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8 acre-feet times five million dead beaver

 
                        
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From 1667 to 1860 the Hudson Bay company records show that they took three million beaver. From 1824 to 1845 Mountain Men took over two million - Broken Hand the life of Thomas Fitzpatrick.

For each one acre foot of water that one can see in a beaver pond, there are seven more forced into the soil.

In 1860 the first flood ever recorded was on the Snake Rive in Idaho and wiped out forts Boise - French and Hall - English. They were fur trappers.

My life on the Plains - Custer records rivers running hard across the mid west until middle August .. three buffalo wallers per acre all across the plains and grass and drinking water in them. By the 1920 these areas were a dust bowl and rivers were flooding every spring on the Missouri and the Mississippi killing and damaging property.

Beaver dams rotted out, beaver and buffalo .. gone .. the natural sponge of the beaver ponds a thing of the past and no longer could you dip the large intestine of the buffalo packed with loin, kidney, flour, salt and pepper into the Missouri and coil it into a pot and boil it .. have buffalo herds keep you awake all night in their passing .. lodges of 300,000 indians of one tribe were reduced to 5,000 My life on the Border - General Marcy .. fry slices of the above buffalo meat in a hot skillet in grizzly grease.

Multiply eight acre feet times five million .. that was the sponge we lost in Canada and the US.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Looks like we're the keystone species, for a while at least.\

It's amazing how bad erosion is in the Pacific Northwest. It's just sad to see all the soil that has been washed away there.
 
                          
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DustyTrails wrote:Multiply eight acre feet times five million


Two thoughts.

1) The Hudson Bay watershed takes 30% of Canadian water, and sends it out to the arctic, so none of this affects flooding to the South.

2) A mature tree absorbs 50 gallons of water per day (I have read on "the internet".

1 acre = 43 560 sq feet.

1 acre foot = 43 560 cubic feet. = 5 445 gallons. (10 trees would take 10 days to absorb)

8 acre feet of water would take 80 trees 10 days to absorb *all* the water held back in the pond (easy fit for 1 acre)

If beavers had not removed / flooded all the trees in the first place, the land would still absorb huge quantities of water.

Ignoring the benefits of the beaver life cycle, any thoughts on the comparative benefits of trees vs beaver ponds for long term water management?
 
Len Ovens
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I have read that the desertification of north America has more to do with our grazing practices. The bison kept to a small tight group where they grazed to protect themselves from predators. They chewed up the ground in that small place well then moved to the next. I guess someone has tried this with cattle by fencing their property into lots of small (seemingly too small) areas and moving them every frequently. His pasture is healthier than any others in the area.

I can't find it right now.... of course.
 
                              
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Len wrote:
I can't find it right now.... of course.


I can!

Polyface farms! These guys rock when it comes to pasture management. You tube links below:

Part 1 = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYWYU5V8JOo
Part 2 = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfw2ybbRTYs
Part 3 = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrxmgR-vYms
 
                                
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ceog~ Please go over your numbers again before you apply them to any practical application. Your "gallons per ac/ft" figure is less than the square ft per ac.
 
                          
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rockguy wrote:ceog~ Please go over your numbers again before you apply them to any practical application. Your "gallons per ac/ft" figure is less than the square ft per ac.

Thanks rockguy -  you're completely correct. I should have put ALL my calculations, and maybe I would have realised I mistook a cubic foot for a pint ops:

That makes 1 cu foot = 6.2 imperial gallons not 1/8 of a gallon. So I'm out by a factor of 50... so...

1 acre foot = 43 560 cubic feet. = 271 328 gallons. (500 trees would take 10 days to absorb)

8 acre feet of water would take 4000 trees 10 days to absorb *all* the water held back in the pond.

based on this chart of trees per acre http://www.hybridpoplars.com/space.htm 4000 mature trees is not feasible, so to make the numbers work, I'd have to have increase the time to absorb.

So for holding back water, a beaver pond holds back more water, but once full, it would not be able to hold back any additional water, whereas trees would continually reduce water.
 
Erica Wisner
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ceog wrote:
Two thoughts.

1) The Hudson Bay watershed takes 30% of Canadian water, and sends it out to the arctic, so none of this affects flooding to the South.



Hudson Bay Company was not limited to the Hudson Bay valley - they had major forts in our area (Oregon/Washington) and were a big part of the English policy of trapping out the West to discourage Americans from pushing westward and settling more land.

As for the rest of your argument:
Sorry, even with the right math, the numbers don't say a whole lot about the big picture.

What were you trying to say? 
Trees good, beavers bad?  Or trees lost, beavers lost, floods bad?

A lot of other things have been lost that contributed to flood mitigation, but swamplands are right up there, and beavers are one of the few creatures that enjoy building wetlands for their own sake.
 
                          
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I wasn't aware the Hudson Bay Company went west too. Thanks.

I think it is important to be aware of the facts as much as possible. Science is important. For centuries malaria was presumed to be caused by "bad air" - hence the name: it seemed obvious. You lived where the air was bad and you were more likely to get sick.

I was just trying to understand the relative effects on water flow of beavers building dams and in the process destroying trees, verses trees on their own. Nothing to do with 'good' vs 'bad'. Everything is good for some species, in some timescale. Floods and fires too are good, though often not for humans.

Humans generally encourage what they want for themselves in their short lifetimes. Ancient trees dying are bad for individual humans, as we cannot wait another 600 years for them to re-grow. This is why we constantly try to avert natural fires, and worry about beaver damage.

When I searched for information on beavers, I could find very little. Most sites are about how to get rid of them. Most of my understanding comes from this very informative (and I hope trustworthy) site http://www.sacredbalance.com/web/pond/

As an aside - The area I'm in requires local environmental agency permits for work within 30m / 100ft of wetland... but that doesn't include beavers - you can get rid of beavers and remove their dams, it doesn't seem to count as wetland. Currently I'm happy with my dam and pond. Camping to the sound of spring peepers is up there on my list of fantastic moments.

However if I thought I would lose my big trees, I would likely abandon my laissez faire approach.

PS I also realised that my (troubled) maths doesn't take into account that it isn't 1 beaver per pond, or that those 5,000,000 pelts were over a 200 year period.

There are many beavers in a pond, and many generations over 200 years, so that would significantly reduces the amount of water per beaver 
 
Erica Wisner
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I don't think I've seen beaver-felled trees much over 1 foot diameter.  Usually, they're more in the 1" to 5" diameter range.  To make use of them for dams, the beaver generally has to be able to drag them.  Most of the trees they chew are small branches for food.  They can clear out brush quite a lot, tho.

I've seen a lot of 600+ year old stumps that got chewed by chainsaw or 2-man saw, though.  Don't be pointing the finger at the beaver for our own mess.

Trying to read between the numbers, it seemed like somebody was trying to evaluate some kind of beavers vs. trees benefit analysis.

That equation seems to rest on a false assumption.  No point using logic if you don't have an axiom to stand it on. 
It's very difficult to apply simple numbers accurately to ecological interactions; they are notoriously complex, and hidden, compensating factors keep emerging layer after layer.  Simple relationships are the exception rather than the rule.

It looks to me like both beavers and big trees have declined with industrial expansion, and other landscape-eroding and groundwater-reducing factors have increased with that same expansion.  You can chart the decline of life-supporting environmental quality factors on a very macro scale.  Some is due to geologic climate shifts, or introduced species, but much more to industrial effects.

What interested me in this thread was the perspective: a 'minor' creature like a butterfly or beaver, can have major effects that are visible in hindsight.

With current rates of extinctions, when the crap hits the fan we probably won't even know the name of the lost creature that tipped the balance.

We are lucky in the case of the beaver: its numbers are recovering.

And in the case of industrial expansion: it is fueled by a resource glut, and unlikely to last forever.
 
                          
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Erica Wisner wrote:
I don't think I've seen beaver-felled trees much over 1 foot diameter.  Usually, they're more in the 1" to 5" diameter range.  To make use of them for dams, the beaver generally has to be able to drag them.  Most of the trees they chew are small branches for food.  They can clear out brush quite a lot, tho.


I have a number 10" diameter trees brought down by beavers. They are very helpful. They fell the trees and strip the branches, leaving nice logs ready for sawing for firewood. They just don’t do it on demand - time or location.

That said, I was also referring to trees that get drowned by rising water levels, not just those directly felled by the beavers. But again, I don't know how long there is between beaver cycles in a given area, and how big trees might get between cycles. So maybe beavers seldom kill ancient trees, but I can’t find facts, I just have ideas, hence this discussion


Erica Wisner wrote:I've seen a lot of 600+ year old stumps that got chewed by chainsaw or 2-man saw, though.  Don't be pointing the finger at the beaver for our own mess.

Trying to read between the numbers, it seemed like somebody was trying to evaluate some kind of beavers vs. trees benefit analysis.


I am not pointing fingers at beavers or humans. I am merely trying to understand how it all fits together. I know it's complicated. There's no "beavers vs. trees benefit analysis" going on. I would not base any actions on a calculation about how much water the land would retain - even if I believed I could know that. I just want to know out of a desire to understand, not just believe.

Besides, beavers are far more than just how much water they hold back. They create variety in areas that would otherwise just be perpetual forest, and presumably ultimately a monoculture of White Pine (in this area), until the next big fire came along and the process stared over again.

Erica Wisner wrote:That equation seems to rest on a false assumption.  No point using logic if you don't have an axiom to stand it on. 
It's very difficult to apply simple numbers accurately to ecological interactions; they are notoriously complex, and hidden, compensating factors keep emerging layer after layer.  Simple relationships are the exception rather than the rule.


I agree that logic is easy, facts are hard. I state my assumptions, so they can be refuted. I would suggest it is even more dangerous to base logic on axioms! Apply logic to assumptions / facts that can be tested, as opposed to someone's declarations of axioms.

On the other hand, if one just accepts that things are too complex to understand, then one risks becoming a believer, which brings different dangers.


Erica Wisner wrote:It looks to me like both beavers and big trees have declined with industrial expansion, and other landscape-eroding and groundwater-reducing factors have increased with that same expansion.  You can chart the decline of life-supporting environmental quality factors on a very macro scale.  Some is due to geologic climate shifts, or introduced species, but much more to industrial effects.

Nothing to do with industrial expansion. Just human expansion. Long before industrialisation, human society was over using resources. Industrial expansion has just allowed the numbers of humans to rapidly increase -- so far.


Erica Wisner wrote:
What interested me in this thread was the perspective: a 'minor' creature like a butterfly or beaver, can have major effects that are visible in hindsight.

I would suggest that they are not visible, but perceived. I question whether the removal of beavers was the main 'industrial' problem, or simply the logging. I suspect that logging was the issue. After all everyone knows that killing a family of beavers and destroying their dam just makes an ideal site for a new beaver to move in. But ultimately I too have no facts, just thoughts.

Would logging (of white pine) not just increase the number of suitable sites for beavers?

Erica Wisner wrote:
With current rates of extinctions, when the crap hits the fan we probably won't even know the name of the lost creature that tipped the balance.

We are lucky in the case of the beaver: its numbers are recovering.

Nothing to do with luck. It has to do with responsible human discourse and debate... and the advent of cash cheap fossil fuel based materials.

Erica Wisner wrote:And in the case of industrial expansion: it is fueled by a resource glut, and unlikely to last forever.
I agree - at which point, the trees will go as the choice of individuals will be suffer now or later, or indeed suffer now and allow your neighbour to not suffer now. And then eventually later arrives.... but now I seem to be going OT  ops:
 
                          
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Beavers allow trees to grow where they otherwise would not.  In more arid prairie zones the water that is pooled encourages the growth of trees that otherwise couldn't exist.
 
Emerson White
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Great thread!

Some thoughts that occur to me.

1) The flooding problem is not that too much water goes down the river, but rather that too much goes down at one time. What would come down in a matter of weeks is now spaced out over a matter of months. Now if you like the flooding you are SOL but if not then beavers are useful.

2)Beaver ponds collect sediments and even after the dam breaks they continue to be great habitat for plants, with lots of rich sediment. When the beavers move on or die out the pond becomes a meadow first then it becomes a forest again.

3) In the PNW the cascades catch all the water evaporated off. So trees evaporating water away and water evaporating off beaver ponds is just going to come back down the mountains again later.

7) All that water forced into the soil is also going to seep out somewhere, it's not permanent, just moving through.
 
jimmy gallop
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beavers should be allowed to build where they want ,probley the real cause of globle warming . all the beavers not allowed to have there place in this world,if it does exist.i don't realy think it does just normal weather stuff.
 
Matt Ferrall
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In my mind,trees are not inherently good.Diversity of habitat can be more productive to humans and wildlife.Beavers create more edge habitat and allow more species diversity in that niche.
 
                          
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Emerson White wrote:
1) The flooding problem is not that too much water goes down the river, but rather that too much goes down at one time. What would come down in a matter of weeks is now spaced out over a matter of months. Now if you like the flooding you are SOL but if not then beavers are useful.


Do you mean it used to be months and is now weeks? Or that the beavers have returned to your neck of the woods and things have improved?

I was wondering about how much effect beavers have on general flood prevention. Beavers build dams to maximize area of water, not volume of water. If they detect a leak (by sound or water flow) they go and plug the leak.

Assuming that, the height of their dams are tailored to the normal rate of water flow. They aren't going to pro-actively prepare for the next deluge (I presume). If flow rates increase temporarily due to a storm, it just escapes either over or around the dam before they have time to add another inch to the height of the dam.

Once the dam is full, the flow out=flow in - evaporation. So I'm not sure that would be very noticeable. (and as you point out, the evaporation will fall back to earth soon anyway)

It would have an effect during a dry season, where any increased flow would top-up the pond before continuing down stream, but that would just extend the dry period down stream. I'm guessing it would have less of an effect on major seasonal floods.
 
Dale Hodgins
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      Hudsons hope in northern BC near the Alaska Highway was a Hudsons Bay Company outpost. They went just about everywhere and their trappers covered all points in between outposts. In Canada people often referred to dollars as bucks. Money is also referred to as doe. This began when the Hudson's Bay Company were trading with natives for firs. If a musket cost five buck skins which is a deer hide they could also pay with 10 doe hides since the females were smaller and had thinner skins. Animal hides were the first common medium of exchange between the two peoples. When beavers, muskrats, mink, arctic foxes, bobcats and other animals of various grade and species were added to the mix we had our first currency which was easily understood by all. Hudsons Bay records show that some native groups favored muskets, axes and knives as trade goods while others purchased large quantities of metal cookware, sewing kit's, scissors and hand mirrors. This would seem to indicate that some tribes were more patriarchal and others more matriarchal. The beaver trade was like a gold rush to native peoples who now had ready access to manufactured goods and as in every goldrush eventually the vein runs out. Today in many parts of the boreal forest beavers are repopulating at a far greater rate than predators can handle. My cousin who clears beavers from culverts and residential wood lots can only get $20 each for them now. In the mid-70s when beavers were rare hides brought $300 each. So although beavers may be missing from certain geographical areas they are in no danger of dying out. The European market for firs has collapsed predator populations can't keep pace with the beavers amazing reproductive capacity and logging tends to favor beavers since their primary foods are the quick growing hardwoods which are the first trees to repopulate in the succession of a new forest.   

In 1946 50 Canadian beavers were introduced to the southern Argentina archipelago where they have become a menace. There are now approximately 200,000 and they have moved  to all of the islands in the archipelago and are now established on the mainland of South America. The plan was to start a fur industry but instead they killed their forests and plugged their rivers. There are no natural predators of beavers in this part of the world and the native population has no tradition of trapping and they don't like the greasy meat. The Argentine and Chilean governments have a task force aimed at complete eradication. If we ever run short of beavers here I'm sure they'd gladly send us thousands of them
 
Miles Flansburg
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I own 10 acres of sagebrush and aspen covered land. It is the transitional area between  pine and fir forests and prairie. I have four creeks that flow across the property. I can see where old beaver dams were but now have dried up due to the local ranchers and land owners trapping the beaver out, "because they were cutting down all of the trees" and "slowing down our irrigation water". So Now there are no beavers to maintain the dams.
On the main stream I can see where a large dam had been, which created a "sponge" of about two acres. Where there was once sagebrush, before beavers, there is now aspen and lots of grasses, shrubs, etc. The large aspens are now dieing. I believe it is because the old dam has washed out and the creek is now a gully, 12 ft deep in places. The water table has dropped. I am in the process of building small dams across the gully to slow the erosion and reestablish the sponge.
The aspen trees have come back in a thick mass of young spindly trees in places where the beaver once kept them thinned. They will grow about 4 to 6 ft each year. Thick ,almost like bamboo. Slowly they shade each other out and about half die from the competition. An area I cleared for a camp spot last year is already overgrown with small trees. " It wants to be a forest"
I cannot prove it but I believe that the aspen and the beaver have coexisted for a long time and I don't think the beaver could ever really get ahead of the trees for very long anyway. So I vote for the beaver.

I would love to have the beaver back.
 
gary gregory
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Wyomiles wrote:
I cannot prove it but I believe that the aspen and the beaver have coexisted for a long time and I don't think the beaver could ever really get ahead of the trees for very long anyway. So I vote for the beaver.

I would love to have the beaver back.


Transplanting Beavers by Airplane and Parachute
www.jstor.org/stable/3796322

I post this in jest but I bet there are agencies interested in re-establishing them.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Thanks Gary.   Ya I think I can get it done through the game and fish , I just have to get some of the neighbors on board.
 
Derek Brewer
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We have a real beaver problem in Upstate NY where I have a small place. Probably one out of every three or four roadkill are beavers (then porcupine, then deer) and they are constantly gumming up outflow pipes for ponds and roadworks. That's why trapping of furbeares is still allowed in many states in the NE.
Shame things got so out of whack. It's going to be a lot of work to straighten them out again.
 
                        
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ceog Hatfield wrote:


However if I thought I would lose my big trees, I would likely abandon my laissez faire approach. 


Some information about protecting your cherished trees that might be helpful http://www.beaversww.org/solving-problems/trees-and-plantings/
 
David Bates
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This thread is fun. God save the Queen and lead her to send our Beavers back.

I have a lovely square of Canadian Shield with a busy Beaver swamp on it. The land includes both of the highest ridges for miles around and the Beavers keep one corner of it flooded using a handy to control culvert. So I have a life time supply of swamp bottom and lots of water. The best part of is that the Beaver swamp is on the South edge of a field that I like. When they cut down a tree (which is rare because they prefer to eat the small trees growing on the hummocks) I will get better sun exposure *and* reflection from the water

The Beavers keep deep channels open through the swamp. They also dig deep pools to put their winter food in. I'm pretty lazy but I bet if I pulled a hundred years worth of Beaver larder out of one of the pools... I'd get a good fish pond too.

Oh yeah, almost forgot... I can make a hat for myself out of one.
 
Rob Ketel
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I grew up on a ranch in northern Manitoba where the beaver was running rampant. A fun saturday evening involved grabbing a rifle, sitting in a tree and shooting beaver for bounty. In the winter, my brothers and I would run a trap line, making money the old fashioned way... We would send a bale of furs down to the Fur exchange in Winnipeg every spring.

This was Back in the late 90's... Beaver are back, and in an annoying way. My father still hunts them, just to eradicate the ever growing population that threatens to take back the land and turn it back into a wet land. As much as I want things to "go" back, I also know that my father needs his prime hay land water free.

Talking to the old folk in the area, they told me that the only place one could see a Canadian Beaver back in the 50's was on the back of a Nickle (we have a beaver on our Nickle for those who didn't know). They once found a beaver pond and the teachers of the local school took the kids for a field trip to see this wonder of wonders.

As much as we as a human race have tried to destroyed the natural order of things, the natural order IS coming back. In norther manitoba, the wolf population is back up... My father saw a Grizzly bear a couple years back, and Grizzly bears have not been seen in the area for more than a Hundred years.

Frankly, the best thing that has happened to the natural ecological cycle has been the migration of humans from the farm to the big cities. We are not as strong on the ground in rural areas as we once were. The natural order is righting itself.
 
richard valley
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Well, Beaver: We had beaver working the river in this valley in the 60s and 70s. They made great ponds we would swim in, and the trout got big and the branches they used in their dam grew into trees. The forestry trapped and killed them. Now there are no warm water ponds, no big fish, no warm water to swim in, just a fast running cold, cold river.In the local paper it was said: In 1938 the government released two pair or beaver into this Sierra valley and all these are their decendants, so they are just removing beavers they have released. I don't believe that for a minute, these mountains run from Mexico to Canada and are in several states. Here in this valley the beaver, I think, were good to have around.

Bear, I used to like the bear. But after years of protection they are in such great numbers they have become a danger to people animals and property. They break into houses, with people inside, kill goats, sheep and people in some cases. One bear took two of our goats before he was made a good bear.

 
chris cromeens
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Drop a little beaver knowledge on you. Spent 10 yrs in wildlife management dealing primarily beaver. If you have a diversity of young and old growth trees the beaver prefer the young growth and prefer species that usually handle coppicing well. Beaver being rodents can multiply quickly and will out multiply its food source (though not as badly as rats or nutria). Typically when beaver are taking large diameter trees they are over-populated. An old rule of thumb taught to me by an indian trapper was to remove only 2 beaver a year from a colony and there will always be beaver there. Of course this only works if you are the only person removing beaver from a colony. Here in the south they are just as likely to take residence in bank dens on made man ponds undermining dams etc.
but in my opinion a beaver pond is a much more diverse than a manmade pond. But most people don't want there land redesigned by nature :sigh:
It's all about balance and the beaver is one of the success stories of conservation management. I catch and put one in my pond every few years to clean out the willows they eat willows fall and winter then leave in search of a mate in early spring. If they ever decide to set up shop on my pond I will consider them another resource for me to manage (beaver meat is good red meat and there is lots of fat for rendering), beaver works are great wildlife attractants for all wildlife, baby beaver tame down pretty easily not pet quality tame but they easily can get used to your presence giving you some of the best television ever. There are more pros than cons with having beaver and water retention on the land is but one. They increase fish population and water quality (some experts may dispute this, but again it's really about balance), they thin out monoculture stands willow, poplar, etc. and I can't impress enough how big of a draw to wildlife a beaver pond is. totally unique to our continent we could learn alot from these guys.
 
Ben Zukisian
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Just drove through the WIllamette Valley, near Corvallis, OR, home of the OSU Beavers. I was flummoxed by seeing tractors plowing up dust on unmulched ground, flushing some of the world's best soil (10k years in the making) into waterways already choked with nutrients. And this is amidst the #1 grass seed growing area in the world with logging in the hills all around, so why the fuck can't they mulch? This should be criminal.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I doubt that it is a matter of them not being able to mulch but rather a matter of them not wanting to spend the money necessary to mulch.
Farmers are not all about saving the land, they have been fooled into thinking you have to till the soil for things to grow.
Big Ag is all about money, pure and simple and they have convinced farmers for decades that tillage is the way to profits.
Loggers are all about killing trees so they can  make money from lumber, where would they get the idea that they should mulch or otherwise cover the soil they just laid bare?

 
John Weiland
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@Ben Z: "....so why the fuck can't they mulch? This should be criminal."

During the late 80s when I was living there, the same grass-seed industry was still burning their fields....occasionally cars would pile into each other on I-5 when they all got lost in the smoke.  Not to mention the air quality during those periods.  Don't think they do that anymore so at least that's one improvement. With cheap oil and no reason/legislation to do otherwise, it's not likely to change soon....

@Bryant R: "Loggers are all about killing trees so they can  make money from lumber, where would they get the idea that they should mulch or otherwise cover the soil they just laid bare? "

Most big ag, logging, and mining are pretty much the same.....the bottom line is most easily achieved by extracting and not regenerating.  Throughout time, it's been more popular just to abandon and take up a new extractive occupation than to consider a regenerative path.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau John, 
Most big ag, logging, and mining are pretty much the same.....the bottom line is most easily achieved by extracting and not regenerating.  Throughout time, it's been more popular just to abandon and take up a new extractive occupation than to consider a regenerative path.


I thought that was what I was saying too.
 
Devin Lavign
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I doubt that it is a matter of them not being able to mulch but rather a matter of them not wanting to spend the money necessary to mulch.
Farmers are not all about saving the land, they have been fooled into thinking you have to till the soil for things to grow.
Big Ag is all about money, pure and simple and they have convinced farmers for decades that tillage is the way to profits.
Loggers are all about killing trees so they can  make money from lumber, where would they get the idea that they should mulch or otherwise cover the soil they just laid bare?



Just a little clarification and not saying these are universal or even right ways of thinking.

Farmers often do care about the land and recognize the health of the land is tied to their ability to farm. It is often just lack of education and understanding that has them doing harmful practices, as well as being sold on dangerous nasty practices by Big AG. Most farmers these days are old and set in their ways. They are resistant to change and "new" ideas. They have done things a certain way for most their lives, and their fathers did it that way too, and their grandfathers, so why change now.

Big Ag is indeed about money, if you can demonstrate a better practice is financially beneficial they will actually adopt it quickly. If one could present mulching as a cost benefit to Big Ag controlled farms they would be mulched the very next year.

Loggers often actually love forests and trees quite a bit, enjoying being out in the woods camping, etc and every logger I know seems to have a heavily treed yard. Again like farmers there is the issue of education and understanding blocking some better practices for them. For example they are often confused by the regulations as they were not explained them well, or understand them well. I had one telling me how it made no sense they couldn't cut all the way up to a stream that was above a large water fall, "the fish can't get up here so they aren't spawning here" he kept saying. After he calmed down enough for me to get a word in, I explained how even above a waterfall cutting into waterways causes silt and sediment to flow down into the spawning beds, destroying the fish spawning grounds. He sat there for a decently long time with a sort of bewildered look on his face, then suddenly understanding hit him. He got it and said how he would explain it to all his logger friends and even explained how important keeping the fish alive was to him.

It is easy to paint folks as uncaring when you disagree with them or their practices, but often times they are just normal folks who just were taught differently. A good healthy discussion and gentle suggestion of better ways with good explanations can win over many people you would never suspect.
 
John Weiland
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@Bryant R: "I thought that was what I was saying too."

Yes, that was my impression from your words.  I was only adding something here my interpretation of agrarian history.  There is this generally unspoken mythology that farming and logging *are* regenerative.  And certainly in the short term, a forest that grows back under its own volition or supplemented by planting or a large ag tract that is subjected to standard or reduced till cultivation and continues to yield plants year after year would appear regenerative.  I added the concept of mining, since that particular extractive endeavor is usually distinguished from logging or large ag when considering the criterion of 'regenerative'.  But really, in terms of intent and investment, all three are pretty much the same...minimizing input and regeneration costs for maximum output and monetary wealth.

Roping in Devin L.'s comments as well, I'll just distinguish Mining/Logging/Big Ag as entities in an of themselves from the myriad of souls involved in the various aspects of these enterprises.  Certainly there are well-intentioned practitioners in each of those endeavors, but the other side exists as well.  Ultimately at this point in time, the entities answer to the market.....which has corrosive effects that are easy to see across many landscapes.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ben Zukisian wrote:I was flummoxed by seeing tractors plowing up dust on unmulched ground, [...] so why [...] can't they mulch?


Have you checked on the price of mulch lately?

It takes 540 cubic yards to put 4" of mulch on an acre of ground. At $25 per yard, it would cost $13,500 for the mulch. Trucking charges would be about $1000. Labor to install it would be a few thousand.

Supposing a farmer has a field that is 640 acres, a square mile; It would take 345,600 cubic yards to apply 4" of mulch to the field. So the cost of materials, transportation, and labor would end up being in the neighborhood of $10,000,000. Just to cover a measly square mile. There are about 3000 square miles of fields in the Willamette Valley. If planted into wheat, the field could expect to net about $100,000.

Last time I checked, the mulch to cover my tiny rinky-dink fields 4" deep was greater than the total inventory of mulch available in my county, and the next closest county.

When materials are brought in from outside in order to mulch a field, they are making a desert of some other place...

In small gardens, the externality of where the mulch comes from is often ignored. On a larger scale, such as my minuscule farm, the provenance of the mulch can't be ignored.



 
Kyrt Ryder
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Indeed, importing mulch for farming is not wise. Self mulching via cover rops or alternate crops-ala fukuoka- at the cost of not selling straw is far more viable.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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