2014 course offerings that will apply toward a Climate Change Studies minor
By Travis Tzioumis, Resource Conservation major
Monday, August 22, 2011
As we pulled onto Boy Scout Road in the town of Seeley Lake, Montana the smell of fresh cut pines filled the air. Looking out the driver’s side windows we could see Pyramid Mountain Lumber, as flatbed trucks were hauling off loads of finished product. Stacks of logs piled up patiently waiting to be cut, pressed, and dried into one of about 3,000 products made there. As we got out of our cars I was excited to gain the perspective of the lumber industry in regards to our changing forests. When people think of logging in the American west the images that are sometimes conjured up might be those of clear cuts, polluting machinery, and destruction of forests. While visiting Pyramid we spoke with the resource manager Gordy Sanders, and the chief operating officer Loren Rose, and I learned that times have changed and that there are companies in the industry who are working diligently to correct mistakes of the past and building strong relationships with the community and the land. After all, the land is their livelihood, and if managed improperly can ruin business and their reputation.
Whether you choose to believe that climate change is human induced or just another natural climatic change there is no doubt that our forests are changing. Tim Love is a United States Forest Service Ranger in the Lolo National Forest who met us at Pyramid to share what he has seen in his many years in the Forest Service. Tim has seen a lot of changes to the forests of the Northern Rockies the most prominent is increased disturbances due to climatic changes and management. Fire frequency has increased and the fires seem to be getting more severe in recent years. Pine beetle kill is also growing at an incredible rate. The beetles are a natural part of the system and are native insects although warmer winters do not keep them under control. They can survive through the mild winters we have been seeing and spread quickly. Tim also told us that in overpopulated forests trees are more prone to disease and insects because of added stress to compete for resources. Drier summers means less water available for plants to use and more plants in the forests are trying to use that water.
What can a company like Pyramid do now after a century of fire suppression led to over populated forests and clear cuts by logging has created little diversity on those lands? As Gordy put it, they have to try and increase the resiliency of the forest community. Thinning forests, to reduce competition and restore natural fire regimes, give the trees a chance to fight off disease and insects. They are working with Trout Unlimited in Salmon, ID on a piece of private land to restore the fisheries. They bundle recreation, fisheries, and wildlife in their projects so that what they do affects everything in a positive way.
It was impressive to see two men; one a logger, the other a Federal lands manager, having a conversation about how to best manage the forests. These two men would have likely not had a civil conversation, or agreed on what to do in the past. I wonder, however, how will the forests be managed if these disturbances continue to grow? What will happen when the forest service has a smaller budget because of more money being allocated to fire fighting and fuels reductions?