Monday, July 1, 2019

BHNF Tepee Canyon fuel treatment will include clearcuts


The Island in the Plains has been broken for decades but the collapse of select Black Hills ecosystems has been evident since at least 2002. Add the very high number of private inholdings within the Black Hills National Forest that make the wildland urban interface (WUI) very large to one of the highest road densities in the entire national forest system and Region 2 to lots of logging, hardrock mining and pesticides like Carbaryl then understand why over a hundred species in South Dakota alone and a million worldwide are at risk to the Republican Party.

Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Hill City, Rochford, Nemo, Silver City, Deadwood, Lead, Newcastle, even Sundance, Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearditch 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. So BHNF officials want to slash thin some 2,669 acres of forest during what they are calling the Tepee Canyon Project on public land between Jewel Cave National Monument and the Custer Highlands residential area.

Mechanical treatments will include clearcuts or in silviculture parlance: overstory removal. No doubt GOP donors Hulett, Wyoming-based Neiman Enterprises will gobble up that logging pork.
“The whole premise here,” said Matthew Daily, the forest’s acting timber program manager, “is we’re trying to break up the landscape to avoid a running, catastrophic fire event.” The public comment period for the Tepee Canyon Project is open until Friday, July 5. [Rapid City Journal]
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.
Support by forestry and government stakeholders as well as funders is essential to reach the ambitious goal of better understanding the [European spruce bark beetle] system, which is likely to become increasingly problematic due to climate change. For example, it will be necessary to establish a continuous monitoring system to correctly assess population phases and financial resources will be required for long-term, multidisciplinary data collection. Effective cooperation among forest scientists, landowners, and governmental stakeholders will ultimately help forest practitioners apply evidence-based strategies to predict and manage outbreaks of the ESBB and other eruptive insects. With ongoing global change, population eruptions of bark beetles are increasing in severity and frequency, as are eruptions in many other pest insects. [Diana L. Six, et al.]
It's important to remember ponderosa pine, high in volatile organic compounds (VOC), only reached central Montana a thousand years ago. They're weeds. Dendroctonus ponderosae or mountain pine beetle predates by millions of years Pinus ponderosa in the Black Hills which only reached that region less than four thousand years ago. 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.

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. Native Douglas fir, limber and lodgepole pine have been mostly extirpated from He Sapa, The Heart of Everything That Is and after a century of destructive agricultural practices invasive grasses infest most of western South Dakota.

Should rewilding efforts seek to approximate sustainable wild lands to Pleistocene Era conditions or let the Anthropocene lay waste to them desertifying precious resources changing the landscape forever leaving the survivors to cleave out habitable zones forsaking native species?

Global warming has been accelerating since humans began setting fires to clear habitat, as a weapon or just for amusement. Evidence that we humans have eaten or burned ourselves out of habitats creating catastrophes behind us is strewn throughout the North American continent. European settlement and the Industrial Revolution in the New World took hardwoods for charcoal then humans allowed fast-growing conifers to replace lost forests. Desertification driven by agricultural practices, overgrazing, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and urban sprawl have turned much of the United States into scorched earth.

Imagine pulling a clan up the Little Missouri River in dugout canoes 12,000 years ago. Exploiting the gap between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets during the Wisconsin Glacial Episode the Clovis People were the first humans to see the Missouri Buttes and Mato Tipila. They settled Paradise only to have their descendants watch it be destroyed by colonizers. The ancestors of all American Indians living east of the Rocky Mountains saw those peaks when the Clovis Culture crossed into the Cheyenne/Belle Fourche drainage then into the Missouri/Mississippi River system.

The relatively small distance between the Canadian River in New Mexico and the Missouri at Fort Peck in Montana reminds me again how the earliest humans in North America were undaunted by glaciers, the dire wolf, and Smilodon on everything north of the Sangre de Cristos terminating at Santa Fe then blazed the Pecos Trail from west to east into the southern Great Plains and Mississippi Valley to find an inland paradise teeming with prey. Lakota is an Algonquin-based tongue and is spoken by a majority of South Dakota’s tribal nations. After migrating into present-day North Carolina and forced westward by manifest destiny then acquiring horses from Spanish exploiters the Lakota reclaimed the Black Hills.

But today, Northern Colorado has just added a bison herd so have the Eastern Shoshone. The Oglala, Pawnee and Comanche National Grasslands are not far away. The Thunder Basin National Grassland in Wyoming is managed by offices in Colorado. The Fort Pierre National Grassland in South Dakota is managed from Nebraska. It merely takes the political will to build corridors for bison, other ungulates and their associated predators over public, tribal and leased private land into the Oglala National Grassland in Nebraska, Wyoming's Thunder Basin National Grassland to North and South Dakota then through the Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Fort Peck nations in Montana.

After bison reach sustainable levels agreed upon by the stakeholders fit private and other public herds like the one at Wind Cave National Park with microchips to join the public herd and be harvested according to the market or population pressures. Hybrid herds should be assessed on a case by case basis and some individuals could join the main herd.

East River South Dakota has been destroyed but West River can still be saved.

The Rocky Mountain Complex and the Black Hills have been home to a much larger aspen community in the fairly recent past. Ponderosa pine sucks billions of gallons from aquifer recharges, pine needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt. Clear that second growth pine, conduct fuel treatments, restore aspen and other native hardwoods, build wildlife corridors and approximate Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids.

The South Dakota Democratic Party should advocate for paying the tribes and settling the Black Hills Claim, dissolving the Black Hills National Forest, moving management of the land from the US Department of Agriculture into the Department of Interior in cooperation with Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildfire Management. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer/Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.

Rewild it and rename it Paha Sapa or He Sapa National Monument eventually becoming part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge connecting the CM Russell Wildlife Refuge in Montana along the Missouri River to Oacoma, South Dakota combined with corridors from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon in the north and south to the Canadian River through Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

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