Sunday, April 29, 2018

Where are you, Henry Woodrow?

Summer of Respirator Fun Awaits
Where are you, Henry Woodrow?
Just Lumber and Water, Please!
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            In the Henry Woodrow diaries, the matter of the bureaucratic land manager comes to life.
            The 1922 scene was set. Aldo Leopold and his entourage of Forest jeffes had ridden in and would spend a little time with the boys instructing them on proper suppression techniques for dangerous fires. They would be there on the fire line ready to shovel and sweat as soon as the camera man ordered, “Action!” The pictures would be archived forever in the Regional Office and even adorn walls of offices henceforth.
            Meanwhile, the crew, “the boys”, were awaiting word from the fire boss, long time Gila forester and local legend, Henry Woodrow, as to how he wanted to proceed, but he was nowhere to be found. Finally, he was found back in his tent on his cot with his eyes shut.
            “What do you want us to do, Henry?” was the question.
            “Go ask all those bosses,” was his answer.
            Mr. Woodrow, the consummate forest manager of his time, respected community resident, and good judge of character was disgusted with the whole scandalous scene. He knew the truth of the trumped up affair. When the representatives of the great white father from Washington would take their leave before they shed too much sweat, he would emerge to perform the tasks. He would then go on to do the real work of the southern Gila country. Most of that time that was alone with his horse and one pack animal. He would flag and cut trails, he would ride with allotment holders planning and implementing real improvements, and he would return to his ranch where the Gila River emerged from the Mogollons and work each winter.
            He would raise good sons, shoe good horses, pay taxes, love a good wife, and be revered by the community where he would live his entire life. He created deep roots, and his home and private property still stand.
            His profile was not at all what became the norm of the modern federal land managers. By all standards, he was an outlier, but he was the model that should have always been.
            Summer of Respirator Fun Awaits
            There have been 43 forest related fires within the city limits of Flagstaff this year. The expectation for the upcoming fire season, therefore, is poco bronco. The tedious recapitulation of why the pending doom is at hand and already written. Drought, degradation of the environment, and global warming are the culprits.
            “She’s a gonna’ burn, Baby!”
            That script is no different anywhere in the entire West. Out in California, some scientists have spent a pickup load of money to write in their executive summary there are now 100 million dead trees from the central Sierra southward into Kern County. Of course, it is all global warming, but Mr. Woodrow would have spent only a half of day of saddle time to conclude with water moté pragmatism, “You gotta’ thin these trees, Sugarfoot!”
            He would have been absolutely incredulous that there was not a single ongoing or positive mechanism to reduce fuel loads. Cattle are gone from the forests, sheep are gone from the forests, goats were never allowed in the forests, real foresters and lumbermen are gone from the forest, no mechanical removal is allowed, no chemical thinning is allowed in the forests, no substantive control burning is allowed in the forests, and no complexity of natural removal is allowed at all. The henchmen of the great white father and their handlers, the fully funded environmental nongovernmental organizational cartel operatives, have long and fully replaced any real land managers.
            Just Lumber and Water, Please!
            The manifestation of no real management is the increase in tree numbers by 50X from historical stands. Put in terms of something to sink you teeth into is the suggestion that the unchecked growth of the forests is equivalent to a minimum 1000 super unit trains of cordwood unloaded into so called Sierra iconic forest lands each year for the purpose of catching a spark to burn at some time in the future.
            And, burn they do.
            Ten million acres a year of cinder forest floors is the approaching western benchmark. For a government that is pushing private land stewards to enhance soil health there is no substantive description to describe what is taking place in forest soils. These catastrophic fires are simply removing all organic matter down to bedrock.
            And, then there is the water issue.
            Another money sink in the form of a peer review has concluded that fires in the King’s River Basin alone have liberated an extra 17 billion gallons of water each year. This was water being lost to evapotranspiration in the overgrown forests. The math would suggest that losses would be about 340 million gallons in a healthy forest where fuel loads were managed. This means that, in addition to the hideous air quality, reduced lumber conversion, and depleted soils, the federal government has been diverting 16,660,000,000 gallons of water a year into the jet stream and out of downstream uses in the King’s River Basin on the lands that have burned alone.
            Of course, all this study business is pointing toward the need for more money. A Cal Berkeley finding is that $5-10B is needed to make the southern Sierra forests healthy which really means $12.5-25B (The data shows 20% of the forest is at risk. Retired FS officials believe that is vastly understated). At the same time, the characters who are leading the charge For the Children, are urging that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) be fully funded at the $900M mark in order to buy more private lands and access. In their words, “The Children need a clean, beautiful, and accessible outdoors where they can play and discover the amazing world around them. The LWCF has done more to protect iconic landscape, wildlife, habitat, open space than anything else.”
            Henry, where the hell are you!

                        Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Sugarrrrrfoot!”

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