By Ted Grussing
Currently the USFS has been introducing fire into the forests across the land and of particular concern to me, it is occurring with a frenetic pace in Arizona and other western states. Next year the powers that be in Washington D.C., are instructing the local forests to increase the burning by about 40% … wow! Also if you recall the mantra over the past years about how good the low intensity fires are for the forests … well, more and more recent studies are showing that moderate and high intensity fires are much better for the forests and guess what? They produce less smoke, as the more complete the combustion, the less smoke there is. I’m really heartened by this as wood smoke is not healthy for human beings and in fact makes people sick and kills people.
Where there is smoke, there is social engineering … this was the topic of a webinar I missed this week and it was about public perceptions of smoke. Smoke is only a problem for the USFS if they heavily impact an area and they get a lot of smoke complaints, it is a major PR problem which they explain away as fire is good for the forests and you just have to learn to accept it. So they try to plan their fires so that the smoke is transported out of the local area; New Mexico and Colorado are two of the primary recipients of the pollutants from fires in Arizona … as well as we who live here. So do these states complain about receiving our smoke? Methinks so, but then they burn and transport their smoke to other states and overall, more and more harmful pollutants are put into the atmosphere. The harmful effects of wood smoke are well known and once they put it into the air it travels, spreads out and the last to precipitate out of the air are the really harmful particles. These are the ones that lodge forever in your body and the extremely fine ones enter through the skin as well as the lungs. I have been told, that they do not take into consideration the impacts on the health of humans of the smoke they produce and unleash on communities … only the bad PR.
There are other choices, like mechanical thinning and logging and this creates much more beautiful forests than the constant burning and the results of these efforts produce forests that do not have to be treated frequently. Take a look and judge for yourself the quality of the forest.
Forest 1, was taken form a position east of SR89A above the switchbacks and shows a large area on both sides of the highway that was mechanically thinned somewhere around 2011. No snags (dead standing trees) here. In the upper right portion of the image you can see where the Slide fire burned out large areas of the forest and all the dead trees are standing and although you have open areas with less tree density, they are filled with the snags and the surrounding areas are still just as dense and apt to go up in a crown fire. The canyon on the left is Westfork, not sure about the one on the right. Running the horizon left to right you have Black Mountain, Casner, Sycamore Canyon and Bill Williams Mountain most of the way to the right. In the far distance the Bradshaw mountains.
Forest 2a is of pretty much the same area that was thinned, just a different perspective looking more to the S than to the W.
Forest 3a is a shot of the Coyote Rx fire about three weeks after the burn. It was a very high intensity fire and a very large area of the forest in this area is dead or dying and again there is the problem of all those dead snags standing in the forest. Doesn’t look much different than the Slide Fire remnants.
Forest 4a is a shot showing the remnants of the Slide fire which occurred about three and a half years ago. The view is from the east side of the upper portion of Oak Creek Canyon. The canyon cutting in from the left is West Fork and it goes to within a mile or so of Sycamore Canyon at the upper end. The switchbacks climbing up and out of the canyon are on the lower right portion of the image. The horizon from the left shows Mingus mountain, Black Mountain, Casner Mountain and into Sycamore Canyon and above that in the distance is the Prescott Valley, and the Chino Valley.
Mechanical thinning/logging is more expensive but look at the great forests it leaves and after six or more years they look good without all the nasty snags that fire leaves behind. And when logged the trees end up as wood pallets or whatever instead of harmful smoke.
Into the weekend … back Monday morning. Have a beautiful day and smile, life is good as are most people.
I sat with the stars on the hill of life
And looked at the world below.
I ran with the winds where winds begin
And followed them where they blow
— Max Ehrmann
The easiest way to reach Mr. Grussing is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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