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View Diary: DK GreenRoots: Coast Redwoods and Climate Change (43 comments)

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  •  There can be a silence under the canopy (8+ / 0-)

    of a redwood forest. That absence of sound is unlike a silence you only think you have in any other kind of forest of trees. It seems so absolute.

    I was in the area, within 7 miles, of the Biscuit Fire in SW Oregon and NW California, the biggest fire in recorded history in Oregon forests (larger even than the Tillamook Burn of the 1930's) in August 2002 and spent several hours in the redwoods. The canopy kept the pall of ash and soot from drifting down to the floor while we were in the trees. I couldn't escape a feeling of total fear that those giants might be lost to the intense and movable furnace just a few miles away.

    Once out on Highway 101, the scene was what I always felt the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust might feel like - thick, grainy air, a yellowing darkness in midday, a depressing smell of the death of green all around.

    When mixed with the fog off of the ocean, the visibility that day was at times less than 100 feet ahead on the road.

    Those trees are the lungs of our continent. Thank you for this diary.

    "We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other."
    Teilhard de Chardin

    by exmearden on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 06:33:56 PM PDT

    •  It would definitely be sad to see them (6+ / 0-)

      destroyed, but it seems unlikely. I began one diary here a few years ago with a quote from Stephen Pyne's Fire in American.

      Pyne noted that in the late 19th century Gifford Pinchot (an early conservationist, Progressive, friend of Teddy Roosevelt and first head of the Forest Service) visited a commune that had situated itself in a grove of 2 or 3 thousand year old sequoia. Some members of the commune proudly informed Pinchot that they had saved the giant trees from fire 5 times in the last few years.

      Pinchot responded (paraphrasing): "And who saved them from fire for the previous thousands of years?"

      Had the Biscuit Fire spread into the redwoods, it might have not done much damage, and might have even been beneficial. It would depend a lot on the condition of that area of forest, but even for the Biscuit Fire, over 60% of the 500,000 acre stated size of the fire was untouched or lightly burned. In that respect, the Tillamook Fires (a series of 4 or 5 - about every 7 years) were probably much worse.

      It's important to keep in mind that fires play an important role in most forest ecosystems, recycling nutrients (which are the growth limiting factor in coastal forests), and in fact Giant Sequoia won't germinate without fire and the seedlings won't survive on unburned ground (not sure about redwoods). The idea that, to quote Frankenstein's monster: "Fire bad!", is as anthropogenic as global warming.

      Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho

      by badger on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 06:53:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fire is important. An old grove site I (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, exmearden, dsteffen, polar bear

        visit frequently has many old trees blackened by fire but doing well.

        "Politics is not left, right or center ... It's about improving people's lives." -Paul Wellstone

        by maggiejean on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 07:13:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I fully agree, at least as far as fire goes. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, dsteffen, KenBee, polar bear

        Part of my fear (leaning towards the selfish and anthropogenic) of those redwoods burning was simply the knowledge that to regrow such trees to their current size takes several human centuries. A self-centered fear.

        The Kalmiopsis (and the Smith River region) is otherworldly and still quite untouched by humans, once you trek far enough in.

        The lawsuits that erupted over the salvage of timber after the Biscuit were mostly about potential ecosystem damages due to logging and salvage, and less about the impact of the fire itself. Multiple sides threw out a mass of inflammatory hyperbole.

        I grew up in Bandon (SW coast, a community that has twice been burned down by raging gorse fires in the twentieth century) decades ago and comprehend the miracle of regeneration of an area ravaged by fire.

        The real danger exists in inadequate or politically-oriented monitoring of salvage after a fire. More danger can occur from imprudent logging (to habitats or to the restoration of streams and restoration of protected species habitats) than the damage from the fire itself.

        There are no easy answers to the long-term stewardship of Pacific Northwest forests if the debates become political football.

        I'll leave the effects of global warming for another time ...;)

        "We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other."
        Teilhard de Chardin

        by exmearden on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 07:35:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The hillside that faces my house (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          exmearden, KenBee, Andrew Ekud

          was burned out in 1994, two years before we built. I started out thinking it was ugly, but regeneration has become fascinating, although in places it's now so choked with lodgepole pine you couldn't walk through it. There's beauty in that part of the forest cycle too.

          But I know exactly what you mean, and feel the same way - every time there's a fire north of us I always hope it won't touch our favorite hiking trail there. And I haven't seen the redwoods yet (although I was just thinking of taking a trip down to the Medford, OR area, and they're not too far from there) so I hope they last a while longer yet :)

          Salvage is quite a different issue in wet forests than in the dry interior forests. Where I live, we're always short of water and anything dead is just more long-lasting fuel. I'm still pulling sound logs for firewood out of slash piles from logging in the early 90s.

          On a completely different subject, I was just out on the front porch watching a chocolate brown black bear wandering around in the woods about 100 feet from the house for about 10 minutes. It didn't impress the cat sitting at the top of the porch steps, but it made my day, maybe week or even month. It's hard to top that.

          It also reminded me that tonight is the night to take the garbage cans down to the highway, which I usually forget.

          Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho

          by badger on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:32:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  a friend of mine (0+ / 0-)

            had a small black bear wandering near his house in the Renton highlands south and slightly east of Seattle a year or so ago.

            These glimpses of life outside of life - nothing compares.

            I live in Kirkland across Lake Washington from Seattle and encountered a coyote about five blocks from my house at around 3 AM about three months ago. These sloping hills were once filled with them, the mountain lions, bear, and deer. Now my neighborhood is packed with folks losing their houses to the bank.

            It helps and heals to hear an echo from the past every so often.

            "We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other."
            Teilhard de Chardin

            by exmearden on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 11:53:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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