State, industry eye cache of rare earth elements under Bokan Mountain in Tongass National Forest
By Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate
The Bokan Mountain mine would be built on top of a defunct uranium mine that the US Environmental Protection Agency has designated as a Superfund site. Photo by Jesicca Applegate.
The Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest, stretching from Northern California into Alaska, is known best for things that grow above the ground — like the world’s tallest trees, and in its waters, like the legendary salmon runs. But we know far less about treasures lurking underground, like the vein of rare earth elements tucked away deep within Alaska’s Tongass National Forest – America’s largest national forest.
This cache of highly valued minerals is buried under Bokan Mountain, a small peak at the remote southern tip of Prince of Wales Island, the southernmost island in the Southeast Alaskan archipelago and the fourth largest island in the United States.
Ucore Rare Metals Inc., a Nova Scotia-based company, owns the rights to build a mine at the site. In a recent letter to Uncore shareholders, the company’s president and CEO Jim McKenzie, says it has located 5.3 million tons of “the most valuable, sought after, strategically important, and hard-to-obtain” varieties of rare earths in Bokan. That makes it one of the largest lodes of rare earth elements ever found in the United States, according to the US Geological Survey.
Continue Reading at Earth Island Journal
By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter
HOONAH, Alaska — If young-growth timber catches on in the Tongass National Forest, people like Wes Tyler may lead the way.
The owner of Icy Straits Lumber and Milling Co., in the city of Hoonah (population 776) on Chichagof Island, Tyler has built a business making log cabins, pavilions, tabletops and other furniture.
Logs he’s harvested from the Tongass have built the Icy Straits Fish Cannery in Hoonah, Valley Medical Care clinic in Juneau and Forest Service Research Lab at the University of Alaska, Southeast.
Mills like Tyler’s show the potential for a young-growth industry in Alaska, said Catherine Mater, a forest products engineer from Oregon who visits Alaska regularly.
By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter
PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND, Alaska — Thousands of acres in southeast Alaska is ready for a second wave of logging, but is the timber industry ready to cut it?
That question lurks in the background as the Forest Service and political leaders face a series of decisions that will shape the future of the Tongass National Forest, one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests and the biggest national forest in the United States.
A recent inventory of young growth in the nearly 17-million-acre Tongass shows enough supply to replace what the Forest Service harvests from old-growth forests, but officials and timber companies still say a full transition to a young-growth industry is 20 years or more away.
US Forest Service’s multiple plans to log vast swathes of Tongass National Forest faces stiff opposition
By Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate
Originally published October 7, 2019 at Earth Island Journal
DURING THE LAST HALF of the twentieth century, loggers cut down a hefty slice of old-growth forest blanketing Prince of Wales island, the fourth largest island in the United States located at the southern end of Alaska’s massive Tongass National Forest. And now the Trump administration is coming back for the rest.
The US Forest Service plans to roll back protections on the most pristine parts of the national forest and chop down another quarter million acres of the island’s old growth forest — generally, trees more than 150 years old. Old-growth timber is often favored over younger timber because of its more attractive appearance, but cutting it down threatens the island’s wildlife and the subsistence lifestyles that depend on it.
Continue reading at Earth Island Journal
By Dominick A. DellaSala Oct 5, 2019
Originally published October 5, 2019 at the Santa Fe New Mexican
Santa Fe Municipal Watershed at Black Canyon thinned on steep slopes in early 2000s and burned twice by the Forest Service – critics of the project say this is no longer a functional pine-mixed conifer forest. (Photo by Dominick A. DellaSala)
Santa Fe is blessed with magnificent national forests, wild rivers and some of the cleanest airsheds in the nation. Many people are here to be part of, connect with and heal through nature. It’s only natural that there is public outcry when forests are cut down or burned.
I was asked recently by local conservationists to take a hard look at the Santa Fe National Forest from the perspective of forest-fire ecology. I toured Santa Fe’s municipal watershed at Black Canyon and burned areas outside Los Alamos. I viewed forest “restoration” in the Jemez Mountains. What I witnessed was ill-informed tinkering with forest ecosystems that likely will continue for decades under the U.S. Forest Service’s new management plan currently in public review.
Sierra Club Forests and Climate Webinar by Dominick DellaSala and Jason Grant.
View the presentation- https://www.dropbox.com/s/56zrp1j3ea5615u/Forests%20&%20Climate_092519%20copy.pptx?dl=0
View the recording- https://zoom.us/recording/share/M03C_q4FuYzAtJjJ7AFIS8ZXvpY0Qozff4qO194zqJewIumekTziMw
I am a conservation scientist with over 200 peer-reviewed publications including books on forest-fire ecology, climate change, and forest management globally and in Oregon. I also served on the Oregon Global Warming Commission Task Force on Carbon, and the Governor’s Forest Carbon Stakeholder Group. I have reviewed the report from the mitigation subcommittee and I write to provide input and a summary of the scientific literature on wildfires in a changing climate to help with your deliberations.
Read the rest of the letter
by Cassandra Profita | OPB Sept. 27, 2019 1:54 p.m. | Portland, Ore.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown got a progress report from her Council on Wildfire Response on Thursday, and it came with a hefty price tag.
The board is advising the governor on how to change the state’s wildfire policy in response to growing wildfire risks from overstocked forests, population growth and climate change.
Council Chair Matt Donegan told the governor that one of the major changes the board is recommending is increased investment in wildfire suppression.
“It just stands to reason that in an era of climate change, in an era of fuel buildup and in an era of population growth and increased wildfire activity that we’re going to have to spend more resources suppressing fire,” he said.
He said the state will need an estimated $4 billion in “a multi-decade initiative that will involve significant state, federal and private investment” to reduce wildfire risks through actions such as logging overstocked forestland.
“That number feels a bit overwhelming,” Brown said in response. “But I think it’s critically imperative that we bite off a significant chunk right now — immediately.”
The governor said she wants to spend more to improve wildland firefighting capabilities, increase controlled burning and help communities live with more wildfire smoke.
“There isn’t really a fire season anymore. It’s year-round. It’s increasing in Oregon and frankly around the entire globe,” she said. “I obviously know we need to do things differently and we need different tools and we clearly need additional resources.”
In September 2019, Dr. Dominick DellaSala (Geos Institute) and Chad Hanson (Earth Island Institute) published a peer-reviewed study in the science journal Diversity disputes the widely held belief that “megafires” in our national forests are increasing, preventing forests from re-growing, and that logging is necessary to prevent these wildfires. Read the Press Release
“This is the most extensive study ever conducted on the high-severity fire component of large fires, and our results demonstrate that there is no need for massive forest thinning and salvage logging before or after a forest fire” – Dominick DellaSala
Links to the study
So why is California spending millions on them?
A recent Los Angeles Times project explores the effectiveness of firebreaks across California, with satelite and drone footage showing the devastation caused by recent firest, including the Camp fire in 2018.
Post-conflagration photos of Paradise reveal row after row of houses reduced to heaps of ash, while nearby trees and vegetation stand green and largely untouched by flame. In the Camp fire, the primary fuel was houses, not vegetation.
Jack Cohen, a retired Forest Service research scientist who studied ignitions and wildfire spread, said he’s been asked to explain the “unusual pattern of destruction” in Paradise.
His response: “It’s not strange and unusual — it’s typical. Every investigation I’ve done comes up with that pattern.”
“We do fuel breaks because the premise is we’ve got a wildfire containment problem” when in fact, Cohen argues, we have a home ignition problem.
Until firefighting agencies recognize that, he said, their efforts are doomed to “further failure at ever increasing cost.”