Rim Fire: What's Next (ecologically)?

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the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 22, 2013 - 09:01pm PT
That LA Times article was all over the place, yet as KLK noted it was probably about right for the intended audience.

Last month a pilot on the Rim fire told me he would not be at all surprised if fires pop up all over the interior of the burn area next Spring. Said he saw a number of 1000 acre stands of green timber with smoldering edges.

It seems to me that with the planet warming and drought conditions getting more severe, we will be seeing more and more fires of this nature. That certainly has been the trend for the last couple decades.

the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Oct 22, 2013 - 09:21pm PT
Western U.S. Water Utilities Take Financial Responsibility for Reducing Watershed Wildfire Risk
Brett Walton
When residents in Santa Fe, New Mexico pay their water bills, they are now also paying for forest restoration.

By Brett Walton Circle of Blue
They are signs of the times – forests in the western United States are dust-dry and budgets in Washington, D.C. are diet-thin.
While the West is in the thrall of drought, ecosystem upheaval, and near-daily conflagrations, the nation’s capital is held by fiscal austerity and government-wide spending cuts — which makes partnerships like the one between several cities in the western U.S. and the U.S. Forest Service beneficial to both sides.
Aseverefireinacity’swatershedcanturnaclearmountainstreamintoacauldronof blackgoo.Theflushof ash and sediment clogs water treatment pipes and eventually winds ups in reservoirs, filling them and forcing

expensive dredging.
To avoid this, some cities are being proactive, first with grant funding and now with their own money.
After being underwritten for more than a decade by state and federal dollars, last month residents in Santa Fe, New Mexico began footing the bill for work to reduce the risk of wildfire in the city’s upper watershed, much of which lies in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Through its water rates, the city will spend $US 5.1 million over the next 20 years on a broad program of forest management and public education. Much of the money will go to the U.S. Forest Service to cut and burn redundant trees, restore streams, and test water quality. That amounts to roughly $US 0.83 per month for each household. The Nature Conservancy is also a partner in the project.
“We can’t keep wildfire out of the watershed, but we have to make sure that fire is not catastrophic when it does happen.”
–Dale Lyons,
The Nature Conservancy
Expenditures made now could save money in the long run.Amajor fire could shut down the two reservoirs on the Santa Fe River, and dredging the debris would cost between $US 80 million and $US 240 million, according to city estimates. That is in addition to the tens of millions of dollars to fight the fire and the added cost of shifting the water supply to groundwater, which is more expensive to pump and treat.
Santa Fe’s water department is one of several urban utilities – including those in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Flagstaf f , Arizona – that are putting ratepayer dollars to work in the f orests.
The U.S. Forest Service, for its part, helps the utilities with the technical aspects of forest restoration and some of the physical work while using most of the money in its budget to focus on other high-risk forests in the state.
“The benefit is that it allows us to do more work in other places,” Sandy Hurlockler, district ranger in the Santa Fe National Forest, told Circle of Blue.
The West is Burning
Ahistoryof forestmismanagementhascombinedwithdroughtandmassivebeetle-killstoturntheAmerican West into a pile of kindling. Recent f orest f ires, including the High Park f ire outside of Fort Collins, Colorado last year, have water utilities on edge. Yet the most destructive blaze f or drinking water inf rastructure happened more than a decade ago near Denver.
The 2002 Hayman fire, still the largest in Colorado’s history, burned 55,800 hectares (138,000 acres) southwest of the city. Subsequent rainstorms swamped Strontia Springs reservoir with enough sediment – 765,000 cubic meters – to fill Denver’s basketball arena five times. Combined with the damage from a 1996 fire in the same area, Denver Water, the public utility, spent $US 26 million dredging and restoring two of its reservoirs.
In 2010, Denver Water entered into a five-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service with the goal of reducing the risk of catastrophic fire. The two agencies will each spend $US 16.5 million on forest restoration, with Denver’s share coming from ratepayers.
This type of investment is called a payment for ecosystem services, a financial model that protects the natural processes that benefit people. Forests filter water, and their soil helps to slow down the surge of runoff after
a storm, calming potential floods. Fires eliminate these benefits for some time. Erosion, poor water quality and higher f lood risks persist long af ter the f lames have been snuf f ed out.
Earth Economics, a research group, and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, a nonprofit advocate f or f orests, charted at least 17 instances in the U.S. in which money f rom city or utility budgets is being put toward watershed management, most in areas other than wildfire risk.
Spending money on fire prevention is tricky, said Rowan Schmidt, an analyst at Earth Economics, because there is no rule of thumb f or how much investment in a watershed will pay of f .
But that has not stopped cities from signing onto programs.
Last November voters in Flagstaf f , Arizona approved a $US 10 million bond to cut f ire risk on 5,460 hectares (13,500 acres) in the Rio de Flag and Upper Lake Mary watersheds.
And this spring Colorado Springs Utilities signed a five to 10-year agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, providing $US 6 million from ratepayer funds to restore parts of its watershed scarred by the Waldo Canyon fire last summer. The money will also be used to reduce future fire risks in other areas where the city draws water.
“Our ongoing relationship with the Forest Service will help us channel customer rate dollars in the most efficient way possible to protect our most vital resource and the forest that surrounds it,” said Gary Bostrom, chief water services of f icer f or Colorado Springs Utilities, at an April 4 press conf erence.
This interactive map from the U.S. Forest Service shows the relative threat of wildfire to forested areas that are the source of drinking water for cities and towns.Ash and debris from a wildfire can turn a clear mountain stream into a cauldron of black goo. Erosion and flood risks persist long after the flames have been snuffed out.View Larger Map
Reducing Risk, Not Eliminating It
As far as fire goes, Santa Fe’s watershed is a bull’s-eye that has not been hit.Amap of fires in northern New Mexico since 1970 shows burn scars looped around the capital but no direct hits.
In fact, Hurlockler said, tree-ring studies indicate that the watershed has not had a major fire in several centuries.
Roughly one third of the Santa Fe watershed has been thinned and selectively burned since 2003. Forest managers have not attempted any treatments in the wilderness portion of the upper watershed, but the city is preparing to release an environmental assessment that will propose prescribed burns for 1,175 hectares (2,900 acres) in that area, according to Dale Lyons. Until recently taking a job with the Nature Conservancy, Lyons worked for the Santa Fe water department and he helped write the city’s watershed management plan, updated this spring.
Tree thinning and prescribed burns can reduce the risk of wildfire but they will not eliminate it.
When Lyons saw the smoke over Santa Fe in early June from the Tres Lagunas fire burning a few ridges east of the city’s watershed, he hoped that the wind would not change directions and blow embers to the west. With the fire now almost contained, that particular threat has been stamped out, though others undoubtedly remain.
“We can’t keep wildf ire out of the watershed,” Lyons told Circle of Blue. “But we have to make sure that f ire is not catastrophic when it does happen.”
is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.
Email: Brett Walton :: Follow on Twitter :: More Articles

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2013

http://www.flagstaffwatershedprotection.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/US_Water_Utilities_Take_Financial_Responsibility_for_Reducing_Watershed_Wildfire_Risk-2.pdf
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 22, 2013 - 10:27pm PT
What is that greenish stuff that's been sprayed on the slopes and tree trunks in a few places along Hwy 120?

aquaseeding, probably with a polymer to give it a skin to shed rain while the seed gets started... to prevent erosion of the road cuts during the winter rain storms
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:30am PT
kik and reilly thanks for your thoughts.

I think the fire is GOOD for wildlife. I do not agree with fire=bad tenor of the article. Likely it is the reporter's bias and did not come from the biologist.

As to pop audience I do understand. This article perpetuates the popular myth that forest fires are bad and cause damage to the ecosystem, which is total bullsh#t. Like the article.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:47am PT
Dingus,, you WERE right about 75 yrs ago. FIres could have been left to burn "naturally" then. NOW they do not burn "naturally" because of the fire suppression. NOW we have manmade stands that are stocked 100% above their "natural" stocking levels and perhaps 1% of fires can burn "naturally. As for the rest it burns far hotter than previous burns in an all natural system.


If KIRKWOOD lakes area burns, it will do so with UNNATURAL amounts of fuel and fire. Nit like those in the long past that came through every 10 to 30 yrs. The rim fire is a perfect example of a man made stand going up.

apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Oct 23, 2013 - 11:55am PT
"What is that greenish stuff that's been sprayed on the slopes and tree trunks in a few places along Hwy 120?"

Probably the same stuff they've been spraying all over the burned areas in our local mountains.

I wonder if it really is aquaseeding (or simply slope stabilizing), and what kind of seeds they are?
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 01:39pm PT
Dingus,, you WERE right about 75 yrs ago. FIres could have been left to burn "naturally" then. NOW they do not burn "naturally" because of the fire suppression. NOW we have manmade stands that are stocked 100% above their "natural" stocking levels and perhaps 1% of fires can burn "naturally. As for the rest it burns far hotter than previous burns in an all natural system.

Yes yes yes soil dead down to ten feet and such.

Bollocks.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:11pm PT
id be willing to bet, five years from now, 40% of the rim fire will be invasive weeds. White top, cheat grass and cyanothus (sp?). And it will be those area charred to the soils.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:15pm PT
Interesting idea. Maybe the biologist will do such a study, perfect opportunity.

Say, you could do this study as well, forest man!

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:18pm PT
what a concept lol! Should i refer you to the : Mitchell canyon burn,, or the Little valley Burn, or the Sage creek burn, or the Kings canyon burn or~~~..
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:20pm PT
So long as study was not conducted or funded by the Forest Sale, I'll be glad to take a look.

DMT
sempervirens

climber
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:44pm PT
Ron,
Maybe you're thinking of Centaurea (Cyanothus ?), as in Centaurea solstitialis which is yellow starthistle. Or another invasive plant, Centaurea maculata (spotted knapweed). Both were present before the fire. Ceanothus species (there are several species of Ceanothus in the Rim Fire)are native to California and they are expected to grow prolifically. They resprout vigorously after fire. But as native species they are not considered to be invasive. You probably know this but many don't: in general, native plants are not considered invasive. THe term "Invasive" is often confused, but in forest management it refers to non-native plants. Many of those are noxious weeds, meaning designated as such by some governmental agency (state, federal, etc.).

It's the noxious weeds that pose a great threat to the native plant community, and there are several, including those you've mentioned. They also change the fire ecology. The Ceanothus and other shrub plants also do change fire ecology and I agree that that is also a significant issue.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
While you're combing the internet for an unbiased study, Ron... take a gander at this one.

Chad Hanson, John Muir Project and UC Davis
Chad Hanson has a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California at Davis, and is an Associate researcher at UC Davis in the field of fire ecology in conifer forest ecosystems. He has published studies on topics such as fire severity patterns, wildlife response to fire, post-fire conifer survival, and landscape-level fire patterns and trends. Dr. Hanson is also the Director of the John Muir Project.

But read the summary, anyway, if you will...

http://www.johnmuirproject.org/documents/Hanson%20White%20Paper%2029Jan10%20Final.pdf

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Indeed Semper,, the classifications are often lumped together concerning rehab issues. My bad..



edit: Dingus that document even pints to what we say here, but then goes on to state that unnatural loading wont equal un natural heat levels of fires.

That isnt correct. Go to Rissou canyon east of walker and look for yourself. 20K acres of THISTLE and white top and cheat grass. There is abundant proof of the contrary.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
Popular myths and misconceptions about the ecology of fire and dead trees in western U.S. conifer forests are
numerous, and are strongly at odds with the recent scientific evidence, which indicates the following about
these forest ecosystems:


The only effective way to protect homes from wildland fire is to reduce the combustibility of the homes
themselves, and reduce brush and very small trees within 100 feet of the homes. Commercial thinning
projects that remove mature trees hundreds of yards – and often several miles – from the nearest home do
not protect homes, and often put homes at greater risk by diverting scarce resources away from true home
protection, by creating a false sense of security, and by removing large, fire-resistant trees and generating
combustible logging “slash debris”, which increases potential fire severity. Currently, less than 3% of U.S.
Forest Service “fuels reduction” projects are near homes.


Patches of high-intensity fire (where most or all trees are killed) support the highest levels of native
biodiversity of any forest type in western U.S. conifer forests, including many rare and imperiled species that
live only in high-intensity patches.
Even Spotted Owls depend upon significant patches of high-intensity fire
in their territories in order to maintain habitat for their small mammal prey base. These areas are ecological
treasures.


Current fires are mostly low- and moderate-intensity, and high-intensity fire comprises a relatively small
proportion of the total area burned. Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.



Vigorous natural regeneration of conifer seedlings occurs after high-intensity fire. Numerous large trees also
survive, and their growth tends to increase substantially after the fire, which converts woody material on the
forest floor into highly usable nutrients for tree growth. By contrast, after very long absence of these fires,
forests can lose so much of their productivity that, ultimately, sites lose the ability to support forest at all.


There is far less fire now than there was historically. There is also less high-intensity fire now than there
was prior to fire suppression policies.


Fires are not becoming more intense.
The Myth of
“Catastrophic” Wildfire

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:02pm PT
Areas that have not burned in a long time are not burning more
intensely.






^^^^^^^^^^^ That single comment makes that report ABSOLUTELY horse nuggets..

The Granite mountain IHC died this year because of the MOST INTENSE BURNING ever seen there due to 50 yrs of no fires in that area and a historically HIGH fuel load.



Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:09pm PT
Baby, meet the bathwater.

DMT
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
Thee ARE some sections in that report that are correct Dingus, but THAT wasnt one of them.. Ive been there and ive seen first hand.

Heres an experiment you can easily do for yourself. Take a pile of weeds and burn them on one spot on your lawn. Then pile up weeds sticks and a chunk or two of wood, burn that and see which burns yur lawn more. I got a five spot on the one with sticks and such.
Ain't no flatlander

climber
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:27pm PT
DMT, that isn't a study. It's an opinion piece using cherry-picked data to support his job. Read it with a big grain of salt.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
Oct 23, 2013 - 03:28pm PT
werd^^^^^


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