Glomalin and Conservation in Humboldt County The 1996 discovery of the soil glue glomalin is changing our understanding of the impact of elevated carbon dioxide, while giving important clues to forest health, watersheds, revegetation, wildfire and carbon sequestration. Here I share what I have found so others may read and draw their own conclusions, and relate it to my own experience, Humboldt County issues and stories from the news.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

35. UNEP talks shareholder values of Sustainability 

35. New UNEP Report Pinpoints Necessity of Environmental and Social Research to Protect Shareholder ValueThursday, June 24, 2004
Twelve large global institutional investors today released a statement about the need for environmental and social issue awareness if large corporations are going to stay profitable in a changing world. Improvements in environmental and social areas lay the groundwork for successful businesses. Their statement backs Kofi Anan’s U.N. Global Compact, an independent evaluation of the corporate social responsibility initiative.
The summary report, titled "The Materiality of Social, Environmental and Corporate Governance Issues to Equity Pricing", warns long-term investment losses if the areas of environment and social issues are not addressed in an aggressive way. The twelve represent companies managing $1.6 trillion in assets.
Speaking from the Summit UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said: "This new report is a crucial recognition from major financial institutions that the environmental and social components of sustainable development, as well as the economic considerations, should sit at the heart of investment and capital market considerations."
"The financial analysts who undertook the research believe sustainability issues impact long-term shareholder value. It is clear, however, that to protect shareholder value the response must start with action today by companies serious about our environment and that wish to contribute to thriving communities worldwide"… .
The report was produced for the UN and covered eleven sectors in eight industries and was the first time the financial impact of environmental, social and corporate considerations and criteria were evaluated through the lens of industrial portfolio and pension plan outlooks.
Some industries like oil and gas, aviation, utilities and insurance already threatened with climate change, while others have developing opportunities in awakeneing carbon markets.
“Some of the key findings include:
* Environmental, social and corporate governance issues affect long-term shareholder value. In some cases those effects may be profound.
* Financial research is hindered both due to the paucity of reporting on the part of many companies concerning environmental, social and corporate governance issues and because of insufficient disclosure of these issues in annual reports.
* Financial research is greatly aided when there are clear government positions with respect to environmental, social and corporate governance issues. In some cases analysts were not able to provide in-depth reports due to a lack of certainty regarding government policy.
"The analyst findings demonstrate clearly that consideration of environmental, social and corporate governance factors are essential to prudent investment management and, therefore, essential to the fiduciary responsibility of pension fund trustees and investment managers", said Carlos Joly, Co-Chair of the UNEP FI Asset Management Working Group, and representative of Storebrand Investments. "It is to be expected that regulators will take this into account when updating fiduciary law and that institutional investment consultants will also take notice", he said.
The release coincides with a report by stock exchanges of their support for the principles of the UN Global Compact. Georg Kell, of the UN Global Compact Office said "financial markets are awakening to the fact that environmental and social issues have important financial impacts."

Copies of the report will be available mid-day on 24 June on the web at:
Information about the UN Global Compact can be found at:
For more information, contact:
Robert Bisset
Information Officer for Europe, UNEP
Web site:
Commentary: This is an important acknowledgement of the seemingly obvious. You can run neither your markets nor your resources into the ground and expect to continue to profit. Year to year analysts’ sheets tell nothing of depleted resources or restoration timetables. Underpaid labor does not create market bases. Walking away from depleted resource sites is a commonly accepted practice. Operations injurious to others need to be addressed.
This refocusing on a bottom line shadowed by social and ecological issues is a good sign for the future. Corporations will strive to protect their interests and gain advantages. Once the competition becomes a competition of profitable sustainability we will see some exciting changes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


A conference in Bonn tomorrow will address desertification. As we can see in the article, this is a human caused condition created by people on the land. It is clear nothing is known about glomalin, that land preservation is not an option, nor are stricter laws concerning firewood cutting or burning for agriculture. It is clear no advantage is found in higher growth rates due to increased CO2, and that it is politically very difficult to leave land alone long enough to revegetate it to its former self.
As a result, we have JR Smith’s adage, “In men’s footsteps, the desert” occurring before our very eyes. Poverty and ignorance account for a good deal of the problem. Greed over water for cities and agriculture are depleting biologically necessary water. Vast landscapes have had their natural water regimes disrupted, leaving large areas dry and drying. Timber removal causes more runoff and less storage, shrinking of the soil moisture zone and surface drying. Local watercourses dry up in the heat. Lack of shade raises temperatures and evaporation rates. Precipitation storage shrinks and susceptibility to insects, disease and fire rise. Seedlings have a hard time surviving through summer. All the carbon in the vegetation and the soil is returned to the atmosphere as CO2, no more is returned. Soil loses its tilth and degrades back to its mineral components, easily blown or washed away, and filling streams and rivers with sediment.
Desertification archeology as a human caused phenomenon deserves close attention. An atlas of lost lands would be very interesting. One of Pacific Lumber s founders knew of a place in Maine where sand replaced soil after clear cutting so that no trees could grow back. He was afraid the same thing would happen around the Great Lake states when he was there. It helped form the philosophy that made the company sustainable through the years.
Increased temperature could exasperate places alreadt drying but it, together with elevated carbon dioxide are usable tools for remediation. We have these facts to encourage us:
Drip irrigation can allow us to establish and re-establish forests in drying lands with minimal water.
Elevated Carbon Dioxide reduces stoma cells, reducing evapo-transpiration
Shade reduces temperature, protects fungi. Mulch can be used around individual trees.
Shaded streams run all year
Glomalin production rises with higher heat and CO2
Glomalin binds small soil particles, trapping soil moisture and preventing erosion
Glomalin itself is the topsoil needed for sustainable productivity
Desertification means destruction of a regions glomalin zone

See Our Shrinking Watersheds, Redwood Reader #3, April 29, 2004

World's land turning to desert at an alarming speed, warns United Nations
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
By Chris Hawley, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — The world is turning to dust, with land the size of Rhode Island becoming desert wasteland every year and the problem threatening to send millions of people fleeing to greener countries, the United Nations says.
One-third of the Earth's surface is at risk, driving people into cities and destroying agriculture in vast swaths of Africa. Thirty-one percent of Spain is threatened, while China has lost 36,000 square miles to desert — an area the size of Indiana — since the 1950s.
This week the United Nations marks the 10th anniversary of the Convention to Combat Desertification, a plan aimed at stopping the phenomenon. Despite the efforts, the trend seems to be picking up speed, doubling its pace since the 1970s.
"It's a creeping catastrophe," said Michel Smitall, a spokesman for the U.N. secretariat that oversees the 1994 accord. "Entire parts of the world might become uninhabitable."
Slash-and-burn agriculture, sloppy conservation, overtaxed water supplies, and soaring populations are mostly to blame. But global warming is taking its toll too.
The United Nations is holding a ceremony in Bonn, Germany, on Thursday to mark World Day to Combat Desertification and will hold a meeting in Brazil this month to take stock of the problem.
The warning comes as a controversial movie, The Day After Tomorrow is whipping up interest in climate change and as rivers and lakes dry up in the American West, giving Americans a taste of what's to come elsewhere.
The United Nations says:

* From the mid-1990s to 2000, 1,374 square miles have turned into deserts each year, an area about the size of Rhode Island. That's up from 840 square miles in the 1980s and 624 square miles during the 1970s.

* By 2025, two-thirds of arable land in Africa will disappear, along with one-third of Asia's and one-fifth of South America's.

* Some 135 million people — equivalent to the populations of France and Germany combined — are at risk of being displaced.

Most at risk are dry regions on the edges of deserts, places like sub-Saharan Africa or the Gobi Desert in China, where people are already struggling to eke out a living from the land.
As populations expand, those regions have become more stressed. Trees are cut for firewood, grasslands are overgrazed, fields are over-farmed and lose their nutrients, water becomes scarcer and dirtier.
Technology can make the problem worse. In parts of Australia, irrigation systems are pumping up salty water and slowly poisoning farms. In Saudi Arabia, herdsmen can use water trucks instead of taking their animals from oasis to oasis, but by staying in one place, the herds are getting bigger and eating all the grass.
In Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece, coastal resorts are swallowing up water that once moistened the wilderness. Many farmers in those countries still flood their fields instead of using more miserly drip irrigation, and the resulting shortages are slowly baking the life out of the land.

The result is a patchy "rash" of dead areas, rather than an easy-to-see expansion of existing deserts, scientists say. These areas have their good times and bad times as the weather changes. But in general, they are getting bigger and worse-off.
"It's not as dramatic as a flood or a big disaster like an earthquake," said Richard Thomas of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in Aleppo, Syria. "There are some bright spots and hot spots. But overall, there is a trend toward increasing degradation."
The trend is speeding up, but it has been going on for centuries, scientists say. Fossilized pollen and seeds, along with ancient tools like grinding stones, show that much of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and North Africa were once green. The Sahara itself was a savanna, and rock paintings show giraffes, elephants, and cows once lived there.
Global warming contributes to the problem, making many dry areas drier, scientists say. In the last century, average temperatures have risen over 1 degree Fahrenheit worldwide, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
As for the American Southwest, it is too early to tell whether its six-year drought could turn to something more permanent. But scientists note that reservoir levels are dropping as cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas expand.
"In some respects you may have greener vegetation showing up in people's yards, but you may be using water that was destined for the natural environment," said Stuart Marsh of the University of Arizona's Office of Arid Lands Studies. "That might have an effect on the biodiversity surrounding that city."
The Global Change Research Program says global warming could eventually make the Southwest wetter, but it will also cause more extreme weather, meaning harsher droughts that could kill vegetation. Currently, the Southwest drought has become so severe that even the sagebrush is dying.
"The lack of water and the overuse of water: That is going to be a threat to the United States," Thomas said. "In other parts of the world, the problem is poverty that causes people to overuse the land. Most of these ecological systems have tipping points, and once you go past them, things go downhill."
Source: Associated Press

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

33. Elevated CO2: What Can It Do for Semi-Arid Shortgrass Steppe  

33. Elevated CO2: What Can It Do for Semi-Arid Shortgrass Steppe Vegetation?
Volume 7, Number 25: 23 June 2004

This appeared in this weeks CO2 Science magazine. They clearly show the root zone soil moisture improvements from elevated CO2 and warmer temperatures. CO2's influence on stomata is making plants more water efficient and resistant to ozone. Still no mention of glomalin although these scientists are from USDA SAS.
How will earth's natural ecosystems respond to the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content? This question is of paramount importance to the current debate over the nature of CO2-induced global change. Will plants and the animals that depend upon them for both sustenance and shelter be helped or hurt by the consequences of carbon dioxide's direct plant physiological impacts? And what of possible warming, CO2-induced or otherwise? Will it exacerbate deleterious effects or enhance good ones?
Nelson et al. (2004) broached these fundamental questions in a five-year study (1997-2001) of the semi-arid shortgrass steppe (SGS) of Colorado, USA. Working at the USDA-ARS Central Plains Experimental Range in the northern portion of the SGS about 60 km northeast of Fort Collins, Colorado, they used large (15.5 m2) open-top chambers to examine the effects of elevated CO2 (720 vs. 360 ppm) on plant water relations, ecosystem water use efficiency, soil moisture dynamics and root distributions of the ecosystem's dominant C3 (Pascopyrum smithii and Stipa comata) and C4 (Bouteloua gracilis) grasses. So what did they find?

The five Agricultural Research Service scientists and their collaborator from Colorado State University report that "seasonal average soil moisture throughout the soil profile (0-15, 15-45, 45-75, 75-105 cm) was increased under elevated CO2 compared to ambient CO2 for much of the study period," with the greatest relative increase (16.4%) occurring in the 75-105 cm depth increment. They remark that this finding of "increased soil moisture under elevated CO2 at the deepest soil depth suggests that water percolated deeper into the soil profile and that less moisture was lost to evapotranspiration under elevated CO2." Noting that "this phenomenon enhances water storage in the deep fine sandy loam soils underlying large portions of the SGS," they go on to say that "this increase in soil moisture has been shown to be the major controlling factor in improved carbon assimilation rates and increased total aboveground biomass in this system (LeCain et al., 2003) and will likely decrease the susceptibility of the SGS to drought."

Another important finding of the group of Colorado researchers was, in their words, that when averaged over the study period, "leaf water potential was enhanced 24-30% under elevated CO2 in the major warm- and cool-season grass species of the SGS (Bouteloua gracilis, C4, 28.5%; Pascopyrum smithii, C3, 24.7%; Stipa comata, C3, 30.4%)." They say these results are similar to those of "studies involving other C3 and C4 grass species (Owensby et al., 1993; Jackson et al., 1994)," and that the enhanced leaf water potential - "which reflects improved plant water status and increased drought tolerance (Tyree and Alexander, 1993)" - may lead to increased leaf turgor and allow the grasses "to continue growth further into periods of drought." Hence, it is not surprising that, averaged over the five years of the study, Nelson et al. found that "water-use efficiency (g aboveground biomass harvested / kg water consumed) was 43% higher in elevated than ambient CO2 plots."

In discussing the broader implications of their findings, the scientists say their results "suggest that a future, elevated CO2 environment may result not only in increased plant productivity due to improved water use efficiency, but also lead to increased water drainage and deep soil moisture storage in this semi-arid grassland ecosystem." And they say that "this, along with the ability of the major grass species to maintain a favorable water status under elevated CO2, should result in the SGS being less susceptible to prolonged periods of drought."

That Nelson et al.'s findings are the norm and not the exception is confirmed by their noting that "previous studies have reported increased soil moisture under elevated CO2 in semi-arid C3 annual grasslands in California (Fredeen et al., 1997), mesic C3/C4 perennial tallgrass prairie in Kansas (Owensby et al., 1993, 1999; Ham et al., 1995; Bremer et al., 1996), and mesic C3 perennial grasslands in Switzerland (Niklaus et al., 1998) and Sweden (Sindhoj et al., 2000)." Hence, we can validly expect the beneficent effects of atmospheric CO2 enrichment revealed in this impressive study to be found in grasslands throughout the world as the air's CO2 content continues to rise to double-and-beyond its current concentration.

But what if air temperature rises concurrently? Actually, things could get even better under that scenario. Nelson et al. note, for example, that "air temperature was on average 2.6°C higher inside the chambers than outside," and they say that this warming "was implicated in the 36% enhanced biomass production observed in chambered-ambient compared to non-chambered plots." Consequently, since this already-enhanced biomass production was the starting point from which the 41% increase in biomass elicited by the doubling of the air's CO2 content was calculated, the increase in biomass caused by the concurrent actions of both factors (increasing air temperature and CO2 concentration) could well be something on the order of 90%.

So bring on the climate alarmists' "twin evils" of elevated CO2 and temperature … and let the (ecological) good times roll.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Bremer, D.J., Ham, J.M. and Owensby C.E. 1996. Effect of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide and open-top chambers on transpiration in a tallgrass prairie. Journal of Environmental Quality 25: 691-701.

Freden, A.L., Randerson, J.T., Holbrook, N.M. and Field, C.B. 1997. Elevated atmospheric CO2 increases water availability in a water-limited grassland ecosystem. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 33: 1033-1039.

Ham, J.M., Owensby, C.E., Coyne, P.I. and Bremer, D.J. 1995. Fluxes of CO2 and water vapor from a prairie ecosystem exposed to ambient and elevated atmospheric CO2. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 77: 73-93.

Jackson, R.B., Sala, O.E., Field, C.B. and Mooney, H.A. 1994. CO2 alters water use, carbon gain, and yield for the dominant species in a natural grassland. Oecologia 98: 257-262.

LeCain, D.R., Morgan, J.A., Mosier, A.R. and Nelson, J.A. 2003. Soil and plant water relations determine photosynthetic responses of C3 and C4 grasses in a semi-arid ecosystem under elevated CO2. Annals of Botany 92: 41-52.

Nelson, J.A., Morgan, J.A., LeCain, D.R., Mosier, A.R., Milchunas, D.G. and Parton, B.A. 2004. Elevated CO2 increases soil moisture and enhances plant water relations in a long-term field study in semi-arid shortgrass steppe of Colorado. Plant and Soil 259: 169-179.

Niklaus, P.A., Spinnler, D. and Korner, C. 1998. Soil moisture dynamics of calcareous grassland under elevated CO2. Oecologia 117: 201-208.

Owensby, C.E., Coyne, P.I., Ham, J.H., Auen, L.M. and Knapp, A.K. 1993. Biomass production in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem exposed to ambient and elevated CO2. Ecological Applications 3: 644-653.

Owensby, C.E., Ham, J.M., Knapp, A.K. and Auen, L.M. 1999. Biomass production and species composition change in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem after long-term exposure to elevated atmospheric CO2. Global Change Biology 5: 497-506.

Sindhoj, E., Hansson, A.C., Andren, O., Katterer, T., Marissink, M. and Pettersson, R. 2000. Root dynamics in a semi-natural grassland in relation to atmospheric carbon dioxide enrichment, soil water and shoot biomass. Plant and Soil 223: 253-263.

Tyree, M.T. and Alexander, J.D. 1993. Plant water relations and the effects of elevated CO2: A review and suggestions for future research. Vegetatio 104/105: 47-62.

32.Fire Goats and Opportunities 

32.Fire Goats and Opportunities
A request from a local fire-safe council for information about using goats for fuel load reduction led to a review of the literature. Several years ago I had started collecting information about this when I first saw it in connection with the Oakland Hills after the devastating fire there in 1991. Over the years several more articles appeared in print and on TV about using them for fire protection in the urban interfaces as well as traffic medians. The need to reduce fuel loads is reaching a critical point with vegetation responding to increased carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures with explosive growth.
An Agrarian History of Great Britain tells about the earliest settlers there, at about 7000 B.C., cleared the first lands for agriculture. The original forest had lots of elm, and elm leaves are pretty good forage, with a fair amount of nitrogen. The early method was to lop branches from the trunks and use the leaves as fodder. The trunks were left and became quite burled. These trees were cut by later inhabitants and used to form burial chambers in the long barrows. Many of these are lined with beautiful elm posts.
Archelogists reportedly have a hard time telling sheep from goats but sheep have to have grass. The history discusses the fact that research shows every single part of Britain had been covered with trees. Even the moors had been cleared in the past, but had not regrown as forest. Goats are as good a candidate as any for the first known deforestation, and goats have been used in woodlands since the dawn of time.
A search on google now brings about 340,000 hits in .13 seconds for fire goats. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Caltrans and many smaller public agencies are using goats in steep, difficult or brush covered terrains. There are all kinds of goat web sites with just a wealth of information on every aspect of raising, caring for and using goats.
Numbers always help us get a better picture of opportunities. Three hundred and fifty goats will clear an acre in a day. One price I saw was a dollar fifty per day per head, five hundred twenty-five dollars per acre per day with 350 goat herds.
The local need for fire goats is immense because the scale of fire prevention is vast, both wildland and at the edge of development. Enriched atmospheric CO2 and warmer temperatures will cause even more explosive vegetative growth. Increasing canopy height and removing fuel loads and fire ladders make a big difference in fire defense.
To the goat herd, this results in a continuous food source for goats. While some of the original programs I read about took any goat, specific breeds can be used for hair, hides, meat, some used for milk, some companies offer sheep for grazing certain types of grass. Opportunities abound for fire goats. Many jobs need doing, while the goats’ food source is expanding into increased fire danger. Even without contracts fodder is becoming more available as the products become better known.
Fire goats can be a tremendous help in restoring forest systems by controlling brush, Goats can prepare a site for planting if natural regeneration is insufficient. If it is, goats can be introduced after trees grow beyond browse height for fuel reduction and conifer release in some areas. Goats eat many noxious weeds and can be used to reduce problem plants like Scotch broom. Goats reduce roadside vegetation readily and can be used in residential interfaces, stewardship zones, firebreaks, and regenerating forestlands.
Goat Wisdom: Most everything you need to know about raising goats.

From California Grazing“Yellow star thistle is named for the bright, thistle like flower that have sharp spines surrounding their base. It is a long-lived annual and is found at elevations of 7000 feet or less. It grows to any where between 6 inches to 5 feet tall. Most of the plants seeds germinate within a year of disbursement, however some can stay viable for up to 3 years. Goat grazing is a highly effective way of reducing star thistle and star thistle seed production. Goats will eat the plants in all stages, including after the spines form. Surprisingly goats quite like thistle and when present it is one of over time by goats provides positive and successful results in the eradication of star thistle.
Aggressive noxious weeds like thistle bring problems as they displace beneficial plants, reduce habitat and recreational value. Goat grazing is also effective control of other weed species such as Spurge, Nettles, Purple Star thistle, Artichoke thistle, Poison Ivy and Poison Oak. Where as human contact with Poison Oak or Poison Ivy can cause a allergic reaction in humans, goats relish them and are highly effective at eradicating this weed. Goat grazing is a cost effective, ecologically sound way to clear land and promote growth of native grasses and beneficial plants.”
Wildfires Don’t Have A Goat of a Chance
© 2001 Wendy Dager
Despite their reputation, goats don't really eat tin cans.
But, oh, how they love weeds. And shrubs and forbs and grasses.
With proper control, goats and other animals with voracious appetites for greenery can be used to scale back the threat of wildfires, including those that could be rampant during the upcoming windy season in Southern California.
Often egged on by dry Santa Ana winds, 6,000 wildfires per year wreak havoc in California. Among the worst in history was the 1999 fire season when 273,000 acres and 300 homes were destroyed at a cost of $500 million. Such statistics are expected to worsen as the number of fires increases due to the rapid expansion of housing developments, which sprout ever closer to locations that are vulnerable to fire.
One of the hardest hit areas in the last decade was Oakland Hills, when a 1991 fire claimed more than 2,400 homes. Determined to keep it from happening again, the local government sought out alternatives to the few available preventive techniques, which include the more conventional herbicides and controlled burns.
Instead, Oakland officials called in a goat rancher, who provided the goateed, bleating, four-footed crew that happily chomped the fire-prone hillsides for two weeks at a hefty $15,000 per job.
"Theres some irony here", said S&S Seeds' Paul Albright. "Not too long ago, the government used to charge goatherders for grazing rights. Now, city governments are paying them to come in with livestock to clear the land."
According to Dr. An Peischel, those prior fees weren't fair at all to the person providing the goats, and, at times, the best management practices for grazing were not used.
"It's a bad precedent that people who live in cities and own land would charge farmers to graze their goats on them", said Peischel. "What happened years ago, is that farmers might abuse the land. They'd graze it improperly because they had to pay a lot of money for it."
Peischel knows what she's talking about. A PhD in Range Livestock Nutrition and a goat farmer for 18 years, she and partner Mike Spaetgens began their business, Goats Unlimited, in Hawaii. Their herd of goats was hired by growers of sugar cane, citrus, coffee, bananas, and papaya to clear land prior to planting, as well as to perform weed control duties between harvests.
Using the Kiko breed of goats, along with livestock guardian dogs to herd them, Peischel and Spaetgens main objective is to enhance land productivity.
"If you want your land well taken care of, then you better find a good rancher that's going to be a steward to your land", said Peischel. "As farmers, we're doing a landowner a service. We're preventing fires on their land and we're enhancing their perennial grasses so we're enhancing watershed management."
Now located in Rackerby, California, an hour-and-a-half north of Sacramento, Goats Unlimited is truly what it says it is: unlimited in the services it performs.
"We do all different kinds of things with the goats", said Peischel. "We do land rejuvenation, erosion control, restoration projects, fire breaks, and fuel load reduction. We provide breeding stock. We make meat sales to organic restaurants in San Francisco and Berkeley. We sell them to folks who have small farms - five, ten, fifteen acres - that want to do land cleaning so that their places don't burn on the urban/wildlife interface. We clear ditches for irrigation companies so that the water flows freely and you dont have a lot of weeds and stuff along the banks."
Currently, the Goats Unlimited herd numbers 700, but each spring it expands to between 1200 and 1300 head. The care and feeding of the goats includes supplementing their diet with something other than that which they cull from the land.
"If you're doing a fire break in an old ponderosa pine forest, there's not much to eat there", said Peischel. "If nutrition is lacking, protein has to be supplemented. Though utilizing livestock to manage land isn't new, goats have been an industry in California for only five years. Their use, however, is becoming more widespread as fire prevention and mitigation practices evolve."
"There are various tools to mitigate or minimize the damage done by fire to grasslands, rangelands, forests, homes and personal property", said Peischel. "Each tool has a specific use and place in management."
Weed abatement tools include the mechanized variety such as bulldozers, masticators and chipping equipment.
Using machines, however, is sometimes hazardous they can spark and cause fire. Which is why, in June of 2001, the city of Sunnyvale, California employed goats to maintain local landfills. According to an article by Gretchen Knaup of the Sunnyvale Sun newspaper, one of the reasons the goats were used was because the many pipes and wells in the landfills were difficult for tractors to get around and there was risk of starting a vehicle fire.
Peischel admits that an employer has to be receptive to the idea of fire control via hooved herbivores.
"We have to find people that want to pay us to do this", she said. "Proper planning, site evaluation and the working of the goats takes time. Contract price depends on the size of the job; if your'e doing fire breaks; how old the goats are; what's the weather; what's the vegetation."
"Each contract", says Peischel, "is individually negotiated, and consists of coordinating a variety of sources, including the local fire patrol, professional fire abatement teams, California Department of Forestry, and others." Regardless of the number of parties involved and the combination of factors that are unique to each job, Peischel emphasizes that the purpose remains how to best utilize the goats to decrease the amount of fuel that may cause a wildfire.
"The aim is to break the continuity of flammable cover, creating defensible space", said Peischel. "Once an area has been brushed by the goats, it can be maintained as a living green belt."
Peischel is pragmatic about her unusual business, but believes the goats are here to stay and that providing them for land management is the career for her.
"If I had to go to work, I don't know what I'd do", she joked. "I just can't imagine having a real job." For more information, visit or call (530) 679-1430.

Living Systems Land Management uses goats for fire mitigation, habitat restoration, erosion control and vegetation management.

Monday, June 21, 2004

31. Hybrid Owl Species Complicates Bird Future  

31.Hybrid Owl Species Complicates Bird Future,0,3507314,print.story?coll=sns-ap-science-headlines
By JEFF BARNARD Associated Press Writer
June 21, 2004, 2:09 AM EDT
LOWELL, Ore. -- It hoots kind of like a northern spotted owl, and looks kind of like a northern spotted owl. And like a spotted owl, it swoops in to take a mouse offered on a stick by U.S. Forest Service scientist Eric Forsman in a rainy stand of old-growth Douglas fir on the Willamette National Forest. However, this is a hybrid -- a cross between a northern spotted owl and a barred owl -- and it is one of the wrinkles in the future of the bird that triggered sharp logging cutbacks in the Northwest in 1994.
The invasion of the barred owl into spotted owl territory over the past 30 years and creation of the hybrids has become the top issue in the review of Endangered Species Act protection for the northern spotted owl, granted in 1990 largely due to loss of its old growth forest habitat to logging.
A panel of experts will report Tuesday in Portland on new information gathered for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which must make a decision by Nov. 15 on whether to maintain threatened species listing for the spotted owl. The latest studies show spotted owls are still declining, though just why remains a big question. Loss of old growth forest habitat has been minimal, particularly on federal lands where logging is restricted. Meanwhile, the barred owl is pushing spotted owls out of the way when it moves in.
"Clearly the barred owl is having more of an impact on the spotted owl than any of us anticipated 10 years ago," said Jerry Franklin, a University of Washington forest ecology professor serving on the panel. "The question now has to do with how much that impact is going to be. Is the barred owl essentially going to drive the northern spotted owl out of part of its range?"
The timber industry, which called for the review, argues that if barred owls push spotted owls out of old growth forests, those stands no longer have to be left standing as habitat, unless someone is willing to start killing barred owls. "It seems like the original basis for listing is really in question at this point," said Ross Mickey, western Oregon manager for the American Forest Resource Council.
Conservationists counter that protecting old growth forests may be more important than ever with the invasion of the barred owl. “The barred owl was around at the time of the listing," said Susan Ash, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. "It's reached the radar screen to the point that, yes, it's a new threat. The numbers are high. "But nobody has an explanation for why they have come into the area. And nobody can prove they are actually causing an impact to owl numbers in the long term. This may be some natural process where two species figure out their own roles in the ecosystem."
Barred owls began moving west from forests in eastern Canada and Minnesota in the early 1900s. After reaching southwestern British Columbia, they moved south, appearing in spotted owl territory in Washington in 1973 and Oregon in 1978, according to a paper by Forsman and Oregon State University graduate student Elizabeth Kelly. They now reach into Northern California.
Barred owls are bigger and more aggressive than spotted owls, and there is evidence they sometimes kill their smaller cousins. Barred owls nest in the same kinds of places -- cavities in large trees -- and eat the same kinds of things, small rodents like flying squirrels and woodrats.
There is no good overall population estimate on barred owls or spotted owls, but when the two come together, the smaller and meeker spotted owl generally loses, though not always, Forsman said. "In a lot of study areas in Oregon, even though we are seeing gradually increasing numbers of barred owls, the spotted owl population seems to be holding relatively stable or only declining slightly," Forsman said. "So it's still up in the air what this is going to mean long term."
Cross breeding remains rare -- only 47 hybrids have been confirmed in the wild, mostly in Oregon -- probably due to behavioral differences between the two. "It probably occurs in most cases in a situation where there's a dearth of potential mates for the barred owl," Forsman said. "But that we don't understand very well."
On the Net: Owl links:

Commentary: It can always be expected for people to want to cash in on resources and that the ability to generate cash flow by extracting resources will always imperil existing conditions. Not being fully cognizant of all aspects of an old growth forest would seem to be enough reason to protect old growth that remains. The northern spotted owl has given us a reprieve until new information should come available. That information, in the form of understanding mycorhizzial produced glomalin, soil based carbon storage and its impact on soil moisture, soil stability, and stored carbon dioxide are among the vital reasons to protect old growth in and of itself. Habitat must be preserved and created for threatened, endangered and extirpated species to return to the surrounding landscape.
It is less clear what, if anything we can discern about the owls struggle(?) between species. Adaptation is one of the basic tools of natural selection. Territorial competition and expansion as conditions favor one species over another is being played out all over the world in the form of invasive and exotic species. Many find niches with no natural controls and proliferate to the point of harm, often crowding out natives. Changing temperatures in many environments mean they are recovering in conditions different from what they originally adapted to. Time may help sort it out but the rule seems to be if a new species is well adapted with advantages over natives, they will win the day. And too often we don’t see the danger until the new species is too well established to handle easily.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

30. Sediment plan workshop set 

30. Sediment plan workshop set,1413,127%257E2896%257E2206850,00.html?search=filter
Friday, June 11, 2004 - The Humboldt Bay Stewards has scheduled a workshop for those interested in the state and federal planning effort to manage sediment along the California coastline. The California Coastal Sediment Management Master Plan looks to splice management of problems like beach erosion and damage to wetlands and increased shipping restrictions due to excess sediment. The plan will put in place regional approaches to managing sediment along the 1,000-mile-long coastline. The workshop is to inform the public and take comments and will be held on June 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the U.C. Agricultural Extension Service Building at 5630 South Broadway in Eureka. For more information on the plan contact plan manager Clif Davenport at 576-2986 or at . For information on the workshop, call Steve Sachs at (619)987-7219 or at .
This is the bitter end of the sediment discussion. Actually off shore canyon loading would probably still be further impacts, but out of sight out of mind. As told, the bays, wetlands, lagoons and harbors are filling with sediment, causing shipping restrictions and probably requiring more dredging. Wetlands and lagoons are vital fisheries nurseries and important wildlife habitat. We know the lagoon at the mouth of the Mattole, critical for fry returning to sea, is becoming shallower and warmer due to sedimentation. For many, this is the heart of the fight to prevent Douglas fir logging by Palco in the Mattole watershed. They act like they have no downstream responsibilities. Rather than get involved in a twenty-year effort to restore sport fishing in a watershed they are a minority owner in, they would trash it all in the name of “we have a right to”. The location, steepness, precipitation, existing roadless character of the area, and species makeup all call for special handling of Palco lands in the Mattole. Of course, this also applies to developers and agricultural interests, but no single entity is in the position to make so much work irrelevant by destroying the estuary. Destruction in this case means only adding a little sediment to an already seriously impacted river and estuary system.
We know many issues get divided along the lines of experts and their fields, and marine sedimentation is looked at by many agencies that have no role in regulating creation or movement of sediment. Nevertheless we need interdisciplinary visioneers who can see problems across landscapes and through time, and the political courage to prevent further degradation. Political courage is needed when it is proposed to do something that reduces a populations’ income. There will always be some opposition but the trick is to minimize it by replacing economic opportunity with equal or better opportunity at less risk to public resources. Public resources should be protected from catastrophic failure in the name of doing business.
In littoral studies sediment is a critical issue in beach making, and is a critical ingredient in delta formation and so forth. Most of these natural events have been exacerbated by huge amounts of sediment cut loose in the forests and rivers over the last hundred years. Many areas need years of natural sediment clearing or some kind of mechanical assistance to restore in stream habitat. Without the assistance the time period of eventually flushing these streams stretches into decades and centuries. This would also ease the rate of replenishment delaying repeated dredging treatments of the Bay that will be necessary over time.
Last but not least, managers need to become aware of the potential threat of tsunamis from offshore canyon loading. This is a result of massive sedimentation buildups in the deep river trenches off the mouth of the Eel River in particular. The tsunamis that washed away villages and people several years ago in Papua-New Guinea were the result of underwater landslides caused by massive deforestation on the island. Water can allow sediment to accumulate in slopes that would fail without the waters assistance. When they do fail, sediment slides down the cliff faces to the sea floor pushing water ahead of it. We have the added likelihood of one of these events being triggered by earthquakes that are common in the very canyons with the highest sediment delivery in the world.
From the top of the remotest mountain to the depths of the sea sediment is a concern for all. Information enough is available to reduce its production by large amounts but its effects have not been completely tallied, or the destruction would balance against the gains and profits disappear. Stewards responsible for failing conditions in the littoral regions should have some input on lessening the sources of those problems, or we are throwing good money away and chasing our own tails.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

29.Mosquito Control thru predation and habitat modification 

29.Mosquito Control thru predation and habitat modification
This article appeared in Waterforum today. THere is a wealth of wildlife habitat improvement here.
Message: 14
Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 09:33:49 -0600
From: "Rand Fisher"
Subject: Mosquito Control thru predation and habitat modification

Guides for bat and birdhouses to encourage predation on mosquitos, as
well as other methods to promote beneficial insect eating wildlife and
reduce mosquito habitat and population, are available from the following
web sites.

Backyard planting for wildlife
Backyard planting for wildlife
Backyard wildlife habitat
How to Build Birdhouses
Birdhouse dimensions for 26 different species
Handilinks for Birdhouses and Feeders
Organization for bat conservation
Natural Mosquito control
Mosquito Predators
Bats: one bat can eat between 600 to 1000 insects per hour.
Birds: Several specific species eat mosquitoes and adapt their diet
when there is a higher concentration of mosquitoes.
Dragonfly consumes large numbers of mosquitoes.
Mosquitofish can eat up to 50 mosquito larvae in half an hour and a
maximum of 168 in an eight hour period.

Drought dramatically increases mosquito population in the following
Deterring Mosquitoes -
West Nile Virus and Wetlands
Mosquito predatorsinclude dragonfl ies, damselflies, water striders,
backswimmers, predaceous diving beetles, and topminnows.
Mosquitoes can be further reduced by installating birdhouses that
attract insect-eating birds such as red-winged blackbirds, cliff swallows,
and marsh wrens. Bat boxes are also useful tool for mosquito control. A
single small brown bat can consume 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in just
one hour.

Mosquito Control
- Get rid of old tires, tin cans, buckets, drums, bottles, or any
water-holding containers.
- Fill in or drain any low places (puddles, ruts, etc.) in yard.
- Keep drains, ditches and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water
will drain properly.
- Keep eave troughs clean of leaves and other debris.
- Cover trash containers to keep out rainwater, and screen rain
- Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets.
- Empty plastic wading pool at least once a week and store it indoors
when not in use.
- Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water with sand or
- Change the water in birdbaths and plant drip trays at least once each
- Store boats/canoes covered or upside down or remove rainwater weekly.
- Keep grass cut short and shrubbery well trimmed around the house so
adult mosquitoes will not hide there.
Note, this page minimizes the value of predators on mosquito control.

Encourage Natural Mosquito Predators
· Install bird houses on your property to encourage natural predators
of adult mosquitoes;
· Grow emergent plants like cattails and bulrushes in your pond, which
attract dragonflies and other predatory insects;
· Encourage the presence of other natural predators in your yard, such
as frogs, salamanders and newts;
· Avoid clearing dense shrubs and brush on your property, which provide
habitat for many birds and insects that prey on mosquitoes.

Rand Fisher
Utah DEQ / Div. Water Quality
PO Box 144870 (288 N 1460 W)
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-4870

28. Mattole Defense,1413,127%257E2896%257E2202026,00.html?search=filter
The wheels of capitalism grind n in the Mattole watershed. Palco's plan to log their Douglas fir lands in the Mattole generate predictable outcomes in the light of glomalin activity. According to the Habitat Conservation Plan, these lands are steep, erosive, unroaded and in extremely high rainfall zones. Douglas fir does not stump sprout like redwood so that cutting these trees en masse means cutting soil loose en masse. Why? Because the trees are no longer capable of feeding the fungi. Air and sun and running water will destroy the glomalin and areas in high gravity situations will fail when the disaggregated soil becomes waterlogged.
A certain amount of dust will be created as well. Dust is a source of fine sediment in creeks and streams. It accumulates in the watershed all summer, and gets washed down into the water course early in the winter, filling in spaces in gravel beds, and later burying fish emerging from eggs laid in the gravel. Dust is created when glomalin's conditions are not met. When bare soil is exposed, the clumping action of the fungi ceases. Wind, rain, and traffic all cause unattached soil particles to move. WInd and traffic cause dust while rain carries mud into watercourses.
Of course, all this is contrary to the twenty-plus year efforts to restore Mattole fisheries. Countless hours and quite a bit of money has been spent repairing this one small watershed. It in fact still needs considerable help. One problem is the estuary, filling in with silt and becoming dangerously warm for salmonids waiting to go to sea. The location of the Palco lands directly threatens to do immense harm to the entire river system by releasing large amounts of sediment in high rainfall areas close to the mouth of the river. The long process of land destabilization that occurs after Douglas fir clear cuts and road building means the estuary will be impacted for decades, and making many efforts further up stream pointless. A 1996 BLM booklet on anadramous fisheries in the West decried private ownership of lands they wanted to restore for fish, saying they needed control of entire streams to adequately do the job, and that private owners were too disparate in outlook and economic concerns.
Now BLM is the lead agency at the mouth of the Mattole, they have just drafted their twenty year plan, they are acquiring (through donations) more wild lands in the Mattole Valley. The lack of other major industrial timber owners in the valley might have sparked a concerted effort to purchase the steep and unstable lands. Douglas fir land is cheap compared to redwood. Last year rumors of an acquisition surfaced, and action was not taken in fears of the talks collapsing. People are bitter over this since the talks were abandoned and the trees came down with no one defending them. A willing buyout for the lands in the Mattole would be the last assurance needed for the recovery of the valley in our lifetime.
Many people feel the regulatory process has failed them. In fact, the regulatory process changed when the Habitat Conservation Plan went into effect. The plan places the land under supposedly more stringent restrictions than state law. Right at the time of Headwaters purchase, CDF began complaining to the DA’s office about logging violations. People protested to various state agency offices. They were surprised when their old enemies in CDF began agreeing with them and talking like compatriots. Now we know Palco maneuvered the agencies out of the loop, while protesters spent many hours complaining to the wrong people.
Pacific Lumber was founded by men who saw devastating logging operations in Maine and the Great Lake States. They recognized that a controlled rate of cut kept the forests intact, yielded perpetual income and kept a sustainable resource in good maintenance while many other companies depreciated their timber assets and disappeared. The very qualities that made them a profitable company were what the takeover specialists consider “undervalued” assets. If only they could take the profit out of there, like every other timber company has ever done…
Palco continues to cry economic burden about every objection to their plans. They have sold PL farmland in the Central Valley, the PL building in San Francisco, the welding shop, the assets of Mills A and B and about 7800 of their 193000 acres for nearly $50,000 an acre, and bought tens of thousands of acres at considerably less; Douglas fir land is closer to a thousand an acre, so they could buy 50 acres for every one they sold. Regionally this is bad for the environment. Areas will be needed to create the timber and fiber society needs, but those areas will eventually be restricted to less risky sites that are also far more profitable.
The timber issue will get a good review when glomalin is understood by society. A basic understanding will create legislation that protects this vital ingredient of landscape health. Palco will have plenty of management to do a regular supply of its own small stuff. The real good news is that understanding glomalin will allow the National Forests to develop management schemes with regular thinning providing small wood for a long time, and gradual increase in the number of larger saw logs from commercial thinning as part of landscape stabilizing management schemes. Other benefits include better rainfall retention and management, providing more water later in the year in springs and creeks. Private lands will provide some small stuff as well. Select cuts will mean more people favoring longer-term management options, again providing for an increased base to draw material from. This more intensive management resulting in more small stuff will create jobs and have much less impact if carried out with glomalin preservation as the first priority.
We ask our legislators and regulators to become aware of glomalin and its properties, and to protect the public interest by acting on those findings, so once and for all we can end the landscape degradation accompanying so much modern land use.

Friday, June 11, 2004

27. Plant Biodiversity 

Study Finds Deer Hurt Wisconsin Diversity
Biodiversity (Weeds vs. Non-Weeds) – Summary
Native vs. Nonnative Invasive Plants in a CO2-Accreting Atmosphere
An interesting story appeared today from AP about a study done in Wisconsin involving a biological resampling of 62 plots sampled fifty years ago. This is an interesting study on many levels, the first of which is that there are only a few places sampled we can go back to. We should recognize the value of revisiting study sites. The study found deer apparently are the determining factor in plant diversity. Where deer populations were highest there was the greatest loss of diversity. All the plots lost some native species. To-thirds of the plots had invasive species, compared to only one fifty years ago. They found that generalist plants filled in after heavy browsing along with aggressive exotic and invasive species. These provide less food and habitat than native regrowth.
Year round deer hunting on tribal lands together with strict controls on development keep the deer population at about half the surrounding management zone average. Here is found the greatest diversity of native plant species. The lowest were in parks with no deer control at all. All areas had lost some density of diversity, an average 19%, while there was an eighty percent rise in exotic species. The total number of plant species in the 62 sites was 138 a half century ago and 134 currently. Forty sites had lost some species, and diversity declined at 45 of 62 sites.
University of Wisconsin botanists John T. Curtis and Grant Cottam had done the earlier studies. University researchers now plan to resurvey other parts of the state surveyed by the two fifty years ago.
All in all this is a really interesting study. Deer have long been known to be taking advantage of the edge habitat created by development and agriculture, increasing from better forage, removal of predators, protection from hunting, and more consistent availability of browse. The large number of deer here can only mean trouble for restoring plant diversity once the landscape is stabilized. Anyone who has gardened around here knows how much trouble deer are. They are not afraid of people or their lights or homes. Dogs send them just out of earshot, where the deer wait for the dogs to go to sleep so they can slip back into their private pantry, your garden. Only horses can find blooming roses on a mountain faster.
On another level, how long will it take to wonder about species restoration in the context of watershed restoration. Tree planting has been shown to be an effective method for stabilizing landscapes, but the loss of plant life was complete and I have no sources for many flowers and shrubs. I have wondered if I should move species from one property to another, or were they from dissimilar situations? An interesting study in CO2 Science magazine this week shows native prairie plant species better able to handle increased carbon dioxide, actually benefiting from it in above and below ground biomass, while introduced species showed no effect. I think this will be found to be a result of fungal action being enhanced by the carbon dioxide, and the introduced species having no associated fungi. Allowed to run for a while, it would appear native plants will slowly regain the edge that allowed them to survive in the first place. Under enhanced carbon dioxide levels they will out compete exotics unable to take advantage of the atmospheric fertilization.
This study found fast growing invasive species seriously hampered by shade, and less able to take advantage of wet years, actually losing biomass in the wet year. Native plants fared well in the dry year, in the shade, and exceptionally well in the wet year. Two invasive species showed most of the productivity in the study. Japanese honeysuckle, the lesser of the invaders, registered a three fold increase in production in the enriched atmosphere while the leading biomass producer, Nepal grass, showed no gain in the dry year and a forty percent loss in the wet year. Native non-weed plants increased productivity 9-14% in the dry year and 10-25% in the wet year.
Studies of various C3 and C4 plants showed no favoritism toward weeds in enriched Carbon atmospheres, and some species showed no gain at all from elevating the levels. This may have been due to lack of fungal partners. Field mustard, a brassica, showed uniform enhanced growth with elevated carbon dioxide. Finally, bracken showed no increase in biomass although net photosynthetic activity was up 30 to 70 percent. In fact, frond size went down. The likely explanation is heavy exudates for subsoil partners.
The authors go on to say, “In this study, native understory vegetation in a closed canopy forest made significant advances against the huge productivity advantage currently enjoyed by two nonnative invasive species as a consequence of an approximate 185-ppm increase in the air's CO2 concentration.” Remember, too, the productivity of the invaders dropped significantly in the shade.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

26. Sustainable 

Sustaibable management of natural resources means harvesting at a rate that is replenishable. In farming it means not depleting the soil beyond productivity. In either case it implies the system remains intact so regeneration is possible. Sustainable living means imposing our lifestyle systems on the natural landscape in such a way we maintain and improve the natural systems already extent for future generations. Human activity demands lands pay for themselves. Grazing, orcharding, permaculture and selection cutting can provide stable income without tearing apart the fabric of the soil repeatedly. Sustainable economics are based on steady returns from long term investments rather than depletion.

Living in the recovering wild lands can be an opportunity to participate in a part of large scale landscape management while being able to make your own decisions as property owners. For large area projects, such as roads, fire protection, continuous forest, stream rehabilitation or wildlife corridors, and noxious weed removal, multiple landowners find common denominators regardless of inevitable differences in outlook, priorities, methods and opinion. Govenrnment regulates today many activities in the wildland today. It can also provide information and opportunities for landowners interested in enhancing their lives and property. Regional non-governmental agencies can help citizens decide on direction and facilitate projects. Residents can and should participate in management planning for public lands, and have access to information and programs that reach beyond the average individualsexperience.

Individuals and groups can enhance many facets of restoring our landscapes into stable ecological reserves through simple small scale projects and habits that help the entire region, enriching your own experience and restoring something for future generations. How we live here will make the difference between isolated and declining habitats or using the opportunity to enhance the de facto Redwoods to the Sea Wildlife Corridor into an epicenter of ecological restoration. Many of the lands will not be entered again any time soon, so the stable landscapes should provide secure habitat for the foreseeable future.

In many areas the forest system has been totally shattered. Re-growth is haphazard though massive, creating more fire danger. Many noxious weeds have gained footholds in cutover and disturbed areas. Bird species dependent on forest canopy for shelter have declined dramatically once the crows, ravens and jays had openings in the forest cover. Native grasses, flowers, herbs, forbs and shrubs are not being reintroduced. Native bee species are refilling the niche left by the disappearance of wild honeybees. Pets are decimating small animal populations at an unguessed rate.

The subsoil nutrient systems between fungi and bacteria and trees, so important for soil stability and water retention are glossed over as irrelevant. The networks collect nutrients and bring them to the tree roots while the trees canopy sends carbon exudates to the roots in exchange. The fungi send searching fibers into the soil environment creating vast networks of transport tubes for water and minerals. They bind the soil particles together, filtering and slowing runoff and causing more water to soak into the ground. Drainages created by thousands of years of peak rain events have been completely deranged hillside hydrology creating mass wasting in countless areas. Their destruction has ruined our streams. How do we restore these vital systems for future generations?

The first necessity is awareness there is a problem. The engines of capitalism have driven every natural system to the breaking point. Residual destruction continues long after the last profitable activity has ended.

It is hoped we can replace these resources but the reality is that nature created these resources over thousands of years in conditions that may or may not be similar to today. Nature takes far too long to remediate wholesale disruption in aany given number of years. Increasingly warmer and drier conditons make it more likely any given area may not be restorable to past conditions. Still, fragments of natural systems provide an opportunity to reverse declines in wildlife, fisheries and forests.

One example is the role of the northern spotted owl in recovering forests. In natural systems they are adapted to living in the canopy of old growth forest. It provides them pr4otection from larger birds that hunt them. They eat primarily forest rodents. The rodents (flying squirrels, redbacked voles and dusky-footed wood rats) eat the fruiting bodies of important fungi species. Owls eat the rodents and distribute the spores over their range. This helps reintroduce these vital organisms so cutover and cleared lands will grow new forests. Without subsoil assisting them trees will struggle to take hold and thrive. Innoculated trees are a little better but many species of fungi are necessary for a healthy forest.

Another exsample is helping native bees recover. Out competed by wild European honeybees, our native bees are suddenly asked to resume their former roles as well as take on many new pollination jobs in home and garden, as well as in the wildlands. They mainly nest in the ground or in holes in wood. It is easy to provide more suitable sites to increase their numbers.

Our better understanding of natural systems prevents further destruction and implement decisions in agrrement with an overall strategy of improved forest conditions and wildlife habitat. It allows us to hand down healthy ecological systems. Sustainabbility asks us to make our lands profitable and stable while avoiding the boom and bust cycles of modern industry.
RM 8/16/03
Editors note: I wrote this last year before I realized the impact of glomalin on watershed dynamics.

Monday, June 07, 2004

25. Palco and the Rules 

25. Palco and the Rules
There seems to be at least two levels of non-compliance going on in the continuing Palco imbroglio. On the one hand there is contention over exactly what is in the agreement, how much does the Agreement affect processes on the ground, techniques, practices, legally removable limits, steepness, riparian zones, incidental taking and so forth, all seemingly clearly spelled out. False documents would fall in this category. These guidelines protect the public and the landscape so damage is controlled to areas 'written off' (as lost to industry) through the regulatory process.
On the other hand there is very obvious disregarding of processes underway. Practices like cutting trees marked with red Ls, or Leave trees, seems spiteful, as does disregarding streamside buffers. These guys are either being told to ignore the law or are doing it for spite or ease of working. I mention this last because fallers are paid by the scale foot but must operate within the harvest block plans. So if they are a little short they go in a little further. With select cuts you might be able to do this safely but in this case you are thinning the buffer next to a block cut. Will the company punish non-compliant fallers or are the fallers following orders?
Block cutting in steep Douglas fir lands is asking for long-term trouble as we have spelled put in #3 Our Shrinking Watersheds. Block cutting is a leading cause of sediment, right after road construction, usually leading through forestland to the cut site. It also removes carbon pumps that give life to fungi and clean the air. It creates fine dust particles that foul the summer air, and glues the gravel beds shut on hatching fish eggs. It removes any chance of interacting with precipitation except as victims. It destroys the belowground mechanism that holds it all together.
Palco feels like it is being unfairly targeted, but their track record of the last twenty years bears suspicion out. Pacific Lumber was founded by men who had seen the destruction of forests in Maine and the Lake States, and were not about to repeat those same mistakes. While many other outfits came and went, Pacific Lumber took a long term outlook on their primary natural resource and came up with a plan that still works-select cuts, limited entry, canopy maintenance, minimal roads and skid trails. Intuitively they knew what they were looking at and the cause and cure of it. The current administration shows no sense of this type. One thing all old timers decry is the state of river fishing.
The real problem here is that the law was written to protect the environment but not all the factors were understood when the law was written. Freshwater Creek and Elk River were some of the last remaining coho streams in the area in the early nineties. The Mattole has had a twenty year history of restoration effort. Palco has trounced Freshwater and Elk River, despite more stringent laws, good intentions, and set-asides. The Mattole lands have the highest rainfall, most unstable ground, most old Douglas fir trees, and the least roads. This spells disaster under current rules, rules which fail us repeatedly.
Nothing can dispel the pressure of money wanting to make money better than known facts being laid out in a clear and precise manner. When we understand glomalin and how biological processes hold the forest together, we arrive at a cutting scheme almost exactly like the founders of Pacific Lumber brought with them. It is no wonder Pacific Lumber lands were the last to be devastated by debris flows and sediment loss. We must thank them for reminding us what happens when we ignore the general principals of sustainability. Now it is up to our leaders to hammer out new laws and reshape agreements based on scientific findings that state what is an acceptable amount of damage to our natural resources, and what mitigations are called for as timber is harvested.
The beauty of glomalin-based management is that it may mean only minor reductions in total production, although initially costs will go up. Reduced stream damage and road building will save money as well. The need for restoration money will fade away. More land will come into production as habitat is restored and threatened species recover their numbers. Locally, sport-fishing opportunities should bring some regular income. Good fishing will bring a lot of money. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound for landowners that are willing to keep things looking rustic without looking like Hiroshima. Equestrians, mountain bikers, dirt bikers, and OHVers all crave places they can ride. They are at odds with preservationists defending the last pockets of native forest regularly. Sportsman’s Agreements have worked between companies and states in Maine and New York, and include hunting.
The information is at hand to improve the law. Let’s get it done.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

24. Beginning of the End for Restoration
Humboldt County’s various restoration efforts are beginning to show their effects. The gradual decline in overall logging has been beneficial to species and systems. In 1988, California produced 80% of its own lumber. Today that number is down to 20%. There are many reasons for this starting with the fact that forests near developed areas are being cut for space, not timber. Canadian lumber drove down demand. Inability to assure endangered species of habitat caused the Forest Service to implement the Northwest Forest Act. Environmentalists, aghast at the destruction of resources, legally challenged many land use plans. Good examples abound in oak country, where the wood has value as firewood or small amounts of custom sawn hardwood but not to lumber companies.
It has taken a long time for California to recognize the importance of its oak habitats. The first test plantings are less than ten years old. Now Sudden Oak Death is here and we really have little to go on about the role of oaks. And now even more importantly we have discovered that oaks fill the same role as conifers in higher rainfall areas, condition the soil by feeding glomalin producing fungi, provide canopy to intercept rainfall and block ultraviolet from reaching the fungi, create duff to protect the fungi, store water in the root zone, provide shelter and food for wildlife. Oaks have the same plethora of mycorhizzia associations as Douglas fir, but conifers prefer 30 or more inches of rain while oaks do best in drier 15-30 inch range. There are eleven million acres of oaks in California.
Spacing in oak lands is to be considered. For lack of a better example let us propose, in a general way, that the rooting system of a species is reflected in the shape of the crown. Since many parameters in tree growing use the edge of the drip line, especially for feeding, meaning that is where the feeder roots are located, this seems a reasonable model. Oaks are relatively widely spaced with sunlight reaching the ground between trees and in winter. I think often of Oregon white oaks growing on bare southwestern slopes with four foot trunks, 60 feet in height with crowns 150 foot in diameter. We find pipimg here but no slides. These trees are constantly being threatened by Douglas fir incursion, fatal for the oaks because common mycorhizzia for the fir is parasitic on oaks. Thus one reason the Indians need to burn to protect the staple of their diet, the acorn. White oak seems to struggle in the moist climate of Humboldt County, better stands are seen east of here and this is probably why. Since it is rugged for the trees, one wonders how much of they may have been introduced by traveling natives. It seems likely they would at least select better acorn cropping trees. This may be what happened in drier areas that did not support tan oak, the major acorn of the Coast tribes. It is also possible different cultures emphasized different strategies over time. In the Larrabee Buttes area Non-Gatl people were known to be remnants of earlier Native settlers that were being impinged by Wintun and other ascending tribes. While there is plenty of tanoak, there is no record of tanbarking and a lot of manicured white oak trees with large acorns on the south and southwestern aspects. These Indians may have been forced to live with what they had, or they may have been a remnant of a culture with different management needs, styles and goals.
Shortly before I began this blog a Crescent City man was honored for devising the plan to restore fish spawning habitat by surveying and replacing all the major culverts on the North Coast. This single action opens about one hundred miles of spawning habitat fish had been cut off from, a major step in restoring North Coast fisheries. We hope habitat restoration on those creeks is not too far behind for those areas needing it. A plan to remove sediment from smaller streams can improve coho and steelhead spawning grounds and remove major sources of sediment from traveling through the system, and allowing the larger flows an opportunity to flush their main channels, and scour out deeper pools, and redefine their channels. More landscape wide restoration projects are coming online, such as the Mattole River and Range Partnership, a thirty year plan for recovery of the Mattole watershed, with a five year implementation to begin and monitoring to follow. The Mattole region has taken the lead in many restoration fields, partly because it is small and remote enough picture entirely restored, the extent of the problem is obvious and the people are willing. While natural re-growth and atmospheric fertilization with CO2 is fixing many problems on its own, great advantage comes from directing the growth into forest trees both in later value and in forest system restoration. Atmospheric fertilization and re-vegetation cannot restore failing banks to slopes of repose, but can stop mass wasting on exposed soils by re-vegetation provided glomalins conditions are met. We need more tree planting and some in stream machine work. Once land managers are aware of the basic rule of thumb about glomalin production and storage, it will be a simple step to adjust harvesting to protect these vital systems and recovery will be complete even as the forests remain profitable. More private land will be restored to the timber base as private owners finally see a system that can improve the forestland they own, protect it from fire risk and slides, and not scar it up in the process.
This amounts to a period of mass restoration and should be compacted to allow the healing to be in step with management goals. The hope is that more land will become available for forest systems which provide sustainable incomes and jobs without causing degradation, ending the need for restoration funding and public acquisition of timber lands for habitat protection.
We will need some new technology in the woods but the mills are already set to run small wood. The fish will come back to restored accessible habitat almost by accident. Many people will be working in the woods lowering fire danger by creating shaded fuel breaks, especially in the urban interface zones. Restoration people have learned a good deal about land use, and could turn their attention to sustainable agricultural systems consistent with their principles of recovery and sustainability. In this way we can smoothly transition into more intensive agroforestry programs, ensuring a rural economy hope and opportunity.
23. The World War Two National Reunion and Memorial Dedication on the Mall My cousin sent me this account of her day at the National WWII Memorial Dedication. It is like she is writing for everyone who wasn't able to make it, so I wanted to share it.
We went to the WWII Memorial Ceremony, or more specifically to the Smithsonian's (SI) National Reunion on The Mall. The weather was spectacularly beautiful, cool and clear. The 90 degree heat we had been having all week evaporated and the worry about heat causing problems never materialized.
We took the Metro downtown and have NEVER seen DC be so welcoming. Yes, there were Vets and their families and friends everywhere, but the cordiality and help they received I'm sure made this historic trip all the more enjoyable. The Metro can be baffling to out of towners (and to this "local") but we saw so many Metro employees in bright vests helping with fare cards, directions, physical assistance. I'm sorry to say, this much help is not typical.
When we got to our Metro stop, the roads had been closed in the whole area so the Mall became a relaxed pedestrian mall. There was security EVERYWHERE - DC police, park police, capital police, park rangers, "men in black cars", horses, bicycles, police cars, helicopters. I heard a coordination call with the FBI on one of their radios. The mood was very very happy and friendly, but the presence was a bit "creepy". It did not however impose on the celebratory feelings at all.
We were told that Wal-Mart supplied (donated?) 400,00 bottles of water. We believe it because cases of water was just stacked up EVERYWHERE free for the taking. There were also a bazillion port-o-potties. Usually at these kind of events on the Mall, there is a walk and a wait for the facilities. Not so this week. They thought of everything for our Veteran guests.
We visited each of the tents that the SI had open. We earned medals for codebreaking, rationing and plane spotting. We grabbed info and talked to many veterans service groups. You know there are veterans groups like the VFW, American Legion and Purple Heart. Did you know there are groups for Catholic veterans, Jewish veterans and Polish veterans, Japanese Veterans, Black Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans, for Air Force officers and Non-Commissioned Officers, Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Mothers, Retired Enlisted and Women Veterans? They all have specific interests and services, but most seem to be trying to help their constituents wrestle their way through the Veterans Administration. I learned that the eligibility for benefits has been boomed with new legislation but the budget has not. (Time to send that Congressperson a note?)
One organization that particularly caught my attention was the Wounded Warrior Project. With recovery and medical care so much improved, fewer soldiers are dying but more are seriously wounded and in need of long and intense medical care. When a soldier is wounded and rescued, he travels to medical care with only the clothes he is wearing. Wounded Warrior provides each of these soldiers with backpack of clean clothes, personal care items, and someone to meet him or her right away to lend and ear and assistance in seeking care and benefits. They work with the families of the wounded as they are transported to long term rehabilitation and vocational training. I grabbed some information and they can be found at
We stopped in but did not stay long where vets were writing and telling their stories to volunteers. The written stories are going to be available through the Library of Congress at That website is supposed to have information to help you in collecting veteran stories from and for your own family. We didn't see any veteran interviews, but I heard some today on our local C-Span radio, so I imagine some of them will be on C-Span TV from time to time. We saw camera teams from all the local stations, networks, PBS, C-Span, and other organizations speaking with all the vets they could find. I hope the Vets felt like the celebrities they were for this occasion.
You can now find a veterans' grave in a National Cemetery online. I've used this at various cemeteries in my genealogy research, but since early May(?) it's now available online.
(Don't you just love the Internet?)

We visited the Reunion Hall where they had stations set so up that you could locate fellow vets. They were labeled by Divisions for the Army, and by Fleet for the Navy. We found my Dad's 69th and left a contact message for other vets of his 274th Battalion. Someone from the 274th Bn B (Dad was Bn A) left a contact message. We took that info home with us. Someone left a photo of the 274th Quartermaster Corp. It looked just like the photo I sent around of Dad's unit from Camp Shelby. I had a photocopy of Dad's photo and left it at home (darn!) It may have sparked a memory or contact from someone. I didn't have Division or Fleet information for anyone else but we looked as much as we could with the information we had. We stopped by each display trying to find information and to do honor to everyone we carried by name with us even if we did not know precisely where they had served.
Most of the messages had names and units and email addresses, but other had names and notes like "staying at the Arlington Hyatt". There was a big band concert planned for the evening - oh I bet there was plenty of fun and story telling that evening. And maybe quieter sadder memories shared in hotel bars even later into the night.
The last stop was restored Army vehicles - tanks, trucks, half tracks, and lots of Jeeps! We got to chat with a number of the owners. Some are owned by younger re-enactors, others by Vets who bring them to their Unit reunions. They are restored with blood, sweat tears, $$$, patient wives and lots of love. And they are a tremendous source of pride for all their owners.
That was about it and it was time to head home. As we strolled back to the Metro station, we passed an area roped off for a viewing area for the Memorial Ceremony. This was for Section 3. It was huge and set up with thousands of chairs (who did all that work?). There were jumbo TV screens and an excellent sound system. Now mind you, this was a section on the Mall, some long distance away from the actual Memorial near the Washington Monument. On the TV, we could see the sweep of others gathered in other sections around the Memorial and near the Monument. The numbers were staggering. Our estimate was that about 1/3 of the audience were veterans, and the rest their families.
As we walked by, the Ceremony was in process. Since there were plenty of empty seats, we could walk in (get a goody bag) and take a seat to watch and listen. We came in time to see Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks speak. Tom Brokaw wrote the book The Greatest Generation. His speech was a salute to the thousands of "ordinary" men and women who took on of the task of war. He saluted their bravery and dedication, but then told the story of all these veterans returning home to go to school, get jobs and raise families. He admitted that they were not all perfect, but stood to defend his title of "The Greatest Generation" for them. The speech had me in tears then, in tears again when I watched the replay on TV, and again now as I recollect what he said. There were quite a few moments during the day when I cried because I so missed my Dad, and was missing the opportunity to share the day with him. If you can catch Brokaw's speech on TV, or can find the text, I suggest you read or view it. See if you too aren't moved by what he had to say.
They said during the ceremony that arrangements had been made for the ceremony to be viewed at VA hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, and community centers around the country. So even with all the veterans attending the Ceremony itself (they said there's never been a veteran's reunion as large as this one ever), there were still thousands more sharing the day and the honor.
We headed home after that and saw the rest of the ceremony on the re-play on TV. I liked the way that they kept it fairly simple and focused on the veterans in attendance. But when they flew the flag, sang "God Bless America", and flew jets overhead, I busted into tears again. I am such a sucker for patriotism, and can remember being so even when I was very young.
It was as memorable and satisfying a day as Bill & I had hoped. I was pleasantly surprised by the vigor and enthusiasm of the veteran's and their spouses. By far, most of them looked to be in very good health. (A good sign for us baby-boomers?) There were lots of smiles, and a little dancing and singing. Lots of children and grandchildren. Beautiful ceremony. Beautiful weather. A beautiful day.
copyright 2004 Patricia Reidy Lawrence
22. Measuring Soil Moisture
Global Vineyard: Can technology take on a warming climate?
Science News Week of May 29, 2004; Vol. 165, No. 22 , p. 347 Sid Perkins
Scientists assisting grape growers may have stumbled on a good way to discover the amount of ground water in a given area. Using ground radar, they measure the beam back time, which is slower in water. Rather than pinpoint objects, this lets a grower know how much soil moisture there is available. It would seem to mean the depth of the soil moisture zone can be determined in many places, and that deep zones in old growth forests could be measured and compared to second growth areas. This will spell out the need to let trees grow for extended periods in order to restore deep-set rooting and glomalin production, increasing water storage systems in the forest. This relates directly to our discussion because ground water retention is the function of glomalin reserves.
Grape growers are a magnitude of observation ahead of forestry, so we get to see larger systems modeled such as irrigation, spacing, canopy management and nutrition in great detail. According to my viticulture notes from the Humboldt Ag Service notes growers have used potentiometers to measure the soil moisture, using them in pairs set high and low to automate irrigation. Irrigation is triggered when the deep meter is dry and turns back off when the shallow meter starts reading moisture. This gives a pretty good idea of moisture in the root zone and keeps the plants always growing rather than fits and starts.
The advantage of ground radar is that it presumably would allow measuring the entire moisture zone in thickness. We can watch a site develop over time by repeating the scans over extended periods. By comparing growth characteristics of similar forests with known differences in soil moisture we may be able to determine optimum rotations and spacing for restoring water capacity, an idea of a maximum potential, and the amount of precipitation a given area can handle in maximum mode and in impaired mode. This will be useful to flood planners, knowing how much precipitation a region can absorb, and where the danger zones lies, and keep tabs on these conditions as they change over time.
To get this kind of data thousands of observations will be necessary, taken in the framework of the correct questions. Individual land owners will want to know what there potential is and make agronomy choices from there. For example, different sites are being assessed for pH, drainage, water holding capacity and soil depth. All of these are useful parameters in determining glomalins’ role in soil structure. Other variables, such as first and last frost, average temperatures and amount and timing of precipitation may not be important at first glance. It may very well be that the number of fungi associated with Douglas fir is related to all of these parameters with aspect and climate determining which fungi grow in certain areas. These aspects and varieties of type are what create the vast differences in grapes. There is plenty of reason to think tree species are capable of adjusting their chemical production to local conditions. It is also possible that endemic fungi influence grape flavors and so on. We may also find niches for different species in the forest recurring in small patches of landscape.
In forests with long term outlook in mind, we may be able to measure the growth of a subterranean watershed and the health and stability of the site by using the radar on the same site over a period of years. This quantification can prove the need for trees and vegetation in the restoration of devastated landscapes. We need to think long term otherwise the forest will always be short changed when we try to measure its function in terms of human use. As we have noted earlier, man will eventually try to correct the changing climate by using vegetation schemes to regulate atmospheric fertilization by CO2, and to trap other greenhouse gas emissions.
Research shows different areas on the same vineyard may have a yield ten times greater in optimal areas than other areas on the same farm. Intensive management has shown up to a third of the acreage on a productive farm may operate at a loss that can be recovered by intensively managing parameters in each type of ground on the farm. Each of these areas contribute to a grapes flavor, sugar content, aroma, yield and general health of the plants. They can be managed differently to produce a standard crop, or varieties suited to those parameters can be selected for optimal conditions.
Soil conditions can be quite different just yards apart, this could be important in locating future roads. To give farmers a look at what the moisture profile of their cropland is, Susan Hubbard of Livermore National Lab in Berkeley has made a ground radar mounted on a skid to drag through fields, creating a soil moisture picture that can be used row by row and even plant by plant. Measurements before and after cutting should be done. I believe it will show that the soil moisture zone has receded where the ground was not disturbed but the canopy is gone, (and will continue to dwindle as the fungi starve) and is completely absent shortly after the ground is disturbed by roads, decks or skidding.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?