What happened to Southern Oregon's Forest in Spring 2020? by Rachel Lee Hall
Rachel Lee Hall contributed the following article to our website. She previously contributed her Forest Under Stress research here, her research on Reverse of Sequestration and Forest Under Stress (RSFUS) here, and research on Mega Drought Southern Oregon- Spring 2020 Forest Under Stress (FUS) here.
The ecological disaster arrived on time. The disturbance in the natural fire cycle aided by passive forest management – some call it the lack of forest maintenance — triggered a rapid growth of competitive vegetative mass in the terrestrial story.
The very act of Passive Forest Management (PFM) or hands-off forestry or lack of forest maintenance – whatever phrase you wish to use — diminished the capacity of annual precipitation to meet the demands of competitive vegetative mass above and below ground and the forest declined, becoming susceptible to beetle kill, disease, and brownout. Nature will correct this imbalance by wildfires. Wildfires do not respect boundaries or ownership. The forest is fluid; however well documented and legally defended there are no lines.
When annual moisture is equal or greater than mass, the forest is balanced. When vegetation mass is greater than moisture, the forest is unbalanced. Straightforward. Too many trees demanding the annual moisture caused the soil profiles to dry out and the forest lost resiliency.
The roots are the engine that drives the forest. However, there is a major hydrological imbalance below ground in a “duel for life” to secure annual moisture to sustain the burgeoning terrestrial story.
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Designated burns in the Rogue Valley from Costco parking lot, November 2017. A hundred percent carbon emission into atmosphere, which is a principal contribution to rapid climate change as the sink of sequestration of carbon in our forests goes up in smoke by man made fires during the fall/winter slash burns or relentless forest wildfires in the summer fires seasons.
Almeda Wildfires in Rogue Valley, Oregon September 2020
Rachel Lee Hall --Volunteer for Samaritan Purse
Scaffolding creates ladders to the canopy in this fuel-loaded, cluttered forest floor, which creates a path for quick access to the canopy or crown of trees during forest fires resulting in unprecedented crown fires and total loss of habitat. Over crowding ( fuel loaded forests ) marginalizes the full potential of forest to "store" carbon dioxide through sequestration and create oxygen through photosynthesis. The gallery may take a minute to load. Forest Under Stress (FUS) pamphlet can be read by clicking FUS button below.
Crown fire flare-up in Southern Oregon.
"Nearly 3.3 million tons of carbon monoxide was emitted during Oregon's 2017 wildfire season, according to an estimate by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Carbon monoxide is not only a greenhouse gas, it poses a hazard to public health."
Tonnage of carbon monoxide emitted in Oregon's 2018 wildfire season to be determined.
Cost of fighting wildfires in Oregon 2018 was $514.6 million.
Acres burned in Oregon 2018 was 897,262.7
"The 2018 wildfire season in California is estimated to have released emissions equivalent to roughly 68 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to U.S. Dept. of the Interior 11/30/18."
Acreage burned nationally according to Interagency Fire Center.
2016 5.4 million acres
2017 9.2 million acres
2018 8.9 million acres
2019 4.6 million acres
2020 10,122,336 million acres
2021 to be determined.
Conservationist Rachel Lee Hall speaking.
This enclosed pamphlet called Forest Under Stress (FUS) contains research and observation gathered over forty years while living in Southern Oregon. All photos were taken in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest between 2017 and 2018.
Why, each year, are there record-breaking crown fires with complete loss of habitat? This question motivated me to complete this research and construct it in a way where it is understood by all who read it. The photo sequence with explanations of each photo below them shows visually and in writing the reasons for the fires. Even though science can be complicated, the photos tell the story. The remedy is expressed succinctly in the conclusion of the pamphlet. Passive forest management (management by nature) cannot resolve this problem. A great disturbance in the forest evolved over the last three decades, causing the National Forest to lose resiliency, the reason for unprecedented wildfires, including crown fires, once uncommon.
I trust this pamphlet might cause you to consider "why" the FUS is vital. Hopefully, something relevant to the remedy is applied, even if you do not agree with all that FUS presents, perhaps something will be understood better. The impact of severe wildfires in rural to urban land gradient affects are horrific. In 2018, because of a man-made wildfire, I was evacuated from my home and in September 2020 we were evacuated two more times.
The current and past passive forest management (management by nature), why it failed, and why it will only continue to fail if critical contemporary scientific application along with sustainable financial implementation are not applied, are my concerns and I hope yours, too.
Thank you for your time,
Rachel Lee Hall
Acres Burned in Oregon 2018
As a mushroom hunter in Southern Oregon of forty years, I am seasonally aware of the change in the old growth forests where I hunt ectomycorrhizal fungi (edible mushrooms). The various fungi myclium establish a complex symbiotic relationships with the associated plants near their rhyzosphere barriers root system living in close proximity to conifers, pines, wood forest, etc. This relationship is known to be interconnected in a 2-way nutrient exchange and even extends the root system of the forest allied plants, allowing access to nutrients and minerals ( moisture is the conduit ), including an extended water source for associated plants, in this case: the forest floors root system. This is critical to the whole health of the forest. A resilient forest is able to withstand drought and consecutive low snow budget years, when there is characteristic competition from forest floor fuel load. Which is not the current case.
Over the past several years the fall mushrooms patches where I gather mushrooms showed significant decline. This could be directly aligned with the overall health of the forest. I attribute this trend to passive forest management, a major contributing factor for competitive survival during limited nutrients availability, especially water, by the demanding needs of the dense fuel load on the forest floors upper soil horizon for scare water availability. This thirsty fuel loaded forest floor thrives in the upper soil horizon where its drinks first, when moisture arrives. This reduction of moisture in the forest floor for fungi could reduce emergence during competitive drought years, including an additional stress to the deeper root system of the established old growth forest or any mature tree to facilitate moisture for the trees survival.
All these photos are historical hunts, before apparent decline. In the fall of 2017 and 2018. In addition, I experienced a major decline in emergence the fall of 2018 of over fifty percent, as did other seasoned hunter/gathers in my region.
This is of great concern.
Mushrooms Under Stress (MUS)
The forest floors heath with symbiotic connections are critical to forest stability vital to known and unknown habitats survival, including mammals, insects, microbial activity, soil, and trees, etc. The recent infernos of intense heat created by crown fires over the last few years in Oregon and future fires, could adversely affect survival possibly of various and numerous species, of which harms are not thoroughly understood. The loss of species or major reduction to their habitat in connectivity to forest floor health is at a crisis point. Immediate aggressive intervention to reduce volatile fuel load is required from our forest floors, including stands of dead or beyond redeeming beetle kill and replace failed passive forest management with applied critical application resulting in balance in our forest floors. The forests of diverse habitat, in Southern Oregon, will be lost, if not altered by mans past reliance on ideological forest science, which translates into thirty years of neglect.
This is a critical juncture in time: enough studies, time for action.