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Wednesday, September 13. 2017
A so-called "climax forest" is just a forest waiting for the next disruption. In Ecology, it's termed "succession." In economics, it's called creative destruction.
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The fires persisted in the Merrimack Valley until the mid-18th C. Sometimes twice a year, clearing out the underbrush. Not only more food for some large meaty animals, but also easier to move quietly and shoot with unobstructed vision.
I believe there were yearly fires set by the clever Native Americans in the Hudson Valley throughout the 17th C as well. There is some thought that the death by disease of 90% of New World natives and the sudden reduction of this and other agricultural techniques led to population explosions of some plants and animals over others, contributing to the Little Ice Age. I'm not at all convinced of that, but there is at least a plausible mechanism of how it happened.
The beautiful drive west on I-84 through the Columbia River Gorge was started by a couple of teenagers shooting off fireworks on a beautiful hiking trail, and one went slightly astray. 11%contained and over 35,000 acres, I-85 closed, communities evacuated, the watershed that supplies Portland burned. It will take years and years to recover.
Was in Gatlinburg for a couple days last week. Remarkable how many trees survived and how quickly other areas are growing back.
Also notable is how the fires skirted around the Jesus museum.
That's very much true, but in terms of property ownership it's hell on earth. It'll make you sick to your stomach to watch a fire approaching your house.
John Gierach wrote a good piece on it in one of his great books. He's granola as it gets, but even he felt that punch to the gut when it hit close to home.
I just love it when folks in NYC try to calm our concerns out here in the "real west"! With your self perceived sense of superior intellect you constantly throw that old saw(excuse the pun) wildfire is healthy at us. Let's take a closer look.
1. I understand the science of "let it burn". I understand the satisfaction this theory provides for folks very far away--it makes you comfortable knowing something on this continent is being managed in a "clean way". I get that.
2. There are some of you who are also able to consider the balance required in a good relationship, one that has science on one side and cultural knowledge on the other side. As it stands now the FEDERAL POLICY "let it burn" is itself out of control. There is no balance.
3. A fire starting in early summer guarantees a season long income for professional fire people. This is THE PRIMARY deciding factor as to what piece of America's wild land should be allowed to burn this summer. In Western Montana we currently have four fires that "could not be put out, because it was too dangerous". Over a MILLION ACRES But, each of these fires could have been kept to less than 500 acres easily. If the "intention" or the mandate had been different.
4. IT IS AGAINST FEDERAL LAW TO LOG ANY OF THIS ACREAGE--EVEN AFTER BUG KILL
5. The white men of wisdom--those men who had spent years climbing the ladder of job levels within the US Forest Service--those men were all "taken out" with silver parachutes, so people of color, women, etc. could come into the service without pre requisite education and suddenly become "DECISION MAKERS". This agency is bereft of wisdom.
6. If we had a Montana State Fire Burn Authority made up of mill owners, forest managers (we do have the second best forestry school here in this state), and union reps from the firefighter's union. Then "we the people" could decide how many acres would be destroyed; where they would be destroyed and most importantly WHEN we would cut the timber before the fire! Right now the way it is is some jerk from So. California comes in sets up the showers, the cook tent, and sits back and watches it burn for three months. NO-- NO MORE What acreage gets burned should be a design project: a collaboration between the community's economy, the value of the cut timber to jobs in the community, the state of the proposed timber itself, and a pre-determined plan as to when it will be logged (before burning). IF the intent and charge of this authority is to preserve for "the people" and the secondary intent is a healthy forest, we can truly design a "healthy balance".
7. WILDLAND FIRES ARE HEALTHY
One of those areas that was just burned over last week had also been burned in the 1988 fire. That area is now completely bereft of any tree seed structure within the ecology--you cannot keep burning, and re-burning and expect there to still be tree seed in the ground! "oh dear--whoops--didn't mean to do that!"
8. With regard to houses. If you want to build up next to a wild land--who doesn't? You need to be able to be actively involved in saving your own damn house! Don't just stand there waiting for some "hired hand" to come and put water on your roof! Two houses were lost in the Lolo Fire this summer. The result of a poorly thought out plan to establish a back burn (during swirling winds). HOWEVER, the third house the one in the middle--that one survived because the owner stayed on site and kept the hose on--we are different that way out here! ;-). You should also be mandated to use fireproof roofing material of the highest rating--metal preferably--you don't like the look? Go somewhere else and plant some trees and build a house with a timber shake roof!
9. I don't like co-incidences--they make me twitch. In Glacier Park the Sperry Chalet burned to the ground: here are some details:
a.) same management company in charge of the facility since 1954.
b.) composite roof--interior needed upgrading
c.) a six mile back country hike to get into the chalet
d.) four firefighters stationed at the Chalet for five days before the fire.
e.) not close to the timber line--some brush and grasses
surrounding the building.
f.) fire guys put fire proofing metal wrap around the short wooden fence in front of the building, but nothing on the building itself--not even on the composite roof!
g.) fire guys are quoted as saying "did not know the interior was on fire until the windows blew out". REALLY--then just what were you fighting? What the heck were you doing up there for five days?
Co-incidentally we have the two other major hotels in the park
Glacier Lodge, and Lake MacDonald Lodge, both have been completely renovated in the last two years. Different vendors. I am wondering if the contractor at Sperry just could not afford the necessary renovations? (I can't get this site to accept the links, but you can look up: Lake MacDonald Lodge+remodel and also Glacier Lodge+remodel. Both of those jobs were just completed.
Finally, I don't tell you how to run NYC--please don't come out here and tell us "hicks" how to manage our forests and wild lands.