.”