A question of balance  

hotfun_1966 53M  
292 posts
1/28/2017 1:41 am
A question of balance


In these times, there are so many issues on which people are split, usually as in you're either for or against something.

But what about a third alternative, perhaps a better way the either/or people are too blinded by their zeal to see?

Ardent environmentalists seek to preserve nature, such as forests, as is.

Ardent developers and miners look to extract mineral and timber resources and build.

Neither extreme is sustainable.

How many serious or fatal accidents does it take to convince ardent environmentalists that a narrow two-lane or even more dangerous three-lane road is not acceptable?

How many environmental disasters does it take to convince developers that irresponsible management of projects and their waste products is unacceptable? Or exhausting renewable resources such as trees before the new saplings have a chance to replenish.

It is a question of balance.

Here is an example close to home.

The American and Canadian foresters of the early 20th century were all about ensuring massive stands of timber without thinning out dead trees and by fighting fires within.

This created a serious problem in August of 1910, when a three consecutive drought summers and sparks from locomotives caused many small fires in southern British Columbia, northeastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana. A massive cold front came in from Canada, and whipped them into two massive fires with embers carrying hundreds of miles, and smoke so intense, it could be seen as far east as Watertown, New York and as far south as Denver, and so thick that celestial navigation on the Pacific Ocean was impossible. It took a second cold front with rain and late August snows to help extinguish the fires.

The young U.S. Forest Service did not learn its lessons well. They decided to fight all fires tooth and nail. Others followed their lead.

What they and the others failed to learn is that eliminating excess fuel (e.g. dead and dying trees) is essential to preventing such "Big Burn" events; and also that fire is essential in the natural order. Only fire generates the heat required to open the pine cones, allowing seeds for new trees to take root. Also, fire is essential in controlling predatory insects.

And that brings up the other tragic problem: beetle infestations.

My region of Montana, and the adjoining regions of British Columbia and Alberta, have been subjected to a serious infestation of mountain pine beetles over the past 40 years. Mature and weakened trees allow the beetles to thrive, especially if winter temperatures do not go low enough to kill the larvae.

Parks Canada said this about the infestation in Waterton Lakes National Park (which is about three hours away from me by car):

"In 1979, half of Waterton Lakes National Park was covered with large, mature pine trees. Between 1979 and 1982, half of the pine in that forest succumbed to mountain pine beetle activity because the pine trees were in perfect condition for an outbreak."

Fire keeps the beetles in check, because they are needed to help the natural recycling of dead trees into nutrients for the new ones. However, fire suppression allowed the beetle population to grow unchecked, and caused the pine needles to turn red.

The diversity caused by fires and natural decay is supposed to make huge infestations less likely. We shall see. Many then-immature trees are now approaching the age where they are more attractive to the mountain pine beetle.

The third alternative, though not popular to the extremists on both sides of the debate, is for balance, for sustainability. Controlled development and maintenance keep huge fires from happening. Controlled fires help thin out other areas, also keep huge fires from developing, begin the regeneration process for new trees, and keep natural predators in check.

It is a question of balance.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 UPDATE:. The forestry fire mismanagement has come to an awful head late this summer... Glacier lost one of its two remaining historic backcountry chalets (Sperry), and both Glacier and its Canadian neighbor Waterton Lakes are under mandatory evacuations.

hotfun_1966 53M  
3680 posts
1/28/2017 1:45 am

Red pine needles = sick trees


author51 56F
78818 posts
1/28/2017 2:36 am

You are right.It is all a question of balance but ones who do not see the bigger pictures to the many benefits of alternative ideas and opportunities will always stop the progress of rejuvenating Mother Nature.Very informative post and makes one think that there are always other solutions to the problems affecting our planet..

One can never have enough JOY in their life...


hotfun_1966 53M  
3680 posts
1/28/2017 4:00 am

    Quoting author51:
    You are right.It is all a question of balance but ones who do not see the bigger pictures to the many benefits of alternative ideas and opportunities will always stop the progress of rejuvenating Mother Nature.Very informative post and makes one think that there are always other solutions to the problems affecting our planet..
Thanks Joy.

I first visited Waterton during the height of the infestation in 1981. It was so sad to ride down Alberta Highway 6 and see a sea of red in what should have been green forests. There were still a lot of dying trees the last time I went in 1995.

Waterton is one place I plan to go this year, thanks to the free admission this year. I have my Discovery Pass on order, now I need to renew my passport.


Furbal1972 47M
18592 posts
1/28/2017 1:40 pm

Striking a balance is very important, but also very difficult in these polarized times. Everyone takes an extreme position hoping to get something accomplished in the middle. But compromise is getting hard to come by these days.

Our knowledge of ecosystems is in its infancy, but it is growing. .. Some lessons are being learned, like the removal of dams, while others are not. -- Fires are especially tricky.

Read my diary Journal of a Taxi Driver for taxi stories and pictures of flowers and trees.


hotfun_1966 53M  
3680 posts
1/28/2017 6:44 pm

    Quoting Furbal1972:
    Striking a balance is very important, but also very difficult in these polarized times. Everyone takes an extreme position hoping to get something accomplished in the middle. But compromise is getting hard to come by these days.

    Our knowledge of ecosystems is in its infancy, but it is growing. .. Some lessons are being learned, like the removal of dams, while others are not. -- Fires are especially tricky.
This is more than about compromise. This is about third alternatives that are better for both parties, a win-win as Dr. Covey called it, than either had in mind at first.

Compromise is a low form of win-win, and something the extremes on both sides rarely consider anymore, because compromise ultimately is twisted by one side holding to their position and demanding the other side bow down, as the Dems did all throughout Obama's terms, insisting the Republicans move to their side. Now, as Washington warned us in 1796, the tables have turned.

Removal of dams isn't always a good answer, either. They keep a bunch of contaminants from flowing further downstream, especially in areas like mine that have a long mining history.

Fires are indeed tricky. Most foresters ignored this natural option until they saw the good that came from it with their own eyes. I was just reading earlier this morning that Banff NP in Canada was clearing out some dead trees and using controlled fires. Some are finally learning about the need for balance, and that is a good thing.

One more note on fire: we hear the phrase "fighting fire with fire", however, there are nuances that are ignored in the simplification...

One would not fight a wildfire with another wildfire. One would use a controlled fire, called a backfire, to stop a huge spread. Intense winds may carry embers beyond the control lines, as they did in 1910.


hotfun_1966 53M  
3680 posts
1/28/2017 7:12 pm

    Quoting  :

That's true, especially when you have one person like Obama ignoring the Constitution and Congress, leaving his successor to clean up his messes. Nature is like that. For all the folks who scream global warming, we only have accurate data going back to the 18th century, when thermometers first became available. We are long overdue for an ice age, we may see it in our lifetime.

Indeed, that's why a sustainable balance is important. Leaving enough old growth forests to secure soils against the wind and mud slides, rotating crops to keep or renew vital nutrients in the soil, rehabilitating abandoned sections of highway that were re-routed to bring back nature.

That is indeed ironic... We make chemicals from nature that are harmful to the environment, and we even make new isotopes of existing elements that are far more toxic. Which just goes to show the more we know, the more we know we don't know.


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