Mike Sanborn advertised for a "liberal" political voice a few days ago. A friend who wants to be known for the time being as Interested Party submitted the following as a sample of what he'd like to discuss on the Forum. If you like it, and maybe a couple more to follow over the next few days, well, let us know by commenting.
Forest scientists at the University of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain Research Station say aspen could disappear from North America by 2090.
The Black Hills silviculture is broken.
by Interested Party
Populus tremuloides, the most widely distributed deciduous tree species on Earth, is critical to the survival of the Black Hills' unique ecotones. Beaver communities rely on aspen to slow runoff and store water supplies.
Mycologists report disruption in the fungal communities associated with aspen: the oyster mushroom, pleurotus osteatus, is in steep decline. The mushrooms often associated with human consumption are the most important remediators of toxins presenting on the Forest.
The Black Hills hasn't been a natural forest since 1859 when a nearly Hills-wide fire (possibly set by humans hoping to clear pine), opened grazing for distinct historic megafauna. Aspen sprouts are favorite browse for elk and bison.
Morels fruit after fires in mixed pine/aspen habitat to entice animals to deposit organic material. Bison and elk will crawl on their knees and loll their long tongues for morels growing under dead-fallen pine trees. The suppression of fire threatens that relationship, too.
The Forest Service manages about 1.5 million acres in the Hills, most of the other 5.5 million acres are privately held lands whose owners largely blame forest failures on Federal or State mismanagement.
Ponderosa pine draws water from deep sources in ore-bearing formations and respirates both water vapor and heavy metal oxides downwind, aspen stores more surface water. Pine needles absorb heat and shed snowmelt, aspen leaves reflect sunlight in summer and hold snowpacks.
There are signs of accidental success: the Grizzly Gulch Fire outside of Deadwood has yielded a very encouraging, very visible pine to aspen forestlands transition.
Mount Rushmore and the Park Service have seen the data; they have the opportunity to lead by reducing pine stands, reintroducing fire, and saving their own aspen.