Green green, it’s green they say on the far side of the hill. Remember that old song by the New Christy Minstrels? Dating myself, I guess, oh well. The song simply expressed what we still do today, looking over the hill for greener pastures and greener trees. Unfortunately as things have changed over time, the next hill we go over is not greener, but turning rusty brown or even black as insects and disease kill the trees and wildfires race through, leaving a blackened landscape, which is not so pretty and green.
We can join in the crowd pointing fingers at whose fault it is, but that is not going to correct or remedy what has been and is happening to the lands and resources of the state. The first thing we have to acknowledge is that nothing will stay the same as it is today. The only constant in nature and the world is change!
Today we have set aside lands and waters to accommodate certain special interests such as parks, wilderness, bike trails, horse trails, and river rafting, thinking they will remain as we have decided they will be. Well they will not, they will change from both natural and human influence. What we need to do is get off the bandwagon of promoting everyone’s myriad special interests and concentrate on maintaining the lands and resources in the most healthy and productive condition for the greatest benefit to the resources, for the health safety and welfare of all the people of the state. We must manage the resources for their own maximum productivity and health, not for any one special-use interest.
There has been a lot of rhetoric about Go Green for a number of years now, so how can we turn our brown and black forest back to the green that we thought would always be? If we want to be consistently green then we cannot waste the resources our Creator has blessed us with. We can start by harvesting the dead and dying trees to stimulate and make way for new growth, begin thinning management of the rest. That will take more years than any of us will be around, so we must plan and start now.
One way to use the massive volumes of waste would be to establish an electric power plant designed to operate on wood waste, via gasification process which produces Bio-Char as a byproduct for soil enhancement. Also, the plant could be a biomass plant that would burn our municipal trash as fuel, thereby extending the life of the landfill and thus reducing its methane production. You may think that is crazy but there are many such power plants here in the U.S. that have been producing at least since 1988. One company in particular has over 41 plants operating here in North America since then. A consortium of 20 small communities in Maine has been operating such a plant as a non-profit to supply electricity, eliminating their trash problem. Europe has over 470 trash-to-power plants, and Norway is a leader, even shipping in trash for power.
So, plan ahead for establishing a multipurpose biomass power plant and encourage more and diverse forest product industries. What would be some benefits of this taking place? More and better jobs for our youth, increased local economy, healthier forests, soil conditioner for agriculture improvement, more stable watershed production for all uses, reduced smoke from wildfires and trash fires, less waste to bury in landfills, less methane production, increased and better public recreational opportunities, local electrical supply when outside sources are compromised (when there is a grid failure outside, we are of little concern to Denver, etc.), turning wastes into beneficial uses instead of continuing our selfish wasteful ways.
One additional possibility is that the power plant will have emission scrubbers, which will have valuable by-products of heat, water and CO2, all of which can be utilized in a large greenhouse operation providing fresh vegetables year-round. Incidentally, the value of trash, paper, boards, and plastics are all tanking, so recycling them is going to be a problem that the power plant could easily solve.
We talk “green,” but do brown, black and dead! Others talk “sustainability” via reducing populations (they mean you and me, not them) and eliminating use of natural resources by man, to sustain the primitive un-natural environment for animals only. How about we plan to sustain our neighbors, ourselves and the environment by Taking Action to go green by managing, developing and using our resources? – including the waste and trash, for development and growth of our spiritual, economic , safety and health.
There will be the usual naysayers, but this is not a new concept, it has been and is being done around the world and here in the U.S. in various ways. We have deceived ourselves into believing nothing is going to change and Denver and Washington will take care of us. However, it has, it is and it will change. We have the choice to be part of directing the change for the benefit of all, or to be lost in the change since Denver and Washington don’t know or care what happens to us. We have to take care of ourselves! We need to Plan Ahead and Act Now!
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.