Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Short-Term Costs for Long Term Dividends in the Sierra Nevada

The Cohesive Strategy says we'll need to understand risk and be willing to accept some short term risks for the long term gain. In the Sierra Nevada, managers are thinning trees and putting fire on the ground "on their terms" to make the forest more resilient and store more carbon. Take a look. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Turning Dead Trees into Oil

A forest with beetle-killed trees as seen from Mt. Fraser, British Columbia.  Photo: The Mighty Quill

We've all seen it across the West - entire landscapes covered in the red blanket of beetle killed trees.  The mountain pine beetle has destroyed more than 40 million acres of forest in the western United States. (that's about the size of the state of Washington!) Unfortunately, harvesting the wood for lumber is out of the question because the beetle infestation stains the wood and causes the tree to crack on the inside. 
A University of Washington team has made new headway on a solution to remove beetle-killed trees from the forest and use them to make renewable transportation fuels or high-value chemicals.   
Bio oil made from dead trees. Photo: University of Washington.
Using a method called “fast pyrolysis,” the process involves heating small pieces of organic material in an oxygen-free chamber at about 500 degrees Celsius, until the solid material becomes a vapor. As the vapor rises and moves into other chambers, it cools and becomes a dark brown liquid fuel. Scientists call this “bio oil,” and it is already used in some European countries for heating hospitals.
Researchers, including the UW team, currently are testing whether this bio oil can be upgraded by adding catalysts to convert it into transportation fuels that resemble gasoline and diesel.
The beetle-killed trees are a good fit for making bio oil because the entirety of a tree becomes extremely dry when it is killed by an infestation. That makes for a simpler fast-pyrolysis process, because it isn’t necessary to first dry the wood before heating it to extreme temperatures.
The researchers say this method could be used in mobile pyrolysis units so dead trees can be processed on site, saving on transportations costs associated with tree removal. 
Read more here and their published methods here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Great Video for Communicating with Publics about the Need for Fire on the Landscape

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project in Central Oregon released this video this week - a short narrative with compelling visuals to help the general public understand the need for fire on the landscape. Although the video is specific to the dry pine forests of Central Oregon, there are many other places around the West that need fire for a variety of reasons - species promulgation, forest and habitat health, wildfire risk reduction and many more.  

If you have a mobile phone, take a friend to your forest or rangeland and record something similar. Talk about the species in your area that are dependent on fire and the need for using low intensity fire as one of the effective tools to reduce hazardous fuels or maintain quality habitat for wildlife.  Your videos do not have to be done professionally to be effective! You can edit your takes together right from your phone! Be sure to add the name of your local groups and partners and a place where folks can find more information.  Don't forget to send them to your local media outlets for sharing with your publics, post on your Facebook and twitter feeds, and play at local person-to-person opportunities!

Then send them to me at westerncohesivestragey@gmail.com so I can share what you're up to with other stakeholders on similar journeys around the West!  

Happy filming!!  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Grass Roots Effort Unveils Plan to Treat Landscape in Idaho

Dry Creek Fire near Stanley, Idaho 2016. Photo: MagicValley.com
The Sawtooth Valley Wildland Fire Collaborative is a four-year old group of stakeholders that include federal, city and county government, private landowners and businesses that are working to find solutions to mitigate the threat of large fires in Idaho. The group recently unveiled plans to thin 6,000 acres of forestland impacted by widespread bark beetle killed trees. The Sawtooth Valley has experienced devastating fires in the recent past including the 179,000 acre Halstead Fire in 2012. 
Gary O'Malley, Executive Director of the Sawtooth Society (a local non-profit focusing on protection of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area) and Co-Chair of the Collaborative said it's taken a long time to come to consensus on this project but, "the good news is now there are concrete, specific plans to make a large enough scale difference. 
Mr. O'Malley shares leadership of the Collaborative with Steve Botti, President of the Stanley City Council, demonstrating a integrated approach to finding solutions to wildfire problems. They noted that while land managers are working with federal partners to treat the landscape to prevent fires from becoming large, homeowners need to do their part as well by using Firewise Communities planning and action. 
This is a great example of a grass roots, collaborative effort that is leading to the reduction of risk on the landscape, in communities and for effective firefighting.  Read more here  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Changing Culture in Washington State

Contract fire crews and equipment. Photo: Washington DNR.

“It’s not a question of whether we’ll have fires on these lands, but rather the degree to which we can reduce the damage they cause,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Prescribed Fire Manager Matt Eberlein.   

Washington State has suffered extreme fire seasons in the last five years that have dramatically affected communities and rural economies. Communities and lawmakers are pushing for solutions to the wildfire challenges in the state. Despite the political divisions in the current legislative session, lawmakers have found agreement around preventing another year of historic wildfires.  

In late March, after already passing unanimously in the House, the state Senate passed passed HB 1489 which seeks to ramp up firefighting efforts by increasing private contractors that the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can enlist during wildfire season. 

House Bill 1711 would have DNR prioritize forestland for treatment within a six and 20-year period and create a restoration plan. The legislation could save the state millions in reduced firefighting costs while protecting local rural economies. The bill is also supported by The Nature Conservancy of Washington and is making its way through the Senate now.

Senate Bill SB 5546 calls for the creation of a healthy forest treatment plan and directs DNR to set up a Forest Health Advisory Committee to assist in prioritizing forestlands and the restoration plan.

These pieces of legislation reflect a changing attitude in Washington state. Restoring forestlands, particularly through prescribed burning, has been heavily emphasized during this year's session following the launch of the Forest Resiliency Burning Project last year.

This project has already led prescribed burns at 15 different locations across the state to reduce forest density on high priority lands.  

We'll be keeping an eye on the legislative journey of these and other bills in Washington State so stay tuned! 

Read more here.   

Monday, April 17, 2017

Like a Good Neighbor...

Salmon River, Idaho.  Photo: WallDevil

David Groeschl is the State Forester for the State of Idaho and in a recent interview with Evergreen Magazine, he discusses how state and federal partners are utilizing the Good Neighbor Authority under the 2014 Farm Bill to implement high priority forest restoration projects on National Forests in Idaho.  

Groeschl says the prospects under this authority are very exciting with three projects already designated and several more proposed. Under the Good Neighbor Authority, the US Forest Service can enter into an agreement with the Idaho Department of State Lands to do more restoration work on federal lands using State resources and contracting authorities. "This provides a more timely, flexible and cost-effective way to get this work done," adds Groeschl.

In the interview, David Groeschl points out that 75% of all forestland in Idaho is owned by the federal government, over 20 million acres. The declining health of these National Forests poses serious resource, safety and economic risks to all Idahoans. "Anything we can do to help our federal neighbors helps everyone," explains Groeschl. 

This attitude - that fire, insects and disease know no boundaries and therefore, we're all in this together - is setting the stage for current and future collaborative work in Idaho.

The Cohesive Strategy recommends that states take advantage of the Good Neighbor Authority to increase the pace and scale of landscape resiliency.  

Read full interview here.  

Learnin' a Thing or Two in Nebraska

Ranchers leading a prescribed burn in Nebraska. Photo: Lenya Quinn-Davidson.
In America's heartland, prescribed fire is a long held tradition among ranchers and other landowners. The Fire Learning Network's Lenya Quinn-Davidson recently visited Nebraska as part of a prescribed fire learning exchange. 

She writes in her recent blog post that the Great Plains experiences similar issues to its western neighbors with its eastern red cedar invasion which drastically reduces plant diversity and results in the loss of other species, much to the detriment of wildlife and other values. Similarly too, fire plays an important role in Nebraska landscapes, not only beating back encroaching conifers at relatively low costs, but also creating habitat structure that favors a diverse assemblage of grassland-dependent species.  

Keeping back the eastern red cedar in grasslands and rangelands in Nebraska. Photo: Lenya Quinn-Davidson.
In Nebraska, prescribed fire has become a tool thanks to the capacities of local ranchers and farmers. This is also true in other states where prescribed burn associations have formed and grown in recent decades. This model of cooperative burning, which is based locally and driven by the landowners themselves, is one of the most promising models for landscape-level restoration and maintenance of grasslands and rangelands.  

The Cohesive Strategy encourages efforts to bring prescribed fire to landscapes that can benefit in multiple ways. Read more here about Lenya's visit to Nebraska and the interesting parallels she encountered there.