Black Hills Timber Growth and Yield Draft General Technical Report- Including Stakeholders/Tribes/Public in Peer Review

Thanks to the Norbeck Society for posting a link to this recent draft report on the Black Hills as part of the comments on Steve’s post yesterday.

One of the interesting things about this paper is the peer review process- internal, external, and stakeholders and the public- the review period is from 3/15 to 4/15. I think it’s a great idea to have a variety of perspectives. Some of the most rigorous scientific reviews I’ve seen are when people with different opinions, interests, and experiences on the ground review a paper.

A key point from page 4.

These findings are dependent on estimates of standing live volume, tree growth rates, and especially mortality rates disclosed by Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data. Future climate, weather, mountain pine beetle activity, and wildfire are unknown and potential forest dynamics and growth can only be inferred from past conditions.

These are almost the exact words I used in another thread- perhaps these scientists’ inclination is that the future may not be like the past, but it’s the best data we have. Perhaps that’s a disciplinary perspective, or the effect of watching trees grow and views about the future change over the latst 40 years or so. The reason I’m pointing this out is that scientists from different disciplines or inclination might have chosen to try to predict future impacts of insects, fire, climate and so on, and then claimed that those projections/guesses/assumptions were the “best science.” Since this is an important topic to a wide array of stakeholders, in my experience, concerns about the future might be better dealt with through some group scenario discussion/planning exercise.

The Forest Service in the Stimulus Bill

I believe it was Bill Timko who found these references to the Forest Service in the Stimulus Bill. So thanks to him for that! It can be found on the NAFSR (National Association of Forest Service Retirees) website here.

Side note: NAFSR started a Twitter feed a while back that is full of interesting information. Here’s a link.

RELATED AGENCIES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
FOREST SERVICE
FOREST AND RANGELAND RESEARCH
For an additional amount for ‘‘Forest and Rangeland Research’’, $3,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including for the reestablishment of abandoned or failed experiments associated with employee restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak: Provided, That amounts provided under this heading in this Act shall be allocated at the discretion of the Chief of the Forest Service: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an
emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

NATIONAL FOREST SYSTEM
For an additional amount for ‘‘National Forest System’’, $34,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including for cleaning and disinfecting of public recreation amenities and for personal protective equipment and baseline health testing for first responders: Provided, That amounts provided under this heading in this Act shall be allocated at the discretion of the Chief of the Forest Service: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND MAINTENANCE
For an additional amount for ‘‘Capital Improvement and Maintenance’’, $26,800,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including for janitorial services: Provided, That amounts provided under this heading in this Act shall be allocated at the discretion of the Chief of the
Forest Service: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT
For an additional amount for ‘‘Wildland Fire Management’’, $7,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2021, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, including for personal protective equipment and baseline health testing for first responders: Provided, That amounts provided under this heading in this Act
shall be allocated at the discretion of the Chief of the Forest Service: Provided further, That such amount is designated by the Congress as being for an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

USFS plans ‘very unusual’ staff shuffle – Alaska to S.D.

From Greenwire:

Agency plans ‘very unusual’ staff shuffle

Forest Service employees who expected to work on one of the biggest recent timber projects in Alaska have been told to pack for South Dakota instead, once travel restrictions tied to the coronavirus ease.

About a dozen employees in the Tongass National Forest — including foresters, engineers and wildlife biologists — have been told they’ll be transferred temporarily to a forest management project in the Black Hills National Forest, said Ken Dinsmore, president of Local 251 of the National Federation of Federal Employees, representing Tongass employees.

While employees understand they can be transferred to other areas at the discretion of the Forest Service — as with other federal agencies — the move is unusual, Dinsmore said. It came suddenly, and workers were told clearly that they don’t have the option to decline.

“Management has the right to assign work. That can include work from Fairbanks to Florida,” Dinsmore said. “This is very unusual. It’s the first time I’ve seen employees told to go outside the region to do their daily work.”

Employees were told to prepare to stay in South Dakota until August, he said.

The sudden announcement seems to coincide with the holdup of the Prince of Wales landscape level analysis project in the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, the biggest national forest in the nation. That project, which also includes stream restoration and improvements to recreation areas, involves up to 125,529 acres of potential timber harvest, according to the Forest Service.

 

<<more….>>

Extra Time on Your Hands? Get “Together” and Start (or Find) a Forest Friends’ Group!

While we’re discussing the details of plan revisions or projects of the contentious persuasion.. it’s sometimes easy to forget that most things forests do are not all that controversial. The things that are lifting our spirits right now, for example, are recreating in the Forests. The current Covid situation has brought heightened attention and appreciation to our outdoor opportunities. And while some Parks are closed, National Forests, for the activities that most of us engage in, are not.

This could be the time to assess whether your Forest has a friends’ group, and whether you have time and skill to step up and develop one. I’ve lifted the below paragraphs from an essay I wrote for the book “193 Million Acres” edited by Steve Wilent.

Everyone needs good friends, and when it comes to recreation, friends are perhaps the Forest Service’s greatest need. The agency already has lots of friends. At the national scale, the National Forest Foundation was chartered by Congress in 1993 to “bring people together to restore and enhance our National Forests and Grasslands.”

Numerous local groups focus on their specific national forest or ranger district. In Colorado, the Friends of Dillon Ranger District (fdrd.org) is one example: “Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD) leverages the power of volunteers to make sure that your national forest lands,that are enjoyed by millions of people each year, are not negatively impacted by their popularity. By volunteering with FDRD, or supporting us by becoming a member or making a financial contribution, you benefit your national forest that makes Summit County a world-class destination.”

In California, the mission of the Stewards of the Sierra National Forest (sotsnf.org) is “to unite the many people who enjoy the diverse recreation activities available in the Sierra National Forest, promoting responsible recreation and use of forest resources, through conservation and education, and ensuring public access to the forest in the present and for future generations.” In Illinois, the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest (shawneefriends.org) is a “nonprofit organization that supports the Shawnee National Forest by promoting land stewardship, environmental education, and responsible outdoor recreation.”

Friends groups can accept donations for supporting a forest or district—donations the agency cannot accept. I am going hiking tomorrow on a national forest. After I use about $30 worth of gas to get to a trailhead, I think it’s fair to donate $10 to the district Friends group. I’d like to do so via a collection box at the trailhead or perhaps online. But with no Friends, the $10 sits in my pocket despite my best intentions.

While considering whether to incorporate The Smokey Wire as a 501c3, I discovered that it’s really not all that difficult to do (though we ultimately decided again not to). I’m sure the folks noted above and others can be called on for advice. And retirees, this could be a special way for you to give back. Many (most) of you are great at organizing and getting things done, and this enforced time of online work might be an opportunity.

In the essay, I suggested that the Outdoor Recreation Industry fund a kind of “Friends’ group” learning network, and a half-time volunteer coordinator on each Forest. But the next six months to a year might end up being a hard time for them. And the Public Lands Alliance has a resource library and partnership best practices, so that could help. We’ve often developed friendships, and just plain better relationships, working with people in collaborative groups, even on something as controversial as a plan revision or a roadless rule. Reaching agreements on where to spend money, or how to raise it, seems like a much more fertile area for cooperation and mutual appreciation. Anyone with experiences of successes or failures, please write in and tell us your story.

Science Friday on Saturday: Pandemic Science, Dan Sarewitz, Federalism and the “Politicization of Models”

From the Science article linked at the end of this post.

In this post, we’ll juxtapose two articles about the science of coronavirus, one from Dan Sarewitz, who is a scientist who studies the interface between science, technology, and policy, and one a journalist at the WaPo. Plus we’ll also link to an essay by a law professor about Federalism and pandemic responses, and finally go to an article in the journal Science about pandemic modeling. Apologies for the length of this post, but I’ve tried to point you to some interesting takes on the same issue and also relate it to science and our standard TWS policy disputes.

Here are excerpts from Dan’s essay (worth reading in its entirety):

The facts, that is, are being made authoritative not through scientists telling us what to believe about an invisible virus, but by occurrences in the real world, visible for all to see. If a researcher claims that a certain chemical in the environment, such as the glyphosate in Roundup, will cause a certain number of increased cancer deaths per year or that a particular economic policy will lead to a certain number of new jobs, in most cases no one will ever be able to confirm that prediction. Even if the mechanism by which the chemical causes some variety of cancer is clear in lab rats, it is likely to have many plausible causes in humans. Even if the new jobs do appear, the cause might be trade decisions made by other countries, or the expansion of new industries. In the years that might be necessary to test such claims (though usually they cannot be tested), other researchers may come up with entirely new explanations. No wonder scientific and political debates about such matters never seem to end. But for COVID-19, the basic scientific inferences quickly play out—through changing incidence of the disease and its consequences—in ways that allow both scientists and the public to assess the current level of scientific understanding and the facts on the ground.

..

For many problems at the intersection of science and policy, scientists use mathematical models to make inferences about the future, for time periods ranging from decades to centuries or more: How can new energy technologies best be deployed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? How will nuclear waste behave in a geological repository over coming millennia? How much will economic productivity increase if more investments are made in research? But such questions always involve enormous uncertainties, and the models used to try to answer them are laden with assumptions about more basic questions that are themselves unanswerable: How will the price of solar panels change in the coming decades? How many centuries will it take for groundwater to corrode the nuclear waste storage vessels? How efficiently do universities create economically valuable knowledge? Different assumptions about these sorts of questions allow models to fuzz the boundary between science and politics by providing competing views of the future, in support of competing political agendas.

While epidemiological models used for predicting the future of COVID-19 are also assumption-laden and highly uncertain, they can be constantly tested and refined based on data that is emerging on a daily basis, to accomplish what everyone agrees must be done. For the most part models are being used to help put boundaries around the range of plausible futures that we face, and we can see different versions of these futures unfold as different countries implement different policies at different speeds. The models are valuable because they allow us to test our assumptions about both the behavior of the virus and the impacts of different policy approaches, in real time. They are not crystal balls deployed to make the case for one preferred future or another, but navigation charts that help us narrow the plausible pathways to the future that we all hope for.

..

But when it comes to fighting COVID itself, rather than fixing the economy, the combination of shared values and clear chains of causation makes it tough to import second-order political agendas into debates about what actions to take—despite the ongoing and acknowledged uncertainties. Politicians as ideologically distinct as New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, and Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine, a conservative Republican, are implementing essentially equivalent strategies for addressing the pandemic. While President Donald Trump is at the moment threatening to loosen up social distancing rules, his spasmodic approach to pandemic policies isn’t turning out to be significantly different from that of many other national political leaders. For this crisis, the things that unite us are outranking those that divide us; pandering and opportunism, while never absent from politics, are being brought to heel by the pincer combination of shared values and facts on the ground.

Now, let’s take a brief aside to Federalism and the coronavirus response from Dan Farber posted on Legal Planet (also worth reading in its entirety, the Constitution is only one part of the discussion):

These constitutional rules reinforce the statutory and practical reasons why states have been doing so much of the heavy lifting during this viral outbreak. The federal government could do a lot more than it has so far, but its powers are not unbounded. Don’t get me wrong, the role of the federal government in addressing the pandemic is vitally important. The Feds have resources and funding the states can’t match. But the way our system of government is designed, states and cities are inevitably going to be on the front lines.

Finally, let’s check back with the WaPo.. It’w worth reading the whole thing thinking about “what does the author mean by “politicization”? What evidence does the author use to support that claim?

This is why epidemiology exists. Its practitioners use math and scientific principles to understand disease, project its consequences, and figure out ways to survive and overcome it. Their models are not meant to be crystal balls predicting exact numbers or dates. They forecast how diseases will spread under different conditions. And their models allow policymakers to foresee challenges, understand trend lines and make the best decisions for the public good.

But one factor many modelers failed to predict was how politicized their work would become in the era of President Trump, and how that in turn could affect their models.

I don’t find the WaPo’s evidence more convincing that “what do do” has “become politicized” than Sarewitz’s. Some people disagree about models (including modelers, I’m sure) and President Trump issues statements that don’t make sense (same old, same old). I guess having one’s models “politicized” is bad, but models being used in policy is necessary. Which goes back to our old forest discussion about what is the role of elected political leaders (legitimate?) or is “politics” really bad when making decisions? What is the bad part- values of elected officials or only those you happen to disagree with? Or is the bad part of politics only when the decision is solely based on tribal loyalties (party politics) or light or dark money, or ???

If you want to dive into the detail of some of the models without going too far into the weeds, this Science article “Mathematics of life and death: How disease models shape national shutdowns and other pandemic policies” seems to cover it.

Here’s a quote about models from that piece:

Policymakers have relied too heavily on COVID-19 models, says Devi Sridhar, a global health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “I’m not really sure whether the theoretical models will play out in real life.” And it’s dangerous for politicians to trust models that claim to show how a little-studied virus can be kept in check, says Harvard University epidemiologist William Hanage. “It’s like, you’ve decided you’ve got to ride a tiger,” he says, “except you don’t know where the tiger is, how big it is, or how many tigers there actually are.”

Models are at their most useful when they identify something that is not obvious, Kucharski says. One valuable function, he says, was to flag that temperature screening at airports will miss most coronavirus-infected people.

There’s also a lot that models don’t capture. They cannot anticipate, say, the development of a faster, easier test to identify and isolate infected people or an effective antiviral that reduces the need for hospital beds. “That’s the nature of modeling: We put in what we know,” says Ira Longini, a modeler at the University of Florida. Nor do most models factor in the anguish of social distancing, or whether the public obeys orders to stay home. Recent data from Hong Kong and Singapore suggest extreme social distancing is hard to keep up, says Gabriel Leung, a modeler at the University of Hong Kong. Both cities are seeing an uptick in cases that he thinks stem at least in part from “response fatigue.” “We were the poster children because we started early. And we went quite heavy,” Leung says. Now, “It’s 2 months already, and people are really getting very tired.” He thinks both cities may be on the brink of a “major sustained local outbreak”.

NFS Litigation Weekly March 27, 2020

The Forest Service summaries are here:  Litigation Weekly March 27_2020_For Email

This week there are no documents included with the summaries.  Where I’ve got something I’ve added a link.

COURT DECISIONS

The district court held that the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management violated NEPA in conjunction with the authorization of oil and gas leases and fracking on the Wayne National Forest.  (The CBD announcement link above includes a link to the opinion.  For an alternative view that uses this as an example of a need for NEPA reform, see this.)

The district court denied plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of the court’s decision to lift the injunction against the Miller West Fisher Project on the Kootenai National Forest because the project has been halted while the access management direction in the forest plan is being reconsidered, as discussed here in conjunction with the Pilgrim II Project.

The district court dismissed this case concerning the Rocky Mountain Regional Forester’s authorization permitting the use of chainsaws to clear trails in designated wilderness on the San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests because the Forest Service formally withdrew the authorization.  (We previously discussed this issue here and here.)

The circuit court upheld the use of a HFRA categorical exclusion for the Smith Shields Forest Health Project on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and the “Clean-up Amendment” to the Gallatin Forest Plan as it related to identification of old growth forest and elk hiding cover.

The district court found violations of NEPA, NFMA and ANILCA for the Prince of Wales Landscape Level Analysis Project and the Twin Mountain Timber Sale on the Tongass National Forest as discussed here.  (Earlier discussion of the invalidated “condition-based” management is found here.)

  • WildEarth Guardians v. Weber (D. Mont.)

The district court denied a motion to dismiss the claims against the Flathead revised forest plan related to areas designated as suitable for snowmobile use.

  • Thiessen v. Irwin (D. N.M.)

The district court dismissed this case because the plaintiffs incorrectly served the complaint against the Forest Service for cancelling a grazing permit.

  • Wilderness Watch v. Perdue (9th Cir.)

The circuit court affirmed the decision that there were NEPA and Wilderness Act violations from allowing helicopter operations to collect wolf data on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, but remanded to the district court to modify the injunction regarding use of the data.  (This was posted earlier here and the district court decision was discussed here.)

  • Native Ecosystem Council v. Marten (D. Mont.)

The district court held that the Custer-Gallatin National Forest violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to complete a biological assessment for the wolverine and violated the National Forest Management Act because its calculation of elk hiding cover violated the forest plan for North-Hebgen Multiple Resource Project.

UPDATE

  • Devil’s Garden Preservation Group v. U.S. Forest Service (E.D. Cal.)

The district court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to compel the Forest Service to provide documents through discovery on this case concerning the gathering of wild horses on the Modoc National Forest.

NEW CASE

The complaint (linked to above) alleges that Idaho Panhandle National Forest and U.  S. Customs and Border Protection violated the forest plan and NEPA when approving the construction and maintenance of a new road and removing seasonal restrictions on five other roads near the Canadian border.  (More in this article.)

NOTICES OF INTENT

The Center for Biological Diversity claims the Forest Service violated The Endangered Species Act by not following requirements in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinions for 20 grazing allotments in the Coconino, Prescott, and Tonto national forest, and failing to reinitiate consultation on many species affected in riparian areas.  (This article includes pictures from the plaintiff’s monitoring.)

  • Custer-Gallatin bridge and trail

Paul and Cathy Donohoe of Nye Montana claim the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act regarding the effects on grizzly bears of construction of a bridge over the West Fork of the Stillwater River and the creation of a connector trail between the West Fork of the Stillwater Trailhead and the Castle Creek Trailhead Project.

OTHER AGENCIES

  • Voyageur Outward Bound School v. United States (D. D.C.)

To resolve several consolidated cases involving the proposed Twin Metals Mine on the Superior National Forest, the district court upheld BLM’s reinstatement of 2004 leases.  (This proposal has been discussed here and here. According to this article, which summarizes the complicated history, an appeal is planned.)

The circuit court reversed a decision by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.  (Another summary is here.)

BLOGGER’S BONUS

The US Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Bureau of Reclamation produced a draft plan for hydrosystems operations in the Columbia River basin.  Once again it proposes to leave the Snake River dams in place.  Consultation will be required with the National Marine Fisheries Service on several listed salmon runs.  Courts have thrown out five similar plans since 2001 that were approved by NMFS.  I was involved in at least one of these because the Forest Service provides much of the spawning habitat, and has a responsibility to help mitigate the effects of these dams as long as they are in place.  (Here’s a second perspective.)

 

How Are Forests and Regions Responding to Coronavirus? Region 2 Possible Trailhead Closures

Will closing trailheads help?

The Denver Post had an interesting story today about the closures in Region 2 of the Forest Service.

What other public land entities in Colorado are doing:
State parks are not closed to hiking and boat ramps, the National Parks appear to be trying to figure it out community by community. Here’s a site that talks about the National Parks and Monuments in Colorado. Here’s an article about the more “destination” Parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a day trip from Denver. The community of Estes Park asked Secretary Bernhardt to close it. BLM is apparently implementing different approaches by State Office. For example, here is the Colorado State Office’s COVID page.

What Region 2 of the Forest Service is doing: note that Region 2 includes Kansas, Nebraska and parts of South Dakota and Wyoming as well as Colorado, so they’re not strictly comparable.

“Rocky Mountain Region officials are temporarily discouraging continued recreational use on the national forests and grasslands,” the U.S. Forest Service release reads. “While trails and roads may be open for use, facilities like visitor centers, entrance kiosks, restrooms and more will be closed. Currently, the guidance temporarily allows for the limited local day use of trails and rivers. The guidance is based on a risk assessment conducted by Forest Service officials to determine significant risks that would be difficult to mitigate given the demonstrated risk of COVID-19 exposure in large, concentrated gatherings of people.”

Asked how trails could remain open when trailheads are closed, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Lawrence Lujan sought to clarify the point.

“It varies across the landscape, but generally, if the trailhead is closed, the access to the trail is limited,” Lujan said. “Sometimes a trail has multiple arteries and can be accessed from various points.”
Decisions are being made at the ground level for Colorado’s 11 national forests, which typically have three to six districts each. Lujan recommended users consult individual forests and districts online to find out what is open or closed.

“Each individual forest will report on their units’ recreational status,” Lujan said. “Know before you go. Check local public health guidance and orders, and your local district, before heading out. Take the necessary actions to do your part to prevent or stop the spread of the virus.

In this CPR article, there were a few clarifications:

While the Forest Service is recommending trailheads also close, local forest offices can choose to keep theirs open if they deem it safe.

The Forest Service is also discouraging hunting, fishing and trail use.

Based on a brief survey of Forest websites, it doesn’t seem all that easy to figure out what is closed. Maybe others know more? And based on some trailheads that get crowded, closing seems to lead to more people parking along the road nearby (as do fishers), rather than people going home.

Do other Forests/Regions have different policies?

“Locals only” coronavirus closures of Colorado federal land

What does your Forest’s distance traveled look like?

If you look at the Forest Service NVUM numbers (granted that there are issues with these numbers, but perhaps they are the best available if we want to understand Forest Service recreation) we see that we can tell how far away visitors come from to visit National Forests. I did this extract for the Bitterroot National Forest in Region 1 (it’s easy to do for your own forest by following the screens and generating your own report).

I think the Coronavirus has encouraged (or forced) us to think about these distinctions, at least in Colorado. Here’s a piece by Jason Blevins in the Colorado Sun:

More resorts are banning uphill traffic as skiers flock. And as a second snowy weekend approaches with the entire state now under stay-at-home orders, more health departments and sheriffs are following that lead with both orders and requests to limit outdoor activity by visitors from afar.

San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad on Saturday took the closures an extra step. He limited access to 220,000 acres of federal land to the roughly 700 residents of the one-town county. He joins the Southeast Utah Health Department as the only two jurisdictions to close public lands to everyone except locals.

But there’s a snag in those protective orders prodded by health officials and intended to stop the spread of COVID-19 in — and to — rural areas where local hospitals could easily be overwhelmed: Federal land policy prohibits limiting access to a select few.

In times of an emergency or public safety issue, like a wildfire, high avalanche danger or an accident, local authorities can and do temporarily suspend all access to public lands.
“I don’t think anyone would have a problem with that type of closure. But this seems to be an effort that quite explicitly discriminates against people who are not from the local area,” said Mark Squillace, a professor of natural resources law at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder.

The March 16 order by the Southeast Utah Health Department closed restaurants, coffee shops and bars with prohibition of sit-down service in the tourist-reliant Carbon, Emery and Grand counties. It also closed theaters, venues and overnight lodging, noting that the three counties “are surrounded by virus activity.” In the section closing overnight and short-term lodging facilities, the order said only “primary residents” and “essential visitors” who were working in the counties “may utilize public lands for primitive camping purposes.”

If a county has shut down overnight lodging, and the only other lodging is on public land for primitive camping, does the county does not have the right to restrict that? Is that discrimination against outsiders or a necessary public health initiative? Do local public health concerns (life and death) ever trump the property rights of citizens from elsewhere to use their federal lands? It’s interesting that the ski areas, who presumably hold a federal permit, were told to shut down by the Governor. The many faces of federalism, at least as applied to federal lands, (and the federal government being a good neighbor) can be confusing.

More research on less tree growth after fire

(RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

 

 

This article summarizes some recent research on the topic:

Among Stevens-Rumann,’s work was a 2017 study of nearly 1,500 sites charred by 52 wildfires in the U.S. Rocky Mountains. Her research found that lower elevation trees had a tough time naturally regenerating in areas that burned between 2000 and 2015 compared with sites affected between 1985 and 1999, largely due to drier weather conditions.

More recently, a 2019 study written by her colleague Kerry Kemp found that both Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine seedlings in the Idaho’s Rocky Mountains — just south of B.C. — were also struggling in low-lying burned areas due to warmer temperatures, leading to lower tree densities.

Both studies attribute climate change to be the lead cause of why the trees are struggling to grow back in certain fire-scarred areas.

As a result, some ecosystems will no longer be able to support tree species. Instead they may convert to grasslands, she said.

We’ve talked about this before (for example, here).  But I would like to know how this kind of information is being incorporated into long-term planning for timber harvest levels. In accordance with the requirement for sustainability on national forests, we should be assuming forest growth consistent with the natural range of variation, which should reflect the effects of climate change on future forests.  What I would expect to be seeing based on this kind of research is reduced area suitable for timber production because it would become too dry, and reduced volume resulting from reduced density, slower growth rates and more frequent fires.  “Sustained yield” means that projections of lower future timber yields may lead to reduced near-term volume. I’ve looked at the timber volume documentation for a few forest plan revisions, and I haven’t found anything there about climate change (there’s usually an unconnected section on the effects of climate change somewhere).  (Projected timber harvest volumes are not tending to go down in revised forest plans.)  Maybe that just requires digging deeper than the public-facing documents or maybe it’s not happening.   Does anyone know more about this?

How to be Outdoors: National Forests in the Age of Coronavirus

Cheesman Reservoir yesterday.. almost 20 years since the Hayman fire (see background).
Here are some pragmatic guidelines from the State of Colorado for outdoor activities during coronavirus. I’m wondering how similar these are to others.

*If you are sick, stay home. Follow CDC guidelines and avoid spreading the virus to others.

*Keep a social distance from others. Coloradans have access to 41 state parks that offer a variety of outdoor activities. CPW recommends activities done alone or with people that live in your home, such as walking, hiking, biking and fishing. These activities can be enjoyed while keeping you at a distance from others. CDC recommends six feet of distance from others.

*Avoid high-risk or remote activities. Accidents stemming from high-risk types of activities may require extensive resources. Colorado Search and Rescue teams are prepared and ready to respond, but could become overloaded if the number of calls increases and the number of available responders decreases. Being responsible outdoors can also help prevent additional burdens on our first responders and healthcare workers.

*Announce your presence to others. Help maintain the recommended six feet of social distance. Signal your presence with your voice or a bell when passing others.

*Stay regional. Front Range residents should avoid traveling to the high country or small mountain communities that are closed to visitors.

*Avoid times and places of high use. To avoid creating large crowds and groups at popular trails or outdoor areas, spread out to less popular spots, and avoid times of highest use if possible. If an outdoor area is more crowded than anticipated, do not hesitate to adjust plans. Use COTREX to discover and explore other local trails in your area to help disperse traffic.

*Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and cover coughs with your elbow.
Be kind, say hi. The risk of COVID-19 is not at all connected with race, ethnicity, or nationality. Blaming others will not help fight the illness. Do your part to be kind, say hi or wave hello, respect your fellow humans when you are out on the trail in these challenging times. Share smiles!