Ecotourism

I’m at an Eco friendly camp, an ecotourist place. And though they have solar panels on the cabanas, recycling, and reminders to conserve water in this desert area, I realized that no place can be ecotourism without the consent and behavior of the guests or campers. Many people come here because it is remote, yet close to the U.S.A., yet they do not conserve, reduce use, reuse, or recycle. There’s just the same high energy use and mounds of garbage. Sad. Only in places where they do everything for you (and you pay dearly for it) could it be possible to have true ecotourism, unless everyone was responsible and conscientious (which they are not).

Quote

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artiface, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken a lesser form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the sense we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations…” Henry Best in The Outermost House.
It is the same with the forest, with trees 200- 500 years old. People don’t ever really see them as living! Nor do they see the young trees as a new generation of living forest.

Forest service work in Ninemile

    The U.S. Forest Service has a very pretty website. They must have a professional webmaster. They must also have a professional public relations person, because everything on their website sounds pretty and looks pretty. Too bad the reality of the forests is not that way! Yes, there are lots of pretty recreation sites where people are directed to look and play, though some of them get worn down or mismanaged, too. There are also a few pretty forest patches, long forgotten by the F.S. and inaccessible to loggers. There are even some sites that are regenerating pretty nicely, until the F.S. gets around to them again!

    But, for the most part, our public forests, funded by our money, are mismanaged by stuck-in-old-habits bureaucrats who don’t want to rock the boat and ruin their career. In fact, it seems that anyone who is radical is quickly dismissed. In fact, no new ideas are allowed to grow, just like no new Douglas fir is allowed to grow in Ninemile — a Douglas fir, Larch,Grand fir, pine, and Western red cedar (along the creeks and in narrow ravines, mostly) forest.

     Even the proposals on their website sound pretty —  “forest health”, “fire management”, “fuel reduction”, “ladder fuel reduction”, “crown fire fuel reduction” — add them all up the way the F.S. manages it and you basically have no forest at all! You might get the “toothpick” forest, at best.

   “Forest health” — the F.S. doesn’t even know what is a healthy forest, but I’ll tell you. It is one that fits the land and supports the indigenous species and has the diversity according to it’s folds and knobs and ridges and creeks and valleys. For example, in Ninemile, it is a narrow valley running mostly east and west (slightly tilted to the south in the eastern part, then tilting NW in the western part). It was all forest before white man — it was not burned every seven years. If the “every seven years burn” is even true, it probably applies to the Missoula valley or the Arlee valley, both “historically” devoid of trees (due to burns every 7 years?), even up on the south facing hills. But that does NOT mean that all south facing hills should be treeless or Ponderosa only. That’s just plain idiotic! Both the Arlee and Missoula valleys are wide and warmer, but as soon as one goes west to Frenchtown, all the south facing hills are forested. And they were thickly forested once, like everything going west from Missoula all the way to Idaho, in the 1970’s. Now, it’s so logged and burned, it’s pitiful!

    The Ninemile area is narrow enough, with plenty of folds and ravines and angles away from direct southern exposure and creeks and seasonal creek beds (where western red cedar grows, even in ones with no live water and 100 feet away from creeks), to support a wetter forest. It is also enough in the rain belt from the NW to get a lot of rain, except in the drought years. The knobs and knolls were thickly treed with large Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs and there was very little brush in the undergrowth. It was mostly sedges and  kinnikinnick  and huckleberry. To have “undergrowth”, one must have “overgrowth” — one must have the trees!

    White man came and carved out a few farms in the valley. The forests were logged. Now, the forests have grown back; but all throughout the west, the lower to mid elevation forests keep getting logged more and more, thinned more and more, burned by the F.S. in their “management” programs more and more. If you look at the area on Google earth, you can see how sparse it is. There are just ribbons of dense forest left along the creeks. So, “forest health” should mean cutting out the deadwood, not creating more! It would mean allowing the moister forests to grow back, keeping both large trees and enough small trees for regeneration.

    “Fire management” and all that other claptrap — the way the F.S. manages fuel reduction is to cut all healthy young Douglas firs up to 40 years old (6-8” diameter trunks), leave them lying on the ground for a couple of years to dry up, then set fire to the whole thing. I’m not talking about a slash pile, I’m talking about a ground burn! The point is to reduce “ladder fuels” — i.e. the young Douglas firs are “ladders” to the bigger trees — and space trees apart to reduce “crown fires”. But, after the burn, there is more deadwood left on the ground — some of the cut down Douglas firs didn’t burn, and more trees were killed in the burn that fell — and more standing dead that is still falling, 5 years after the burn! Some of these trees hang up on others to create dangerous “widow makers”, which would just act as a “ladder fuel” in case of fire!

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In one area, where the ground was fairly open and not bushy before the burn and where some young Douglas fir was creating habitat, shelter, and screening for wildlife, the trees were far enough apart, and there were no widow makers before the burn. Now, there are dozens hung up on other trees! The Forest Service is just creating more deadwood and fuel for forest fires! They are worsening the situation! And they get paid for it, with OUR money! We’re paying them!!!

  The Ninebark bush and Ceanothus and Dogbane have taken over the open places on the hillsides because the grasses and sedges the F.S. says it wants (for elk) got burned out and could not recolonize as fast as the other plants. Also, practically speaking, if the F.S. wants to reduce “crown fire possibilities”, they’d have to remove the trees completely, or space them so far apart that it would not be a forest at all! It would not be a place that would support western Montana’s forest wildlife. It would not even be like what they said it was “historically” (though they are wrong about what it was. There were a lot more Western red cedars and mature Douglas firs) .  In fact, no matter what, if a fire were to start, it would have to be fought or vast areas would be lost, especially now, with all the newly Forest-Service-created deadwood. Even the “toothpick forest” would be destroyed, just like the mature Ponderosa forest up Lolo creek, along hwy 12 (in 2014?).

    The little farms in Ninemile valley look quaint and bucolic and some people live in the forest behind them and it’s all nice and supports deer and elk and birds as long as they have the forest behind them. The F.S. has a buffer zone — the “toothpick forest” where elk rarely go as they have no screening to hide them and the forest floor is pitted with the burned out holes from tree stumps that could break a running elk’s leg. Mostly, whitetail deer are there, as well as robins and flickers. There was a nicer buffer zone — Menard — but the F.S. burned it this year, ruining and damaging a perfectly nice open, pastoral, treed area with a little irrigation creek, grass and sedges, and 200 year old trees! The F.S. has managed and over-managed Ninemile for so long that it is nearly all ruined now. They are destroying our heritage, instead of preserving it. There were two nice areas on the flats that had large trees, spaced 10-20 feet apart, and low growing undergrowth, but they allowed two logging operations — “thinning” jobs, they called them — that took out all the young Douglas fir under 40 years old and dozens of very old trees, spacing it to 30-50 feet apart! Some of you might remember when it was protocol to thin to 10-20 feet apart, but after all that got done and there were no trees left to log and people didn’t know how close they naturally grow, they say 30-50 feet apart or more, now! See the progression? All the young Douglas firs were wasted as well as all the branches, including some very large ones, from the harvested trees. All of it was burned in large slash piles, 12-15 feet across. All of it could have been used for paper! All of the waste from logging alone could save many trees. It’s criminal! Yet other areas in Lolo National forest and around the state, are glutted with dead beetle killed trees that no one thins out. It’s not a healthy forest and it has lots of forest fire fuel (to state the obvious, sorry!). It’s all for to politics and bad policies. If they do go in and cut it, they clearcut it, instead of cutting out only the deadwood. Nothing they do makes sense. All of it is contradictory.

    They say they are creating diversity, but they are lessening it, picking at it year by year. They just don’t know when to quit! They say Douglas fir doesn’t even belong in the valley floor or on south facing slopes, but both statements are just plain ridiculous! (And these people are educated!?) They say they are creating habitat, but they destroy what is there and it’s no thanks to them that something does grow back! In fact, in one area that the trees had had been thinned and had grouseberry and kinnikinnick undergrowth that was food for birds and bears, they burned it. Now it is mostly grass (for elk hunters) and it has taken 4 years for some of the grouseberry and kinnikinnick to come back. The elk have plenty of other areas out there — plenty of meadows and ranches, though they like sheltered forest, too.

    After one of their spring burns, there are no animals there that summer. The first to come back are the bugs, next are the rodents. During one burn, I saw hundreds of flying beetles of all sizes, including pine bark beetles, fleeing the smoke. I was half a mile away and they came all around me and past. I hope that doesn’t make the F.S. think they should burn wider and farther, burn it all at once! — they shouldn’t even burn at all! It worsens the situation by weakening the trees and killing or evacuating the bug eating birds. In fact, I did not see any birds fleeing the smoke. They either went another way or succumbed (birds have lungs, bugs don’t, really). I was there before the burn and there was no unusual mass migration of birds, not even year-round ones. In one bird area I studied, it took 3 years for any birds to really make use of the area and for the formaldehyde to fade. They were mostly woodpeckers (flickers, predominantly), robins, and juncos. It took until the 5th year for  a full flush of birds to return, nest, and forage. I’m seeing both migratory and year-round birds, and this was a spotty burn area! In spots, there is nothing but dead trees. But enough trees escaped the burn to entice birds to come back. Although young Douglas fir is a good nesting habitat for some species, and there is none here, they have made do this year with brush and higher Douglas fir branches. But, it seems I’m seeing less chickadees and nuthatches than I did before the burn. The trees with the holes in them that they nest in probably got burned. It will take years for the woodpeckers to make enough extra holes.

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Here is a knoll that was perfect — just the way the F.S. says it should be — open, sedges underneath, large Ponderosas — and now they ruined it. There were a couple dying Ponderosas that firewood cutters would have gotten over the years, but the Forest Service planned burn killed dozens of large Ponderosas. The firewood cutters got most of them close enough to the road; but, whereas, once the area was beautiful and full of life (an elk trail led down the hill) and large Douglas firs grew along the sides of the knoll, now it is weedy and dead 5 years after their burn.

    

   I think more damage is done by the Forest Service in the name of a paycheck (don’t forget who is paying for it)! Walking through it, off the road, it is all a lot worse than I thought. In one 160 acre area, hundreds of trees on the slope were cut and left, and hundreds more were killed in their burn. Some had fallen and some were still standing. If a fire went through there now, it’d destroy our whole forest and not stop until the ridge and maybe not even then — Goshawk habitat up the hill, and the forested places the elk hide when they are not down on the ranches safe from hunters and poachers all destroyed. They can’t do another burn now! This is a crime! And they drove by, proud of their work, but they didn’t even get out of their truck to walk the areas they destroyed. They only looked at the areas they didn’t cut or that didn’t get burned much. How can they be so deluded! They have an excuse for everything! They must send them to a con-artist school!

    You CAN sue the Forest Service. There are still enough unburned acres to protect, still enough unthinned. You can find an organization that will help. Alliance for the Wild Rockies sues the Forest Service in region 1 in Montana. There may be others. This forest waste  — our forests, remember — is criminal! Would you let someone burn down your property? You, with resources and energy and health, do it!

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More pictures of your tax dollars at work.

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One of the thinned and wasted trees next to size 7 USA woman’s foot.

All of these photos were taken July 14, 2016 and are of the 2012 burn!

Forest service and DNRC

       The Nine-mile area, north of the historic ranger station, along Edith peak road, then right and up, from the over-cut flats:

      Let me describe this area before the USFS “managed” it. At some point, it had been logged, of course — the roads were already here — but, it hadn’t been touched for, at least 30 years because of the new growth of young Douglas fir. There were little stands of it, in pockets, forming protective thickets for wildlife, and screening for elk. Elk do not like an open area without some trees to hide in. They like young trees or Douglas fir with it’s low growing branches. There was and still is 100-200 year old Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, and many 40- 80 year old trees of the same, mostly Douglas fir. This area is on a slope of about 45° and is mostly south facing, but has little ravines and angles that shelter the ground from constant sun. It is a typical western Montana forest, and, like all, it is not a Ponderosa monoculture, nor is it meant to be.

The undergrowth was not thick. One could easily walk through it, around the occasionally bushy patch of 9- bark, or through low shrubs, kinikinik, grouse berry, arnica, etc.

    Then the F.S. came and “thinned” it, cutting out all the Douglas fir under 3-4” diameter, and most of the Douglas fir 8” diameter or under. And they left it to dry, piled up where it had fallen, making a nightmare to traverse and creating a fire hazard.

     Then they burned it in May 2012, burning the flats again below, at the same time. But this slope had never been burned before. The Douglas fir in the ravines had green needled branches nearly to the ground in many places. They provided cover and rain protection for wildlife, including deer, elk, and birds. Fortunately, the burn missed a lot of places on the slope, but where it hit, it did a lot of damage.

   The Douglas fir in the shallow ravines have had their branches burned to up to 40 feet or more. They are still crowded together. Some old Ponderosa that was fighting bark beetle was burned at it’s base and died — too much stress and damage. Many younger trees, 50 – 60 years old, just were outright killed in the fire. Woodcutters took what was close to the road. Some trees died the first year, but others have taken 3 – 4 years to die from this burn. They were badly burned on the bottom, but died slowly. Much of the slash they cut did not get burned at all, or got only charcoaled on the outside and is still there, as fuel for forest fires.

    Elk pass through, but don’t seem to sleep here like they did before the burn. Birds did not nest here for about 4 years after. The place smelled of formaldehyde and ash for 3 years after! Now there is primarily migratory birds nesting here; but the little year round birds, like chickadees and nuthatches — those that survived — have gone to thicker, unburned woods to nest. Woodpeckers came back, 3 years later, because the bugs and beetles are still here. In fact, the next year after the burn, the beetles and bugs were prolific — there were few birds to eat them. Rodents came back right away, too — re-habitating by the next year.

    It’s getting better, but it’s still ugly. There’s no young Douglas fir at all. The 9- bark shrubs have spread. The undergrowth is more crowded and overgrown and not with grasses! It does not work to burn a slope area! The flats are better for open grasses under the “toothpick” Ponderosas (100-200 years old, but still toothpick straight — they don’t grow that way naturally in an open place. They grow in a shorter, more rounded form!). In fact, the areas most conducive to burning didn’t need it at all! The whole Nine-mile area had it’s various habitats with plenty of open places, yet the F.S./DNRC (destroying our natural resources council) burned it anyway, destroying bird nesting areas for a few years, destroying wildlife food resources, and causing shrubs to spread even in previously grass, sedge, and arrowleaf balsamroot areas. Areas that were open with low ground cover are now weed and shrub choked! And dryer and more susceptible to forest fire!

   There are some areas nearby and up above that are good forest habitat, next to some very mature Ponderosas and Douglas firs that have grasses and sedges under them. And there’s some mistletoe Douglas fir that McGillivray’s warblers nest in. I hear Swainson’s thrush in unburned Douglas fir ravines. Hermit thrushes, ruby crowned kinglets, western tanagers are all breeding around there. I’m afraid if the F.S. gets ahold of it, they’ll ruin it, like they’ve ruined every other little micro- environment in Nine-mile!

     Species of concern here, year 2016, are the Northern goshawk. I saw one bird, but did not heard it defending a nest and they are very forward about that. A Golden eagle was soaring overhead, perhaps passing over, or nesting on cliffs in the area. I saw 1 Evening grosbeak flying through an unburned slope of Douglas fir. There are a few Pileated woodpeckers  up top, and 1 or 2 pair here. I saw 1 or 2 pairs of Cassin’s finch — the sightings were on different days, but  200 yards apart. I saw 1 varied thrush up top. There may be SOC in the plant, small mammal, and bug categories, too, but I don’t know them. There is the grey wolf, too, but, I haven’t seen any for a few years. There’s scat, but it’s probably coyotes.

    The burns destroy so much — destroy fox dens, ferret, amphibians, plants, etc.. The F.S. is changing the nature of these woods, from a moist Douglas fir, Larch, Grand fir forest with Western red cedar along the creeks, into a sparse, dry Ponderosa monoculture that is actually more susceptible to burning from forest fire, than the original forest.

    The F.S. uses public money to ruin public lands, and the wood is not even used for paper or making methanol or particle board — it is just burned and wasted! This is even worse than a timber sale where some individual or corporation makes money off public property! And that isn’t good, either, if they take too much, or destroy streamside habitat, or don’t leave enough unlogged forest close by. If one looks at the area from Google earth, it is shocking how open and logged it is. Combine that with all the other over- logged, burned places in western Montana and it is a real problem. They also create a lot of air pollution by their yearly burning and people live in the valley!

Forest service/ DNRC practices, written 2014

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Looks like the first service is doing it again this year in Nine-mile. It’s their anti-forest campaign. Actually, they are trying to convert a mixed conifer forest into a single species Ponderosa pine forest. They are trying to make all of the Nine-mile area from the valley to the ridge, into the open, single stand Ponderosa, like what is near the highway at the Nine-mile exit. That is dryer, flatter, and more open, unlike the sloping, folded, creek and ravine filled mountain area. All the land behind the ranger station has dips and valleys, none of it exactly south facing. All of it is dominated by Douglas fir. It is a mixed forest of fir, larch, and pine, with western red cedar at the creeks. Cedar and Grand fir were more prevalent in the past — now, they are very rare! The whole area was dense and moist with Douglas fir as the main tree. There were mosses and trilliums, lady slippers and violets. But, it has been so logged out — the cedar mostly gone. Only Douglas fir and pine kept re-growing. It is ridiculous, unethical, and wasteful to covert this forest to Ponderosa monoculture! Right now, Ponderosa, Larch, and Douglas fir grow together, close enough to make tall, straight trees, 100-200 years old. Ponderosa can grow alone, but it grows and survives quite nicely in a closed canopy forest with dappled sunlight on the forest floor. The older Ponderosa’s reach high enough up and will colonize small open areas, and the Douglas fir and Larch fill in and shade the soil.

First, the logger came and took out all the large, old trees. Then cows were put on it. Then cows were removed. It grew back, but now the Forest Service logs out the largest Douglas fir and slash cuts all the young Douglas fir. In fact, no young trees are allowed to live at all — the will be no future forest if the pines die of bug kill or age or logging.

Then they burn, killing lots of trees and leaving lots of charred cut trees, creating more dead wood, more fuel for forest fires. The fire weakens a lot of trees, including 200 year old ones, and many trees die from this one burn over a period of 5-6 years. Brush is killed but leaves standing dead branches. Then it grows more prolifically the following years, spreading and destroying the less dense, lower ground cover. Wildlife and their food is killed. The soil is burnt.  Habitat and shelter is destroyed. Elk use the young, brushy Douglas fir as hiding places and chipping sparrows nest in their low branches, but now these are gone.

All this effort and waste is due to “fire prevention”, ” fuel reduction “, and ” forest health “, but there is no fire prevention unless one cuts all the trees! Always, the fires will have to be fought, or all will be lost, including the homes. None of these “managed” areas would survive a forest fire, especially now — they are being made dryer and more susceptible. Forest management has become a policy of drying out and depleting forests rather than fuel reduction by cutting out dead wood. The “low density ” forest practice just dries it out more.

And, it is all wasted, not even hauled out and used for paper or chip board!  People’s money is being used to pay these people for nothing of value, for destruction and waste, instead of an improvement! Also, the Forest Service lies about what it is doing (I don’t think it knows what it is doing! It is certainly not responsible forestry!)

Helping the earth is helping you and me.

“Biodynamics is a human service to the earth and its creatures, not just a method for increasing production or for providing healthy food.”  Wolf D. Storl, Culture and Horticulture: The Classic Guide to Biodynamic and Organic Gardening. Updated ed. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2013, p.37

U.S.F.S. burning/slashing in Montana

Slashing and burning destroy future forests. All they leave are the big trees, which will be logged out later, anyway. 10-40 years of tree growth is lost in over-thinning!

It’s destructive — it destroys animals’ homes and food sources, it destroys the soil, it endangers the rest of the forest, it endangers nearby homes and the smoke is unhealthy and annoying. Most times mature trees are “accidentally” killed in the burn — trees anywhere from 60-100 years old! ( Both Douglas fir and Ponderosa!)

It’s wasteful. Slash could be chipped and made into paper, methanol, or mulch. It could be done in stages. First, some, but not all, small trees could be cut out for fragrant mulch. There’s no bark beetle in the under 30 year old trees. (Also, leaving some patches of young trees provides shelter, habitat, and hiding places for wildlife. Leaving some spaced young trees provides future forest.)

Then, later, larger slash from logging could be hauled out for paper — debarked there.

It’s useless and expensive. If a forest fire starts in the dry season, it will have to be fought anyway. This slashing and burning does not save forests from burning! In the Blue Mountain fire, the fire skipped north-facing, dense, wet ravines and blew through the open humps and gentle slopes, killing all the trees, no matter what age, or how far apart they were. The fire pattern was splotchy. However, we can’t study it, as they logged it ALL, including the live trees.

Then, later, they did a “controlled” burn and thin job of a nice, lower, northeast facing ravine and ruined it, causing more brush to grow in, instead of the open, grass, sedge, and  kinninik ground cover that it had.

And many times in these controlled burns, ancient trees are killed. If they can’t survive a controlled burn in the wet season, they can’t survive a forest fire in the dry season.

It doesn’t achieve it’s purpose. For one, most of the area they are trying to convert to mono-culture Ponderosa pine is Douglas fir mixed conifer forest (fir, larch, pine) and it keeps trying to grow back. More Nine-bark shrubs fill in rather than the grasses they hope to get. Douglas fir is the main native tree and is adaptable to many conditions, whereas Ponderosa pine is subject to pine beetle and to drying out. Douglas fir is the superior logging tree, too. The whole area the F.S. is trying to convert is NOT mainly Ponderosa forest!

Also, the burns just cause the beetles to fly away in the smoke. I’ve been in the forest, near a controlled ground/base of tree burn, about ¼ mile away, and beetles of all sizes, including the pine bark beetle filled the air, flying my way, fleeing the smoke (despite it not being their natural time for flight)! Also, birds’ nests are damaged and the birds that might feed on the beetles leave. They won’t resume nesting in that area for a few years, yet some beetles must remain, as trees that might have survived the beetle were weakened in the planned burn (“forest health”!) and succumbed to the beetle a year later.

Cutting out and removing the deadwood, without a burn, is probably the best method to control pine beetle, as well as controlling fire hazard.