• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
stewards:
  • Mike Jay
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Devaka Cooray
garden masters:
  • Steve Thorn
  • Dave Burton
  • Dan Boone
gardeners:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
  • Mike Barkley

Wildfire Mitigation and Long-Term Permaculture of Western US

 
gardener
Posts: 1270
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
266
hugelkultur cat dog books food preservation
  • Likes 9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all,

I've been working seasonally on wildland fire for the past 4 years, and I'm seeing some things that are almost but not quite permaculture.  
Wondering about long-term strategies to mitigate fire danger, improve forest and grasslands health, and get a handle on the waste of resources, lives, and nearly interminable smoke seasons from recent fires.

- Climate change: Weather weirdening includes longer  and more severe droughts, earlier snowmelt, less moisture and lower humidity into the summer and fall, and more extreme storms including potential lighting or wind events that can whip lingering wildfires into fire storms.

- Non-climate change:  Patterns of wildland-urban occupancy are changing; there's a push further out into areas that were not considered suitable for farming by previous generations, including many of our permie friends are setting up house in scenic, wild-ish places.  Even as the majority of the population have become urbanized, and disconnected from land-management practices, practical skills, and the level of sheer physical work needed by typical peasants (land people) of past generations.

- Tech change: Social and industrial changes also include the availability of better geo data including satellite photos and GPS tracking, drones, mapping, and integrated resource maps that are starting to tickle the edges of mapping hidden features like hydrology. And the availability, perhaps waning but still strong, of fossil-fueled heavy equipment to do earth-shaping.

- Changing natural patterns/landscape: A lot of people know that wildfire suppression has led to a buildup of unburned, dead and down fuels in many forests. (and to a lesser extent, the lessening of firewood collection around communities has also contributed to a concentration of fuels that would have been unusual around settlements in previous eras, in my opinion).   Geology is being changed with mining, roads, farming, and construction, and in some areas through natural processes like volcanoes, landslides, etc.  Wildlife patterns are also changing; predator populations mostly declining, which sometimes results in increasing pressure of things like deer.  Plants are migrating north and uphill, changing what's growing in many places, and leaving a certain amount of dead and dying plants that may be different from previous patterns.

All this adds up to, we have a lot going on.
Wildfire season is getting longer, fires have more potential for extreme growth; and fires have always been somewhat hard to predict and control even when we had fairly predictable weather patterns.

Just preventing fires might not be the actual goal.  'Cause we can do that by paving everything down to mineral hardscape.  
If we want to conserve green, vibrant, vitality in the landscape as good stewards, we may need to take a more active role in resilient design.


Conventional mitigation strategies include
- fuels reduction (thinning trees, chipping dead brush or trimmings, leaving more mature trees and fewer brushy stands of scraggly and half-dead recent regrowth, selecting for fire-tolerant species where invasives are an issue),
- water management - mostly through big and small dams; for example, in 2019 our Lake Osoyoos will be filled to operational levels a month early to compensate for reduced snowpack and likely water shortages post-spring.  Fire districts also cache smaller amounts of water near wildland-urban neighborhoods in tanks or portable reservoirs for firefighting needs.
- prescribed fire (controversial in some areas, but low-intensity spring fires can be very effective for reducing grass thatch and small fuels while leaving prairie soils and big trees even healthier than before.)
- localized forest/land plans, FireWise communities - Conservation District grants, USDA programs, BLM, forest service, tribes, states, and other land managers work to various degrees to manage wildland resources, which can include fire mitigation as well as dealing with blights, pests, timber sales, recreational values, other forest products, and community priorities.  Some communities are pre-planning designated "Contingency Lines," basically a long linear meadow, open pine savannah, or road and trail system that can easily be turned into a fire break in the event of a large forest fire.  Trained regional people are available to come in and advise homeowners and other land managers about how to prepare and improve their property, and what resources are available to help with labor or other costs.

Permaculture methods that could potentially tie in:
- Keyline, BDA, and terracing:
- Water Bars 2.0: Fire fighters already mitigate erosion by cutting "water bars" across steep sections of fire-break (trails and bulldozer lines down to mineral soil).  If these were integrated into keyline-style, just-off-contour water diversion, we might improve seasonal soil moistures on a longer-term basis.
- Beaver Dam Analogues, BDA: Beavers were trapped out generations ago, and their near-extinction has been remarked on as a major factor in the transformation of the West.  Beaver ponds tend to become wet meadows through silt collection, dramatically improving water retention and arable land/fecundity of natural landscapes.  In the absence of beavers, streams tend to cut deeper, water tables drop, erosion gets worse, and the landscape generally has fewer green oases and more rugged / harsh / drylands characteristics.
Note: Drainage vs. Water Harvesting - Unlike beavers, our priority, coming from cultivated Europe, has been largely to drain fields and buildable lands, to prevent flooding and saltification.  (A drained field can be irrigated, 'rinsing' the soil, to reduce accumulation of persistent salts).  We also tend to divert and drain water away from our buildings, and solve road erosion problems by ditching and draining away the water.  This all contributes to removing water swiftly from the landscape during our spring flood seasons, leaving it drier and far more prone to wildfire and erosion the rest of the year.

- Large Fuels  Alternatives:
Environmentalists often object to salvage logging burned forests.  However, many of the environmentalists who end up writing public petitions and initiatives to regulate or prohibit this activity have a lot less experience in the woods than the loggers and land managers that are trying to deal with the situation.  If you have never set foot in a post-fire forest, and are not willing to fund or participate in a community restoration effort, maybe find someone with more experience who can help with that kind of oversight?

There are now a LOT of Western forests with huge stands of dangerous, dead trees that are too bug-raddled to be commercially useful, too plentiful to even make good owl habitat (they are too close together), and their most likely ecological role is to fall on something/someone and squash them flat, or burn again and intensify the next wild fire.  
A certain number of nurse logs would be GREAT for forest recovery; but a lot of these stands are so thick that pushing trees over would result in a giant pick-up-sticks pile of aerial log fuels, which could not even reach the ground to start decomposing properly.  Not great for soil, but great for maintaining high fuel loads and dangerous fires.  Very intense fires, fueled by a lot of dead and dry timber, tend to scorch the earth and destroy fertility far worse than small, more frequent brush fires.
- Salvage logging dead trees within the first 18 months after a fire can pay for itself to some degree, as well as being beneficial to the long-term health of the forest.  Since we harvest lumber from somewhere, selling the salvage helps pay for forest stewardship operations, and ostensibly reduces the number of live trees being killed during the same years.  However, many of the stands needing attention are very low-value; and after a few months, dead trees are hard even to chip up for pulp without destroying the pulping equipment.
Yes, salvage logging often includes cutting live trees that are determined to be 'damaged', or just in the way of operations, or valuable enough to cut.  
Pulling downed logs from fire areas is a very good idea.  Clear-cutting them, probably not.  However, with intense wildfires, there will be areas so badly burned that the removal of most dead logs would effectively resemble a clearcut.  Erosion will be a major problem in these "nuked" areas, with or without the involvement of logging equipment.

- In-Place Nurse Log Rehabilitation: Rather than remove larger logs/snags, those without lumber value can be used in erosion control (sometimes done now for 'rehabbing' dozer line and hand trails), and potentially they can be deliberately incorporated into soil-building tactics (nurse log/ hugel berms).  I should note that experienced wildland fire fighters find buried logs and stumps somewhat terrifying, as they can still catch fire, burn away leaving cavities under apparently intact soil above, creating fire-filled pit traps for fire fighters.  Some of the worst burns that take fire fighters off the line come from falling into undetected stump holes during mop-up, and getting a boot full of embers or worse.  Even after most of the fuel burns away, soil and rocks hold the intense heat for some time, which intensifies the heat and difficulty of finding and extinguishing any remaining fire in the roots or tunnels adjacent.
- Hugel Berms: There may be ways to do something like water-bars or hugel-fields, where logs are buried in shallow arrangements one or two layers deep, that would not create unreasonable hazards during future fires.
- Dozer Line Rehab: There are already natural/accidental hugel berms being created when bulldozers move and tumble a mixture of logs and dirt to clear safety zones, broaden roads or trails, and cut fire line down to mineral soil.  Sometimes these piles are dispersed after the fire; teaching savvy operators how to recognize useful soil-building pile structures and leave some in the rehabbed areas would be pretty doable.  (Areas that have been cleared for fire control, but are not intended to become public roads, are left 'lumpy' with large barrier logs and berms to discourage illegal ATV and vehicle use.)

Small Fuels Treatments:
- Meadowing: One of the most common things that manpower is used on big fires is to trim out and clear out brush and dead branches beside structures or roads, to create clear areas where fire will move more slowly, with shorter flames, through the remaining ground covers.  Areas beside roads or fire line are sometimes burned out to create a wider area that will not support big fire.  When done right, these burnout areas generally green back up within months, and look better than untreated areas for the next year to five years (almost park-like; and many flowers, mushrooms, and berries thrive in opened, fire-affected areas).  Fire Wise design and permaculture are pretty well in agreement to concentrate the work around the home, making your Zones 1-3 places where the food grows fast and fire moves slow.  An open meadow, circular driveway, or well-watered orchard around the house can be part of a fire wise landscape design.
- Mulching: After clearing the brush from one side of the road, it's not that productive to just pile it in tangled windrows on the other side.  More often, masticators or chippers are brought in to process the trimmings into mulch.  Mulch can be spread in place for soil building, and helps with soil water retention and plant regrowth.

Landscape Treatments:
- Snow Pack Substitutes: If we allow the glaciers to melt away, and our living soils to be destroyed in fire, drought, and massive erosion events, it seems like the water table will most likely drop away from our wells and food production areas in short order.
If we want to retain year-round flow in streams and rivers, we may want to intervene to create some type of replacement for dwindling glaciers and snow packs.  
I'm not suggesting that technology can fully replace these massive reservoirs of fresh water; but in areas where large populations depend on seasonal water, it may be worth looking at beaver-dam analogues, keyline contour and terracing, and anything else that may build deeper soils, higher and larger-volume reservoirs, and more areas of shaded and erosion-resistant landscape that can retain water longer into the dry periods.  
Even if the snow season dwindles away dramtically, more rain still falls in the West up high on cloud-capped mountains, and feeds our creeks and rivers.  Anything we can do to keep it there longer into the summer droughts could help stabilize regional humidity and fertility.  Some watersheds (Bull Run) are already protected and stewarded as municipal clean water supplies. We could encourage each community to adopt at least one upland watershed, or more according to its size and needs, to steward effectively to improve the slowing, sinking, and smoothing out of the annual rainfall budgets.  

Future generations in arid lands may see diverting fresh water away from human settlements, or contaminating it with fertility-destroying chemicals as part of waste-removal functions, as one of the greatest crimes our generations have perpetrated against humanity.  With weather weirdening and less predictable annual rainfall and snow packs, we may need the capacity to store and hold more than one year's annual water supply for our towns.  Reservoirs are expensive and inefficient in the arid West (evaporating the water they collect and leaving salted pans), and covered tanks even more expensive and harder to construct in the volumes needed.  Living soils and shaded aquifers must be protected and enhanced.  

Does our developing technology offer any new tools for mapping and managing soil and subsurface hydrology?

 
Who else is thinking about this stuff?
What are your top priorities?
What do you see as top priorities for your neighbors and communities, that might be the best places to engage for public good?

What tools are becoming available, or are feasible to create, that might help us handle this adaptation and mitigation?

What research needs to be done before recommending solutions?

What aspects of this problem can we best manage this at the patchwork, local scale that breeds more diversity and resilience?
What types of federal or global support may be needed, when local effects of these problems may overwhelm local resources?

 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1270
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
266
hugelkultur cat dog books food preservation
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
my friend Karen points out the Yellowstone wolves results:
- re-introducing predators changed the environment.
Predators don't necessarily take a lot of big game (buffalo, elk, deer) but they do keep those herds moving more.
With the slightly reduced population numbers and greatly reduced browsing pressure, some of the wet-meadow trees started coming back. (aspen, willow).
Those are favored foods of beaver, which are pretty well able to swim away from land predators.

So not just the removal of beaver, but the removal of the predators for fur and ranch-protection, may have tipped the balance more toward  the erosion of the west.

- Fire and Grazing:
There are records of tribes lighting fires to improve grazing for their horses and herds.  (for example, a raiding party going from eastern Washington or Oregon toward Montana might light a fire behind them, to provide fresh grazing a few weeks or months later as they returned.)  I've seen grass and asparagus sprouting in August after a fire, a time I'd normally expect those plants to be dormant due to lack of water.

But 20th-century propaganda told ranchers to prevent wildfire in order to protect their rangeland heritage.
The result of fire suppression in rangelands is a lot more sagebrush (inedible or not preferred by most grazers), juniper, etc. and arguably less grass.  Sagebrush and juniper can be nearly eradicated by one good hot fire, where the grasses come back before the charcoal has even washed away.
Now, ranching has also dramatically reduced the native people-edible plants in some landscapes. Cattle eat or trample delicate plants that are edible to people, and their excrement spreads non-native grasses where once there were patches of edible flowers, herbs, and fruits.  So as we integrate prescribed fire, grazing, and native plant biodiversity in managing public lands, we may want to leave a few "control" areas adjacent to range pasture for preservation and comparison of biodiversity.


- Smoke Mitigation:
A lot of the public discussion about wildfire seasons has to do with nuisance smoke, something that affects everyone even if you live in a city where the wildlands are postcard-sized in the distance.  
Prescribed fires don't necessarily make less smoke (though arguably they do reduce the total fuels being burned by preventing catastrophic crown fires), but they do give us better chances of timing the fire so that a rainstorm will wash the air clean within a day or two after the fire.  So they can be a much shorter-term nuisance.
Natural fuels processing through community collection for clean-burning wood stoves and furnaces, and alternatives like chipping and hugel beds, makes less smoke yet.
Forest service already opens areas for firewood collection, and often targets areas that are intended for prescribed burns in coming years.  

- Human Needs and Biodiversity:
Some people think that "don't touch" should be the primary caretaking approach to wild lands.  Leave it alone, it will be fine.
But people are expanding into wilderness - often the people who love it the most are the ones doing the initial settling and damage - and there is not enough acreage left in nature reserves to maintain genetically viable populations of large wild animals.  It takes a shockingly large territory, something like 30,000 square miles per species; there is not enough planet unless those species can overlap, including overlapping with humans' "private property".
So I'm generally in favor of human lifestyles that tolerate overlap with other species, and where humans are encouraged to meet their own needs in part by removing unwanted or surplus materials from wild areas.  People who actually visit the woods to pick mushrooms or gather firewood have a lot better idea of what is going on there, a lot more reason to observe closely the details and differences in the landscape, and a lot bigger stake in stopping something destructive, than those who just look at it on camping trips or through picture windows.

When humans use wood for fuel, and picket their "home stock" nearby, there is cleared circle around every settlement.  This is similar to what's recommended in FireWise design (sometimes these circles overlap, and the woods disappears into hedgerows as in England).
When humans stop using wood for fuel, drive cars instead of riding horses, and yet insist on "leave no trace" at their mountain cabin, you see accumulations of neglected fuels around human neighborhoods.  There are propane and oil tanks for heating and cooking, creosote-soaked poles for bringing in electricity, and you see accumulations of garden litter, uneaten grass and weeds, and uneaten browse where the deer are scared away by people or dogs.  (that's on the nice, nature-loving homes... it's worse in poor areas where there is a lot of plastic litter as well.)  
There is not a lot of time to deal with the dead grass, either, because you have to drive back to town for milk, and to make the money to pay the propane bill.  
Some conscientious settlers do still mow what would formerly have been eaten, and compost or mulch what would formerly have been fuel.  
Arguably doing a specialist job and a little yard work on weekends is still less work than chopping wood, hauling water, and milking and tending cattle - but it's a different kind of work, and may feel lonelier and less healthy.

 
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yep this has all been on my mind.

Last year seeing the Okanogan Valley fill with smoke was not fun at all. The year before seeing the line of smoke right above my property, clear to the North while thick rolling clouds like from Neverending Story to the South. And ash raining down is no fun either.

I knew I would need to be a lot more concerned about wild fires when buying land in Eastern WA. But having grown up in the PNW even when living away it was a topic I followed and discussed a lot.

One of my old business ideas was to start a x-mas tree farm for live trees. Rent them to people, pick them back up, return a deposit on the tree, re rent them as long as they could be brought out to homes, then when the root ball was too big plant them in deforested areas to help add larger more mature trees to vary the ages of trees in a forest that was wiped out and being replanted.

But the property I bought would not make a good tree farm, it has plenty of young trees on it, but too much steep hills for effective tree farming. So while my tree farm I feel is a good idea, not one I can do with my existing property. But hey anyone likes the idea please do it. I have been telling people this idea since the late 80's and always would love to see someone else try it. It is too good of an idea to think I own it. BTW, part of what I like about it also is the trees live with humans, as the center of festivities then go back out and live in nature. I just can't help but feel that we would have happier forests if trees thought we loved them.

While I would like to be more actively engaging out in the community and doing more hands on wild fire work in the area. I also just got my place 3 yrs ago and have need to do so much work on my property.

This year wanting to start building my house. But that also means a lot of timber cutting around the property for logs to mill. I have been marking trees to selectively cut around the place to help remember timber that can be taken to help thin out the over grown areas or to remove dangerous trees. Over the last 3 yrs I have been working on clearing the lower dead branches, still have so much more to do. I still have several standing dead to attend to and already cut down several. Some I will never touch as they are perfect habitat snags. Slowly but surely I am getting my place more and more wild fire resistant.
 
Posts: 117
Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
19
forest garden fungi urban chicken woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
With a reduced or eliminated snow-pack we'll need far more reservoirs, just to replace at least part of that seasonal water storage you're losing.  Beaver dams are great, but I'm talking about massive human dams.  Not sure if you could subsoil rip on a large scale and haul large trees into the furrow to create a rough terrace?

Perhaps over time we will reduce the fuel load, so fires become smaller and more grass-driven, and the ecosystem is more prairie (perhaps more like what the Natives had initially created).
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11036
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
601
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Small-scale structures in a water retentive landscape are much more effective at storing water than large reservoirs, which cause tremendous damage to watersheds and promote massive evaporation.

 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As Tyler said.

In Eastern WA we already have a lot of large scale dams. More than a lot of us actually want. They have seriously impacted the salmon spawning. We used to get salmon all up the Columbia and it's tributaries, but now hardly any make it up to my area on the Okanogan River.

Salmon actually play a large role in forest health. When bear fish for salmon they leave a lot of remains that then fertilizes the ground. Enriching the forest floor soil for the trees.
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1270
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
266
hugelkultur cat dog books food preservation
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The fire retardant the forest service used to use was actually based on fish blood, which had the bonus ecological effect of fertilizing areas that hadn't seen salmon in generations.  It takes about 1 fish per acre to make a big difference in micronutrients like phosphorus for upland forests.
However, firefighters tend to be working rough and have small cuts and bruises any given day, and having stinking rotten fish blood dropped on them out of the sky was pretty unpopular and something of a health hazard.  Eventually they switched to detergent-based retardants, and now there are some gel-type retardants coming into use.

I think most of the sites suitable for large-scale dams have been dammed, a lot of them with the help of my granpa Ray.  The West has a lot of artificial lakes.

I was indeed talking about massive, but soil- and gully-scale improvements to water retention.  Snow melt's major benefit is that it comes down slowly, trickles throughout the seasons rather than flash floods.  Deep soil and aquifers have this behavior too.  Big dams really don't - in addition to evaporation, they seem to encourage large-scale decisions, and water levels may be changed by feet or millions of cubic yards of water as a management decision.  The water released from big dams goes downstream in rivers, and swiftly out to sea - mostly, not back onto pasture or wildlands.  Water flow through dams is determined based on electrical usage; based on anticipated flooding or drought; based on the risk of cascading dam failures (if a dam above breaches, the resulting surge of water dramatically increases the likelihood that the next dam will fail).

So what I'm speculating about is an even more massive, possibly even more disruptive process, but I'm suggesting we undertake it very gradually, patchwork-fashion, and predominately in areas that are already heavily damaged and prone to erosion.
Essentially, rake the mountains (especially those just burned so hot they have lost most of their soil and root mass), into pleasing Zen-garden shapes along keyline principles, so that they tend to spread and slow water and move it toward the ridges, and build soils faster, than untreated areas.

I would really like to see some good evidence and documentation of how this treatment works in the arid and semi-arid West, before proposing it to those with the means to do it on a large scale.

If your community or a large landowner near you has started a regenerative forestry or pasturelands process aimed at improving soil depth and water retention and reducing erosion, and either has participated in studies or would be a good candidate for study, please let me know.

Yours,
Erica W
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just got back from a month being away from my place.

I was surprised to see my road was not a muddy mess, and worse the pond was not full.

WE have not gotten the amount of moisture we need. Which will play out as a dry summer if we don't get some good rains over the spring.

This worries me that this year could be another bad fire year.

I drove trough some of the burned out areas, and saw some work removing the standing dead. But wow there is still a lot of work to go.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just saw this useful info about different types of wild fires, and thought I would share here for folks to learn more about fire types.

http://nwfirescience.org/sites/default/files/flipbooks/types_flip/mobile/index.html
 
Posts: 1755
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
108
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live close to that "dead tree" area. It is our main source of firewood. We go up with permits and cut beetle kill trees. Laborious, but somehow enjoyable. I see what you are saying though. We only use 5 cords of wood for a year. That's not a whole lot of trees we need to cut down. There are TONS out there as well.

A lot of people cause forest fires around my area by shooting. Stupid stupid shooting. Not that shooting is stupid, but going out and shooting tracer bullets IS and causes tons of forest fires around here.

We had some peeps move from the city and light their house on fire trying to burn trash in high winds. They never did rebuild. I wonder what ever happened to them.

Anyway it is a worry for me but as I'm not in a treed area it's dry wheat fields catching fire that would worry me and then they're in rows so we would have all that tilled earth between rows to help slow the fire.
 
elle sagenev
Posts: 1755
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
108
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I should also note that if you've been seeing pine wood with beautiful blue waves in it, that is beetle kill wood. Once it was discovered how beautiful the wood was people started logging it for craft projects. I see it sold at Home Depot and Lowes now. So dead trees aren't worthless, they just require a better eye.
 
gardener
Posts: 449
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
144
hugelkultur dog trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been thinking about this and actively involved in it for about two years now. You did a pretty good summary of things, but one thing I'd love to stress is that USFS opinions on forest management have changed dramatically in the past decade. I know many people hate the USFS, especially on this forum, but in my experience they are some of the largest practitioners of true Permaculture in the US. They are the ones planting and designing ecological systems to last hundreds of years. This is not the USFS from 1968.

My focus is pretty contextualized to the Tahoe area and my own forest. I have a few big goals over the next decade:

- Remove beetle-kill trees
- Replace Douglas Fir (80% of current stand) with a more pine-leaning mix of Jeffery, Sugar (Pines tend to be more fire resistant than Firs)
- Remove Lodgepoles encroaching on meadow
- Remove Fir/pines from aspen groves
- Work toward raising the water table in the meadow by reducing banks on creek (Pond & Plug, brush dams, etc)

In the meantime, I spend money/time with organizations that I think promote general forest health. A few tree planting charities and a few trail building organizations. I think the trail building organizations are an under utilized asset. Mountain Bikers love to maintain clean forests, and it's a good thing for everyone. More people playing on toys without emissions. More people getting outside. More people spending time in remote forested areas.

A lot of this stuff can be done cheap, easy, and by hand. We have a few organizations dedicated to replanting burn scars with more fire-resistant species (Sugar Pine, White Pine). You just walk around, dig a tiny little hole and plant a seedling. Little actions like this can have massive impacts in 20-30 years.

A lot of this stuff is scary and hard. I never feel comfortable taking down a beetle-kill tree on a steep slope.

A lot of this stuff is politically troublesome. Many people have extremely rigid opinions about forest management that have no experience or education in the subject whatsoever. I know many people believe that every single forest fire is the result of the government not allowing clear cutting.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 845
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Something I have been thinking about a lot in my area of Eastern WA, is how much so many of the hills around here could really benefit from swales and berms, and key line.

So much of the hillsides shed their water so fast down into gullies and deep channels (which tend to also have a lot of erosion). The region could highly benefit from some slowing of the water.

Since this thread was started I have been looking for a video I found years ago, of a guy showing the old earth flumes up in the BC Okanagan. Showing how these unintentional swale and berms have become unique ecosystems on the hills up there. Unfortunately I have not been able to find the video to share. But it showed how different plants had colonized the flumes, and even different wildlife have found niches in these zones.

I could totally see if a large scale effort to do such hillside earthworks in the region there would be huge benefits which would include some reduction in wildfires ability to spread so far and wide.
 
Posts: 399
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
84
transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Fire management here is a rather complex mix of natural and man-made habitat protection, resource management, and sometimes too much political influence. There’s also a degree of cowboy mentality in the bushfire services: gung-ho boys with matches and hoses.

A week ago, the entire Sydney basin was bathed in a blanket of bush fire smoke, which exacerbated the health issues of many people. The cause? Back-burning in the numerous National Parks and Reserves that surround Sydney, and perfect weather conditions for it. However, the so-called perfect weather conditions also coincided with a temperature inversion that kept the smoke stationary for several days.

Most of our native tree species drop large volumes of bark and limbs rather than leaves so, over time, the loading can be high. Some scientists believe the nature of our forests were actually created by aboriginals who frequently burnt tracts of land to create hunting habitat. Over the millennia, only plants that could withstand the constant conflagration survived. Now, to some extent, we deal with the consequences of it.

The other thing involves species protection – animals, insects, plants and fungi have evolved to be dependent on fallen timber for nutrients, etc. So, clearing the forest floor, changing water flows or other landscaping is unacceptable.

Back burning is mainly used to protect a small number of private properties and infrastructure from catastrophic fires, but the resultant smoke obviously effects millions of people – some die as a result.

Also, in our dry climate and ancient geography water is scarce, so every time a forest is burnt it pollutes streams for months – ash and other contaminants strips oxygen out of water and natural chemicals from subsequent rainfall runoff makes it unpalatable for animals and humans alike.

Personally, I very much hate this sort of fire management – if people choose to live literally surrounded by highly combustible forest and do nothing to protect themselves and their possessions, then Darwin’s theory of natural selection should be permitted to play out. For some reason society needs to protect these indulgent idiots from themselves rather than enforce it through other avenues.

Most of our native forests (natural or plantation) are composed of the eucalypt species which, like pines, are highly combustible; but in the Australian context, have evolved to be (mostly) fire resistant and able to grow back. Likewise, numerous other pioneer species (Acacia, Banksia, etc) rely on fire for germination.

In a world-wide context, forest management plans need to be tailored to meet the needs of the particular forest i.e. National Park or commercial timber production, species requirements, etc.

Other than naturally occurring fire causes such as lightning strikes, man-made causes like accidents, incompetence and arson need to incur HUGE penalties. This at least gives nature some breathing space so natural processes can evolve to restore balance e.g. canopy restoration, natural decay, animal activity, et al.

Many of our National Parks and declared Wilderness Areas are planned with buffer zones – radiating outwards from the centre, the outer perimeter compensates for some obnoxious human activities like legal or illegal trailbike/horse/mountain bike riding and 4WDing. The inner perimeters permit various degrees of tracked and untracked foot travel (bushwalking), whilst the inner most area is usually pristine, with exceedingly low visits by humans – most of whom know and abide by the ‘leave nothing but footprints’ philosophies.

Decades ago I was on a group bushwalking trip in one of our National Parks with a recent immigrant from the then Yugoslavia. He pointed to all the fallen timber in disgust and said this would never happen back home because it would be collected and used to fire home stoves, etc. I had to explain the differences in climate, geography, species and general evolution to him and the importance of fallen timber to the ecology of a healthy Australian forest. To this day I don’t think he totally got the idea – these are some of the issues we face, using traditional European management practices in landscapes that share no common attributes.

 
pollinator
Posts: 487
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
65
hugelkultur dog duck
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for this thread Erica! I am working on a presentation/demonstration at the Del Norte county home show this Saturday (6/1)  on ways to make soil instead of smoke with woody debris from fuel mitigation practices. I am focusing on hugelkulture and wood filled trenches. This information will be a great addition to what I have. Thanks again
 
Posts: 17
Location: Colorado Springs, Zone 4b
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm curious about chipping wood during fire mitigation. One website I was recently put pine duff and wood chips in the category of things that should be cleared out anywhere near a house. I can sort of see their point but increasing organic matter in the soil is a central permaculture strategy. Having worked around wildfires, how do wood chips burn? I assume they're not going to burn as intensely as something with lots of air access. I assume that after a few years they'll have broken down and become less flammable but somewhere in the middle they'll be punky and will hold embers really well. So are wood chips the perfect use for dead wood or a hazard to keep far away?
I was hiking today through a section of forest that burned about 5 years ago and mostly it was just mineral soil with nothing on top. It seems that organic material beneath the mineral soil layer would tend to survive a fire a lot more easily so I was thinking about what deep-rooted plants could be planted.
 
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:
One million tiny ads for $25
https://permies.com/t/94684/million-tiny-ads
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!