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Sun Nov 18, 2018, 05:41 PM

An honest conversation about forest policy

The National Forests HAVE been neglected and mis-managed for a century. Their primary goal has always been timber production. Secondary goals of environmental stewardship have only been on their radar for relatively short time.

For most of the 20th Century, forest practices dictated that the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management would build roads into the forests to allow logging. The sales of timber often did not cover the cost of the roads, but the roads provided access for fire suppression.

Until fairly recently, the role of fire was not understood, especially in dry climate pine forests. Fire once regularly cleaned out the understory while leaving most of the trees charred, but alive. These fires rarely got to the canopy. A century of fire prevention let the fuels on the forest floor grow beyond their natural condition. Insects that were once sterilized by fire now thrive in the pines. Fire now is devastating. They are hotter and reach the canopy more often. The extreme prolonged heat sterilizes the soils making recovery difficult.

As other values began to change federal forest policy, timber harvests were reduced. With the diminishing revenues, other forest management practices such as thinning, understory removal, and controlled burns were under-funded. Firefighting has eaten up much of the budgets.

While we laugh at the thought of raking the forest (my previous posts included), there is an element of truth to it. The destructive fires could be mitigated with a crash program to maintain public forests (especially pine forests in dry climates) by clearing bush and doing the work that fire used to do. Much of the biomass removed could be used for energy production, but it does not create the large trees that the timber industry covets. Their preferred solution involves more clearcuts...not a desirable solution.

This work is not cheap, and will not be financially self-sustaining. If we are truly interested in preserving forests that serve ecosystem diversity, recreation, clean water, as well as timber production, investments are required. They should be part of any infrastructure plan being proposed.

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Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply An honest conversation about forest policy (Original post)
Thunderbeast Nov 2018 OP
vlyons Nov 2018 #1
jcgoldie Nov 2018 #12
vlyons Nov 2018 #13
jcgoldie Nov 2018 #14
vlyons Nov 2018 #15
olegramps Nov 2018 #16
stonecutter357 Nov 2018 #2
exoskeleton Nov 2018 #3
stopdiggin Nov 2018 #8
Demsrule86 Nov 2018 #4
Algernon Moncrieff Nov 2018 #5
EleanorR Nov 2018 #6
EleanorR Nov 2018 #7
maxsolomon Nov 2018 #9
Nitram Nov 2018 #10
NNadir Nov 2018 #11

Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 05:51 PM

1. Herds of goats

Goats are fantastic browsers and would clean out all that brush. Leave their poop pellets to enrich the soil.

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Response to vlyons (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 10:11 AM

12. This is actually a good suggestion

I have a herd of 30-50 dairy goats at any given time. My property of 50 acres is about half wooded. 7 or 8 years ago I moved here from a smaller farm and the land was nearly impassable in many places grown up with osage orange and russian olive, briars, and poison ivy in the understory. Now it looks like a park... by autumn each year there's not a scrap of woody vegetation up to about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. The goats will literally stand on each others backs to reach up as high as they can for branches... one will pull it down the rest swarm it and when it comes back up its a bare twig. The goats especially love nuisance plants that other livestock won't eat... anything viney or woody or broadleafed... they play hell on my fruit tree orchard if they get into it... but they are awesome for turning a thick impenetrable forest full of undergrowth into a parklike setting that you can stroll through. And I have not seen a sprig of poison ivy in years!

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Response to jcgoldie (Reply #12)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 10:17 AM

13. I used to have goats

They even ate the bark off the trees. There are got herders in Calif that lease out their goats for "vegetation management." The National Forrestry Service could hire goat herds even on an experimental basis.

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Response to vlyons (Reply #13)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 10:18 AM

14. I'm available

Will have to pay my paltry little public school salary, because I don't leave my goatees unsupervised away from home!

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Response to jcgoldie (Reply #14)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 11:10 AM

15. No doubt

goats left unsupervised in a Natl Forrest wouldn't be there for long. They would get stolen and put on a barbq pit for cabrito. It could be a wonderful way to spend the Summer. A herd of 40-50 goats, 2 herding dogs, a nice trailer to live in. If I were younger (I'm 71), I could dig it. What a wonderful adventure.

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Response to vlyons (Reply #1)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 11:30 AM

16. The major problem is allowing building in forested areas. Its always about money.

The builders should be required to clear fire breaks to protect the area. I realize that even that could not protect every one, but it would establish a line of protection in case of fire. The roads should also be protected with adequate clearage on both sides. It is up to the legislature to not bend to the will of the builders and pass the needed protection. These would include building materials Another concern is insurance rates. The losses with eventually effect nearly everyone. Insurance firms' losses are always recouped in the long run unless they go broke and default.

My father and one of my uncles built a cabin in the mountains. This was over eighty years ago and they cleared the area surrounding the cabin of all vegetation for I would guess at least 100 feet away. I think it may be much greater because they used the trees they felled to help built it. Any new trees were killed and the area cleared every spring. They had experienced forest fires and knew the danger they presented. They also opted for a metal roof. Many of the other owners of cabins the area also did the same and cooperated in protection. It is great to live among the pines, but the danger is real every summer. Some of the suggestions about clearing the pine needles and dead fall is ridiculous except for limited areas. We are talking about millions of acres. Trump again is just a ridiculous ass and not worth the time of day.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 05:55 PM

2. An honest conversation LOL #facknews !

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 06:29 PM

3. You are right

Fire is an integral part of many ecosystems. When we just blanket suppress them we are asking for big trouble. Controlled burns and thinning are effective tools. It looks ugly for a while but it works.

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Response to exoskeleton (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 19, 2018, 02:54 PM

8. Controlled burns

"Controlled burns" is a term that is being thrown around a lot recently. And I won't argue that they shouldn't be a part of an overall strategy. But, the problem with "control burns" at this point is that the drought conditions are so severe that "control" has become very iffy, if not outright impossible. Firefighters talk about "uncharacteristic" behavior, which is shorthand for "we have very little control over the situation at all." Under current conditions (climate change/drought), many of our western forests more closely resemble unexploded ordinance ... If (and when?) the drought breaks; absolutely. Now? Only the truly demented ...

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 07:34 PM

4. No Trump is full of shit as always.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 07:40 PM

5. I think the real problem comes down to water.

But, I'm not against clearing debris and underbrush if that helps keep the state from burning.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 08:26 PM

6. since just 3% of CA forests are owned and managed by the state

Then congress needs to increase the Forest Service's budget. I believe they've been attempting some controlled burns but then money runs out fighting the big fires.

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Response to EleanorR (Reply #6)

Sun Nov 18, 2018, 08:29 PM

7. wildland-urban interface

It is my understand the current fire was not technically a forest fire but took place on the wildland-urban interface, which poses it's own unique challenges.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Mon Nov 19, 2018, 03:53 PM

9. CA already manages fire fuels - to the extent that it is possible.

Napa, CA, for instance, requires that properties are maintained; lawns cut and brush cleared. They inspect and warn and fine. Despite this, last year huge areas of the town burned to the ground.

The coastal scrub ecosystem that burned in 1000 Oaks/Malibu is not "rakeable". It consists almost entirely of dry scrub. It will burn, sooner or later, as it has for millenia. The only solution is to disallow construction in it, the way that hurricane-exposed coastal communities should not rebuild.

In the Sierra foothills (Paradise), look at the footage: the trees are often still there; it's the homes that are burned to the ground. Would non-combustible materials (metal, concrete) reduce the damage?

In the High Sierras, I've camped in Lassen NP where selective "raking" programs were being used. Hugh piles of underbrush and downed logs were pulled together in "teepees" for winter burning. Outside of the campground, there are millions of acres that are "unraked", and aren't going to be tended to anytime soon.

What starts the fires? Logging operations, electrical transmission lines, sparks from truck chains, idiots smoking or tossing firecrackers (Columbia Gorge). Humans are the spark, and they're not going to be banned from the woods.

The same problems apply throughout the dry West: the east side of the Cascades in particular. Climate change makes the woods drier. This issue is like Rampage Shootings: it's not going away.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 09:24 AM

10. The National Park Service has been neglected, but that has little bearing on what happened to

Paradise. Protecting California communities like Paradise will require a complex assortment of changes to utility infrastructure management, evacuation planning, forest management, brush management, restrictions on vegetation in towns, etc. Oh, I forgot. And raking.

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Response to Thunderbeast (Original post)

Tue Nov 20, 2018, 10:01 AM

11. I may disagree with some points you make but...

... I very much enjoyed the scientific integrity of your post. Science is not really about proving that Trump is an idiot, which is in any case self evident, but it is about the search for truth.

There is a lot of truth in what you write.

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