Treatment Photos from Foto

This is a guest post from Foto.

While doing scenic photography in SW Utah, I ran across this finished fuels reduction project. It looks like they either used a helicopter, or removed fuels over the snow. The first picture shows what the original condition was like, on the left side of the picture. There are vast areas of snag forests, but on other aspects (south, west and east), the aspen seem to be surviving within “the dead zone”. The second picture shows a close-up of the finished project, with very little erosion, scattered logs on the ground, and a better chance for the spruce survivors to thrive.

In taking a closer look at the treated stand, there is a lot more unmerchantable material on the ground than you think. I know as much about this project as any of you, so I’ll try a critique “on the fly”.

In the wider shot, you can see the landing close to the center of the picture. The size of the landing idicates that this wasn’t a helicopter unit, as those landings are always bigger. Looking at the zoomed-in shot, no skid trails are visible, so I’m guessing that the work was done over the snow. There is absolutely no hint of erosion in the entire unit. It doesn’t appear that green trees were thinned, and there seems to not be enough larger snags still standing, compared to the untreated stand. There are no structures close by, and the project seems to be more of a visual improvement with a lessening of fuels. It is hard to say just how many of those snags were merchantable.

All of the forests in the area are full of snags. With these stands being so dry, the fear seems to be based on losing the entire forest. Notice the ample ladder fuels on the green spruces. Overall, the stand looks like it will recover faster than simply “letting nature take its course”. Many of the other stands have a significant aspen component, with some of those aspens dead and dying from drought and conifer overcrowding.

I’d welcome additional commentary, including artistic critique of the aspen shot (taken at a Forest Service fire station, closed for the season). As I was driving back from Bryce Canyon, I told myself that I wouldn’t stop to shoot more aspens (I had already stopped during the morning drive to capture some shots.) Those golden aspens were simply to beautiful to pass on by.

(Note from SF- since I was technically incapable of reducing the size of these photos, you can click on them and they will show finer scale information). >

4 thoughts on “Treatment Photos from Foto”

  1. I am not sure what all of the objectives were, but I suspect visuals played a role in this treatment area. Skidding over snow and on frozen ground, does minimize ground disturbance, but you need snow and freezing temps. A sudden warm spell during winter operations can become quite messy.
    Where I’m at our spruce stands are typically mixed in with lodgepole and subalpine fir. Exculsion of fire would tend to favor subalpine fir. These higher elevation stand tend to have problems with fire suppression in the subalpine fir. The limbs often go all the way to the ground and fire smoldering in the duff can torch off the firs in the afternoon with a little wind, causing spot fires a half mile away. Our fires in this type are almost always stand replacing as spruce, lodgepole and subalpine fir are realatively thinned barked and you can’t really underburn without lots of tree mortality.
    So from the picture of the after treatment, I would think that enough fuels were removed so that this stand would burn in a few spots here and there if it became part of a larger fire, but would still have green trees as I don’t think it would sustain a continous crown fire. I can’t tell what the duff layer is like which would have an effect on fire.
    I don’t believe there is a big market for dead spruce, but they could provide pulp wood, chips, house logs, and fuel wood.

  2. This stand is at a major tourist intersection, very close to the Cedar Breaks. The area also gets plenty of motorized winter recreation, with those all those meadows around (dry during the summer). It represents a drop in the bucket to stands that look just like the untreated area in the photo. This project must have happened during last year’s colder and snowier winter, as I don’t remember seeing this during my sojuorn last year. Also, the elevation is very close to 10,000 feet! Generally, over-the-snow projects have weather criteria they have to meet, to combat just those situations, Mike. (They tried such projects at the Lake Tahoe Basin and the weather simply wouldn’t cooperate!)

  3. Great Photos foto. Who wouldn’t love Gold against western blue with fluffy white. Your’s and Sharons pictures makes me want to hit the gravel on the finest forest development roads in the world!

    It looks like man finished mother natures overstory removal harvest. One time back when I used to swing a saw, we were workin in very snowy cold country. Wading in waste deep snow shovelin out stumps, zero and below. Bonfire burnin all the time on the landing(how else do you pour oil in the saw).Jumper cables and propane torches to start the skidders. We soon retreated to lower climes. But a skid trail soon turned into a short haul road. The next summer when we got back in(late june), there were stumps and rocks all over our “haul road”. Like we were never there. I think we were driving trucks across 4 feet compacted to 2 feet of packed frozen snow.

    This was the same sale where the unit boundaries (clearcut) were painted 15′ up the tree. While I’m wondering why they hauled ladders around with them to paint the trees, my buddy tells me the USFS came up in the winter in snow cats to mark it. There was no “peeling off the paint” on that sale.

  4. Y’know I still think it would be a good public service to put a marker on google maps for units that you could run a mouse over that would show the basics for each treatment of why and how, Maybe some techie corporation could donate help on doing this to a 501c3 (NFF?) to do a pilot. I think Colorado might be a good spot as a lot of tourists drive around… could contribute to science/natural resource education.


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