Anybody else getting tired of Forest Service and BLM burning slash, while other government agencies insist that heating with wood is BAAAAD?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
Anyone out there share my concern? Anybody from a timber state?
At least when we burn wood, we're heating our homes, and even though it pollutes, we're polluting with a renewable resource, rather than a fossil fuel. These government slash burns aren't doing anything but wasting wood. They should be chipping the slash, not polluting our air (not to mention causing wildfires (e.g. Los Alamos)
-- jumpoff joe (email@example.com), May 25, 2000
Well, I'm certainly from a timber state (that one north of you) but we don't have controlled burns much around here on this side of the Cascades, so I can't speak to it. However, I do think it is rather ironic that farmers who burn their wheat stubble in E. Washington are taking a load of **** for it, while these other regions can do these things with the .gov's blessings. And, what about automobiles and industry's contributions to pollution? I think that may cause more than wood stoves? I don't know....please someone, enlighten me!
I am pretty ignorant about this issue, but some of what the Forest Circus has done has set (at the very least) my teeth on edge for oh, the last 40 or so years of my life!From what I have been hearing, this fire in NM was absolutely unnecessary.
-- sheepish (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 26, 2000.
They were burning up here on Coyote Creek 10 days ago, also between Wolf Ck. and Glendale too, the smoke filled up the canyon across the creek from me for a couple of days and all the time that fire was roaring in NM. You know how dry it is around here. I agree that they should chip it the same as the slash along the high line is done.
How is your rock quarry thing coming?
-- Hendo (OR) (email@example.com), May 26, 2000.
It would be GREAT if they would chip and distribute the slash, rather than burn it, in my opinion. Here, a local group collects slash and then chips it, and you can pick up all you want free, for a food donation that goes to the local food bank. It is quite a distance from us, about 40 miles each way, but we have very little in the way of trees here, so we try to get a few loads every year and put around our trees. I was concerned the first year, in case we picked up a disease from the chipped evergreens, and then might have spread it to our new seedlings, but so far, so good. It surely can't cost any more to do that than to have wild land crews tending the fires, making fire breaks, and then paying for all the damage with the fires get out of control...Jan
-- Jan B (Janice12@aol.com), May 26, 2000.
We live up in the Cleveland National Forest, woods a meer 10 acres away. Though I have asthma and have to have someone else do evening chores for me during the undergrowth burn times (simply can't breath outside) I do appreciate it. We have had several newbie's start fires that got away from them, a forest fire is a very scarry thing. With as little fuel as possible on the forest floor, it would give us the best possible chance. We have had programs in the past where selective trees where marked for folks to use for firewood, but folks took advantage and the program is no longer in effect. For now this is probably the best alternative. We also heat 99% of the time with wood, though we have had lazy years where we would buy a couple of cords, most of the time it is gleaned from our property. Vicki
-- Vicki McGaugh (Texas) (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 26, 2000.
We live in Western Colorado and we see BLM burns here. I don't mind the controlled burns, however I do mind having to beg the county for a burn permit to burn ditches etc on our land. We also have been getting stricter on woodstoves (EPA approved only) and yet the controlled burns can inundate the whole area with smoke, so I understand the concerns expressed. They also could change the burn to pile and create habitat for critters although that might look bad to some tourist etc.
-- Steve Elsmore (email@example.com), May 26, 2000.
Someone already mentioned one of the valid reasons for the burning -- to keep down fire danger by getting rid of the excess fuel on the forest floor. Another reason is that some species will not regenerate until after a forest fire -- their cones only open after the intense heat of a fire. (Or, in the case of jack pine -- same species as lodgepole, I think -- after years of soaking in water, i.e. muskegs in Alaska.) I know it is a nuisance, but there are often, though perhaps not always, valid reasons for doing it. Some of you who live on the west coast may know that in the early 1800's there was a forest fire that burned everything from the Columbia River to the California border. It was one of the reasons that when the settlers started coming in, the lands formerly occupied by Indian tribes were largely empty.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 26, 2000.
Kathleeen: I grew up in Oregon, livedin the valley are and the gorge for many years. I've not heard of the fire in the l800's but do know that the valley Indians were decimated by disease brought in by sailing ships who traded for the bales of salmon produced by the Columbia River tribes. So much for history. Here in Alaska they can spend millions on containing a forest fire and then turn around and burn 60,000 acres for fire control purposes. The latter scattered the wildlife, displaced grizzlies who in turn hassled the farmers. Anymore comment better be left unsaid........Smoke filled our area for days. Norma Lucas
-- Norma Lucas (email@example.com), May 27, 2000.
Ever wonder why there is a bumper sticker/tee shirt that states "I love my Country, but I fear my Government?" This is but one of many reasons! GL!
-- Brad (homefixer@SacoRiver.net), May 27, 2000.
With the risk of life and limb, I will enter this foray on prescribed burning. I am a forester for the State of Virginia....NOT to be confused with the U.S. Forest Service or any other federal agency! I have done dozens of prescribed burns over my 20 years and to say the least, you need to be well trained and very careful each and every time that you do one. Realize that the forest conditions and fuel types here in the east are much different than what is found in the western states. The flammability of the vegetation here in the east is not near as volatile. Many of the reasons for doing these burns have already been cited: endangered species habitats, fuel reduction, the establishment and maintenance of prairie grasses and site preparation before reforestation activities. There are many valid reasons for doing controlled burns and I fully support their use. However, they need to be well-planned, well-staffed and done under the most optimum of conditions. If any of these parameters are violated, then tradgedies like Los Alamos will happen. In regards to the nuisance smoke, we burn only on those days where the mixing height and transport wind speeds will mix the smoke in the atmosphere and carry it off in a direction from a populated area. The Va. Dept. of Forestry will not do a burn if we have any indication that a population center, neighborhood or neighbor will be "smoked-in". A comment was also made about spending thousands to control fires in Alaska and then within a few months conducting a multi-thousand acre burn. My thoughts on this are that you do not turn a wildfire into a prescribed burn just because it happens. This is what they tried to do in Yellowstone and you see where that got them! Prescribed burns are done for a reason and with much prior planning. I know the feds have had a bad string of luck (to say the least) but also realize that they have done hundreds of these burns in the past with no serious problems. Fire has always been a part of the environment and always will be, yet I would rather use it under controlled conditions than battle it as a raging wildfire. I am sorry this is so long, but I hope this helps a bit...
-- joe lehnen (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 27, 2000.
My main problem with "controlled burns" that get out of control is that if the government's fire gets out of control, it is an "oopsie"-- if one of us let a fire get out of control like Los Alamos, we would be in the prison forever.
-- Green (email@example.com), May 29, 2000.
Sheepish, where'd you get the name "Forest Circus?" I thought I'd invented that name when I used to work there, some 16-18 years ago! It WAS a circus!
Vicki, while it is arguable that these slash burns are necessary to prevent wildfires, it is also arguable that the same results could be achieved in other, less destructive ways, e.g. chipping, "lop and scatter" making "wind rows", "yum yarding" (this involves removing much of the material for use as either chips or firewood, rather than burning it on the site)
Kathleen, I've heard the argument about fire being necessary for some species to sprout. This is true. However, the Feds don't only burn where this is necessary. Indeed, where I live, in southwest Oregon, the trees which need fire to burn are generally the same species which the Forest Service and the BLM have been trying to GET RID OF for many years, by spraying with herbicides, among other things. They are called "weed species" by the powers that be, and include Madrone, Manzanita, and many other brush speciies. They include NONE of the commercial timber species, e.g. Doublas Fir, the true firs, the native pines, or native cedars (these are the only significant timber species here)
As far as a "forest fire that burned everything from the Columbia River to the California border", I'm afraid you've been seriously misled. This simply did not happen. If you doubt me, please note that we have been harvesting "virgin" forests in Oregon which contain trees which age up to SEVERAL hundred years.
You may be thinking of the Tillamook Fire. It was quite large, and is currently under scrutiny for being logged, having reached commercial size, apparently. But there was no fire which burnt the area you refer too, namely the entire western half of the state of Oregon.
Joe, your life and limbs are safe with me! I appreciate your perspective on this.
While I agree that there are many benefits to controlled burns, I personally am certain that there are alternatives, here in the West, at least, which can accomplish the some things, in almost all situations, without so many negative impacts. I have to assume that this is also at least partly true back East, although I admit that I am not competent to make a fair evaluation, being a West Coaster.
Here also, when I used to work for the Forest Circus, we TRIED to "burn only on those days where the mixing height and transport wind speeds will mix the smoke in the atmosphere and carry it off in a direction from a populated area."
Unfortunately, this was very often in conflict with our other goal of avoiding wildfire and avoiding excess damage to the area we were planning to burn. Too hot a fire, as I'm sure you're aware, can devastate the land, rendering it highly prone to serious erosion and eliminating the beneficial duff layer. We have actually vitrified the soil during the "old days" when fires were generally done when it was exceedingly dry.
Currently, the Forest Circus tries to burn when it's fairly damp-- spring and fall--to avoid doing so much damage. Unfortunately, the relatively few "ideal" days for avoiding excess forest damage (and also excess risk of "losing" a controlled burn, which then beomes known as a wildfire) are often unavailable due to pollution potential. For this reason, fires are often started under less than ideal conditions. I suspect there are a lot more "safe" days out in Virginia than there are out here, because you have so much more humidity (in the summer, at least!)
Has anyone in your area ever brought up the benefits of chipping or other non fire alternatives?
Not to be contentious, Joe, but the fact that "fire has always been a part of the environment" does not mean that we have to deliberately encourage it. Fire is still destructive of much which we value in the forest: wildlife (I hate seeing all the little creatures experiencing such a frightening and painful death), healthy soil, clean air, etc.
Timber harvesting has certainly not "always been a part of the environment", but I don't believe that you would suggest eliminating timber harvesting simply for this reason, would you?
I appreciate all your comments. If you feel strongly about this, as I do, I suggest contacting your local politicians, and your local forestry agencies, as I have done, and will continue to do.
-- jumpoff joe (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 29, 2000.
You raised some great points in your response to my elongated e-mail! Too hot a burn can indeed sterilize the soil and destroy the duff layer. Prescribed burning is an exacting science, and yet I also feel a bit of an art. I have learned much over my 20 years as a forester and have found that the best burns do not have to be of the "rip-snorting" variety. It may be diffferent in the west, but in the east, mixing heights and transport wind (high altitude) speeds are not necessarily related to what is happening on the ground. I have seen transport winds of sufficient velocity do their job while the surface winds are also calm enough to do a safe burn. In regards to chipping material, one also has to way the economics and practicality of the idea over these large vast acreages slated for burning. It can take hours to chip the top of a large tree...how long would it take to chip 400 acres of material? You also need to consider the accessability of what you are trying to chip. Fire, under controlled conditions can release nutrients back into the soil that are currently locked-up in dead vegetative material. As far as the critters go, sure, some will perish, but in a controlled fire, do to its (hopefully) controlled intensity, many critters have the chance to get out of the way. They also will return to the site almost immediately after danger has past. We are not encouraging fire just for the sake of doing it, rather we are using it as a tool to hopefully avoid a much larger disaster in the future when wildfire does, (and believe me, given time it will), hit a given area. Again, I am NOT defending what has happened at Los Alamos or any other place where controlled burns were ill-planned. This is just sort of an explanation behind the whole idea of prescribed burning.
-- joe lehnen (email@example.com), June 01, 2000.
JOJ, I dunno, I have always called it that...since back in my old climbing daze, early 70's...that's when I spent the most time in the woods I guess. Good name, huh? I think I heard it from the old climbing crowd!! Maybe you made it up and it migrated up here!
-- sheepish (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 01, 2000.
Sheepish, it is a good name. I'd have called it the Forest "Zoo", except that "zoo" doesn't rime with "service".
Joe, thanks again for your input. I appreciate that it is an art to burn the forest correctly, without doing more harm than good. I personally dont' think that there are enough artists to do the job satisfactorily, even if we didn't have the smoke issue.
As far as the time it takes to chip trees, you must have way smaller chippers than we use out west. We have some that will chip logs over 24" in diameter.As a matter of fact, we haul huge quantities of board feet of timber, mostly lower grades, to the paper mills, where they are chipped up. I feel sure it doesn't take them hours to chip just the top of one. More likely minutes for the whole tree, although I have not actually seen the chippers used at the pulp mills. Even our smaller commercial sized chippers eat smaller material, like four inches on down, in a big hurry. But I'm not suggesting chipping large material. I'm in favor of leaving some large woody debris for forest health, and for a home for animals. Some large debris can also be yarded out to a landing or road, enabling people to cut it up for firewood, where burning it will result in a savings of fossil fuel.
I realizer that burning releases some nutrient into the soil, but as I understand it, the nitrogen is gasified, and lost to the atmosphere. In my area, nitrogen is also the nutrient which limits tree growth. Regardless of that, it SEEMS obvious to me that there has to be net loss of nutrient from burning as opposed to letting the material decompose back into the soil. Am I right about this?
As far as wildlife having time to leave during a controlled burn, I am very interested in this. When you burn, have you ever estimated how many animals, and what type, flee the area? Do you see a lot of them running for safety? Or do you think that maybe only the faster, smarter ones can figure out where to go, and that the others try to hide?
I also think that we can prevent the occurence of devastating wildfires just as well, perhaps even better, by chipping instead of burning.
I'm glad you don't burn just to burn, and you seem like a responsible kind of person, and not a pyromaniac, as some of my fellow Forest Circus employees seemed to be!
By the way, I think I mentioned already that there are companies who already are using chippers instead of fires for slash disposal and fire prevention, so I KNOW it can be done. I suspect also that we get a LOT more slash here than back east; last time I went back east I was blown away by how small the trees looked; I hadn't realized how small they were in comparison before I had lived here a while, and gotten used to the size of our trees.
-- jumpoff joe (email@example.com), June 03, 2000.