Logging no panacea for pine beetle outbreaks

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Can we log our way to forest health?

Science sometimes missing from forest management policies

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While politicians and policy makers continue to conflate a number of complex forest health and wildfire issues, a new study suggests there’s little evidence supporting the idea that logging helps to control or contain the spread of tree-killing pine beetles.

Nobody disputes the need to clear trees, brush and other fuels from around homes in fire-prone forest areas, but some lawmakers who should know better have been pushing for more logging under the guise of restoring forest health and as an antidote to insect infestations.

The idea that speedy approval of logging projects could help restore forest health was also used as a basis for short-cutting environmental reviews for logging projects, possibly resulting in negative long-term environmental impacts in forests.

But forest researchers in California and Montana said there isn’t much monitoring to assess the effectiveness of logging, and that failures often aren’t reported, probably because they don’t fit the popular narrative. Continue reading

Colorado: As pine beetle epidemic passes, politicians still pushing for more logging

Budget woes still hindering forest restoration efforts

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Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs (standing) speaks with Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, at a recent meeting in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Colorado high country may be buried in snow right now, but lawmakers and fire experts are already brainstorming about the upcoming wildfire season.

As part of that process, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) met with local officials in Summit County recently to get feedback on recent successes and remaining challenges in forest management and wildfire mitigation policies and actions.

“It’s not a question of if we’re going to have more megafires, but when,” Udall said, without ever mentioning global warming as a key factor in the wildfire equation. Continue reading

In the absence of fire, intensive mechanical treatments needed to keep ponderosa pine forests healthy

Before: Plenty of healthy grasses, forbs and shrubs, along with young lodgepole pines two to three feet tall.

Plenty of healthy grasses, forbs and shrubs, along with young lodgepole pines two to three feet tall in this unlogged patch of beetle-killed pines.

Shrub removal also key to moderating fire behavior

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Forest Service scientists say they’ve quantified the relationship between the density of ponderosa pine stands and disease.

The study shows that — no surprise — increased density, mainly due to the agency’s long-term fire suppression policies, makes the trees more susceptible to bark beetles and diseases. Competition for soil moisture, nutrients, and sunlight  in dense stands weakens trees and therefore also contributes to fuel buildup. Continue reading

Climate: Logging releases carbon locked deep in forest soil

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A logging road along the Frisco Peninsula, Summit County, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

New study helps quantify logging as part of the forest carbon cycle

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Scientists and resource managers have long been trying to solve the carbon-balance equation from using wood for energy, but they may have to add a new factor to their calculations.

A research team led by scientists with Dartmouth College found that logging releases large amounts of carbon from the soil. The processes by which that happens aren’t completely understood, but the findings suggest that calls for an increased reliance on forest biomass should be re-evaluated.

Forest carbon analyses are incomplete unless they include deep soil, which stores more than 50 percent of the carbon in forest soils, said Dartmouth Professor Andrew Friedland, one of the co-authors of the paper recently published in the journal Global Change Biology. Continue reading

Colorado: USFS permits ‘Mad Max’ camp site at Officer’s Gulch

Logging company leaves numerous spills, damaged vegetation

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Fuel containers used by a logging crew at Officers Gulch have been leaking. So far, the cleanup has consisted of dumping sawdust on top of the spill. Bob Berwyn photo.

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Fuel leakage from a generator at Officers Gulch.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forest Service officials with the Dillon Ranger District said they will investigate several small oil spills at a long-term logging camp at the abandoned campground at Officers Gulch.

The agency authorized the logging crew’s stay at the site, where several people lived in campers most of the winter and stored equipment and fuel. In one area, diesel fuel leakage from an old generator spilled off the pavement and into the forest and other spills of unknown materials are visible in the camping area.

In other places, numerous limbs were slashed off young lodgepole pines, presumably to give large trucks room to maneuver in and out. In other spots, snowplows used to clear access to the site in the winter uprooted willow bushes and broke down other trees. Continue reading

Environment: Can forest health be legislated?

Proposed Senate bill would require widespread national forest logging

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Healthy undergrowth and lodgepole regeneration in an unlogged stand of beetle-killed lodgepole pines near Frisco, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Salvage logging in a stand of beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Frisco, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Salvage logging in a stand of beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Frisco, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

*This story has been corrected to include Sen. Michael Bennet as the primary author of the proposed bill. That information was left out of the previous version due to an editing error.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Federal land managers could get wider authority for more backcountry logging under a new bill proposed in the U.S. Senate by Michael Bennet (D-CO), along with co-sponsors Mark Udall (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Max Baucus (D-MT).

The National Forest Insect and Disease Treatment Act is being pitched as a way to   help Forest Service treat insect and disease epidemics and promote overall forest health. As drafted, it directs the agency to treat threatened watersheds while prioritizing preservation of old-growth and large trees when possible. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service offers up more logging subsidies

Two new 10-year stewardship contracts will help address the need for forest fuel reduction treatments. Bob Berwyn photo.

Stewardship contracts to help sustain forest products and energy businesses

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The U.S. Forest Service will spend millions to prop up the wood product industry in Colorado and to subsidize more widespread logging projects in the name of forest health, restoration and renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week announced two 10-year Forest Service stewardship contracts worth a total of $13.4 million. The two contracts identify projects that will treat a minimum of 20,000 acres in two national forests, providing woody biomass for potential energy production.

“Today’s announcement supports our commitment to accelerate restoration of our national forests and to generate and sustain jobs in rural America,” said USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman. “Not only will these contracts help us alleviate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle infestation and reduce the threats of catastrophic wildfire, but they also will offer a supply of woody biomass that will be used to produce low-cost heat and a clean, renewable source of electricity.”  Continue reading

Colorado: Can we log our way to forest health?

Still lots of dead trees around the Colorado high country.

Forest health task force session wants to answer that question

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — just a week after Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support more logging, the Summit County Forest Health Task Force will hold a roundtable to discuss barriers to forest health.

The meeting, which includes lunch, is from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Frisco Community Building, 110 Third Avenue South, Frisco (one block south of Main Street). Participants include: Lyle laverty, Cary Green, Matt Sugar, Bruce Ward, Howard Hallman, Brad Piehl and Sandy Briggs. Please RSVP by calling or emailing Howard Hallman at (719) 491-1807 or future1946@yahoo.com.

Udall last week urged Vilsack to support proactive forest management by utilizing the timber industry to reduce fuel loads in wildfire-prone areas and improve community safety throughout the West. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.) signed onto Udall’s letter. Continue reading

Breckenridge firefighters quell Barton Road blaze

A piece of logging machinery caught fire near Breckenridge, but firefighters were able to extinguish the flames before they spread to nearby forest lands. Photo courtesy Red, White & Blue Fire District.

Logging equipment destroyed in fire

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Observant neighbors and a quick response by local firefighters Wednesday helped prevent a potential wildfire near Breckenridge.

According to the Red, White & Blue Fire District, firefighters were called to a possible wildland fire in the area just above Barton Road and Airport Road in Breckenridge.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they found a piece of heavy equipment used for logging fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters made a quick attack to knock down the fire preventing it from spreading into nearby trees.

A total of seven firefighters worked to extinguish the fire.

The cause of the fire was determined to be a mechanical failure in the engine compartment.  The machine was a total loss and valued at $150,000.

“The quick action of the community seeing smoke and calling 911 helped prevent this fire from spreading,” said deputy chief Jay Nelson. “Our firefighters were able to begin containing and extinguishing this fire before it could spread to the nearby trees and thick pine duff” he said.

Colorado just experienced its worst fire season ever, with deadly blazes along the Front Range destroying several hundred homes. Nationally, wildfires have burned across almost 9 million acres, the most since 2006.

 

Colorado: Hazard tree removal along major highways

Roadside logging is under way in the Colorado high country, as the Forest Service partners with CDOT to remove hazard trees along key highways.

Logging to continue into autumn

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Travelers in the Colorado high country may encounter a few delays and lane closures as the Forest Service and CDOT partner to clear beetle-killed trees from along major highways.

“Ensuring these major transportation corridors are clear of dead trees is certainly critical to keeping people safe and traffic flowing,” said Cal Wettstein, Rocky Mountain region incident commander for the Forest Service.

Work has already started along I-70 in Summit County and motorists can expect to see more tree removal along US Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass and State Hwy. 125. The dead trees pose a threat to public safety as they weaken over time and may fall without warning along these popular transportation routes. Continue reading

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