Properly managing our public lands

Zinke is my favorite in the cabinet and this article is an excellent short discussion of his ideas and plans. So much good sense, especially about fighting wildfire. There is no way we can isolate living land from human influence. Our choice is not whether to manage our wild lands but whether to manage them well or poorly. Too often, we have abdicated management altogether, and this is wrong.

We need more - not less - timber harvest and thinning in our forests on public lands. We need more - not less - fire, but it should be managed fire and not the monster fires that destroy ecosystems.

Ryan Zinke is saying - and seems to be doing - the right things. BTW - President Obama's Secretary of Interior - Sally Jewell - did a good job. They face similar challenges of balancing wise use, with conservation and preservation.

All three of these things are important factors and they are dynamic.

Some parts of the landscape must be used intensively, at least for a time. This is likely to be locally unsustainable and that is necessary. I recently visited a phosphate mine in Utah. It is destroying the existing land forms. If done right, however, it can put back into decent form. I have visited old mining areas. They have not and cannot be restored to their "original" state, but sometimes they are better in terms of enriching the biotic communities.

Most areas should be conserved. This is wise and sustainable use. The best example of this, IMO, is sustainable forestry, where the land provides a continuous supply of timber and forest products, while protecting soils, wildlife habitat and water resources. Much of what people think of as "old growth" forest is like this. We need forests in all stages of growth and if well managed we can have them now and forever.

Some small areas should be preserved, as much as can be done with a dynamic environment. National Parks fall into this category, although even they require management.

A classic case involves wolf packs on Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. Fifty years ago, the packs were studied as the a healthy example of adaptation. Today, they are sick and getting sicker. They are victims of loving protection. What happened was the "preservation" allowed forests to mature on the island, depriving the moose of the browse they ate and the wolves of the moose they hunted. Beyond that, the wolves became inbred from their isolation. Management proposals include cutting and burning in the woods and introduction of wolves from outside the island to introduce genetic diversity. Strict preservation is destructive - and not natural - in dynamic environments, which includes all environments.

One point of clarification - Zinke and the article talk about the debate between Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. This is foundational to the American environmental/conservation movement . But we have moved beyond Pinchot and Muir. Both had some good points. Our 21st Century land ethic should be informed by both, and others like Aldo Leopold, but it must be developed always anew on the land itself.

Posted by Christine & John at October 1, 2017 10:28 AM
Comments
Comment #420324

http://helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/zinke-pledges-big-changes-at-department-of-the-interior/article_5ea792ec-7976-562e-abeb-40c5215fd1a6.html

I couldn’t read the article you linked to because I lack a subscription. I did find this article about Sec. Zinke and a few quotes.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of his plans.

While he did not provide specific details of how the central Department of the Interior management might change, Zinke said he planned to push as much authority and resources as possible to the “front lines” of park supervisors and their local staffs.

He told Glacier National Park rangers;

“If you don’t know the difference between the Potomac and the Yellowstone and the Middle Fork (of the Flathead) rivers, you shouldn’t be making decisions about them,” Zinke said. “That has come to an end. I’m going to push a lot of authority to you on the front line.”
Posted by: Weary Willie at October 1, 2017 3:12 PM
Comment #420326

“Zinke is my favorite in the cabinet…”

Really? On behalf of Trump, Zinke threatened the two Republican Senators from Alaska, Murkowski and Sullivan, over their health care votes. Whoops! Not only was it unethical- threatening the state of the Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee turned out to be a very bad idea. She promptly delayed six Trump nominees. Zinke has a history of ethical lapses going back to his days in Montana, and a sordid habit of toadying for special interests, such as the oil industry. Really ugly stuff:

http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/06/investing/oil-lobby-trump-hotel-api/index.html

Corrupt guys like Zinke get caught eventually. He dodged a bullet over misuse of government planes, thanks to the former HHS Secretary, Price, who took the fall for abusing taxpayer dollars in an even more spectacular fashion than Zinke. So don’t get too fond of Zinke. The heat may be off him for now, but it is only a matter of time before his lack of a moral compass results in his skulking away in disgrace.

Posted by: phx8 at October 1, 2017 4:26 PM
Comment #420328

“Zinke is my favorite in the cabinet…”

Really? On behalf of Trump, Zinke threatened the two Republican Senators from Alaska, Murkowski and Sullivan, over their health care votes. Whoops! Not only was it unethical- threatening the state of the Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee turned out to be a very bad idea. She promptly delayed six Trump nominees. Zinke has a history of ethical lapses going back to his days in Montana, and a sordid habit of toadying for special interests, such as the oil industry. Really ugly stuff:

http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/06/investing/oil-lobby-trump-hotel-api/index.html

Corrupt guys like Zinke get caught eventually. He dodged a bullet over misuse of government planes, thanks to the former HHS Secretary, Price, who took the fall for abusing taxpayer dollars in an even more spectacular fashion than Zinke. The heat may be off Zinke for now, but it is only a matter of time before his lack of a moral compass results in his skulking away in disgrace.

Posted by: phx8 at October 1, 2017 5:40 PM
Comment #420331

phx8,

Given the low bar set by some of Zinke’s peers, I might be liable to agree with C&J. James Mattis might be the only true competitor.

Anyway, I do not think it is useful to discuss land management policy at this time. It feels like rearranging with the furniture on the Titanic. Sure, the new interior designer might be swell, but that isn’t going to keep the ship from sinking. There are far more tremendous issues worth discussing.

Posted by: Warren Porter at October 1, 2017 7:22 PM
Comment #420333

WP,
“Given the low bar set by some of Zinke’s peers, I might be liable to agree with C&J. James Mattis might be the only true competitor.”

You have a point. Mattis is arguably the only competent one in the cabinet. He is not corrupt, and his background and experience make him qualified for his job. Chief of Staff Kelly and McMasters are the other two fitting that category. That doesn’t mean I agree with their politics- just that I respect their basic ability to do their freakin’ jobs without selling out the country to business interests. They are running the country at this point. It amounts to a military coup- three generals running the things that matter most.

And it is true, Zilke’s shenanigans are relatively small potatoes compared to North Korea. I don’t know if anyone at the White House knows what they are doing. I just hope they don’t start a war.

Puerto Rico is one of the worst disasters in American history. Trump chose the wrong time to disappear on a four-day golfing vacation, and then said this: “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” When asked for a clarification about who ‘they’ are, no one in the administration would touch that racist sentence with a ten-foot pole. He went golfing this weekend too, and dedicated the tournament trophy to Puerto Rico (face palm).

The three enormous hurricanes presented the Trump administration with its first external setbacks. The response to Harvey in Houston went well. We will just pretend all those flooded superfund pollution sites and spilled benzene and so on don’t exist. Irma in Florida also went reasonably well, considering every major city in that state flooded as a result of a monstrously huge hurricane. But poor Puerto Rico took a direct hit from a Cat 4… And while much of the federal government did a good job again, the Trump administration and the Republican Congress messed up big time.

Posted by: phx8 at October 1, 2017 9:37 PM
Comment #420341

Phx8

I like the ideas he expressed about land management. If he has lapses in other areas, I don’t care unless it rises to the level of actual ethical violations, which would become the business of the proper authorities. That is something beyond my pay grade.

Warren

Land management is important. There are lots of other things that seem more urgent, but many of them will end up being ephemeral. We pay the price for ignoring the important and letting them become urgent.

Large areas of our western forests are dead and dying. There are many factor involved, but the big one is poor land management. It has cost us literally billions of dollar and lots of harm to our environment.

A similar and related situation applies to wild fires. Each year they get worse BECAUSE of the way we manage the urgent and not the important. Fire is not avoidable, but we can more often choose the place and time. Instead, we spend most of our time and money fighting fires that good management would have controlled.

In any case, we can do more than one thing at time as a county.

Posted by: Christine & John at October 1, 2017 10:55 PM
Comment #420346

“There are many factor involved, but the big one is poor land management.”

Global Warming is a big factor. Warmer, longer summers mean dryer forests. Warmer winters allow insects like the western bark beetle to survive. They kill a lot of trees and weaken innumerable others. In Oregon, the fires were a big disaster this summer. It did not make the news because of the hurricanes, but it was one of the worst fire seasons on record. Portland suffered day after day of hazy skies overcast with smoke. You could literally smell and see the smoke drifting by from fires 60 miles away. On one day the air quality was as bad as Peking on its worst day. The only reason we did not set the all time record for the highest temperature on record is that the skies were so overcast with smoke. Many cities, including San Francisco, did set that record for highest temperature on record.

Posted by: phx8 at October 2, 2017 10:13 AM
Comment #420350

Would insect eradication be considered a proper tactic used for forestry management? phx8 brings up insect infestation killing and weakening trees. This deadwood is fuel for fires. Would killing insects reduce the chance of forest fires?


Posted by: Weary Willie at October 2, 2017 11:53 AM
Comment #420352

“Would insect eradication be considered a proper tactic used for forestry management?”

Yes. Unfortunately, bark beetles live under the bark of trees, so insecticides do not really work. As far as I know, they have no natural enemies. About the only solution is to remove the diseased tree. Ordinarily, healthy trees will resist them with sap, but if there are enough beetles even healthy trees succumb. The current infestation extends from New Mexico to B.C.

Posted by: phx8 at October 2, 2017 4:21 PM
Comment #420353

“When asked for a clarification about who ‘they’ are, no one in the administration would touch that racist sentence with a ten-foot pole.”

phx8. Are you writing that you believe those from Puerto Rico are of a different “race” than President Trump?

I served with many Puerto Rican’s in the military. I noticed no racial difference between them and me. Please explain.

I believe the president was referring to those in charge in Puerto Rico, whatever race they happened to be.

Posted by: Royal Flush at October 2, 2017 4:23 PM
Comment #420354

phx8

Global warming is a key issue. But it is not the primary thing that is killing those trees today, nor what is burning those forests. Absent any warming at all, we would have similar problems.

The permutation is that we do not have such urgent problems int the piney woods of the SE, which have similar fire regimes in nature. This is because we thin and burn and have done for generations. We get fires and some are bad, but they pass through the forests w/o the monster destruction. We have the pine beetles. They kill patches of trees. But because we thin and burn, we don’t get the Waldsterben we observe in the West.

I am aware of the fires in Oregon. Some people I know deployed to fight them. One of these guys was the same person who helped me burn my longleaf in February. We know what to do.

Global warming will make good land management even more urgent, and we may need to be proactive in moving species.

Ponderosa pine, for example, are adapted to a variety of conditions, but there are different “races”. The varieties of ponderosa pine that grow west of the Cascades are genetically distinct from those of the drier and warmer parts of the Rockies. Few people would be able to tell them apart, but if the climate in the region becomes hotter and drier, bringing this variety across the mountains could be an adaption.

BTW - it is too facile to blame warming. There are significant areas of western Oregon now occupied to ponderosa pine that were formerly the domain of Douglas fir. Some have noticed this and blamed warming. In fact, this situation originated in the 1950s, with a root rot that affected firs but not so much pines.

One theory is that the firs lingered too long on the sites. They established themselves around 300-400 years ago, just after another warm and dry period that had lots of fires. The fires set back the root rot too, but it did not die out.

Posted by: Christine & John at October 2, 2017 4:31 PM
Comment #420355

Re bark beetles - they have lots of natural enemies. Birds eat them, for example. But once they are in the trees, it is hard to get at them.

The way to control beetles is proper management. Thin trees and burn around them, as I mentioned above. This is how we control the beetles. Thinning gives each tree more water and nutrients and the spacing makes it harder for the beetles to move from tree to tree. Over thick forest are a beetle dream.

Posted by: Christine & John at October 2, 2017 4:37 PM
Comment #420357

It’s complicated problem and the most important problems vary by region. I’m familiar with Oregon. Most of the state was clear cut by the 1930’s. Only 10% of the old growth forests remain, and there is a big difference between those 80 year old trees and the trees that are hundreds of years old. The old ones are huge. Anyway, in the 1930’s Oregon experienced some of the largest wildfires in American history, the Tillamook Burn. About 1/3 of the state burned in the 1930’s. (I believe the larges wildfire was in Michigan in 1871. Loggers left piles of slashed timber. Bad idea. Ancestors of mine fled that Michigan fire and went west on covered wagons to seek a new life).

As a result of the Tillamook Burn, logging practices were reformed in Oregon. A policy of forest fire suppression was followed, but this created its own problems. Natural wild fires play a role in regenerating forests. Over the past few decades, controlled burns have been allowed as much as possible.

However, nothing can change the fact that most of the old growth forests are gone. Visitors to Oregon are amazed to see so many big trees, but they do not realize most of those trees are a mere 80 years old…

Posted by: phx8 at October 2, 2017 5:13 PM
Comment #420360

Phx8

That was the great Pesitgo Fire, Wisconsin & Michigan.

Re old growth - trees that are 80 years old may be old growth. Trees live a long time, but they do not live forever. Douglas fir regenerate only in sunlight. That means that the vast Douglas fir forests grew as a result of some big disaster. Since they were around 300 years old when the settlers showed up to cut them down, that mean that they were destroyed around 1500.

These systems are dynamic.

Posted by: Christine & John at October 2, 2017 7:52 PM
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