During the last few weeks I’ve had a Siggy and Sailor come to work with me while the weather was cooler. Mostly, it’s been too hot, but we’ve had a few nice days.
I stopped by Hayfork Creek on the way home to let Tasha air out and get a drink. Mary and I used to have a mining claim here, but it didn’t pan out. We’d camp out while we prospected for gold. On this visit, fall color gilded the landscape.
Here it is folks, the final! It took me a bit longer to post because we were crazy busy, but it’s ready to go.
Tomorrow night it will be auctioned to raise money for the Sierra-Cascade Environmental and Resource Fund. This non-profit educates the public, students, and teachers about the wise management of our forests.They provide scholarships for local students interested in careers in the industry. Many of the programs supported are aimed at educating the urban regions of California, about practices that assure the health of our forests.
My painting will be auctioned in competition with Mary’s Painting. She also created a painting and you can see it here, Off-Highway Hauler. During the auction folks will be bidding on both paintings at once. The high bidder gets to pick the painting they want. The other is offered to the second place bidder who can take it or pass on it. Then it goes back to bidding. I beat her last year and now she’s back looking to take me down!
I’m continuing to work on the art piece for the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference Forestry Education Auction. I’ve sketched it out in pencil and am now laying down the ink. It’s been going very slow.
Tasha one of our golden girls has been ready to whelp since Sunday. She started this morning and had 10 puppies. She’s been a bit of a distraction keeping us up late, but now we’re done with that and everyone is doing well. Mary posted a picture of the puppies here.
I’m waiting to see the piece that Mary is working on. It’s good to scope out the competition. She’s going to have to bring it for the competitive auction!
It’s time for Mary and me to create a piece of art for charity once again. Every year we do something for the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference Forestry Education Auction. This pen and ink is my exploratory drawing for my painting. I like the direction it’s going. The tree and the background still needs some tweaking. I was helped out by the Forest History Society. They have an excellent photo library of vintage logging scenes and were kind enough to allow me use it for art reference.
Last year at the auction Mary and I each provide a piece of art. To liven things up we competed against each other. It was a big success. You can read about it here on Mary’s blog, And The Winner Is! In fact it was so successful that we are going head to head again this year. We’ll both be working on our paintings this weekend. I can’t wait to see the competition this year.
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.
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.
When I write about forestry, I’m most often sharing what goes on in a working forest. A working forest is one that produces commodities, like timber, fiber and bark, as well as provides for environmental benefits such as recreation, clean water and wildlife habitat. I have spent my career on working forests.
Think of a working forest like a farm. Farms grow crops of food and other agricultural products. We need farms for our food. Working forests produce forest products and we need them for our shelter. An important difference between the two is that forestlands take years to produce a crop. Working forests spend years growing undisturbed in between intervals of harvesting. They function as an important source of clean water and as a home for wildlife every year.
One benefit of producing forest products from a working forest is that it creates income for the landowner. When the landowner has an economic return from managing trees the land will continue to be managed as a forest. There are real costs to owning forestland and if the owner can’t profit managing their forest, they may be forced to develope it into housing subdivisions or some other non-forest use. Then the wildlife habitat may be lost. In a sense the income from producing forest products protects these forests by making growing trees economically sustainable .
All of our forests are important as wildlife habitat. The conventional wisdom is that mature forest provide the best habitat. That is true for species of wildlife that prefer mature forests. However, many species have different habitat needs that include forest at every age.
Forests containing a greater diversity in habitats ranging from mature forest to freshly created openings will support a larger variety of species. Openings are created during harvesting. These openings are planted and then the seedlings begin to grow. Over time the forests develope a great diversity of trees in different age groups. This patchwork of different habitat is available to support many species of wildlife.
Working forests aren’t parks, but can still be available for recreation. Hikers, campers and hunters visit these forests year after year. I’m not saying that the working forests are better than the parks, but they each have unique purposes.
Forests are managed by different government agencies, private entities and individuals with a variety of goals. Forestland management is a topic I will explore more in the future. It warrants a full post.