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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.
Monday, January 30, 2006
The side creek crossings have held up very well. The two major creek crossings are also in good shape and a testimony to careful rock armoring, all done by hand. A new batch of boulders had to be shoved out of the way once the water receded, some years we repeat that activity all wet season. All in all the new work is handling a medium heavy winter in fine style.
Public notices in the paper report Bob and Val Stansbury have completed an agreement with Save-the Redwoods and BLM. The Stansburys have been operating on the land since the thirties. Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of local landscapes. They had some concerns about the Redwoods to the Sea Wildlife Corridor, which was always accessible to them before it became public property. Negotiations have been ongoing for quite a while. Bob had concerns over his access and water rights for his cattle. SRL was trying to make sense of the scattered parcels acquired from Eel River Sawmills. Sections of the Community Management Plan restrict activities they have always enjoyed, and we are grateful they see the public good in the project. According to the notice, thirty acres are going to BLM, and there will be no net loss of agricultural grazing lands. I hired Bob several years ago for Cat work, and he put me on to Scott Downey of DFG. Scott had habitat typed Middle Creek. I asked him to visit and for recommendations. He suggested a sediment inventory. I carried this back to Freeman House, Executive Director of Mattole Restoration Council, and Good Roads Clean Creeks developed from there. Salute to all!
On the same subject we see a completely different picture across the state line where BLM has a mandate for supporting local community interests. I have mentioned before the extent of the Eugene region plan from 1998 and the vast amount of topics they must be responsible for as well as responsive to the needs of the community. There isn’t much call for protections under those conditions. Nevertheless, the report on damage to the landscape after salvage logging the Biscuit Fire calls for better protections on the ground, not of cash flow. Particularly galling was the accidental cutting of live old growth inside a biological preserve. We know that the ground is fragile in the first place, and burned ground is far more fragile since its water retention properties are being destroyed.
Reed of the Mattole Salmon Group returned the family water-monitoring device. I was getting edgy about it and a little pressure from my brother to be sure it was being cared for. Libby of MRC was with him. They caught me between loads moving a trailer and I didn’t get to visit as I would have liked but I did ask about operations this year. The rescue rearing had gone well and was completed in October. This involves raising fish from waters that will go dry, mostly Bear Creek as I recall. The other big issue was to test declining flows in the Upper Mattole. Reed was the person on it, but there was more water in the streams this year. IN fact, water where none had been for fifteen years prompted a temporary stoppage and an incompletion (I think) on the lower crossing. A boulder dam forcing water into the old channel was agreed upon but I think they didn’t quite finish. Coulda been l money or other reasoning but all in all I am happy. And of course, one good project points up the need for others, as well as presenting opportunities.
Driving through HRSP last week I noticed how bad the sides of Bull Creek had been washed, with bare ground and piles of alder trees on the right side between the redwoods and the rangers’ house. I also noticed a little further upstream, in the area of the plunge pool project; this did not seem to be the case at all. Perhaps it is the extent of the project, or perhaps Cuneo Creek caused it to jump the banks. This little experiment may just prove a major insight into benefits of restoration activity. I personally feel that it does little good to restrict corrective activities or to preserve damaged lands and streams, and that more aggressive activity early leads to a more stable and profitable landscape sooner, as well as less need for work in the future. This is why I say restoration is not sustainable. We have learned the lessons of the last century and I suspect we will not see anything like the flood of 1964 simply because it is not possible to lay so many acres bare anymore. We will probably never see those conditions again. Plenty of other things can still go wrong but overbuilding forest roads will never occur on the same scale again. On the other hand, massive building in the floodplains behind failing levees in the Delta are almost certain to cause problems at some point, as is roofing and paving thousands of acres in areas prone to the occasional severe rain event. It wou8ld be good to figure out capture techniques for storage, underground or in tanks or bags. The demand for water is huge, we have more than enough, how can we make it work?
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Collaborators include California State Parks, University of California Cooperative Extension, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), the Southern Humboldt Fire Safe Council, and the USDA Forest Service.
The press release can be found at www.suddenoakdeath.org. It gives a summary of the situation explaining the critical importance of finding forest scale remedies for this problem. We note the possibility of undergrowth burning as a control, and remember the comment that there seemed to be less phytophthora in areas burnt less than fifty years ago. Fire maps may give some idea of likelihood of spread.
This project is in the Redwood to the Sea Wildlife corridor region. It has been a great year for the streams, many running all year that haven’t in years, or seemed to be drying up recently. But the very abundance of water and the rhododendron leave stream testing tell us the disease has probably gotten around a bit this winter. I have noted the critical importance of the canyon live oak in holding the landscape together. It is now under attack just over the hill. Also susceptible to death are tanoak and black oak, important wildlife foods, landscape community members and hosts to mycorhizzia fungi. Many native species are hosts or carriers with varying degree of damage to them short of death, including redwood, Douglas fir, madrone and most importantly California bay.
For more information about this project, contact Susan Doniger, District Interpretive Specialist with California State Parks at (707) 445-6547 x20; or Jay Harris, Senior State Park Resource Ecologist with California State Parks at (707) 445-7547 x 19; or Katie Palmieri, Public Information Officer for the California Oak Mortality Task Force (COMTF) at (510) 847-5482. For more information about Sudden Oak Death and Phytophthora ramorum, visit the COMTF website at www.suddenoakdeath.org.
Roadwork under Good Roads Clean Creeks held up very well throughout the storms so far. I stand corrected on responsible party for the road section through State Park lands- it is the County and not the Parks. I am not so certain about the stretch of road by the Rim Road. Anyway, the County is the level of governance we need to convince this new roadwork is a better solution for poor dirt roads where feasible because it doesn’t need scraping every year, which releases large amounts of sediment destined to wind up in the stream at some point. Annual scraping causes annual discharge. Also, level graded roads deteriorate from standing water causing potholes. Potholes don’t occur nearly as often on outsloped and dipped roads. This allows the streams to push clogging sediment downstream and for vegetative cover to establish a deep and durable soil community. We are aware of the needs for moving large loads, such as log trucks. These could be level graded at the start of a job and reshaped after the season or job, pretty much as they are required to do. The difference in putting the road back into rolling dips is the sediment savings from so much less scraping and elimination of berms, ditches, culverts and potholes.
The LA Times reported on the ‘Millenium Ecosystem Assessment prepared as a guide to the future. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-fg-future20jan20,0,1203827.story?coll=la-home-science. Commissioned by the United Nations, the work is a four-year effort by 1,300 scientists from 95 countries. They begin with ascenario without controls and suggest ways to improve the various aspects of a growing population through green technology and building. One stunning point was that as many buildings will be built this century as had been built in all of human history. We see calls for changes in agriculture but still no mention of improving soils, forest health, air- or water quality by growing large trees.
Another recent paper showed the positive effect of CO2 on ozone in the troposphere. While it is known CO2 enriched air allows plants to respond to deadly increases in ozone, this article showed that some ozone is changed into beneficial products in the atmosphere itself. That is to say, nature has the ability to correct imbalances of materials familiar to it. In order to provide for the expanding population we have to harness nature rather than trying to replace it. A recent article showing growing trees releasing methane may have found some. The picture seemed to be in the snow, of a little tree. The entire plant is a result of atmospheric gas capture, yet they are interested in the tiny amount emitted as methane. IT may well have been created in the soil in the wet season. This is part of the regular drumbeat of misinformation about the importance of forests to clean our air and provide the precipitation interface all life depends on.
Friday, January 13, 2006
This week I drove out to Larrabee Buttes. Here the storm appeared to be just another winter event. I walked over a large chunk of land and found only a few toppled trees, most with the rootball attached and intact. They were mostly tanoak and a few Douglas fir. The only problem on the access road was at a spot on BLM lands that has been slipping for years ever since a private owner decided to cut a driveway in directly above a spring in an area already destabilized by deck building and high lead cable logging. This 100 foot stretch of road has fallen every year since and has fallen at least as foot since mid-November.
We have earlier established that Larrabee is in ggod condition compared to Middle Creek. There is no scarping, deeply cut stream beds or massive surface erosion. Here excess water pops out of the ground as piping in big events. That kind of water moves soil in Middle Creek, but the much less damaged landscape here handles as much water without the traumatic results. Not that we haven’t had erosion from plugged culverts and too much water in the road, but the regarding of the road to rolling dips has been a long term improvement at far less than the 34,000 dollars a mile PL spends building winterized roads. That figure must include engineering studies and rock surfacing and armoring. I also point out that the GRCC rolling dips are less vehicle friendly than those done by Angelini. The big difference being in the far side of the dip where long stretches of graded road flow back to the dip, whereas the GRCC dips are very high directly on the backside of the dip, preventing water from rolling back to the dip within its swale. These high dips are also the main complaint about the job, and we are dealing directly with this as we try to take some firewood out and are learning exactly what the neighbors are complaining about.
I have been informed a fairly substantial slide has occurred on the project road, but in the State Park lands near the beginning of the road. I already reported the two stretches of road in the Park were the only places water continues to run down the road, and that berms and inside ditches had been left in place as the Park opted out of GRCC and also refused to partake or let us operate in these stretches doing fuel reduction for the Fire Safe Council. This is not being a good neighbor. There are also complaints of Park personnel on private land at night.
Humboldt County has paid dearly for the ability to drive through its rugged and fragile landscape. What we are calling roads here are actually marked Jeep Trails on the maps. My experience is that about 90% of my four wheel drive time is on these roads. Most of the rest is just off these roads and associated with land management practices like wood cutting and gathering rock. Much of the year these roads are accessible to two wheel drive vehicles as well. However, there are few more destructive forces than a poor driver and vehicle on a jeep trail. So here are several pointers many of you are aware of. When you begin being responsible for your local road you will want everyone to behave in a manner friendly to making your expensive work last longer. Also, the people that cause the damage are not usually those most affected by it.
While it may be impossible to always make these trips in four wheel drive, it is essential the wheels are not spun. This digs holes in the road surface, a water collection point, a trail for water on the road surface, and destabilizes the roadbed if there is one. A few moments of wheel spinning can close a road and cost hundreds or more to repair. A knowing driver of even one wheel vehicles will choose his times for trips with a weather eye. He will drive slowly in a low gear. If there is a steep climb that cannot be crawled, he will put the car in a higher gear and floor it to get up the grade. One attempt will tell you if you will make it, or need to manage the road by building the spot up, adding traction, or digging, adding weight to the vehicle or abandoning the effort. Repeated attempts only cause more damage and often make extraction more difficult. Usually the stuck party has no interest in repairing the damage they cause.
Use Mud and Snow type tires for better traction. Many folks keep two sets of wheels for easy on easy off between summer driving and winter driving. We have had some success with chains in the mud, only to lose them a little further on due to rock surfaces. Standing water is a problem similar to paved roadways except you are not likely to drown. You cannot judge the depth or solidity of the bottom though, and we have seen many cars stuck in puddles with slick bottoms. Even walking on thick mud may give a false impression of how much weight it will hold.
Lots of folks are used to being the only ones one their road at certain times of the day. As an occasional visitor I keep my headlights on since there are many blind and vegetated corners and bends, and giving the oncoming traffic every chance to see you early is part of Watching Out For the Other Guy. I wish Mobile would update that series of commercials.
For now we are stuck with wheeled transportation. I sometimes wonder about the utility of a mini halftrack, or the 1908 decision to build roads rather than off road vehicles, allowing Henry Ford to produce five hundred dollar vehicles for the masses.
When driving roads like this, public or private, paved or not, your vehicle becomes a rolling repair crew and should be equipped as such. Downed trees are a big part of the story. Bow or pruning saws make excellent alternatives to chainsaws for those uncomfortable with them. Having a saw and a shovel in the vehicle covers most road emergencies. A length of chain will let you saw most of the way through a tree, and drag it out of the way with minimal effort and time. A few other things might be flashlights, rain gear, emergency food and water, and blankets or dry (warm) clothing.