Friday, July 24, 2015

Study: bug kill doesn't increase wildfire chances; bighorns ready to kill bikers

The southern Black Hills are greener and vistas more spectacular after the mountain pine beetle opened view sheds and increased water supplies. Wind Cave National Park is greenest in its history after a prescribed burn took even more invasive grasses than was planned.

However, after the 2012 White Draw Fire cheatgrass under pine between Hot Springs and Pringle looks like hell and appears ready to erupt in flames at any second.

But, researchers are saying insect activity doesn't make wildfire potential more likely at least in the Pacific Northwest where fires and bugs have been clearing overgrowth.
Although there is acute concern that insect-caused tree mortality increases the likelihood or severity of subsequent wildfire, previous studies have been mixed, with findings typically based on stand-scale simulations or individual events.
Read more here.

From Custer-based Wildfire Today:
These results are consistent with other studies that have investigated the likelihood of fire across the West. For example, a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Colorado scientists found that despite extensive outbreaks of mountain pine beetles in the Rockies and the Cascades, fires in recent years were no more likely to occur in beetle-killed forests than in forests not affected by the insects. [Wildfire Today]
As South Dakota's wildlife management bureaupublicans release disease-prone bighorn sheep onto federal lands, ostensibly to knock down a cheatgrass infestation created by the failure of Black Hills forest policy, the GOP-owned agency wants to kill more mountain goats.
“By our estimates (the population) was well below 100 animals,” said John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for the GF&P. “We were down around 60-70 mountain goats just prior to closing the [2007] season.” The cause of population decline was and remains largely unknown; however, there are some suspected causes. The first comes from a loss of habitat. “Up until we transplanted goats from Colorado, our goats came from six that came from Alberta, Canada in the early 1920s,” he said. “They escaped a zoo-type facility in Custer State Park, so all the goats we had originated from those six.
Bighorn sheep seem to doing well in the 2002 Grizzly Gulch burn near Deadwood. The animals are proliferating and waiting to jump in front of a million drunken bikers set to attend the Sturgis Rally.
Kanta said that in 2007 the rapid increase in pine beetle infestation killed thousands of acres of trees leading to a more open canopy and better habitat for the animals. The GF&P Commission’s proposal calls for two hunting licenses to be issued and areas would include the portions of Pennington and Custer counties west of Highway 79; excluding Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument and the fenced portions of Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park. [Mark Watson]
Let's see: beetles bad but beetles good. Got it.

The reasoning is hardly mysterious: it's all about the money hunting and logging funnel into a region smothering under single-party rule.

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