Sunday, June 20, 2010


Across the Rocky Mountain West, at least 4 million acres of forest, 2 million in Montana alone, have been devastated by the mountain pine beetle. These disgusting little varmints bore into the tree and lay eggs beneath the bark. When they hatch, the larvae eat the inner bark, eventually killing the tree. The lodgepole pine is the most heavily hit tree species. Of course, this epidemic is much more easily spread when there are endless continuous stands of a single timber type stretching forever. Such as where all timber harvest has long been banned.

Most likely, millions of board feet of beetle-killed trees will just continue to die yet remain virtually untouched, except maybe near some urban areas. After a few years, entire drainages and hillsides turn from green to red to gray, covered with dead, bone dry timber, eventually falling over to create ladder fuels and impenetrable blowdowns. One dry summer it'll all burn like it was hit by a nuke and consume tens of thousands of acres at a time. In places, it will probably burn hot enough to be a sterilizing fire, where foliage will not grow back naturally for a long damn time and entire watersheds wind up choked with erosion and run-off.

After almost a century and a half of fire suppression, there are trees growing where they wouldn't naturally. Regular wildfires kept the mountain meadows clear of conifer encroachment. Photos of the old gold mining boom towns from the late 1800's show the hillsides in the background barren except for sagebrush. Today, those same slopes are covered with century-old stands of Doug fir that wouldn't be there without the hand of man interfering.

Even though these are not natural stands, that doesn't stop the bunny huggers from spiking the trees, in hopes of preventing harvest and killing/injuring workers in the timber industry. More love and tolerance from the left. Cleacuts as such don't happen on public (not Federal) land anymore. Cuts are much smaller, carefully laid out, irregular in shape with patches of standing timber within the boundaries left untouched, wildlife trees set aside, and with no cutting near streams. This encourages natural reseeding, and seedlings are usually planted by hand as well. Fortunately, in one recent case of tree spiking, the eco-terrorists spiked the marked "leave trees" that were set aside to remain unharvested.

There are far too many people out there who believe the propaganda that the West consists of nothing but barren old clearcuts with perhaps a half a dozen surviving trees in entire mountain ranges. I've met some of those who think that no tree should ever be cut for any reason, forever and ever, amen. This includes any salvage logging of fire-killed or beetle-killed tress. The trees are dead and going to waste anyway, but God forbid anyone get any good out of them. Naw, better to let them build up fuel for the Mother of All Forest Fires.

When originally set aside, National Forests were given the mandate to be managed for three human generations ahead. The Forest Service fell under the Department of Agriculture as trees were considered a renewable crop. In the 50's and 60's, things leaned towards one extreme and a "get the cut out" policy of too much harvesting. In the last couple of decades, the pendulum swung to the other far extreme in the favor of the tree-huggers, who don't want anything cut, period. Many of them would like to see the public pretty much banned from using public land. Except for themselves, of course. And all it takes for them to succeed is finding a left-wing Federal judge who'll rule in their favor.

I recall one kook from an eco-outfit in Bozeman being quoted in the Butte newspaper. The gist of his statement was that they knew they couldn't win their latest particular lawsuit against salvage logging of beetle killed timber, but that they could keep things tied up in court for so long that the wood would be worthless and thus go unharvested.

From what I've seen, the only "solution" they offer to saving the forests from the pine beetle epidemic is apparently to whine about global warming and demand the government confiscate more money from the taxpayer. The very same government that is dragging its feet, blundering around aimlessly, and actually hindering the Gulf oil spill clean-up. Yeah, they'll be a big fat help.

I guess this a big secret, but I'll let you in on it in a hushed whisper. "Trees grow back." They are a renewable resource. Apparently, the belief is that once trees are cut the land becomes an eternal barren wasteland resembling the surface of the moon. Trees, which have proven themselves quite capable of reproducing since the beginning of time, supposedly become extinct. And after all, trees are more important than the lives and livelihood of individuals, families, and even entire communities who once harvested timber.

Parts of the beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, for instance, were logged as recently as the late 50's/early 60's. Today, most of the fern-feelers enjoying the place have no idea. I once met a couple of "hairy-legged women in comfortable shoes" on a portage trail between lakes. Stopping to chat, they immediately went into the standard, "Oh thank Gaia we saved this natural wonder from those foul, evil, blankety-blank loggers."

Being me, I couldn't help but to kick some of the gravel from the trail with my boot heel to reveal the decaying remnants of what was once called a sleeper. "That," I said, "is an old railroad tie. This trail we're on is in fact an old logging railroad grade. This place was once logged and you're telling me you can't even tell the difference?"

I was quickly included in the blankety-blank logger category. But then again, I don't think the gals had much use for any men.

At any rate, I recently just happened to be looking at pictures of the current devastation in the forests of the West and noted that the only green remaining is the young "regen" tree growth in the old logging cuts.

I fully expect the be called a no-good filthy evil blankety-blank SOB by the kind loving compassionate tolerant left for daring to voice my opinion. So be it. Like the Congressman Etheridge slapping around college students, who are you going to believe? Your own eyes or the spin of your betters at the Propaganda Ministry?


Jim Fryar said...

I remember in the 80s I was doing a job in Tasmania, a year or so after a huge bushfire had devastated a huge area, and I travelled through a hell of a milage of dead timber. I asked one of the locals why it was not logged and was told that the Greens had blocked it and it had to stay that way until it rotted or was burned up in the next bushfire.

If it were here at that time there wouldn't have been a live tree cut until that was logged, but sadly we have caught up and would probably do the same.

I was drilling in a small clearing among huge dead trees with heavy trash at ground level which would carry a fire like a nuke. It was scary.

Jerry said...

Hey Bawb, are there any of these big beetle kill areas near you? Has it been wet enough so far to keep down the chance of fire? We have been so wet here it would take napalm to get a fire going. Too bad we don't have a President with some 'stones' to just tell the greenies to go to hell and cut the damn stuff before it burns hotter than hell.