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Hugelkultur to use wildland fire mitigation trimmings?

 
Penny Long
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I am working with a Colorado Fire Protection District to help landowners reduce wildland fire risk. This involves cutting out some (mostly) conifer trees and reducing gambel oak shrub/tree undergrowth. We are working in a large area ranging in altitude from 6,000 feet to 13,000 feet with precipitation from 12-15 inches annually in the lower elevations to 30+ inches in the higher elevations. I'm wondering if it makes sense to consider hugelkultur as a way to deal with the trees and brush created during mitigation thinning. The conventional way to deal with this is to haul the thinnings (trees and smaller stuff) to a lumber yard, firewood seller or to chip it. We are hoping to offer other ideas for more direct use of the trimmings. It seems that conifers (ponderosa pine, douglas fir, blue spruce) are not usually recommended for hugelkultur. Anyone have any experience here?
 
Roxanne Sterling-Falkenstein
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All mentioned woods are fine. Especially for use on spot. The erosion control and new habitat for tree and other seedlings to catch hold on would be so beneficial. I am extremely interested in hearing from everyone else here. In my opinion this is exactly what should happen with reclaimed wood after forest fires if trees are to be disturbed at all. I live in Oregon and forest fires are like a for sale sign on all remaining timber, they come in and denude hillsides... which is followed by mudslides and severe drought conditions, as water races off hillsides into rivers and away to the ocean all too fast. Not to mention loss of topsoils which changes the fertility of the mountains drastically.
I vote yes for reclaiming at least some of the wood to help heal the land. I am watching this thread and would be most interested to hear how this plays out, good luck.
 
allen lumley
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Roxane and Penny : Living in New York state our Adirondac State Park is bigger than most Federal Parks, we are usually blessed with an abundance of rain and only
in drought conditions do we ever consider the fuel load in our forests, unfortunately we had a 'forever wild' policy that will eventually bite us all on the ass !

Woodchips are a great resource, if the greater part of the fire risk mitigation work is done in the wet months, windrows of wood chips could be buried by the spoil
from up hill Swales and Terracing! this should reduce erosion, and fire risk !

There is a new Video Out By Mycologist paul stamets where some of the points of your thoughts are addressed > This is a little lengthy but worth your time !

Big AL

Paul Stamets

OR

http://www.permies.com/t/41088/fungi/Paul-Stamets-Lecture-fungi-bees
 
Miles Flansburg
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Howdy Penny, welcome to permies!

Yes Hugeling those trees and shrubs should be standard practice. Everything that you can return to the land only makes the land better. It would also improve the water holding capacity of the forest and increase the mycorrhizal fungi that helps support the forest's health.

I hope you can convince those who are in charge of this to at least set up some experimental areas.

Would you be hugeling on site, where the trees are thinned, or at another site?
 
Peter Ellis
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Potentially beneficial. Potentially a hazard. Depends so much on location and execution. A large hugelbed running on contour high on a slope has potential to catch substantial water - and then fail catastrophically as a damn, releasing both water and debris.
In low rain environments hugely may have increased evaporation due to large surface area.
Potential problems to be avoided, not eliminating the idea as it definitely can be beneficial. Some areas it might be better to chip on site and inoculate with suitable fungi. Others the hugelbeds might be better. Both would return all that biomass to the soil.
 
Penny Long
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Thanks everyone for the encouragement and info. Fortunately, we are not dealing with recovering from fire at this point-we are trying to reduce the risk for the future. Most of the properties are not steep mountain land where the possible failure of structures due to flooding will be a considerable issue, but it will be a consideration for those in the high mountains. Most of the mitigation work is anticipated to be in foothill subdivisions with properties generally 35-40 acres or more in size. We are encouraging folks to start mitigation efforts close to homes (within 30-50 feet) for now, and will be seeking to expand outward and looking to do landscape-scale projects in the future. The local Forest Service folks are intrigued with this idea, and I will be doing some small scale hugelkultur building on my place for sure.

I'll keep you posted-and thanks again!
 
Nancy Hedberg
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Hi Penny, I'm doing this very thing on my property in southern colorado, at about. 8700 feet. We have 35 acres, ponderosa, pinon, juniper, and as I do the fire mitigation, I lay out the slash on contour and cover with pine needles and rocks, whatever is handy. It seems to be holding up really well, holds water like a beaver dam, not that I get that kind of water, but have had some areas coming off my driveway that have held up really well. My first attempts were about three years ago, and have stayed in place and compacted. I have several berms that I am covering with composted manure, several hundred feet longin an area where we had a road that we are trying to reclaim. I have often wondered why the forest service doesn't do this on a regular basis and am so interested in how the project is coming along. It has always been a problem of what to do with the slash, difficult to haul out especially in certain areas. Now, I don't see to have enough of it! It is very time intensive, but gets me outside and I don't need a health club membership!
 
Nancy Hedberg
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Btw, my berms are not very high, maybe a foot and a half or so, do you have pictured your project?
 
Roxanne Sterling-Falkenstein
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If beds are built properly, with run off swales ...I think it's a very minor risk .. I cannot see damming would ever an issue. The sheer scale of the work is the biggest issue.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Penny Long wrote:Thanks everyone for the encouragement and info. Fortunately, we are not dealing with recovering from fire at this point-we are trying to reduce the risk for the future. Most of the properties are not steep mountain land where the possible failure of structures due to flooding will be a considerable issue, but it will be a consideration for those in the high mountains. Most of the mitigation work is anticipated to be in foothill subdivisions with properties generally 35-40 acres or more in size. We are encouraging folks to start mitigation efforts close to homes (within 30-50 feet) for now, and will be seeking to expand outward and looking to do landscape-scale projects in the future. The local Forest Service folks are intrigued with this idea, and I will be doing some small scale hugelkultur building on my place for sure.

I'll keep you posted-and thanks again!


For fire mitigation I would recommend an area of 100 ft. from structures (houses, barns, etc.) embers can travel far and heat during an actual fire event can be well above 2000 degrees, (that much heat can cause structure exteriors to reach ignition temps pretty quickly, 50 feet is not far enough away from a fire to prevent heat induced combustion, I've seen it first hand as a smoke jumper) trees are prone to explode during a fire from the intensity of heat.

For less steep land, on contour mounds work very well and take less time to develop when held to around a 4' height. If swales are added on the up hill the soil removed to create the swale can be applied to the mound as the cover, then planting with cover crops will improve the soil as they grow and die off. This makes them less maintenance for the owner and also easier to keep from becoming a fire hazard all by themselves.

I live on forested land (hardwoods) and we have created a 100 foot clear space around the footing of where our house will be built in the near future. We did this because we do have 30-40 mph winds most of the year and paper tests have shown that embers could travel that far if not further when the winds are up.
We also are choosing our building materials with fire resistance as one of the deciding factors which will help with keeping insurance cost lower.
 
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