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Old 07-05-2013, 01:34 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,041,670 times
Reputation: 2623

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When I speak of the forest I am referring to more than trees.

I would agree with the disagreement to the extent that homeowners may not influence designated wilderness areas. But will touch upon that in a moment.

By design and law wilderness areas are supposed to remain "untrammeled" by mankind, or in other words left alone and entirely as is. Although that not exactly the case. Trails and permanent campsites, as well as overflight of aircraft, are allowed, none of which should technically exist. Greater latitude has been taken in Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone NP, in the former case with miles of fencing and use of herbicides, both being an abomination in such a place, but as well with both in widespread wildfire suppression. One might debate the merits of that, and few of us would be willing to see our treasured national parks go entirely up in flames. Yet by rights they are wilderness areas that should be left to their own devices. The 1988 wildfire in Yellowstone is a perfect example, as initially left to burn as it would until it became evident what the potential of that could be. Without checking I cannot say for sure, although feeling that wilderness areas near an urban interface probably already have felt fire suppression for similar reasons, and will in future.

America was not that long ago (as in a few hundred years) virtually all wilderness, from sea to shining sea. Native Americans largely left it alone, save as mankind will in using it to their own ends. What is left of that is but a fraction of acreage isolated in a few pockets principally in the West. Few may have an appreciation of what true wilderness is. They are places where mankind is not predominant, and if present then as infrequent visitor, and where natural ecosystems operate as they always have. Most particularly by that last standard, there is little wilderness remaining, whether it be forest, plain, or seacoast.

Black Forest near Colorado Springs was once wilderness, as all of Colorado. It ceased being that once humans established habitations there, and even before in being more or less encircled. If the trees mostly remained (well, until recently), the ecosystem was fundamentally altered. It would be a philosophical question whether possible for humans, any human, to live as an innate part of the wild without altering it anymore than any other animal would. But in practice we do not. We turn all to our own ends, with in effect each domicile a little fort and outpost of "civilization" out in the wild. Very much as such outposts were established on the American frontier beginning in the 17th, but for the West principally 19th century. First one, and then they spread. And before long the natives that avoided the area around each are quarantined to the farthest most remote places, or exterminated altogether.

Look at Colorado now and see this effect. At a glance much of rural Colorado appears as it has seemingly forever: with clean rivers, meadows, glens and vast swaths of forest. But that is a deceptive view. Look more closely at places such as Evergreen and it is principally a suburban community within the trees. Not forest, if defined as wilderness. But trees, and seemingly all the fewer of them soon in greater defensible spaces being created. Even drive out as far as Lake City, to where the affairs of mankind are a more tenuous affair, and yet there are cabins, seen and out of view (and more than imagined), scattered about. And each of these an outpost.

One might not think it, but each single home influences by right a far larger tract of land than the border of their property might suggest. Something similar to locating at the headwaters of a river and thus controlling the flow for all downriver. Evidence of this present in the absence, by and large, of larger predators: such as grizzly bears, wolves and mountain lions are no longer welcome guests in their former domain. Animals that can coexist with mankind, such as rats, can even benefit, or in the case of deer over proliferate. There may be in an area to the eye but forest with a few cabins widely spaced, but in whole they form a matrix that prevents the ecosystem once present to exist. Only parts of it, and that possibly badly out of balance.

Part of that equation lies with wildfire. If naturally occurring principally through lightening, its disruptions felt most strongly by a sedentary population. Aside from that of forests, grass fires were common on the plains. Added to at times by those such as the Comanche who would set fire to the sea of grass to drive bison in flight over cliffs. But now of course we have more at risk in at least material goods than nomadic hunter-gatherers ever did. So our policy of wildfire suppression, and quandary now in how best to control such a natural equation.

Ponderosa pine forests are by nature somewhat park-like. That all the more apparent to anyone having thought to have as easy passage through the Alaska bush, and then finding in the thick intertwining trees and bushes why it is called the bush. But one can remain in Colorado and discover much the same. In a forest trees will at last die and eventually fall. In a real forest there is no one about to manage this, and they remain as such in fallen disorder until at last moldering back into the earth. Find such a place, and off any path, and one will quickly gain an appreciation for what transpires in a forest, or how hard to traverse in a straight line (or at times at all).

It was said that the 2012-13 Fern Lake Fire, that in and upriver of Moraine Park in RMNP, burned areas not having done so in 900 years. Consider that RMNP was only formally established in 1915, the first advances of white men into the Estes Park region only in the 1860's. Of itself and quite naturally RMNP managed with wildfire perfectly well for many centuries, and indeed since last heavy glaciation. Wildfire suppression there now is more an invention of mankind towards their own purposes than in what the forest would want or need. But as well the need now reflection of how all is so heavily affected by this rapidly changing climate, nor that natural.

Most glaciers in the Lower 48 are located in the states of Washington, Montana and Wyoming. Those in Colorado are principally centered along the Continental Divide of the Front Range Mountains, from north of I-70 into RMNP. The largest is Arapahoe glacier, west of Boulder. The rest are not all that large, and if until now having within bounds remained fairly stable, most all of them may well be gone by 2030. This having a profound affect on the late season flow of the many rivers issuing from this region, as well all else, and aquatic life such as trout.

The namesake glaciers of Glacier National Park may not exist ten years from now. This clear evidence of the vast and swift changes underway. Closer to home, the montane and alpine wilderness of RMNP is under threat in a number of ways. Most obvious are the many trees having died from the mountain pine beetle (an insect native to the region let loose by this weather). But aside from this, not just the enforced lack of the grizzly bear or wolf, either. The lakes and rivers of RMNP in the highest most remote regions of this park are under assault from airborne pollutants principally blowing upslope from the nearby Front Range. As well, to a degree from the west, from such as coal fired plants, in Craig and elsewhere. The result is nitrogen and other substances which are deposited within rain and snow in this region naturally nitrogen poor. That which can be naturally absorbed has already been exceeded, resulting in the acidification of water, changing of its inherent pH. The further result will be in release of aluminum, and end result fundamental change in all aquatic life and that which depends upon it. There is already some sickly green algae present in growing amounts where before largely not. In greater concentrations of this imbalance, the fish will simply die.

So, yes, we have trees for now in many places. And, fortunately many which are still alive. But in greater measure they do not represent a true forest nor wilderness, and often at best but fragments of it. Those areas best protected are still wild and more or less intact ecosystems, of true forest, but now as small islands. But none of them, not one, is safe. Even in the highest most remote alpine fastness the change that is coming is felt.

And that bodes well for no forest.

Last edited by Idunn; 07-05-2013 at 02:02 PM..

 
Old 07-05-2013, 04:28 PM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,296 posts, read 8,448,839 times
Reputation: 3321
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
When I speak of the forest I am referring to more than trees.

I would agree with the disagreement to the extent that homeowners may not influence designated wilderness areas. But will touch upon that in a moment.

By design and law wilderness areas are supposed to remain "untrammeled" by mankind, or in other words left alone and entirely as is. Although that not exactly the case. Trails and permanent campsites, as well as overflight of aircraft, are allowed, none of which should technically exist. Greater latitude has been taken in Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone NP, in the former case with miles of fencing and use of herbicides, both being an abomination in such a place, but as well with both in widespread wildfire suppression. One might debate the merits of that, and few of us would be willing to see our treasured national parks go entirely up in flames. Yet by rights they are wilderness areas that should be left to their own devices. The 1988 wildfire in Yellowstone is a perfect example, as initially left to burn as it would until it became evident what the potential of that could be. Without checking I cannot say for sure, although feeling that wilderness areas near an urban interface probably already have felt fire suppression for similar reasons, and will in future.

America was not that long ago (as in a few hundred years) virtually all wilderness, from sea to shining sea. Native Americans largely left it alone, save as mankind will in using it to their own ends. What is left of that is but a fraction of acreage isolated in a few pockets principally in the West. Few may have an appreciation of what true wilderness is. They are places where mankind is not predominant, and if present then as infrequent visitor, and where natural ecosystems operate as they always have. Most particularly by that last standard, there is little wilderness remaining, whether it be forest, plain, or seacoast.

Black Forest near Colorado Springs was once wilderness, as all of Colorado. It ceased being that once humans established habitations there, and even before in being more or less encircled. If the trees mostly remained (well, until recently), the ecosystem was fundamentally altered. It would be a philosophical question whether possible for humans, any human, to live as an innate part of the wild without altering it anymore than any other animal would. But in practice we do not. We turn all to our own ends, with in effect each domicile a little fort and outpost of "civilization" out in the wild. Very much as such outposts were established on the American frontier beginning in the 17th, but for the West principally 19th century. First one, and then they spread. And before long the natives that avoided the area around each are quarantined to the farthest most remote places, or exterminated altogether.

Look at Colorado now and see this effect. At a glance much of rural Colorado appears as it has seemingly forever: with clean rivers, meadows, glens and vast swaths of forest. But that is a deceptive view. Look more closely at places such as Evergreen and it is principally a suburban community within the trees. Not forest, if defined as wilderness. But trees, and seemingly all the fewer of them soon in greater defensible spaces being created. Even drive out as far as Lake City, to where the affairs of mankind are a more tenuous affair, and yet there are cabins, seen and out of view (and more than imagined), scattered about. And each of these an outpost.

One might not think it, but each single home influences by right a far larger tract of land than the border of their property might suggest. Something similar to locating at the headwaters of a river and thus controlling the flow for all downriver. Evidence of this present in the absence, by and large, of larger predators: such as grizzly bears, wolves and mountain lions are no longer welcome guests in their former domain. Animals that can coexist with mankind, such as rats, can even benefit, or in the case of deer over proliferate. There may be in an area to the eye but forest with a few cabins widely spaced, but in whole they form a matrix that prevents the ecosystem once present to exist. Only parts of it, and that possibly badly out of balance.

Part of that equation lies with wildfire. If naturally occurring principally through lightening, its disruptions felt most strongly by a sedentary population. Aside from that of forests, grass fires were common on the plains. Added to at times by those such as the Comanche who would set fire to the sea of grass to drive bison in flight over cliffs. But now of course we have more at risk in at least material goods than nomadic hunter-gatherers ever did. So our policy of wildfire suppression, and quandary now in how best to control such a natural equation.

Ponderosa pine forests are by nature somewhat park-like. That all the more apparent to anyone having thought to have as easy passage through the Alaska bush, and then finding in the thick intertwining trees and bushes why it is called the bush. But one can remain in Colorado and discover much the same. In a forest trees will at last die and eventually fall. In a real forest there is no one about to manage this, and they remain as such in fallen disorder until at last moldering back into the earth. Find such a place, and off any path, and one will quickly gain an appreciation for what transpires in a forest, or how hard to traverse in a straight line (or at times at all).

It was said that the 2012-13 Fern Lake Fire, that in and upriver of Moraine Park in RMNP, burned areas not having done so in 900 years. Consider that RMNP was only formally established in 1915, the first advances of white men into the Estes Park region only in the 1860's. Of itself and quite naturally RMNP managed with wildfire perfectly well for many centuries, and indeed since last heavy glaciation. Wildfire suppression there now is more an invention of mankind towards their own purposes than in what the forest would want or need. But as well the need now reflection of how all is so heavily affected by this rapidly changing climate, nor that natural.

Most glaciers in the Lower 48 are located in the states of Washington, Montana and Wyoming. Those in Colorado are principally centered along the Continental Divide of the Front Range Mountains, from north of I-70 into RMNP. The largest is Arapahoe glacier, west of Boulder. The rest are not all that large, and if until now having within bounds remained fairly stable, most all of them may well be gone by 2030. This having a profound affect on the late season flow of the many rivers issuing from this region, as well all else, and aquatic life such as trout.

The namesake glaciers of Glacier National Park may not exist ten years from now. This clear evidence of the vast and swift changes underway. Closer to home, the montane and alpine wilderness of RMNP is under threat in a number of ways. Most obvious are the many trees having died from the mountain pine beetle (an insect native to the region let loose by this weather). But aside from this, not just the enforced lack of the grizzly bear or wolf, either. The lakes and rivers of RMNP in the highest most remote regions of this park are under assault from airborne pollutants principally blowing upslope from the nearby Front Range. As well, to a degree from the west, from such as coal fired plants, in Craig and elsewhere. The result is nitrogen and other substances which are deposited within rain and snow in this region naturally nitrogen poor. That which can be naturally absorbed has already been exceeded, resulting in the acidification of water, changing of its inherent pH. The further result will be in release of aluminum, and end result fundamental change in all aquatic life and that which depends upon it. There is already some sickly green algae present in growing amounts where before largely not. In greater concentrations of this imbalance, the fish will simply die.

So, yes, we have trees for now in many places. And, fortunately many which are still alive. But in greater measure they do not represent a true forest nor wilderness, and often at best but fragments of it. Those areas best protected are still wild and more or less intact ecosystems, of true forest, but now as small islands. But none of them, not one, is safe. Even in the highest most remote alpine fastness the change that is coming is felt.

And that bodes well for no forest.
I definitely see your point in terms of larger scale change to our landscape. However, we can't ignore the fact that humans have altered this landscape, for better or worse. All we can do now is work towards mitigating those changes, of which include creating better defensible space (if a homeowner wants to be insured). Right now, we can't continue on the path we are on. Insurance is a double edged sword, but if you choose to build your dream home in an area that is fire prone, you do so at a cost. That's really the bottom line.
 
Old 07-06-2013, 11:49 AM
 
20,913 posts, read 39,195,706 times
Reputation: 19202
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
.... the West Fork Complex ... .. has burned around 90,000 acres .... without burning any structures. .... the main reason is that THE AREA ISN'T CRAMMED WITH STUPID DEVELOPMENT THAT PUT STRUCTURES IN HARM'S WAY. ....
Opinion piece in today's WaPo deals with this topic.

Excerpt:

"The 19 firefighters killed in Arizona this past week should be honored as the fallen heroes .... caught by an advancing wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz., the town they were trying to save, when they were overrun by flames. They should never have been put in that position. Since Yarnell had already been evacuated, these men were lost trying to save not lives but houses. Homeowners who live in wildfire-prone areas shouldn’t expect their highly flammable property to be rescued during extreme fires."

The article goes on to describe the issue at the national level and emerging steps such as higher insurance rates for high-hazard areas and stricter building codes for new construction, etc.
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Old 07-07-2013, 12:42 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,858,967 times
Reputation: 9139
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
The article goes on to describe the issue at the national level and emerging steps such as higher insurance rates for high-hazard areas and stricter building codes for new construction, etc.
The biggest thing that would move that along is for the Forest Service to be directed--legislatively, if necessary--to use its firefighting resources for what they were orignally intended: namely, to protect critical forest resources, utility and transportation corridors, historical treasures, and human life ON THE PUBLIC LANDS. Private structure defense against fire should be left to local and state firefighting agencies. When those agencies recognize that Uncle Sugar will not be there to bail them out for structure defense on private property, you will see land use policies, building codes, and private insurance practices change to reflect the true risks of building in a tinderbox. The net result: people stupid enough to build in such places will be left to absorb the risk without placing firefighters in harm's way to save a bunch of crap built where it never should have been.
 
Old 07-07-2013, 01:06 PM
 
20,913 posts, read 39,195,706 times
Reputation: 19202
If the Forest Service actually does as you suggest, insurance firms will essentially be hung out to dry and forced to enact major changes, which may be for the better. But I'll put my money on private insurance practices changing anyway before any governments do anything as our elected types are bought and sold like cheap hookers by banks, developers and monied interests. Since insurance losses are immediate CASH outlays, insurers who are now paying out for 500+ homes in Black Forest (about 1.5 miles north of me) will be the first to move on this, and quickly.

An acquaintance lost his home in Black Forest and will rebuild again, this time with brick, a metal roof and defensible space.

Sad part is that WE KNOW BETTER but our building codes allow the very opposite of "best practices." Any attempts to change codes in 3300 counties around our nation will have about as much chance of being enacted as our recent efforts to ratchet up background checks on firearm sales. That's why I think insurance firms will have to lead the way by either raising rates quite a bit or just not writing the policies. In the meantime insurance lobbyists and trade groups can work to improve building codes, but builders/developers will HOWL and open their checkbooks, stalemating many good intentions.

Building code side issue for hail alley is to require that new homes be built with either 50-year asphalt shingles or some sort of tiles. It only costs about 10% more per roof for the heavier grade of shingles but it saves re-roofing as often. Same for re-roofing, no more 25-30 year thin shingles. If we can force this sort of modernization in the NEC and building codes for electrical modernizations, we can do it for roofing too.

We have no shortage of viable solutions, a dreadful shortage of real leadership, and stupid sums of money slopping around at the higher levels.
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Last edited by Mike from back east; 07-08-2013 at 11:06 AM..
 
Old 07-09-2013, 07:12 AM
 
2,166 posts, read 1,266,094 times
Reputation: 2491
Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
The net result: people stupid enough to build in such places will be left to absorb the risk without placing firefighters in harm's way to save a bunch of crap built where it never should have been.
The "Black Forest," area is one of most beautiful areas I have ever seen! Lived in Alaska...wow, now that's a beauty! Anyway, I would not call the "Black Forest," area, crap.

Hard working and retired people, families, call the area home.

Homes that were from about $92,000, to over 1 million dollars were destroyed. A couple enjoying their lives, and living close to the Air force base, where they worked lost their lives in this horrific "perfect storm."

The fire was human caused, accident or otherwise, not mother nature. The forest was probably way too thick with trees. The videos that I saw, showed the roofs catching on fire and the trees un-touched. Metal or tile roofs may be a good idea in wooded areas?

Crap? Please, this is a horrible heart breaking event, just as tornados and other disasters are. Crap? Calling lives and homes lost; crap? Way too hurtful.

Last edited by mollygee; 07-09-2013 at 08:17 AM.. Reason: little tidbits
 
Old 07-09-2013, 08:35 PM
 
8,317 posts, read 25,858,967 times
Reputation: 9139
Quote:
Originally Posted by mollygee View Post
The fire was human caused, accident or otherwise, not mother nature. The forest was probably way too thick with trees. The videos that I saw, showed the roofs catching on fire and the trees un-touched. Metal or tile roofs may be a good idea in wooded areas?
Man was the ignition source, but this forest was prime to burn and would have easily found a natural ignition source at some point. The primary cause of the fire was decades of fire suppression--how it ignited is really secondary. Why were natural "cleansing" fires suppressed? Because even small ground fires that are nature's way of preventing large crown fires are sufficient to burn structures built in stupid places using stupid materials. So, the area got a devastating mega-fire that burned furiously.

Much as I can empathize with people who lost everything in the Black Forest fire, it just proves the axiom that profoundly stupid behavior can have profoundly tragic results.
 
Old 07-09-2013, 10:52 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 6,041,670 times
Reputation: 2623
Wink Lessons learned, or not

Quote:
Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
Much as I can empathize with people who lost everything in the Black Forest fire, it just proves the axiom that profoundly stupid behavior can have profoundly tragic results.

Bluntly put, but true. Many are going to find that the realities of the wildland-urban interface have shifted underneath them, with new sobering assessments necessary due this rapidly changing climate.

I was recently looking at some of the results of the 2012 High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, having burned on either side of the Cache la Poudre River. At the moment much of the area is green, with grasses having quickly rebounded. The trees have not. It is sobering to realize that these forested areas burned—in some cases the better part of a mountainside—will not return to that they were in our lifetime.

It seems a small miracle that the Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park (located about 4.5 miles north of Grand Lake) has thus far burned only a little over 600 acres. There are far too many trees dead from the mountain pine beetle on the east side of the divide. But in Jackson, Grand and Summit counties the toll is staggering; one can take heart in the trees that are still alive, yet the mortality rate is often 70% and more across entire mountains. Years ago, the U.S. Forest Service predicted an eventual mortality rate of 95% among mature lodgepole pine, which is presently exactly the case in some areas.

For those having lost track, the West Fork Complex Fire is presently at 109,049 acres burned. The largest of this triad of wildfires, the West Fork Fire, the one still potentially threatening the town of South Fork, seems to have more or less stabilized at present in its perimeter. Growth of late has been in the Papoose Fire, located southwest of Creede, being presently at 49,107 acres. It has been burning to the southeast, and may reach, burn into and physically join the West Fork Fire.

Unlike in northern Colorado with lodgepole pine dead from the mountain pine beetle, this large wildfire in the south is feeding on spruce trees killed in similar fashion from another insect. That, and due stress from less precipitation and ever warmer temperatures.

Ultimately, mankind has that to answer for. If always wildfire, these forest would be alive and healthy today save our interference. Yet we often love to live within them. Oh, the irony.
 
Old 07-10-2013, 08:51 PM
 
Location: Texas
14,078 posts, read 17,669,417 times
Reputation: 7720
If anyone still needs help cleaning up fire damage, we southern baptists are still taking requests. Come by the first baptist church of black forest on black forest road and fill out a request. We already have nearly 300 and may soon have to stop taking new requests. We have work teams here now from sc,ga,tx,ok and ca, with more coming through august. We will d every job.
 
Old 07-10-2013, 10:05 PM
 
13,321 posts, read 25,569,771 times
Reputation: 20505
I have always been impressed with how the Southern Baptists step up to help in so many difficult situations. Thank you.
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