July 2015

Use them or lose them

By Dexter Gill

Let’s start with a question. Name something you use that is not produced from the earth’s minerals or vegetation and waters.

Getting a headache from thinking? Take an aspirin. Wait, aspirin is from the bark of trees. You can stop thinking, there is nothing that we need or simply use to make for a more comfortable life that does not originate from the mineral earth, water and vegetation. The houses we live in, the cars we drive, the medicines we take, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the electricity for our lights, heat for our houses, etc. and etc. The plastics come from trees and oil, as do many chemicals such as alcohol, turpentine, latex and even laxatives.

Do you have a new backpack for your hike to Navajo Lake? What is it made from? The metal frame came from a mining operation, the fabric may be a blend of material derived from plants, oil and or animal hides. Do you realize it took coal, oil and gas to manufacture and deliver that backpack to you? Recently people have been aghast that some fast-food hamburgers have wood pulp added as an extender. But those same people will order a veggie burger as a “safe” food. Guess what, they are eating more of the same “wood pulp” product that is in the hamburger.

So what is the point of all this? Today’s affluent society has achieved a perceived zenith of academic information that has led to excessive pride to the point of thinking we are greater than the Creator of the earth, its forests and man. The forests were created and made available for man to use, which we have done, to lead to the comfortable and affluent society we have today. Now we have segments of society whose greed seeks to prevent the rest of society from making continued use of and benefitting from the forests and other resources to produce jobs, economic wealth and pursuit of happiness. They seek to stop the use of the very things that has provided for and sustained them. It seems to be “well I’ve got mine, too bad for you, ha ha”!

Our forests are dying! They are dying a natural death! We cannot stop the forest from dying! That is what all living things do. What we can do is not waste them. We need to “Use Them or Lose Them.” If we do not use them, they will die and rot or burn up. We can use the products of the forest to benefit the local people’s lives so they have the economic ability to work to renew the forests for the next generation’s benefit.

What are the possibilities? Some think only of lumber and logs. Locally, we have a few wood-product manufacturers left that produce great products such as aspen and spruce paneling, excelsior for erosion control, bank stabilization and pine and spruce dimension lumber. Unfortunately, they are not able to meet even half of the forest health and renewal needs.

Other possibilities are Bio Char, an excellent soil conditioner. Bio-fuels could help satisfy electrical needs locally. Gasification of wood products is now even producing jet fuels. Since the U.S. imports pine and spruce wood products, markets need to be reassessed to make it profitable to utilize local wood instead. All these would create jobs, improve the economy, and revitalize the local dying forests.

Protection of the resource is also important. Any good business doesn’t want to run out of its basic resource, so is intent on ensuring it is healthy and continues indefinitely. Death from insects and disease is constant, with the dead trees and vegetation becoming fuel for wildfires. While this will always happen, it can be greatly reduced by the fuels being reduced by businesses use.

Here is something to think about. Dead trees and green trees that are too thick need to be removed, so taxes are used to pay people to cut down the trees. If you would like to cut down and remove those same trees for your fuel wood, you must pay! Would it make more sense for you to cut and remove the trees at no additional cost to you, and then be saving the tax cost of paying the government to do it? Also, did you realize that one of the big problems in wildfire controls is the grasses, low shrubs and forbs? One of the most effective fire-prevention tools is cattle, sheep and goats. They can mow down the “flash fuels”, thus reduce the rapid spread of the fires that do ignite. We charge a rancher to graze his livestock to reduce the fuel and keep it healthy and productive. The rancher is paying the government for it to save money by not having to do the same thing with equipment or setting prescribed fires at high costs. Is there something strange in this picture?

Bottom line is, the forests must be viewed as a total entity, producing maximum of wood, water, forage for use by man and beast, including livestock and wildlife. If that is achieved, then man’s leisure interests of various recreation and hunting and fishing will also excel.

Dexter Gill is a retired forest manager who worked for private industry, three Western state forestry agencies, and the Navajo Nation forestry department. He writes from Lewis, Colo.