Fortified forests can work wonders
Published: Thursday, April 17th, 2014
Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. There was a time a few years ago when we couldn’t see the rocks for the trees or the view of the Northern Great Plains in general, but that time is passing. Change on a landscape scale has come to the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. The thick stands of pine trees that gave the Hills their name long ago are not leaving, just changing. Old trees are dying and new trees are taking over. From a distance it still looks black in the bright prairie sunlight.
The Dakotas Chapter of the Society of American Foresters met in Deadwood last week for a report on the state of the bug fight and where things stand from a scientific perspective. Of course there was plenty of art involved in the various prognostications since we know less about mountain pine beetles and their impacts of forests than we would like. Still, we do know some things and the things we know are important.
For instance, keeping our trees well thinned out, to what foresters call a 40 basal area – about 50 12- inch in diameter trees per acre growing in clumps and bunches – is the best prescription for fire and beetles at this point in history.
At least one entrepreneur has been paying attention to the signs of the times and is applying the principles of Fire Wise communities and the allure of wilderness living to development in the Black Hills. Jim Farmer’s Red Canyon Co. combines elements people want for their home in the woods in ways that keep the homes and the forest alive and well, beetles and fires or no beetles and fires.
Farmer’s Lakota Lake Encampment offers “spectacular views, outstanding architecture, unique amenities and abundant wildlife,” he writes, and “it’s one of only two Black Hills communities that have earned the Fortified Forest™ certification,” a designation that shows he and his investors are paying attention to our collective experience this past decade. “We’ve invested in a program of careful thinning and accurately-timed [mountain pine beetle] spraying to safeguard the forest’s health and keep it green and growing. So your views and investment are protected for generations,” he writes at www.blackhillstrailheads.com.
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