water supplies

Logging forests after they're chewed up by bark beetles won't cut fire risks, new report says

An interesting study out today (PDF) concludes that logging in Western forests ravaged by pine beetles not only doesn’t do much to prevent wildfires – it also wastes precious government dough that could be used instead to actually protect the homes of those folks foolish enough to build in fire-prone forests.

This particular study comes out of Colorado, which is described as the “epicenter” of the pine-beetle outbreak, although I think I wouldn’t have a lot of trouble finding folks in British Columbia who would dispute that characterization.

 And it’s reminiscent of the findings in Oregon following massive fires there a few years ago: That coming in and “salvaging timber” actually disrupts the natural processes that govern forests the way God made them.

This newest report, spearheaded by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, points out that insect outbreaks have been a part of forest ecology in the West for millennia. It also details how it’s climate, high temperatures and the sparse amount of water in our changing Western climate that are primarily responsible for the beetle outbreaks. Harvesting beetle-mauled trees does not head off climate change. Perhaps even the opposite is true? 

It's particularly damaging to do this kind of post-beetle tree-cutting in roadless areas, sacrificing longterm ecological integrity for short-term profits and roads that pierce into formerly intact wilderness areas, the report argues.

Former couch potato plans wintertime run the length of world's oldest, deepest lake -- Siberia's Baikal

rm iwest mugIn the couple of decades I've watched environmentalists go to ever-greater lengths to get out their messages, I've seen few more wacky stunts than the one planned by two guys from Canada: Running the length of the world's oldest and deepest lake, Lake Baikal in Siberia, in the wintertime. While pulling along 100 pounds of supplies behind them. And live-blogging the whole thing, of course. (What?!? No Twitter!?!)

Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely -- shall we just call them "the wackos" from now on? -- plan to  set off on March 1, which means the ice will still be plenty hard on Baikal. (Fun fact: Less than a decade ago, Zahab was a pack-a-day cigarette smoker and couch potato!)

Their cause: to highlight the value and scarcity of fresh water. Nowhere else in the world does a freshwater lake hold as many gallons as does Baikal. It has more of the wet stuff than all of America's Great Lakes combined.

You may have heard of these wackos before.

Carol Smith's picture

Worries over Arizona water supply

Rural Arizona is searching for a stable source of water. The existing patchwork system of wells and reservoirs is wearing thin, Shaun McKinnon writes in the Arizona Republic. Flagstaff water-resources Chief Brad Hill told the Republic that the rural parts of the state need to plug into the Colorado River. But competition for that water is also fierce. In the meantime, rural communities wrestle with how best to balance growth with water needs.  In urban centers, new developments must verify they come packaged with a 100-year water supply before they are allowed to be built. Rural towns have no such restrictions.

There's been as steady drain on underground water reserves in the state, McKinnon writes in an earlier extensive story. Excessive reliance on groundwater supplies could prove "potentially disastrous," resulting in wells running dry and aquifers collapsing. Such failures could alter the landscape itself, creating fissures and sinkholes. Drought and climate change are also straining surface-water supplies at the same time that groundwater resources are shrinking. Herb Guenther of the Arizona Department of Water Resources told McKinnon: "What we have to do is get out of denial."