Researchers document the effect of pre-fire mitigation on structure losses during 2017 Thomas Fire

In December, 2017 the Thomas Fire burned over 281,000 acres and 1,000 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in Southern California. But in Montecito, with a wildland-urban interface stretching for five miles along the Los Padres National Forest boundary, only seven primary residences were destroyed. Considered a success story, this result is due to many factors, including the fact that homeowners and firefighters had days to prepare for the fire entering the city, which meant that firefighters did not have to make a choice between helping residents to evacuate or protecting homes. This is in stark contrast to last November’s Camp Fire that raced into Paradise, California within a couple of hours after being ignited by a PG&E power line. In that case firefighters did not have the luxury of suppressing the fire as it burned homes; they had to concentrate on helping residents evacuate and saving lives.

— Wildfire Today

A Carbon Tax Is Not A Slam Dunk

If you spend much time around economists and the conversation turns to global warming, the odds are high that at least some of them will advocate a tax on carbon to reduce carbon usage and thereby slow or halt global warming. Even some economists who are skeptical that global warming will do much harm often think that carbon taxes are a good idea. When I taught an energy economics class at the Naval Postgraduate School, I, too-- someone who thinks global warming will be far from catastrophic--made a case that if the government is going to “do something” about global warming, carbon taxes are the least bad measure.

I now think I was wrong. Necessarily, therefore, I think the many economists who advocate carbon taxes are wrong. My argument does not rest on the idea that global warming will not be very harmful. Rather, my argument is that taxing carbon makes sense only if reducing carbon is the most efficient way to forestall global warming. It might be the most efficient way, but there’s a good chance that it is not.

— Defining Ideas

Planting yourself in the forest “Green” burials are a growing thing

Over the past few decades there’s a growing movement away from funerals that involve embalming, expensive caskets, and concrete burial vaults and toward a simpler and more natural send-off. And this so-called “green burial” movement is where forests come in. Turns out a lot of people would like their final resting place to be a forest, or at the edge of one. With a nice view. Of mountains, maybe. Or rolling hills, or a lake.

According to the Green Burial Council, each year we bury 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid (of which 827,000 gallons is poisonous formaldehyde); 64,500 tons of steel; 20 million board feet of hardwood lumber in the form of caskets; and 1.6 million tons of concrete in the form of burial vaults.

By contrast, a green burial ground limits interment to what’s biodegradable, said Lakin: the body, a shroud of natural materials or a cardboard or pine coffin. No embalming, no vaults, no metal-lined caskets. Conservation burial also has these requirements, but takes place in a much larger, natural area (at least ten acres of protected land) thus serving as both a cemetery and a conservation strategy.

— Forests for Maine’s Future

Massive Arctic wildfires emitted more CO2 in June than Sweden does in an entire year

Ongoing Arctic fires this year have been particularly severe in Siberia and Alaska. In Russia, flames engulfed more than 7 million acres in Siberia and beyond in August, forcing President Vladimir Putin to send military transport planes and helicopters across the country to put out the fires.

In Alaska, more than 2.4 million acres have burned over the past three months, inundating nearby cities with smoke and forcing temporary hospitals to open for clean air access.

Now, a cloud of smoke and soot bigger than the European Union is moving from Siberia into the Arctic, according to the World Meteorological Organization. It is forecast to reach Alaska, where fires have scorched an area larger than the wildfire damage in California last year.


Invasive pests kill so many trees each year, it’s equal to 5 million car emissions

Invasive insects and pathogens have wreaked havoc on ash, elm, chestnut trees and others, wiping some of them almost completely from American forests. In addition to the ecological impact, a Purdue University study shows that the carbon storage lost to these pests each year is the same as the amount of carbon emitted by 5 million vehicles.

The study authors said that while the current annual loss from invasives is only 0.04 percent of the total live biomass in the contiguous U.S., the problem could grow. Of the 15 pests, three have only invaded about half of their potential range and seven have invaded less than 35 percent.

— Purdue University Agriculture News

Backdoor Appointment At Interior Adds To Fears Of A Public Land Sell-off

The Trump administration last week tapped William Perry Pendley, a conservative lawyer who has spent decades campaigning against federal land protection, to oversee 245 million acres of public land — more than 10% of the entire U.S. landmass. 

It’s an appointment that many, including current and former Bureau of Land Management officials, view as part of a broader effort aimed at pawning off America’s natural heritage. 

— Huffington Post

Burn. Build. Repeat: Why our wildfire policy is so deadly

Today’s monster fires result largely from three human forces: taxpayer-funded fire suppression that has made the forest a tinderbox; policies that encourage construction in places that are clearly prone to burning; and climate change, which has worsened everything. Behind these three forces is a massive economic perversity: Society masks the costs of building on the edges of the forest, a zone that planners call the “wildland-urban interface,” or the WUI.

— Grist

NAU pilot project tests exporting wood products via railway to speed forest restoration

The pilot project, led by Northern Arizona University, will test the logistics and efficacy of chipping and shipping wood products via railway transportation with the goal of expanding forest product markets domestically and internationally and accelerating forest restoration efforts.

A team of researchers from the Ecological Restoration Institute at NAU has worked closely over the past year with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM), DEMA, Hyundai Merchant Marine, BNSF Railway and the U.S. Forest Service to launch this pilot project.

— NAU News

For California's redwoods, climate change isn't all bad

With record-breaking summer temperatures in Alaska, melting sea ice in Greenlandand animal species going extinct, the effects of a changing climate are grim. But for one of the oldest and largest living things on Earth, a warmer world isn't completely terrible, at least for the time being. California's coast redwood trees are now growing faster than they ever have, according to an ongoing study from Redwoods Climate Change Initiative, producing a tremendous amount of wood in the process.

— CNET News

Feinstein Working on Bill to Speed Up Logging, Other Forest Projects

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined with a Montana Republican to craft a bill that would expedite logging and other forest management projects near electrical transmission lines and roads in an effort to head off catastrophic wildfires.

The bill is also aimed at slowing or stopping lawsuits that block logging projects on federal land.

— KQED News