MAGNOLIA FOREST GROUP, NFP http://magnoliaforestgroup.org Working for better management within the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest Tue, 08 Aug 2017 00:27:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/logo-3-150x150.png MAGNOLIA FOREST GROUP, NFP http://magnoliaforestgroup.org 32 32 Only You (plus your neighbors, friends, and visitors) Can Prevent Forest Fires! http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 15:10:20 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=427 We are all probably aware of Smokey the Bear’s admonishment to prevent forest fires and a recent study by Jennifer Balch et al has verified Smokey’s philosophy. Humans do cause most wildfires in the USA, “Human-started wildfires accounted for 84% of all wildfires, tripled the length of the fire season, dominated an area seven times Read More

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We are all probably aware of Smokey the Bear’s admonishment to prevent forest fires and a recent study by Jennifer Balch et al has verified Smokey’s philosophy. Humans do cause most wildfires in the USA, “Human-started wildfires accounted for 84% of all wildfires, tripled the length of the fire season, dominated an area seven times greater than that affected by lightning fires, and were responsible for nearly half of all area burned.” Balch goes further to say, “National and regional policy efforts to mitigate wildfire-related hazards would benefit from focusing on reducing the human expansion of the fire niche.” So, it appears Smokey has to do more work to get us to prevent forest fires.

Tania Schoennagel, author of another recent paper, states, “The regional increase in wildfire since the 1970s is due to primarily to warming (that allows fuels to dry out and become more flammable), and not due to major increases in fuels in areas in mid- to high-elevation forests.” Our mid and high-elevation forests haven’t changed from historic norms; they tend towards dense forest and high fuel loads. What has changed is the role of warming on the forest by climate change and the expansion of the fire season by people starting fires in spring and (particularly in the West) fall. Not to say that humans don’t play a role in summer fires, because they do; Balch states, “the most common day for human-started fires by far was July 4th, US Independence Day, with 7,762 fires starting that day over the course of the record.” Balch goes further to say, “Public dialog and ongoing research have focused on increasing wildfire risk because of climate warming, overlooking the direct role that people play in igniting wildfires and increasing fire activity.” So, we are responsible on more than one level, indirectly by climate change and directly with individual actions by starting fires.

How do we prevent forest fires?

We should all take personal actions to reduce our individual impacts on climate change. But, the largest impact will be to reduce human caused fire ignitions. The third step is to try to protect our homes from inevitable wildfires.

The USFS focuses on fuels-based mitigation projects, which mostly consist of logging-thinning and clear-cutting. Frequently these projects transfer fuels from the canopy to the forest floor. These projects can have an effect on fire behavior, although not always as hoped. Only 1% of treated areas burn in a given year, which means that 99% of treatments never see a fire. Balch adds, “Land-use practices, such as clearing and logging, may also be creating an abundance of drier fuels, potentially leading to larger fires…” The Forest Service admits fuel reduction isn’t always the best tool in the toolbox. “Under extreme fire conditions (driven by dry fuels, topography, high wind, temperatures), some fuels treatments may not be effective,” said Reid Armstrong, quoted in a recent Boulder Weekly article.

When it comes to fire bans, dispersed shooting bans, and enforcement, the Forest Service is much less inclined to action

The standard response is that National Forest is for multi-use, although they recognize that burning down the forest is not one of the uses promoted. The bottom line is that of funding. They can get funding for logging, but have very limited funding for educational programs and enforcement personnel. Thus, the most important tool in the box for reducing forest fires, reducing human started fires, is not utilized. You can help by asking Congress to fund this specifically and by writing to the USFS and to the state & county for more funds to be spent on educating the public on the dangers of campfires, slash burns, etc.. Seasonal fire bans, rather than on and off and on again bans, would go far to help with this problem.

Wildfires will continue to increase owing to higher temperatures, changing weather patterns, and people doing stupid things in the woods. We have to adapt to this reality and focus on creating and maintaining defensible space treatments around our homes, the best approach – proven through experience and scientific studies – to help save homes exposed to out-of-control wildfires.

Act now, because it is up to you to prevent forest fires and protect your homes!

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The Problem – (Revised) http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/the-problem-revised/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/the-problem-revised/#respond Sat, 05 Aug 2017 00:21:29 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=434 Mitigation or Misguided? (Revised) The US Forest Service has issued a final project Decision in Boulder County for fire mitigation, “forest restoration,” and watershed protection (Forsythe II Project). They are cutting patches of forest using both clearcuts and aggressive thinning. Will these cuts actually help, or is this activity misguided? The USFS would have us Read More

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Mitigation or Misguided? (Revised)

The US Forest Service has issued a final project Decision in Boulder County for fire mitigation, “forest restoration,” and watershed protection (Forsythe II Project). They are cutting patches of forest using both clearcuts and aggressive thinning. Will these cuts actually help, or is this activity misguided? The USFS would have us believe that they know what they are doing and we should trust them to manage our forests, but should we?

While the USFS has been making these types of cuts for years, there is little evidence to indicate that they work, for either fire mitigation, or forest “health”. The “new” plan would cut trees to “restore” the forest to a historical fire regime that did not exist at this altitude. It proposes the paradox of cutting the trees that hold the soil in place to prevent erosion in the watershed. The unfortunate result of this new mitigation may be more flooding! Fire is, of course, an ever present danger. Everyone wants to prevent major fires from taking out forest and homes.

Mark Finney, a USFS fire scientist and one of the authors of the Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings, says, “We can’t suppress our way out of it. We can’t cut our way out of it. We can only burn our way out of it, one way or the other.” He favors the use of prescribed fire.

Evidence from the Fourmile Canyon Fire, the Hayman Fire, and 80 years of forest research shows that small patch cuts are not only ineffective in stopping high intensity fires, they may actually increase the risk of severe fires.* To be effective a cut has to be large enough and continuous enough to prevent fire from flowing around the cut and in effect widening the path of the fire. It has to be in the right place with regards to the fire and the prevailing winds, which is difficult to predict. It has to be maintained free of surface fuels that will carry the fire. Although it may seem that thinning the large trees will reduce the fuel load, in fact, the large trees are the most resistant to fire; it is the surface and ladder fuels (bushes, small trees) that will speed the fire’s travel and carry it up into the tree tops. Some thinning of crown (tree top) density may help, but there is a fine line between enough and too much, as thinning the forest opens it up to sunlight, which encourages the growth of grasses, bushes, and small trees. It also tends to dry out the soil and allows wind speeds to increase in the openings. All of this can increase the risk of severe fire behavior.

If a wind-driven, high-intensity, crown fire is approaching, it has been shown that patch cuts do nothing to stop the fire and may speed it up in places. This type of fire can throw firebrands two miles in advance of the fire. Wind-driven grass and brush fires can also consume houses in their path. The best protection for homes is to mitigate fire danger around the home in 30′ and 200′ zones. Boulder County has programs to help with this. Keep the surface fuels low, keep combustible materials away from the house, and use fire resistant materials for construction. This will do more to save your home in the event of a wildfire, than the other ‘mitigation’ efforts being proposed by the Forest Service right now. More emphasis should be placed on these proven methods, on educating people about preventing forest fires, and on restricting camp fires and other ignition sources in the wildland-urban interface, rather than cutting down the forest in order to save it.

We are not the only creatures inhabiting the forest. These patch cuts fail in their stated purpose of mitigating fire danger and, at the same time, are detrimental with regards to wildlife habitat lost, recreational areas scarred, and peaceful buffers around homes gone. We can work together to prevent forest fires and protect homes, but it is time to put a stop to projects that spend large amounts of taxpayer money only to destroy habitat and, paradoxically, put us all at greater risk of fire.

More information about the “new” Forsythe II proposal and our thoughts on it. Does it PASS or FAIL in achieving its objectives? Find out now.

*Read more about The Science.

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USFS Final Decision Notice Released http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/usfs-final-decision-notice-released/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/usfs-final-decision-notice-released/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 21:52:22 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=409 The USFS has released the Final Decision Notice (DN) for the Forsythe ll project, which triggers implementation of the project. Logging is expected to start in 2018. The DN can be found here. While we still feel this project is misguided, we did make some inroads in the design of the project. These include: A Read More

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The USFS has released the Final Decision Notice (DN) for the Forsythe ll project, which triggers implementation of the project. Logging is expected to start in 2018. The DN can be found here. While we still feel this project is misguided, we did make some inroads in the design of the project. These include:

  • A 300′ defensible space buffer around private property, where the USFS won’t cut, unless requested, but where homeowners can create defensible space.
  • They will cut 1000 fewer acres.
  • The largest conifers will be preserved. There will be a maximum cut diameter limit of 14″ and the largest 10% of trees will be saved within mixed conifer units.
  • Aspen units will retain more surrounding conifers.
  • Thick lodgepole pine regeneration from the last project will be thinned.
  • Soil scorched by hot burning of piles will be tilled and seeded
  • Knolls and rock outcroppings won’t be denuded of trees
  • A multiparty monitoring group (MMG) will be formed and we plan to be participants.

Thanks to all who signed the petition, wrote letters, and donated funds! Along with tireless work from individuals within our group, you helped to effect these changes.

Our work is not over! We hope to use the MMG to continue to make small changes, which can have a large impact. Changes to specific unit designs can ensure that USFS purposes and needs are met, while we do our best to protect flora and fauna, scenery, and recreational opportunities.

We need people to help with the monitoring process, which includes funding, as well as boots on the ground and seats at the table. Members of the local community have unique knowledge about this area that USFS personnel don’t have. Sharing this knowledge through the unit specific design process can help save some of the special features of this area. Also, there can be many a misstep between the DN and the ultimate finished project. We will need to keep tabs on the USFS and the contractors to guarantee the DN and unit designs are adhered to in the field. As the Multiparty Monitoring moves forward, we’ll especially need volunteers to contribute a few hours to share their knowledge of wildlife and the social values (e.g. trails) in areas (units) they know particularly well. We hope we can count on you. If you live nearby and can volunteer a couple of hours now and then, please use the Volunteer button to let us know. If you aren’t a neighbor, you can help us with your donations. Monitoring does have associated costs and, in addition, we hope to hold some educational forums to help people understand fire mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface. Only through education and community participation can devastating projects like this one be averted and/or improved.

We have not taken legal action off of the table. This will depend on whether the USFS acts in good faith with regards to the MMG, or whether it is just another opportunity for them to check a bureaucratic box. We are hopeful that this will be an opportunity for true collaboration to improve the project, but that remains to be seen.

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Reach Out http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/reach-out/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/reach-out/#respond Sat, 10 Dec 2016 04:12:49 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=265 United States Congress KC BECKER – D State Representative – District 1 200 East Colfax Denver, CO 80203 kcbecker.house@state.co.us Capitol Phone: (303) 866-2578 STEVE FENBERG – D Senate District 18 PO Box 4671 Boulder, CO 80306 info@stevefenberg.org Phone: (720) 244-2062 Letters to the Editor (Daily Camera) The Camera welcomes readers letters. Timely topics of local Read More

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United States Congress
KC BECKER – D
State Representative – District 1
200 East Colfax Denver, CO 80203
kcbecker.house@state.co.us
Capitol Phone: (303) 866-2578

STEVE FENBERG – D
Senate District 18
PO Box 4671 Boulder, CO 80306
info@stevefenberg.org
Phone: (720) 244-2062

Letters to the Editor (Daily Camera)

The Camera welcomes readers letters. Timely topics of local interest are given first preference. All letters are subject to editing. Our guidelines: Maximum length for letters is 300 words; Name, full address and daytime phone required; No anonymous or open letters; No name-calling or ad hominem attacks; Each writer limited to one letter or guest opinion in any rolling 30-day period; Submissions must be sent by email. Attachments are discouraged. PDF attachments are strongly discouraged. Write or paste your letter directly into the email window. Click the link below or send your letter to openforum@dailycamera.com. SUBMIT »

The Mountain-Ear Newspaper Publisher

Address: 20 E Lakeview Drive, Unit 109, BOX 99, Nederland, CO 80466
Phone: (303) 810-5409
Classifieds, display, and notices due the Monday before publication on Thursday.

Reporters

Weekly Register Call

Mailing address: PO Box 93 Black Hawk CO 80422
Address: 289 Aurora Rd, Black Hawk, CO 80422
Phone: (303) 582-0133
Deadline is Monday before Thursday publication.
Newsroom, Letter to Editor (letters 200 words or less)
Aaron Storm: aaron.storms@weeklyregistercall.com
Mountain Life columnist Irene Shonie

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BREAKING NEWS: USFS Open House http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/breaking-news-usfs-open-house/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/breaking-news-usfs-open-house/#respond Tue, 06 Dec 2016 20:05:48 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=85 December 13, 4:30-6:30 pm Boulder Ranger District Office 2140 Yarmouth Avenue, Boulder CO Add to Calendar Note the connection between Denver Water’s funding the Forsythe Project, DW’s plans to expand Gross Reservoir, and FS treatment plans for Gross.

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December 13, 4:30-6:30 pm
Boulder Ranger District Office
2140 Yarmouth Avenue, Boulder CO

Add to Calendar

Note the connection between Denver Water’s funding the Forsythe Project, DW’s plans to expand Gross Reservoir, and FS treatment plans for Gross.

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MFG’s Alternate Forsythe II Plan http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/mfgs-alternate-forsythe-ii-plan/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/mfgs-alternate-forsythe-ii-plan/#respond Sat, 26 Sep 2015 20:24:15 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=206 Purpose: Forest Health Watershed Protection Wildlife Habitat Improved Home Protection from Wildfire Reasons: Given that: the area of the Forsythe II project is all above 7600′, in the northern half of Colorado, and falls into the upper montane zone, with a historical fire rotation of 100+ years, fire exclusion has probably had little effect on Read More

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Purpose:
  • Forest Health
  • Watershed Protection
  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Improved Home Protection from Wildfire
Reasons:

Given that:

  • the area of the Forsythe II project is all above 7600′, in the northern half of Colorado, and falls into the upper montane zone, with a historical fire rotation of 100+ years, fire exclusion has probably had little effect on the forest. [1,2,5,8]
  • this fire regime is one of mixed intensity fire, with a predominance towards moderate and high severity fire, primarily dependent on weather and terrain, not on fuel density, thinning will likely have few mitigating effects on fire in this area. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8]
  • the upper montane zone is not an area that has ever been similar to the pure ponderosa, open stands of the lower montane zone and that this area actually is transitioning to sub-alpine, as evident by the dominance of lodgepole pine over ponderosa or Douglas fir, all attempts to convert it into a lower montane zone should be abandoned. [1,5,8]
  • continued chronic disturbances may degrade forest resilience, more recovery time should be allowed for the forest to continue in its return to equilibrium, along with allowing nature to determine resilience, rather than human guesswork. [9]
  • the units proposed for treatment (in original Forsythe2 proposed action) have been clearcut, patch-cut, burned, &/or thinned multiple times in the past 100 years and have not, according to that proposal, been sufficiently mitigated, it could be concluded that this type of treatment doesn’t work. [8]
  • this is a fragmented area of forest WUI, with roads, residences, reservoirs, recreational trails, and small patches of forest, in which reside diverse species of wildlife, further cutting will have a negative impact on overall habitat for current species. [10]
  • as the forest is opened, facilitating human traffic through the forest, including recreational users creating more social trails, which increases human pressure on wildlife, further cutting would have negative impacts on wildlife. [10]
  • the wildlife in the area have not been monitored, catalogued, or studied for current health by the USFS, there is no evidence that changes would have a positive impact.
  • this is an important migration corridor and core habitat for the Winiger elk herd, which has already been impacted by cutting and trails, further depredations could have a severe impact on the herd’s ability to utilize traditional wintering and calving grounds. [11,12]
  • Douglas firs are an important wildlife resource, providing nesting habitat, hiding & thermal cover, and forage for many species of wildlife, large and small, including American martens, blue grouse, Cooper’s & sharp-shinned hawks, chipmunks, and numerous songbirds, the emphasis on removing these trees from the landscape is misguided. The same is true for dwarf mistletoe. [13]
  • producing more surface fuels, as scattered or piled slash, does not mitigate for fires, or promote forest health, slash should be removed, not increased by more cutting. [3,7,+]
  • trees protect the watershed by providing shade to help retain soil moisture and increase soil absorbency, by holding soil on hillsides with their roots, and by providing a natural regulatory effect by taking in and releasing water, they should be retained, not cut, especially as tree removal can increase flood potential. [15,16]
  • research has shown that pulsed disturbances from fire may be less deleterious than chronic watershed impacts from repeated treatments, mitigation should not be attempted. [8,15,17,16]
  • research has shown that the best defense for homes in the WUI is to have a mitigation zone up to 100′ around the home, emphasis should be placed on this action. [3,9,18,19]
  • residents and recreational users place a high value on a sense of wilderness and the biophysical factors that contribute to these natural amenities and that this importance is integral to community well-being, both socially and economically, any forest treatments that degrade this sense of wildness will be detrimental to
    the community and county. [10]
  • the “Theme” for the ARF Forest Plan emphasizes providing adequate amounts of quality forage, cover, escape terrain, solitude, breeding habitat, and protection for a wide variety of wildlife species and associated plant communities, as well as limited management, and given the above facts, less intervention is more in line with the Forest Plan.
Actions:
Regeneration Thin:

Units that were treated in the past 20 years should be assessed for conifer regeneration (trees < 18 years old). While dense lodgepole growth is the norm, some thinning of the regeneration at this stage could allow for increased growth and root strength, both of which would be advantageous given the high winds in this area.

The amount of regeneration thinned should be based on slope, aspect, species, and adjacent stands. Regeneration thinning on steeper, north facing slopes should be minimal to provide wildlife cover, moisture & soil retention, and prevent surface fuel growth (800-1400 stems/acre, spacing – irregular). On gentle slopes and south facing slopes, thinning of regeneration can be more aggressive to achieve a somewhat more open forest, although with clumps and heavier patches to provide cover and migration corridors for wildlife. Where ponderosa have regenerated, lodgepole can be thinned away from them. In areas of Douglas fir and
lodgepole, thinning would be consistent with historical variation for those species. (Basal area for sparse to moderate lodgepole would be 80-150 ft2/acre, or 300-700 stems/acre, 6.6′-10′ random spacing betweentrunks). [20]

Areas that were cut in 2014 will need to be monitored and slated for regeneration thinning in the next 10-15 years.

Surface Fuel Reduction:

As fire still seems to be perceived as a threat to be mitigated, rather than an integral part of ecological restoration, addressing the preponderance of surface fuels in the area would be the best way to mitigate. The 1000’s of slash piles produced by the USFS in the last 20 years should be removed, either by chipping & spreading (no deeper than 1″), incineration (preferably with mobile incinerator), or removed off-site. Burning all of these piles in situ produces high heat (inconsistent with natural fires), especially as many consist of cut boles, that sterilizes the soil, alters the soil chemistry, and kills natural seeds, such that nothing grows for years and/or invasive weeds are most likely to colonize the sites [14]. Many of the piles are barely ten feet apart, meaning that quite large areas will be at risk for invasive weeds, if piles are burned in situ, as well as an increased risk of escaped fire. Piling slash can also facilitate an increase in bark beetles, increasing mortality in residual trees (Six et al. 2002)

There are numerous areas with heavy downfall of small diameter lodgepole pines. Although woody debris is an important component to the ecosystem, providing habitat and nutrients to the forest floor as they decay, it is a slow process and they act as abundant surface fuel. It may not be practical to remove some of this debris, but it would be more effective as fire mitigation to do so, rather than to cut the forest. The natural progression of lodgepole forest is dense growth, followed by self-thinning, leading to undergrowth of other species. [20]

Weed Control:

Past treatment efforts have caused a proliferation of invasive weeds, particularly in sites that were treated by machine. Many of these weeds are highly flammable (e.g., wooly mullein, cheat grass) and should be removed. Canadian and Musk thistle spread rapidly and affect neighboring properties. These also need to be removed from FS lands. More personnel and funds are required to address this problem, which will only expand if not addressed now.

Private Home Defensible Space:

Property owners in cooperation with the Colorado State Forest Service and Boulder County are continuing to create areas of defensible space around homes and other improvements on private lands. In order to comply with home insurance companies, some private landowners have been required to complete defensible space mitigation around their homes. Defensible space is the area around a home or other structure that has been modified to reduce fire hazard. In this area, natural and manmade fuels are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire. Creating an effective defensible space involves a series of management zones in which different treatment techniques are used. The materials the home is built out of, what you store on and around your home, and vegetation present within 30 feet of your home have the greatest influence over whether your home will survive a wildfire. [18]

Some of these private homes are in close proximity or adjacent to Forest Service lands. One of the purposes of this project is to provide homeowners the ability to complete the required defensible space across their property boundaries onto National Forest System lands.

In areas where there are private homes located within 100 feet of the Forest Service boundary, within the project boundary, private property owners would be permitted to complete defensible space treatments on Forest Service lands in accord with the USFS. Treatment would follow the guidelines outlined by the QUICK GUIDE SERIES FIRE 2012-1. Protecting Your Home from Wildfire: Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones. http://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/FIRE2012_1_DspaceQuickGuide.pdf

There are three zones that characterize defensible space and are defined as the following:

  1. Zone 1 is the area nearest to the structures that requires maximum hazard reduction. This zone extends up to 30 feet outward from a structure where the most flammable vegetation would be removed including most trees. Remaining trees would be pruned to a height of 10 feet from the ground and be spaced at least 30 feet between crowns.
  2. Zone 2 is a transitional area of fuels reduction between Zones 1 and Zone 3 or the forest. Typically this zone should extend at least 100 feet from structures. Stressed, diseased, dead or dying trees would be removed along with ladder fuels. Trees would be thinned to a crown spacing of at least 10 feet. Retained trees would be pruned to a height of 10 feet from the ground. Groups of trees may be left in areas however these groups would have at least 30 feet spacing between the crowns of the group and any surrounding trees.
  3. Zone 2 could be extended to 200′ from the structure, where it slopes steeply down from the house. Thinning between tree crowns would occur to an average spacing of 10 feet. Ladder fuels may be removed from underneath retained trees.
  4. Zone 3 does not apply in this case, as it is has no defined distance and is only to extend to the homeowners property boundaries. Studies have shown that a distance of 30-100’ is sufficient to protect homes from crown fires. [18,19]
Patrols and Enforcement:

Although the danger of lightning strike caused fire is ever present in this area, human caused fires are the most prevalent. The best form of mitigation is to reduce fire starts. Longer fire bans, bans on dispersed shooting, along with increased patrols and enforcement to ensure compliance, will do more to reduce the threat of catastrophic fire than any amount of thinning or patch cutting. Funding is required for these activities.

Wildlife Monitoring:

To improve wildlife habitat, one must first know what wildlife species are present and the types of habitat preferred by those species. The most recent study on the migration corridor for the Winiger Elk Herd was conducted in 1980’s. Large patches of forest have been cut and thinned since that time. Many residences have been built since that time, as well. Both of these may have had an undocumented impact on the elk herd. The Forsythe Project area falls directly in the path of the historical migration corridor. While elk do like open areas for browse, they need the shelter of denser forest to protect them from winter winds and to provide cover during migration (which can coincide with hunting season or calving).

Northern Goshawks, Ferruginous and Rough Legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Lewis’ Woodpeckers, Chorus Frogs, American Marten, American Mink, North American Porcupine, and River Otters are among a number of animals that have been sighted in this area and which are listed on Boulder County’s list of “Wildlife Species of Special Concern”, as well as on other lists. Many of these species require special habitats, including retaining wetland and dense forest, as well as protection from human contact. “Some wildlife species have adapted to limitations of suitable patches and tolerate habitat fragmentation, others may take advantage of changes and colonize new openings, however, with human habitation have come more openings and fragmentation, so those species that do not tolerate fragmentation and loss of denser habitat may suffer decline.[21]” Without a study to determine which species are present, where they are, and what habitat is essential for them, we can have no idea of how to improve habitat. Their presence would indicate that they are finding appropriate habitat, so to make changes, without knowledge, is to risk destroying essential habitat.

While it can be said that there is more habitat for these animal species in other parts of the forest, over time more and more habitat is removed from the landscape, with poor results for many species. The USFS needs to look at the mosaic of both public and private lands to determine available types of habitat. Personnel and funding should be provided to perform wildlife studies before any major changes to the forest structure are proposed.

References:
  1. Sherriff RL, Platt RV, Veblen TT, Schoennagel T, Gartner MH (2014) Historical, Observed, & Modeled Wildfire Severity in Montane Forests of the Colorado Front Range
  2. Odion DC, Hanson CT, Arsenault A, Baker WL, DelaSala DA, Hutto RL, Klenner W, Moritz MA, Sherriff RL, Veblen TT, Williams MA (2014) Examining Historical and Current Mixed-Severity Fire Regimes in Ponderosa Pine and Mixed-conifer Forests of Western North America
  3. Reinhardt E, Keane RE, Calkin DE, Cohen JD (2008) Objectives and Considerations for Wildland Fuel treatment in Forested Ecosystems of the Interior Western U.S.
  4. Graham R, Finney, Romme, Cohen, Robichaud (2003) Hayman Fire Case Study
  5. Graham R, Finney M, McHugh C, Cohen J, Calkin D, Stratton R, Bradshaw L, Nikolov N (2012) Fourmile Canyon fire Findings
  6. Cochran, Finnet, Zhu, Eidenshuk, Morna, Wimberly, Baer (2011) Estimation of Wildfire Size and Risk Changes Due to Fuel Treatments
  7. Brown R, Agee J, Franklin J (2004) Forest Restoration and Fire: principles in the context of place
  8. Noss RF, Franklin JF, Baker WL, Schoennagel T, Moyle PB (2006) Ecology and Management of Fire-prone Forests of the Western United States
  9. Hanson, Chad (2010) The Myth of “catastrophic” Wildfire – a new ecological paradigm of forest health
  10. Hansen AJ, Rosler R, Maxwell B, Rotella J, Johnson JD, Parmenter AW, Langner U, Cohen WB, Lawrence R, Kraska M (2002) Ecological Causes & Consequences of Demographic Change in the New West
  11. Bond M 2003 Principles of Wildlife Corridor Design
  12. The Wilderness Society’s Brief (2012) Designating Wildlife Corridors on the Public Lands: Protection Through BLM’s Land Use Planning Process
  13. Encyclopedia of Life Pseudotsuga meziesii var. glauca – Inland Douglas fir
  14. Korb J, Johnson NC, Covington WW (2004) Slash Pile Burning Effects on Soil Biotic and Chemical Properties and Plant Establishment: recommendations For Amelioration
  15. Rhodes JJ, Baker WL (2008) Fire Probability, Fuel Treatment Effectiveness, and Ecological Tradeoffs in Western U.S. Public Forests
  16. National Research Council of the National Academies (2008) Hydrologic Effects of a changing Forest Landscape
  17. Luce C, Morgan P, Dwire K, Isaak D, Holden Z, Rieman B (2012) Climate Change, Forests, Fire, Water, and Fish: building resilient landscapes, streams, and managers
  18. Quarles SL Vulnerabilities of Buildings to Wildfire Exposures
  19. Cohen JD (2008) The Wildland Urban Interface Problem – A consequence of the Fire Exclusion Paradigm
  20. Anderson MD, (2003) Species: Pinus contorta var. latifolia
  21. Greenwald DN, Crocker-Bedford DC, Broberg L, Suckling KF, Tibbitts T (2005) A Review of Northern Goshawk Habitat Selection in the Home Range and Implications for Forest Management in the Western U.S.

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Forsythe II Proposal – Does It Pass Muster? http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/forsythe-ii-proposal-does-it-pass-muster/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/forsythe-ii-proposal-does-it-pass-muster/#respond Fri, 25 Sep 2015 20:12:03 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=203 Fire in the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) is a threat. The question is how to best address it and minimize the risk. I think most of us want it all: a safe place to live, a vibrant ecosystem with varied wildlife, and a place to find joy. The question is whether that is possible. It Read More

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Fire in the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) is a threat. The question is how to best address it and minimize the risk. I think most of us want it all: a safe place to live, a vibrant ecosystem with varied wildlife, and a place to find joy. The question is whether that is possible.

It has been a year since we halted the Forsythe Project in Boulder County, CO and the USFS has a “new” Forsythe II Proposal. Despite a year of meetings, field trips, and input from the community, the new proposal looks a lot like the old one. While their justifications and reasons have changed, they are following a pattern they have used for many years – cutting trees – despite recent science that contradicts their justifications.

What are they proposing and why shouldn’t we believe they know best?

The proposal states the intention to

  1. “Restore” the mixed conifer to a more characteristic and historic pattern,
  2. Increase aspen stands and meadows,
  3. Improve wildlife habitat to benefit species,
  4. Protect the watershed from the impacts of fire, &
  5. Decrease risk of crown fire, particularly next to homes.

That all sounds reasonable and good, but do their proposals succeed in achieving these objectives? Let’s look at each objective and see whether they pass or fail.

  1. The first contradiction in the message is that they intend to “restore” mixed conifers, while at the same time create an artificial structure of mixed age lodgepole pine. The second and more problematic aspect of the plan is that they are using an idealized, static image of a historic forest that could apply to forests at lower elevations (below ~7000′), but not to the forests in this 8000-9000′ range. They plan to achieve this with aggressive thinning, clearcuts, and patch-cuts. Their imaginary picture sees this forest as an open, park-like area with large meadows, large aspen stands, and widely spaced conifers with a few small clumps (2-12 trees). While this may sound visually attractive, it is not characteristic of this Upper Montane area. “Historically, this area was not predominated by frequent low-severity fire, nor was it predominantly open forest.” (Kaufmann, Veblen, Romme 2006) This forest was characterized by dense stands of lodgepole on north-facing slopes and variable stands, predominantly dense, of mixed-conifer elsewhere. Some gentler south-facing slopes may have had some open stands of ponderosa pine, with some smaller meadows and periodic patches of aspen. “This landscape probably was never characterized by large, homogeneous stands with low tree densities. On the contrary, variation in forest structure was important across the area, as were changes over decades and centuries. For these reasons, creating large landscapes with uniformly low tree densities probably would be unprecedented in the ecological history of this area.” (Kaufmann, Veblen, Romme 2006).
    For this aspect of the plan – FAIL.– The cutting of additional (let’s not forget they cut a lot last year) patches of lodgepole, by their own admission, is not in accord with a historical fire regime. The stated reason is to create age variability to promote insect & disease resilience. Having different age groups of lodgepole side by side increases the risk of crown fire. The young dense regenerated trees act as significant ladder fuel to ignite the crowns of the older stands. They do not necessarily give protection from insects, as masses of dead regeneration near Cameron Pass prove.
    Patch-cuts and clearcuts get a FAIL.
    Thinning regeneration is a good idea, as long as it isn’t taken to excess. Regeneration from previous cuts can be thinned to create moderately dense and slightly more open forests, as long as it is done with variability.
    It will depend on the task orders, but we give this aspect a PASS.
  2. Increasing aspen stands isn’t an objectionable goal. They don’t necessarily fall into the historical pattern, but there is variability and aspen stands fall into that category. They are less flammable, so help from a fire-mitigation perspective and they are good animal habitat. The problem is that one won’t necessarily expand an aspen patch simply by cutting the conifers around it. There are other conditions that have to be met, including the right amount of soil moisture, soil type, and wind protection. To expand a patch, you have to pick the right patch. Also, conifers that existed before the aspens grew cannot be said to be encroaching and obviously have not inhibited growth of the stand. Therefore there is no need to cut conifers over 6″ out of an aspen stand. And if USFS predictions of increasing temperatures and dryness are correct, aspen stands will increasingly depend for their survival on the shade and wind protection large conifers provide.
    For the idea to increase aspens PASS, Implementation methods FAIL.– Expanding meadows is a little more problematic. We may want to retain meadows that we have by cutting out young trees, but cutting any tree over 6″ DBH is creating meadow that is not historically accurate. Well, does that matter? Wouldn’t it be better to have more larger meadows? Remember that any large opening has the potential to increase fire behavior, by increasing wind speed and providing more ladder fuels and thus higher flames that can lead to crown fires. So, no; more larger meadows are not always good.
    PARTIAL PASS, if larger trees are retained.
  3. How can we go wrong with improving wildlife habitat? “Generally, the response of wildlife to specific changes in landscape patterns of forest structure is poorly understood.” (Dickenson et al 2014) “The goals of fuels reduction to decrease the likelihood of severe wildfires and restore historical forest structure and species composition are complementary in ecosystems where fuels and fire severity have increased [lower elevations], yet are incompatible elsewhere and threaten ecosystem integrity and ecosystem services.” (Sheriff, Plat, Gartner) We are unaware of any long term, systematic inventory of wildlife species here, other than our own in the 1990’s. It is hard to know for certain whether changes are benefiting species, unless you know the diversity of species present. While some species may benefit from an open, park-like structure, with more understory and shrubby meadows, these same characteristics will be detrimental to other potentially important species.
    FAIL.
  4. Another stated purpose of the plan is to “reduce the effects of wildfire to limit erosion from contaminating municipal water sources.” The proposal is to create roads and use mechanical thinning, patch-cutting, & clear-cutting, despite the fact that this has the worst impact on soil erosion. Trees hold the soil in place. They shade the soil, retaining moisture and preventing crusting that reduces the soil’s ability to absorb water. Trees shade the snowpack allowing it to melt slowly and reduce high runoff. Trees provide resilience and help to prevent flooding. The impacts of fuel treatments and the necessity to repeat them at frequent intervals are more damaging than the pulsed disturbances of fire. Treatments would have to be repeated every 10-20 years for 340-700 years before 50% of the treatment areas would’ve been affected by high-severity fire. (Rhodes & Baker 2008). Given the low probability of damaging effects from fire and the guaranteed effects of continuous, chronic damage from treatments, it makes more sense not to treat to protect the watershed.
    FAIL.
  5. Okay, this is probably the objective you are most interested in – saving homes and forests from devastating crown fires. There are two parts to this.
    • The good news is that the proposal includes an opportunity for homeowners living next to US Forest lands to complete their defensible space (home mitigation zones) into those lands. They have been a bit over-zealous here, by allowing a 300′ zone. Boulder County and Wildfire Mitigation Partners recommend a 100′ zone, expanded to 200′ if your home is uphill from dense forest. Computational modeling, laboratory, and field experiments that describe the heat transfer required for ignition have shown that the large flames of burning shrubs and tree canopies (crown fires) must be within 30′ to 100′ to ignite a home’s wooden exterior. Homes are more likely to ignite from fuels actually touching the house, or from neighboring (within 40′) structures on fire. (Cohen 2008, Quarles 2010) The upshot of this is that YOU can do more to protect your house than the USFS can do, especially if they allow completion of 100′ zones.
      Mostly PASS.
    • Decrease of crown fire elsewhere within the project area is a much more complex problem. “Thinning treatments at higher elevations of the montane zone [here] will not return the fire regime to an historic low-severity regime, and are of questionable effectiveness in preventing severe wildfires. Based on present-day fuels, predicted fire behavior under extreme fire weather continues to indicate a mixed-
      severity fire regime throughout most of the montane forest zone. Recent large wildfires in the Front Range are not fundamentally different from similar events that occurred historically under extreme weather conditions.” (Sherriff, Plat, Gartner) The potential for passive crown fires is reduced most efficiently by the reduction of surface fuels followed by a reduction of ladder fuels. Conversely, thinning from above, or removal of overstory dominant and co-dominant trees, decreases fire resistance.” (Stephens et al 2012) Thinning may add to surface fuels (and increase surface fire intensity) unless the fine fuels that result from the thinning are removed from the stand or otherwise treated. (USDA FS 2004) The occurrence of mixed-severity fire prior to fire exclusion is also well supported by another line of evidence: the potential behavior of wildfire as affected by weather and climate. Based on direct observations of fire behavior, high winds may subject virtually any conifer forest, regardless of fuel density, to crown fire. (Odion, Hansen, et al 2014)
      As the methods employed in this proposal are to remove trees (overstory) and not remove surface and ground fuels, AND as they are notoriously bad at removing slash piles, AND as thinning provides questionable results, they FAIL.

What have been left out of this proposal are the aesthetic and social effects of treatment.

Over the last year, we have pointed out that these treatments, with large cuts, raw areas full of stumps, invasive weeds, and slash piles have a deleterious effect on the community, both those that live here and those that live elsewhere and recreate here. These are not insignificant effects. The physical and mental health of the public require areas of wild & natural beauty for exercise and solace. A manufactured forest, especially one that will take 100 years to grow back does not meet these needs. Unfortunately, it is evident from this proposal that the USFS either doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to deal with this. We are better off facing the odds of the 250 year fire regime cycle (of this area), than the certain destruction wrought by unnecessary cutting. It is important to remember that fire is an integral part of the ecosystem, so as devastating as it seems, it is also restorative and essential. We aren’t going to save the forest from fire and any promises from the USFS that this treatment will do that are empty ones. You can make a difference by mitigating around your home, if you live in the WUI. You may save your home from fire. The USFS is requesting comments on this proposal and we recommend that you provide some (look at the “how to comment section” near the bottom).

Read more on the background information and science.

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The Problem – (Original) http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/the-problem/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/the-problem/#respond Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:40:56 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=1 Mitigation or Misguided? (Updated) The US Forest Service has issued a new proposal in Boulder County for “forest restoration” and watershed protection (Forsythe II Project). They are cutting patches of forest using both clearcuts and aggressive thinning. Will these cuts actually help, or is this activity misguided? The USFS would have us believe that they Read More

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Mitigation or Misguided? (Updated)
The US Forest Service has issued a new proposal in Boulder County for “forest restoration” and watershed protection (Forsythe II Project). They are cutting patches of forest using both clearcuts and aggressive thinning. Will these cuts actually help, or is this activity misguided? The USFS would have us believe that they know what they are doing and we should trust them to manage our forests, but should we?

While the USFS has been making these types of cuts for years, there is little evidence to indicate that they work, for either fire mitigation, or forest “health”. The “new” plan would cut trees to “restore” the forest to a historical fire regime that did not exist at this altitude. It proposes the paradox of cutting the trees that hold the soil in place to prevent erosion in the watershed. The unfortunate result of this new mitigation may be more flooding! Fire is, of course, an ever present danger. Everyone wants to prevent major fires from taking out forest and homes.

Evidence from the Fourmile Canyon Fire, the Hayman Fire, and 80 years of forest research shows that small patch cuts are not only ineffective in stopping high intensity fires, they may actually increase the risk of severe fires (read more about the science behind this). To be effective a cut has to be large enough and continuous enough to prevent fire from flowing around the cut and in effect widening the path of the fire. It has to be in the right place with regards to the fire and the prevailing winds, which is difficult to predict. It has to be maintained free of surface fuels that will carry the fire. Although it may seem that thinning the large trees will reduce the fuel load, in fact, the large trees are the most resistant to fire; it is the surface and ladder fuels (bushes, small trees) that will speed the fire’s travel and carry it up into the tree tops. Some thinning of crown (tree top) density may help, but there is a fine line between enough and too much, as thinning the forest opens it up to sunlight, which encourages the growth of grasses, bushes, and small trees. It also tends to dry out the soil and allows wind speeds to increase in the openings. All of this can increase the risk of severe fire behavior.

If a wind-driven, high-intensity, crown fire is approaching, it has been shown that patch cuts do nothing to stop the fire and may speed it up in places. This type of fire can throw firebrands two miles in advance of the fire. Wind-driven grass and brush fires can also consume houses in their path. The best protection for homes is to mitigate fire danger around the home in 30′ and 100′ zones. Boulder County has programs to help with this. Keep the surface fuels low, keep combustible materials away from the house, and use fire resistant materials for construction. This will do more to save your home in the event of a wildfire, than the other ‘mitigation’ efforts being proposed by the Forest Service right now. More emphasis should be placed on these proven methods, on educating people about preventing forest fires, and on restricting camp fires and other ignition sources in the wildland-urban interface, rather than cutting down the forest in order to save it.

We are not the only creatures inhabiting the forest. These patch cuts fail in their stated purpose of mitigating fire danger and, at the same time, are detrimental with regards to wildlife habitat lost, recreational areas scarred, and peaceful buffers around homes gone. We can work together to prevent forest fires and protect homes, but it is time to put a stop to projects that spend large amounts of taxpayer money only to destroy habitat and, paradoxically, put us all at greater risk of fire.

Does the “new” Forsythe II proposal PASS or FAIL in achieving its objectives? For our thoughts on it, find out now.

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Our Mission http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/our-mission/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/our-mission/#respond Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:45:36 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=214 Magnolia Forest Group, NFP is a citizen group working towards sensible forest management in the Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forests, utilizing the best, current scientific information and educating the public.

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Magnolia Forest Group, NFP

is a citizen group working towards sensible forest management in the Arapaho/Roosevelt National Forests, utilizing the best, current scientific information and educating the public.

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FEATURED: Don’t Get Burned by the Forest Service http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/dont-get-burned-by-the-forest-service/ http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/dont-get-burned-by-the-forest-service/#respond Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:17:01 +0000 http://magnoliaforestgroup.org/?p=60 (Excerpt) by Derek Lee Laws that protect public lands from destructive activities have reduced most commercial logging in our national forests, but the Forest Service has a loophole to log our trees: fire. Worse, they do it on our dime. Congress always lets the Forest Service take money from the General Treasury to pay for Read More

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(Excerpt) by Derek Lee
Laws that protect public lands from destructive activities have reduced most commercial logging in our national forests, but the Forest Service has a loophole to log our trees: fire. Worse, they do it on our dime. Congress always lets the Forest Service take money from the General Treasury to pay for timber sale administration, road building and logging costs, and then the agency keeps the profits from those sales. The Forest Service enriches itself at the people’s expense by selling the people’s trees. This is the incentive for another agency deception: that the forest “will never be the same” without “restoration” work. This presumes forests don’t naturally regrow on their own – which of course they do, in what scientists call “succession,” one of the first ecological processes ever described.

Don’t believe it either when they tell you we might have avoided a big fire if only we had removed “excessive fuels” beforehand. Studies show that logging doesn’t prevent or stop big fires during extreme weather when most acreage burns. But it does enrich the Forest Service.

Derek Lee is a quantitative ecologist with expertise in wildlife surveys, statistical analyses, demography, and population ecology. He is principal scientist of the Wild Nature Institute.

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