Federal firefighting promotes building in the wildland interface

So then, maybe it should stop?

Economist Ray Rasker spoke the obvious at University of Montana’s Conservation and Climate Change lecture series. He also talked a little politics. If there is no guarantee of the feeds throwing money to the wind to save houses along the national forest boundaries the counties might be a lot less willing to grant building permits there because the costs would fall on them.

Speaker: Rethink who pays costs of fighting fires to protect homes in woods. By Rob Chaney. Missoulian.

It would be nice to see this building reduced because of its impact on water quality, scenery, wildlife habitat. A lot of the nasty “remove or shot the deer, elk, bears, cougars, wolves” complaints come from people who live in the woods and their pooch gets got or their shrubbery eaten.

Climate Change Takes Toll on Lodgepole Pine

The most abundant of all Western pine falls at astounding rate-

Every Western pine from the Yukon to New Mexico is suffering high mortality from unusually severe attack by native insects, diseases and direct mortality from drought and heat. Lodgepole pine, which often grows in vast almost monocultural stands, is dying too.  Almost anyone who lives in the West knows this. In many places the beauty of the forest has been greatly marred for many miles.

Climate Change Takes Toll on the Lodgepole Pine. By John Collins Rudolf. New York Times.

When lodgepole pine dies, the needles first turn red for a year before they fall off.  While red, they burn with remarkable explosive force.  After they are dead, however, lodgepole and other dead conifers do not burn as fiercely as a green forest.  A common misconception is that they do, a mistake this New York Times article perpetuates. Lodgepole are shallow rooted.  When dead they are easily blown over in windstorms.  If they pile up in large “jackstrawed” heaps, these can burn very hot.  Miles of downed lodgepole also form barriers to wildlife migration.

I took this photo of red lodgepole pine near Stanley, Idaho about 5 years ago. Since then, they have almost all died and many fallen over or cut down. They didn’t burn.

Fire crews make progress on Yellowstone blaze

Progress on Antelope Creek blaze, but smoke hinders tourism-

Antelope fire now over 3000 acres. Island Park News.

The Yellowstone country is just getting too crowded to use in the summer, but every fall natural and prescribed fires are making that time of year bad too. Any opinions on this?

Natural restoration advances rapidly in the big Castle Rock burn near Ketchum/Hailey, Idaho

The 50,000 acre fire was 3 years ago-

The Idaho Mountain Express has an article detailing the regrowth in the big burn next to Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho. This is a very popular recreation area, so its restoration is noticeable to a lot of people. Similar articles could be written about several million more acres of burns in central Idaho — burns of the last decade.

The Idaho places where restoration is not going well are the millions of acres of rangelands (more properly sagebrush steppe) where cheatgrass has fueled vast fires, destroying native grasses, forbs and shrubs, creating more of itself for future fires. This year about 3/4 million acres of Idaho rangeland has burned.

Related. Utah has mildest wildfire season in a decade. By jason bergreen. The Salt Lake Tribune

More related. Rain, snow and lower temperatures help tame central Idaho wildfire. Idaho Statesman.

Summary: It was a very modest fire season in Idaho

2009 third-smallest fire season since 1970. By Todd Adams. The Challis Messenger.

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Jury finds agency, DuPont negligent in land case

BLM and DuPont held accountable for killing crops which neighbor public lands by applying Oust in southern Idaho after wildfires.

Jury finds agency, DuPont negligent in land case
Associated Press

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Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests

Will it increase support for salvage logging?

Of course it will!

Will it increase support for Tester’s Wilderness plus logging bill? Yes!

Will there actually be an increase in salvage logging? Hard to say.

Some points needs to be made. First, this beetle epidemic is not just a Montana thing. It extends from the Yukon nearly to Mexico among pine trees. Logging of green trees to get ahead of beetle infestation is hopeless. It hasn’t worked anywhere in Canada or the United States because this is an extraordinary event fueled by a series of warm winters.

Secondly you can offer the dead trees for sale, but the timber operator needs to make a profit.  They are presently trying to ramp up the salvage in Canada and the United States.  If demand for a product is stable, an increase in the supply drives down the price. The price offered for lumber or chips from dead pine is already low because of the depressed economy. A ramp up of logging will drive the price still lower.

These salvage sales might find no one who will log them. Fortunately, dead lodgepole pine, left standing, does not deteriorate nearly as fast as dead spruce or fir, so some of these might still be worthwhile 5 years from now.

Finally, these dead forests will not necessarily all burn. Dead pine burns like gasoline while it still wears its dead red needles, but after they drop, the fire danger goes down rapidly in many stands. However, when they topple over in the wind on top of each other, the fire danger goes up again.

Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests. By Jennifer McKee. Missoulian State Bureau

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Here is George Wuerthner’s interesting and detailed  essay, which I mentioned and others too in the comments.

It turns out that yesterday there was an essay in Writers on the Range about the big beetle kill in Colorado. Folks, including editorial writers, need to understand that this is not a Montana beetle kill or a Colorado beetle kill. It is a continental beetle kill.