The fire burned 31,300 acres of public and private lands and cost $5.75 million to fight. The next year the Uncompahgre National Forest put up three salvage timber sales. The county opposed one, which would have been on steep slopes and required a significant amount of new road-building. To our happy surprise, the Forest Service dropped the offending proposal, and so the County supported the other two sales, which seemed relatively benign. But our environmental friends at Colorado Wild and the High County Citizens Alliance weren’t so sure. So, the Public Land Partnership (a four-county regional collaborative group comprised of community leaders from San Miguel, Ouray, Montrose and Delta counties) sponsored a site visit. We all got out on the ground with the agency and interested others, and it was then we realized that there were no plans for any kind of organized monitoring program for the proposed Black & Decker salvage timber sales – something the environmental community very much wanted to see … It was at this point, with the crucial support of Phil and Linda Miller, who had intimate knowledge of forest transect monitoring work as well as timber industry rep Steve Schrock, several of us volunteered a community monitoring program, if the two concerned environmental groups would allow the sales to go forward. Which they did. Instead of lawsuits, we had a collaborative win-win … Having worked with the Montrose-based Public Land Partnership and its executive director Mary Chapman for several years, I understood the resources we could bring to bear on this national issue of community monitoring. Indeed, PLP has been a multi-year recipient of Ford Foundation grants, and Burn Canyon was named one of its handful of demonstration community forestry projects in the country … In the process, both Steve and I attended conferences of the National Federation of Forest Practitioners, alerting us to the many national and international efforts underway in which community monitoring is a crucial tool, and two years ago PLP hosted the annual NFFP conference in Ouray – allowing us to offer a national field tour of the Burn Canyon Monitoring Task Force project … Well, it’s four years later, and Phil and Linda are winding up their fourth volunteer two weeks in the field (the PLP does pay some expenses). They’ve faithfully monitored some 28 100-foot transects scattered in three areas of the burn – burned/logged, burned/unlogged, unburned. They’ve used little rectangles of plastic pipe (Daubenmire frames) to measure at five-foot intervals all along the transect tapeline – 20 readings in all. They’ve religiously identified every species growing (a somewhat heroic feat for amateur botanists); meticulously recorded their findings in terms of percentage of ground cover – plants versus litter, stone and bare ground; and have taken hundreds of photographs of forest condition from GPS-locatable sites. It has been a massive project, one which never would have happened without the Millers’ dedicated efforts. But it’s time to pass the Daubenmire frame to the next generation of volunteers … To that end the Burn Canyon project held a workshop in Norwood last week with professional botanist Cynthia Hindes from Fort Collins – on functional monitoring, in which a handful of local folks became acquainted with the joys and complexities of plant identification so easily mastered by the Millers. Was that a perennial grass or an annual forb? A native species or an introduced genus? Coriflora hirsutissima (“Sugar Bowl” COHI) or Bromus arvensis (“Field Brome” BRAR)? … Our shifting group of trainees had various levels of luck in naming all the plants of the frame, and it became Cindy’s job to weigh all our guesses and give her expert rendering, which sometimes sent us scurrying on forays outside the frame for similar plants in other stages of maturation and health. By the end of the session most of us got the hang of identification, as well as estimating percentages of density of matter vis-à-vis the frame and stuffing them into a rather odd six-ranked category of range – 0 to 1, 1 to 5, 5 to 25, 25 to 50, 50 to 75, 75 to 95, 95 to 100 … Keeping records was harder. The day we re-measured Transect #1 after the Millers had done it already, three of us trainees – Jim Boyd, Pam Motley and myself – came away with three different data sheet results we had to reconcile at the end of the day … But now we’ll have a benchmark overlay of what the Millers have been doing for the first four years of this longitudinal community study. The plan is to try to keep measuring and recording the vegetative regeneration effects of salvage timber operations on recovering forest plants after a burn. And hopefully PLP and the County can partner with the National Forestry Foundation and other groups to continue this valuable community forestry project for a number of years to come.
BILL PATTERSON … My friend and fellow commissioner down in Montrose County is the subject of a partisan recall election on flimsy, trumped-up charges. What a waste of taxpayer money! Especially as Bill hasn’t done anything wrong, except try to serve the people of his contentious county and have the misfortune of being a popular Democrat in a mostly Republican valley … Anyone associated with that recall effort ought to be ashamed!
BUMPER CROP … Thanks to Jim Rosenthal of Naturita Canyon and Port Townsend for these latest gems … “I think, therefore I’m liberal” … and … “Cheney/Satan ‘08”.
WEEKLY QUOTA … “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” – James Madison: U.S. fourth president, 1751-1836.
© 2007 Art Goodtimes
THE TALKING GOURD
& Dinosaur Thighs
on the Black Rock Ride.
Balls of Fire!
Best beat the heat
with one’s own f---ing
five-star blast off!