Red Mountain Flume-Chessman Reservoir Project Update

Update on the Red Mountain Flume-Chessman Reservoir project, discussed in several recent threads, including this one. Photos of logs and and article:

Chessman Reservoir lawsuit to continue as timber harvest begins

At least one of the two conservation groups suing over the Red Mountain Flume-Chessman Reservoir project plans to proceed with a lawsuit despite a federal judge saying the groups are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their case while denying a temporary halt to the project.

“We’re proceeding,” said Steve Kelly, executive director of the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council. “It doesn’t discourage me in any way because the principles in the case are sound.”

Federal Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula denied the Native Ecosystems Council and Montana Ecosystem Defense Councils a preliminary injunction, saying in part that the councils failed to show endangered species would be harmed and that the threat of wildfire to Helena’s water supply is real.

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11 Comments

  1. Many times I support the actions of environmental groups, but this!? There has to be a time and place where enough is enough. It is actions like this that give many of the groups a bad name.

    • David: You do of course realize that 65% of this public lands logging project is via clearcutting, right? And that the Forest Service had to suspend their own elk habitat security standards to allow all this clearcut logging, right? And that all that clearcut logging will dump sentiment into the reservoir, right David?

      You can view photos of the area, watch a video and read an article written by the local Helena independent newspaper (following an on-the-ground visit to the actually area) here: http://helenavigilante.com/archives/12918

      • Matt, you are insulting your own intellect here.
        Lodgepole has a definite lifespan and converts in stand-replacement events into successive even-aged stands. Clearcut, fire, bug-mort — it’s all in blocks, for crying out loud.
        Then, there is the issue of water yield, for which this basin is managed. Ever seen the Fraser results? Perhaps this basin should not be lodgepole at all, and should be encouraged to develop a more-mixed vegetative structure.
        As for Christensen, at least he has enough brains to recognize balance of harm. That’s a huge step up from his predecessor, the one that hasn’t quite left the arena.

  2. “Lodgepole has a definite lifespan and converts in stand-replacement events into successive even-aged stands. Clearcut, fire, bug-mort — it’s all in blocks, for crying out loud.”

    That’s the comic book version. Here are three more knowledgeable perspectives, for anyone interested:

    http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p017/rmrs_p017_031_035.pdf?

    http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p070/rmrs_p070_029_038.pdf

    http://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs/docs/pubs/bark-beetle/klutsch_09_mpb_lpp.pdf

  3. Oh, some of it is patchy? What about the 65 foot swatches? Plenty of understory residual opportunity there as well as sheet-flow catchment.
    MPB event result in eventual recovery? That’s what both lodgepole and beetles do, the crux issue here is the nature and timing of the recovery and the impacts on the humans that use the watershed to drink from. From that paper “Differences in tree species composition and the higher fuel loads in untreated, beetle-killed stands create the potential for more extreme fire behavior compared with harvested areas.” And humans (well, at least a few) have a desire to moderate extreme events sometimes. Maybe get some cash for moderating other outcomes and adjusting “trajectories.”
    And in the third, they say contiguous landscapes (as against the patchy nirvana of the first paper) are ripe for beetles in large diameter mature stands. You know, senescent trees, at 80 years and above.
    All this stuff is well known and doesn’t change the truth that the basin was going to have mortality and an big fire likelihood sooner rather than later, and events like the Hayman and impacts to the CSprings watershed show that inaction is not always the best option.

  4. I’ve never read one study that says a MPB epidemic “lowers” fire hazard. Quite the contrary. And we know salvage harvest does. Which I think renders Guy’s posts above moot to the debate about the purpose of the Cheesman project. However the posts are interesting regarding succession in LP. We have to get it out of our heads that MPB kills all LP. MPB in LP seems to be more of a heavy “thinning from above” or overstory removal…while in Ponderosa it’s a Seed Tree harvest leaving much less BA.

    Now, since Guy’s posts involve Colorado’s forest, I wonder how many LP stands in Colorado today are “multi-story” (hinting at past MPB-no follow up burn) VS. “even age” (hinting at past fire). Too bad the researchers couldn’t tell us how many of the stands they looked at were even age VS. multi storied and thus multi aged( as in an 80 year “gap” between mature age classes..like in some 200 year old trees mixed with 120 year old). I’ve read a lot of EIS’s for Colorado, and over and over it comes up that the stands are 100-150 years old(not exactly old growth). (In my GIS/mapping Rainman world I’d love to see the non-existent color coded map of stand ages-along with a table showing percentages in those age classes) There was a definite pulse of regen in the late 1850’s…and I can’t think of one large LP fire in Colorado in the last 100 years. I do believe they call a green LP forest “the asbestos forest.” What caused that pulse? I’m thinkin there isn’t a lot of “multi-story” today and a lot of “even age.” I’m thinkin in 20-30 years, we’re gonna find out.

    Anyway, it’s late, I’m tired, I get to work tomorrow…and Night Gallery just came on!

    • “I’ve never read one study that says a MPB epidemic “lowers” fire hazard.”

      Here’s one:

      One of the Forest Service’s own “authoritative” scientific references, Simard et al. 2011 , note that “Fire behavior Simulation results for the ‘‘very dry’’ fuel moisture scenario suggested that, in the short term, undisturbed, red, and gray stands were unlikely to torch… In the long term (2–36 years post-outbreak), torching index was reduced.” Indeed, the same authority notes that “the immediate effect of MPB outbreak was to greatly reduce the probability of active crown fire.” Id. And, Simard et al. noted “striking differences in simulated fire behavior” between undisturbed (i.e., green trees) and gray-stage sites (as in the Project area): the gray stage beetle-killed trees showed greatly lower values for crown fraction burned, head fire rate of spread, heat per unit area, and fire line intensity, Id.
      Reference: Simard, M., Romme, W.H., Griffin, J.M., Turner, M.G., 2011. Do mountain pine beetle outbreaks change the probability of active crown fire in lodgepole pine forest? Ecological Monographs, 81(1): 3-24.

      • Oh, groovy, you’re saying all when all the needles drop off and the bark, and the cones and there’s nothing but gray, the hazard drops —
        From what — a 10 to 9?
        Fine, so the “science” says we just let it fall over and rot because that’s “natural.” Terrific. You have 100 million acres for that now. Isn’t that enough for study?

  5. One thing that seems glossed over here is a desire and need to defend the “filter strip” that surrounds the lake. That would mean having clearcut and/or thinning strips around that “filter strip”. I would also think that some sort of non-commercial fuels work might be needed within the “filter strip”. Now, I’m no Hydrologist but, this seems like an issue to think about. Since I don’t know the site specifics within the watershed, all I can recommend is lodgepole thinning within mixed conifer stands, where appropriate. I do like Derek’s idea of having “temporal diversity” in lodgepole forests.

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