Wednesday, May 23, 2018

TDP supports mechanical timber harvest in the Black Hills but not new roads

The Island in the Plains has been broken for decades but the Black Hills Resilient Landscapes project could fix some of that.
Black Hills National Forest officials have said the project aims to make the forest more resilient to mountain pine beetles and wildfires through a variety of forest-wide actions including the reduction of natural fuel for wildfires, prescribed burning, enhancement of hardwoods and grasslands, logging and noncommercial forest thinning. [Project would log Black Hills to death, Norbeck Society says]
Pinus ponderosa is not native to the Black Hills and only reached the region less than four thousand years ago. When the Custer Expedition came through the Black Hills bringing invasive cheatgrass for their horses stands of ponderosa pine were sparsely scattered but a century and a half of poor ranching and land management practices have created an unnatural overstory best controlled by the mountain pine beetle, prescribed fires and periodic wildfires. After a century of destructive agricultural practices invasive grasses infest most of western South Dakota. It's important to remember high-VOC ponderosa pine only reached central Montana a thousand years ago. They're weeds.

South Dakota's failure to sufficiently clear decades of overgrowth and understory led to the Legion Lake Fire. After a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators and GOP retrenchment the BHNF and surrounding grasslands remain at risk to even hotter blazes.

The mountain pine beetle is hard at work clearing centuries of overgrowth throughout the Rocky Mountain Complex, so is the western spruce budworm. But leaving dead or dying conifers on the forest produces methane, an even more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is. University of Montana entomologist, Diana Six has been studying the relationship of forests, fungi and bark beetles for decades. Her work outlines how insects are clearing clogged watersheds being decoupled by the Anthropocene.

Antibiotics and hormones in cattle manure have disrupted and killed essential fungal communities in western forests. More diversity means clearing the second growth ponderosa pine, restoring aspen habitat, prescribing burns, beginning extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, engaging tribes, buying out ranchers, leasing private land for wildlife corridors and turning feral horses from Bureau of Land Management pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses.

The collapse of the Black Hills ecosystem has been evident since at least 2002.
Water quality and native fisheries on the forest are in serious decline due to grazing, logging and water diversion. Consequently, the biological integrity of the Black Hill's aquatic ecosystems is extremely low. Over the last 95 years, Forest Service logging practices have created a younger, more fire-prone ecosystem on the BHNF in violation of the National Forest Management Act [and] reflects poorly on the Forest Service's commitment to forest conservation. [On verge of ecological collapse]
Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Hill City, Rochford, Nemo, Silver City, Deadwood, Lead, Newcastle, even Sundance, Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearfish are at extreme risk from the tactical use of wildfire. Just six strategically-placed improvised fuel air explosives (FAEs) deployed during red-flag conditions have the potential to create a firestorm that would be virtually unstoppable.

Restoring some Forest Service roads beats the hell out of bulldozers carving up hillsides willy-nilly to fight wildfires but instead of building new roads on the BHNF managers should urge Raven Industries in Sioux Falls to manufacture Aerostats for timber harvest and fewer for surveillance.

Get cattle off the Black Hills National Forest, approximate historic habitat, make it part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge and elect Democrats to lead the way.

BHNF's first Moon Walk of 2018 will discuss the importance of good fire.

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