Devastating Forest Fires Ravage the West
How Can We Stop Them?
Devastating forest fires have ravaged the western United States. In just this year alone, according to numbers tallied by the National Interagency Fire Center, 87 large wildland fires have burned over 4.7 million acres in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
How can we stop these fires? The answer to that question is, “we can help slow them down or keep them from happening at all,” simply by paying attention to the facts, not theory.
The United States has over 750 million acres of forest land. Over half of the forests are privately owned by large corporations such as Hancock Forestry Management, Weyerhaeuser, Sierra Pacific Industries, and Rayonier Inc.
Most of these privately owned forests are certified and undergo annual inspections that verify responsible forest management practices are being followed. Sustainable forests in the USA are certified under programs such as the:
- American Tree Farm System (ATFS)
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and
- Sustainable Forestry Institute (SFI)
These programs develop healthy forest guidelines that are deeply rooted in science, ecology, and sustainability principles that create healthy forests by removing diseased and dead trees and replanting new trees during all forest harvesting periods to ensure proper growth and ecological balance. So how come there are so many fires raging in the west and northwest right now? That is a question everyone is asking, especially politicians.
Sustainable Fuel Resources
Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC, (“NWABF”), is developing a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (“SAF”) Project in Grays Harbor, WA. Shipments of this renewable jet fuel will begin in approximately 4 years. Delta Air Lines, the SAF buyer, and many of the leading Timber Companies in the Northwest are involved in the NWABF Project. Our EPC, Black & Veatch, will design and engineer the entire Project.
NWABF plans to benefit the local Quinault Indian Nation tremendously. The Quinault Nation has agreed in principle to be a supplier of some of the woody biomass to the Project, which would come from their forest residuals. This can increase the Nation’s revenues realized from the sale of forestry debris from approximately 200,000 acres of forests near the Project. Their Forestry Management Company could help us manage our process. Since the Project will produce several hundreds of jobs during construction, the Quinault Indian Nation could benefit from replacement jobs after their sawmill closed and enjoyed economic gain.
The NWABF project provides a fantastic resource for the disposition of forest debris, treetops, dead fallen trees, sawdust, etc., all of which are a byproduct of the environment or the local timber industry! We are a blessing to these Timber Companies, as they cannot bury wood to get rid of it, and burning the residuals has been banned in most states of the United States. Harmful gases are emitted from pulp and dead wood on the ground. This practice is terribly bad for the environment. Also, it provides a perfect “kindling” for fires! When lightning strikes, it is sitting there ready to burn.
When a tree dies and falls over, it blocks throughways for tree thinning, it rots and creates a fire hazard, animal habitats are harmed or destroyed, and most importantly, the water table is affected (a huge problem in states like AZ). Fallen wood keeps the rainfall from penetrating the ground and entering the water table, I have learned from lobbyists in AZ.
What about Forestry Management?
Maybe if we look at the Forestry Management practices in these states that are having all these fires, we can find out the facts about some of the causes of these fires. We should also look at the Federal Government (which owns huge amounts of forest acreage). There are $millions of federal dollars spent on maintaining the forests, and a lot of this money goes to the states for “Maintenance and Forestry Management.” How well do they do in Forestry Management?
As we are all aware, some agencies and organizations try to prevent any tree removal. They even try to object to removing dead and fallen trees. And they claim our industry “cuts down entire forests of trees to provide feedstock for biomass gasifiers.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Reforestation for the Future
We take the Timber Industry’s leftovers, their ‘scraps’ as we know it. And, with proper Forestry Management, these trees all get replanted. This practice is called REFORESTATION! It is an industry term! What we want to know is, do they get replanted by States that remove dead trees, slash, beetle kill, treetops, bark, etc.? Answer: Not if the State won’t allow their removal in the first place!
There is no environmental benefit to slash and dead trees lying on the ground rotting and going into the ground. On the contrary, it can be very harmful to the environment, which is all verifiable. The NARA Report, a study conducted a few years ago that took 4 years to complete and cost $40 million, managed by Washington State University and Director Michael Wolcott, Ph.D. and Regents Professor, verifies the voluminous amount of wood annually that is available for removal in the Northwest. It’s a lot more than we need for our Project.
What Can We Do?
I think we can all agree, “Global Warming” does have a long-term effect on the planet. That EFFECT has taken place over hundreds of years, not during just one term, in my opinion, of one President or another. Do not blame the former or past administrations. Fix it now, I say! The actual effects on the forests from Climate Change or Global Warming are not quantified, and opinions on this matter run rampantly differently from expert to expert. Let us deal with the facts we can verify.
Therefore, I would challenge everyone who reads this to consider all the issues causing these horribly catastrophic forest fires. The reason? We all have many friends evacuating or losing their homes, losing a way of life that used to be precious to them and the wildlife where this is happening. People are losing jobs, etc. We can do something about a large portion of the cause of these terribly devastating fires. We must deal with the dead or diseased trees, slash from Timber operations, treetops, bark, sawdust, etc.
We cannot stop lighting strikes, and we will never stop some less than intelligent campers from not putting out their campfires or smoking in the forests, etc.
We can clear our forests and manage them better. When lighting does strike, hopefully, our brave Hotshots and Smokejumpers who put their lives on the line will have a fighting chance to get through the forests and to the source of the problem, clearing fire breaks, getting relief to people, saving animals. Then maybe finally, they can achieve containment and prevent loss of life and more property! Do you know any firefighters who fight forest fires? Some of the best people there are!
Authored by Dave Smoot, with subject matter input from Chris Whitworth
Northwest Advanced Bio-Fuels, LLC https://nwabiofuels.com/about/our-story/