Opinion: Every Farm Counts

Opinion: Every Farm Counts

Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in agricultural products raised on 57.3 million acres.

By Zach Ducheneaux, Intertribal Agriculture Council

In spite of notable efforts on the part of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others, American Indians continue to be one of the most underrepresented groups in the Census of Agriculture. The number of American Indian producers participating in the Census has increased tremendously since the questionnaire became the responsibility of the USDA in 1997, and especially since 2007 when every American Indian farm and ranch began reporting individually. But we still have a lot of work to do to get everyone represented in the data.

Indian Country is faced with many challenges created by policy – some of which was created without our input. When federal, state, and local farm policy and programs are contemplated, NASS data are what policymakers reference to inform their decisions. Programs developed based on crops grown, conservation practices used, and even agri-finance opportunities can all be adversely affected if we don’t tell our story through participation in the Ag Census. If we, as a community, do not fill out the Census of Agriculture, the data will not reflect our numbers or our needs and that could have a negative economic impact on our communities.

Zach Ducheneaux advocating on behalf of Native American farming communities. Photo Credit: American Forum

A stark example of this adverse impact lies in the 2012 Census data which showed that the 56,092 farms and ranches operated by 71,947 Native Americans sold a total of $3.24 billion in ag products raised on 57.3 million acres. The average size of a farm or ranch operated by Native Americans (1,021 acres) was over 200 percent larger than the national farm average (434 acres) while receiving only 67 percent ($6,698) of the amount of farm program payments received by others ($9,925). When you contemplate the per acre disparity, you can clearly see the reason we need to be more active.

Another example of the importance of the Ag Census is demonstrated by what it doesn’t count. As a result of the failure to recognize subsistence production, tens of thousands of our Alaskan Native relatives go totally uncounted. As a result, there is virtually no mention of subsistence agriculture in federal farm policy.

The Census of Agriculture aims to be a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and their operators, and remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data available at the state, county, and Tribal level. Embrace the opportunity to be heard. Take advantage of one of the important ways to help our communities. Your response will provide data that will absolutely be used to make decisions on our behalf, like funding for loans, conservation efforts, disaster relief (e.g. drought), and education.  

The future is ours to shape. It is not too late to complete your 2017 Census of Agriculture. The paper questionnaire is due by June 15. However, the Ag Census can be completed online at www.agcensus.usda.gov through July. For questions about or assistance with your form, call (888) 424-7828.


Zachary Ducheneaux (Cheyenne River Sioux) heads the Technical Assistance Program for the Intertribal Agricultural Council  and serves as Secretary of the Great Plains Region.

Cover Photo: Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

Guest Author: 'Tis the Season: Our Heritage, Our Medicine

(Editor’s Note: This Heritage Month special will be published until January 10.)

Valerie Segrest is a Native nutrition educator and the Muckleshoot Traditional Foods and Medicines Program Manager. She is an enrolled member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Despite what mainstream and misrepresented history claims, our ancestors lived long and well-nourished lives. This longevity is linked with our heritage. Specifically, the knowledge we carry of our ancestral foods and medicines. For generations the ancestors put forth tremendous effort to uphold our health by perfecting and passing on their recipes full of wisdom and nourishment that clearly animate for us a health system that is inextricably intertwined with the lands we come from. Our inheritance is truly our traditional food and medicine culture, which represents our deep connection to the natural resources all around us – it is a living legacy that has the power to heal us and encourage our vitality.

As the seasons change people follow the foods, moving through the landscape and simultaneously embodying the dynamic energy of the phase upon us. In the Northwest, this time of year is called the “moon to put your paddles away.” Cold air activates our ancestral senses, signaling us to put away our summer energy and embrace self-reflection, quietness, prayerfulness and soul-nourishing activities. Winter is the period we need to slow down and feed ourselves not just physically but also spiritually. It is the time to cultivate our minds, collecting the work that served us and letting go of what no longer does – so that we can make room for new things to come that will help us to learn and grow. All of our energy is being called to examine the gravities of our presence.

It is the Tree People, like the Big Leaf Maples and the Sitka Willow, that reassure us of this teaching as they move their energy inwards and down toward the Earth, shrinking from the height of the futile sun. Their leaves change color and then gracefully fall to the ground, signaling the coming of winter. Without a spoken word, the trees urge us to follow their lead and take this opportunity to rest and tonify our bodies internally, so that we will be ready for the uprising of spring. We do this by eating our ancestral diet of warming foods that include roots and rich stocks made of animal bones. They are cooked slow and low so that the food has time to capture that warmth and then transpose that life energy inside of our bodies.

Getting in rhythm with the seasons is truly all about living in harmony with its spirit. This includes the instructions of both the prolific trees as well as the uncontrollable nature of seasons. In turn, these teachings have made us a prolific people. Since time immemorial our ancestors were diligent students of these great teachers. With great care they observed how nation upon nation of plants, animals, birds, fish and even fungi built a fully engaged communal citizenry. One in which every aspect of life is honored and valued. These observations commanded simple questions like “How can us pitiful humans be more like these powerful teachers? How can we embrace diversity, display humble generosity and be big medicine in the world?”

One of the most brilliant Native authors of our time, Robin shared the following reflection in her book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants about the generous presence of two trees in her life: “Their gift to me is far greater than I have ability to reciprocate ... Perhaps all I can do is love them. All I know to do is to leave another gift for them and for the future, those next unknowns who will live here.”

This contribution could have shared insights and perspectives on the first Thanksgiving feast, or what Native American Heritage month has to do with the state of health in Indian Country, but we know these stories already, right? We live it everyday and everyday we have the opportunity to become cold and bittered by our collective history or we can choose to deliberately focus our attention on our heritage and the meaning of it all. We can do this for ourselves, for the values that we hold and how those values keep us living. Our heritage is our medicine and this month is an annual reminder of that, but don’t let it be just one month – surrender your life to the seasons and to the incredible teachers that are waiting for you right outside of your door. Remember that the culture we carry is inspiring and when honored leads you to the most powerful self-care imaginable. Be assured that each of us carries an internal light. Stoke the fire, build your light, and nourish the dynamic energy and steadfast spirit power you’ve been gifted so that you may overcome obstacles and press forward to accomplish the work we were put here to do in this life.

To all my relatives, Happy Native American Heritage Month!

Author Valerie Segrest serves her community as the Traditional Foods and Medicines Program Manager and is the Executive Director of Feed Seven Generations, a Native-led nonprofit. Valerie aims to inspire and enlighten others about the importance of a nutrient-dense diet through a simple, common-sense approach to eating. Watch her TED talk to learn more: http://www.tedxrainier.com/speakers/valerie-segrest/

Native America Today thanks First Nations Development Institute and Native Stories, where this article originally appeared. To learn how First Nations is making an impact, click here.

Navajo Youth Co-Pilot Planes Over The Grand Canyon

Cronkite News

PHOENIX (AP) _ Cadet Amaris Tracy climbed into the cockpit of a small plane, her face calm but her hands shaking slightly.

``I'm really excited to get to fly the plane for the first time,'' Tracy said, adjusting her headset. ``At the same time, it's 5,000 feet up in the air and I don't really know what I'm doing.

``I'm really nervous. What if something goes wrong?''

After all, Tracy, 13, is only in the sixth grade. This was her first time in a plane and this day, she'd be the copilot.

The Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol is placing cadets as copilots in a series of orientation flights over the Grand Canyon and the Navajo Reservation near Shonto. The patrol, which was formed as a national defense program in 1941, conducts air search operations and offers an aeronautical education to youngsters 12 to 18 years old. Leaders said this is the first squadron on a Native American reservation.

Just after sunrise on one April day, eight Navajo students lifted off, pushed by the tailwinds of tribal history.

Flying through barriers

None had ever been in a plane until they strapped into the Cessna single-engine plane.

Clad in camouflage and buckled up in the copilot's seat, Tracy marveled at the experience.

``Honestly, it's a crazy that they let us do this. Crazy in a good way, I guess, because this is such a cool opportunity,'' she said.

Second Lt. Frederick Fout, squadron leader and principal of Shonto Preparatory School, said such experiences are elusive for most of his students.

``A lot of the kids based on the Navajo Reservation are from very remote areas,'' said Fout, who also is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. ``They don't have access to these kinds of opportunities. This represents a historic moment for most of these kids and the community.''

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, national commander of the Civil Air Patrol, said the orientation flights are exciting and exacting.

``We want to encourage these young cadets to not only push themselves physically but to strive to surpass the barriers that they set for themselves,'' Smith said.

Located in Glendale, the Arizona Wing of the Civil Air Patrol supports America’s communities with emergency response, diverse aviation and ground services, youth development, and promotion of air, space and cyber power. (Photo Credit: Arizona Wing Facebook Page)

The curriculum includes five orientation flights to teach cadets piloting and navigation. The students are paired with FAA-certified civilian auxiliary pilots.

``I think it's really unique what we do here with CAP,'' said Col. Martha Morris, a pilot for JetBlue and wing commander for the patrol. ``I think it's really cool to see these young people experiment with flight for the first time.''

A Navajo legacy

The squadron, the newest in Arizona in almost 20 years, was designated the Code Talker Bahe Ketchum Composite Squadron 211.

Bahe Ketchum, a former Marine, was a Navajo Code Talker, recruited to craft the Navajo language into a military code that confounded Japanese troops in World War II.

``The Code Talkers are individuals of great honor for our tribe,'' said Ferleighshea Yazzie, the mother of cadet Tymicus Yazzie. ``To have my son be a part of that legacy. Wow, it makes my heart want to burst with happiness.''

The eight-decade-old cadet program offers students the chance to advance in a military career, Morris said.

Tymicus Yazzie said he wants to join the Air Force after he graduates.

``I want to serve like those before me,'' he said. ``One day, it will be my turn.''

Flying toward the future

Dakota Ross, who comes from a line of military veterans, said the day held special significance.

``My dad is a veteran, and he served very bravely,'' Ross said. ``So did my brother. I just want to make them proud.''

Fout said pride comes with the program.

``For so many of the kids in this program, being a part of the CAP and getting to wear the uniform, is like a badge of honor,'' he said.

Ferleighshea Yazzie said she was nervous and proud as she watched her son soar over the canyon.

``Watching my son take off. Oh my gosh, it was scary. But at the same time I'm excited for my son,'' she said.

After the plane descended and glided to a stop at Page Airport, Tymicus Yazzie got out and kissed the ground.

His fellow cadets shared his sentiments.

``I definitely want to do it again,'' Ross said, laughing. ``I just don't want to do it right away. I'm not sure my stomach could handle it.''

First Nations Announces Grant for Indigenous Led Environmental Justice Efforts

The mission of the grant is to preserve and protect Native community access and control of natural resources, with a particular emphasis on combating extractive industry practices.

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has received a $200,000 grant from the Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation. The funds will be used to provide support to Native American-led community efforts pursuing environmental justice, with a particular emphasis on combating abusive extractive industry practices occurring in Native communities.

Previously, in late 2017, with the generous support of the Broad Reach Fund, First Nations was able to provide $100,000 in anti-extraction rapid-response grants. The organizations that received support included the following:

  • Diné C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against Ruining our Environment) Durango, Colorado - $20,000
  • Gwich'in Steering Committee, Fairbanks, Alaska - $20,000
  • The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Pawnee, Oklahoma - $20,000
  • Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, Keshena, Wisconsin - $15,000
  • Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Portland, Oregon - $20,000
  • Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, Venetie, Alaska - $4,000
  • Native Organizers Alliance, Seattle, Washington – $1,000

Michael E. Roberts, First Nations’ President & CEO states, “For too long, outsiders have dictated the use of Native American assets. We are happy to be able to provide some support to community-based efforts looking to ensure Native communities can control development processes locally, especially when it comes to resource extraction.”

First Nations welcomes expressions of interest for the new grants from Native American communities and organizations that are engaged in grassroots and community-based efforts. The mission of the grant is to preserve and protect Native community access and control of natural resources, with a particular emphasis on combating extractive industry practices occurring in Native communities. Grants generally will range from $15,000 to $20,000 each.

About First Nations Development Institute

For 38 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities.  First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.

About the Broad Reach Fund

The Broad Reach Fund supports nonprofits that are aligned with its broad interests in social justice, economic opportunity and environmental health. The Fund seeks forward-thinking solutions to social, environmental and economic problems. It favors constituency-led organizations and places a high priority on safeguarding fundamental human rights and democratic practices.

(Cover Photo Credit: OpenClipart-Vectors)

Canadians Stage Protest to Stop Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Nick Engelfried

Originally published by Waging Nonviolence

Tsleil-Waututh water protectors at the peaceful protest in Whey-Ah-Whichen, now the site of Cates Park in North Vancouver. (Photo Credit: WNV/Nick Engelfried)

For thousands of years, Whey-Ah-Whichen has been a site of importance to the Tsleil-Waututh people. This hospitable flat peninsula in the Pacific Northwest was home to one of their major villages, standing in the shadow of surrounding hills and mountains covered in towering Douglas-fir and other ancient trees. Today, Whey-Ah-Whichen is the site of Cates Park, so-named by the descendants of English colonists in what is now British Columbia. It overlooks Burrard Inlet, a finger-like extension of the Salish Sea separating the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. The Tsleil-Waututh still live nearby, many of them on a reserve just down the highway.

In July, Tsleil-Waututh community leaders brought together several hundred people for a rally on the site of the former village. Many carried signs with messages including “Water is Life,” “Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline,” and “Protect the Water, Land, Climate.” They came to participate in a fight against one of the largest proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Canada, an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to a Kinder Morgan-owned storage facility directly across the inlet from Whey-Ah-Whichen. There, oil from the pipeline would be loaded into tankers for transport to the United States or across the Pacific.

The rally was only the latest manifestation of the indigenous-led resistance to the Trans Mountain project, which has grown in size and boldness this year. As more and more people arrived at the park, some prepared to take to the water in kayaks, canoes and other small vessels. Hundreds of others massed near the shoreline, watching as the boats headed across the inlet and gathered in front of the razor-wire fence erected by Kinder Morgan to keep people away from its facility. From one of the canoes, Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George led a water ceremony expressing participants’ intent to care for and protect the inlet.

On the shore below Whey-Ah-Whichen, the smell of salt and slowly-drying seaweed permeated the air as the tide receded. Canada geese floated on the water among the kayaks, and tiny crabs scurried between pebbles on the beach. The crabs, a traditional food of the Tsleil-Waututh, were one reason people had gathered here today.

“The whales and fish, the crabs and lobsters, they need us to be their voices because they can’t speak for themselves,” said Amy George after her canoe returned to shore. George is credited with launching the resistance to the Trans Mountain pipeline in the Greater Vancouver area.

Protectors, not protesters

“We’re not protesters, we’re protectors,” George said earlier that morning. “We’ve been doing this since the first contact with Europeans, fighting to protect our land and water. Now some Europeans are joining our movement — we’re finally getting together. If the oil from this project spills, one dump will ruin the water from here to Prince Rupert, here to California.”

When the Tsleil-Waututh first learned about plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, then backed by Kinder Morgan, not everyone was sure the nation of slightly more than 500 people could realistically take on one of North America’s largest oil infrastructure companies. Cedar George-Parker, a member of the extended George family that has led the resistance, described how Amy George convinced the community to oppose the project: “She told us we needed to warrior up.”

Kinder Morgan’s plan for Trans Mountain involves expanding an existing tar sands pipeline to triple its carrying capacity. Among other things, this would entail building 14 new storage tanks on Burrard Inlet and boring a tunnel through nearby Burnaby Mountain so that a new branch of the pipeline can deliver more oil to the facility.

According to the grassroots environmental group Stand.earth, the expansion project would lead to a 700 percent increase in the number of tar sands oil tankers plying the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea. An accident on a tanker, or at the Burrard Inlet facility, would be devastating for communities throughout the region.

“What we need is clean water for our children and grandchildren,” Cedar George-Parker said to the crowd. “For many years our people took our food from the water. Now it’s time for us to give back, to protect the inlet from the oil and bitumen that will kill it.”

A study commissioned by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation predicts a large oil spill in the inlet would expose over a million people to acute health effects from air toxins. “I don’t want my little brother to be one of those people affected,” George-Parker said, citing one of his main motivations to keep fighting.

The movement escalates

While resistance to Trans Mountain has been building for a decade, it heated up this year as Kinder Morgan started preliminary construction activity along the pipeline route. In March, members of the Tsleil-Waututh built a traditional watch house near the route of the pipeline in Burnaby just south of Burrard Inlet. Around the same time, 10,000 people gathered nearby for one of the most massive displays of opposition to the pipeline so far. Tsleil-Waututh water protectors and their allies have blockaded initial phases of construction, protested at Kinder Morgan’s annual shareholder meeting in Houston, and turned the watch house into a visible symbol of resistance. More than 200 have been arrested during nonviolent actions opposing the pipeline so far.


Then, in late May, with the deadline fast approaching, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would spend billions to buy the Trans Mountain project from Kinder Morgan and build the expanded pipeline using taxpayer dollars. With the stroke of a pen, the Trans Mountain tar sands expansion turned from a private industry endeavor to an official project of the Canadian government. Trudeau, previously regarded as a progressive voice for action on climate change, emerged with his climate reputation in tatters. Within 12 hours of Trudeau’s announcement, thousands of people gathered for an impromptu rally in Vancouver expressing public outrage.

“In the beginning of this fight, we were trying to protect our land and water from Kinder Morgan,” Amy George told the crowd in Whey-Ah-Whichen. “We’ve made them give up, and they’ve gone back to Texas. I don’t care who’s still backing this pipeline, we’re still saying no. It would take until 2050 to pay off the taxpayer debt Justin Trudeau wants to use to finance this project. I’m a taxpayer, and I don’t want to be a shareholder in dirty energy.”

Sending a global message

Even as the movement to stop Trans Mountain has been forced to shift targets from Kinder Morgan to the government of Canada itself, members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation — including the George family — have continued to lead the opposition. Will George, another family member who played a key role in organizing the rally, recently spent 40 hours with 11 other water protectors suspended from a bridge, blocking a tar sands tanker leaving Burrard Inlet. And in the years since Amy George first convinced her community to oppose Kinder Morgan, the movement to stop the pipeline has become a rallying point for indigenous leaders throughout Canada.

“The message we’re gathering is now getting out to the world,” said vice president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Bob Chamberlain, another one of the speakers. “We’re sending a message that we don’t need to build and capitalize on something that just isn’t sustainable, like this pipeline. Our opponents characterize us as ‘activists,’ as ‘radicals.’ Imagine, we’re radicals because we want clean air and water. Well, if that’s what a radical is, I’m glad to be one with you.”

Chief Bob Chamberlain (Owadi), Vice President of the Union of British Columbian Indian Chiefs. (Photo Credit: Wilderness Committee FB Page)

The movement to stop Trans Mountain has drawn comparisons to the encampment that delayed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 2016. During the waning days of the Obama administration, that movement brought together tribal representatives from across North America to oppose a major oil pipeline that threatens the Standing Rock Sioux’s drinking water and right to control their natural resources. As happened at Standing Rock, the Trans Mountain opposition has been joined by thousands of non-indigenous activists concerned about everything from endangered species to climate change.

In the Trump/Trudeau era, when national governments on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have firmly allied themselves with the oil industry’s expansion plans, countless people across North America have taken inspiration from Standing Rock. And from Burrard Inlet to the Gulf of Mexico, indigenous peoples continue to lead the way. Indigenous-led encampments have sprung up in the paths of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana and the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota. And if construction begins on the Keystone XL pipeline next year — as TransCanada, the owner of that project, predicts it will — the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has sent clear messages that its members intend to stand in the way.

Nor will the resistance to Trans Mountain be going anywhere. As the possibility of major construction work beginning on the project grows imminent, and with the watch house already serving as a permanent base for water protectors along the route of the pipeline, the potential exists for a confrontation on the scale of Standing Rock. If that happens, protectors like Amy George believe they will simply be upholding their nation’s long tradition of caring for the land.

“We’re not doing something new by carrying on the fight for the inlet,” George said. “During thousands of years that we were here, there were no endangered species. We cared for the streams and didn’t overpopulate to tax our food sources. If there’s a spill, it means death to everything in the water. It means saying goodbye to the few orcas left in the Salish Sea.”

Even a recent heart procedure won’t stop George. “I’m still here saying no,” she said. “We’ve been saying no to Kinder Morgan all along, and it doesn’t change things now that we have to fight the so-called leader of the country.”

Waging Nonviolence is a source for original news and analysis about struggles for justice and peace around the globe.

Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service: Walking in Both Worlds

by Bobby Gonzales and Lou Thompson, Tribal Energy Resource, LLC

Forest Service using new tech for post-fire work in Montana

By Perry Backus

From Missoulian

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ The work is only beginning for the U.S. Forest Service when the last wisp of smoke disappears from any large wildfire.

After more than 700,000 acres of national forest lands burned in Montana this summer, the agency decided the usual way of doing business wasn’t going to cut it this year.

Somewhere close to 2,000 fires were reported on national forest lands.

Thirty-six of those grew large enough to require what the agency calls a burned area emergency response (BAER). Those efforts consider everything from replacing culverts and reshaping roads to keep sediment from roaring down hillsides, to deciding which burned trees can be salvaged for timber and where trees will need to be planted.

The bulk of that work has to be done quickly in order to be ready for spring runoff and to ensure the timber that’s set aside for harvest retains its value for local mills.

In a normal year, most of that work would be accomplished by employees working on the individual forests where the fires started.

But more than 700,000 acres burned in a single season in one region isn’t normal.

Regional Forester Leanne Marten recognized that when she formed, for the first time, a regional post-fire response incident management team and charged it with using the most up-to-date technology to rapidly zero in on areas where both emergency work to protect the landscape and timber salvage could be accomplished.

Mike Elson led the 20-member team.

“The employees that normally do the BAER work are also the same employees who respond to the wildfires,” Elson said. “It was a really grueling and hard year. Employees are typically working 16 days, getting one day off every two weeks. They were breathing smoke and dealing with the anxiety that large fires bring just like everyone else. People were really wiped out at the end of the year and then they were faced with this huge workload.”

By taking a regional approach, Elson said the team could help those forests, like the Lolo, that faced work on numerous large fires and provide a consistent way of getting it accomplished.

“Like it or not, everything we do is highly scrutinized and we have to explain to a judge why we did it,” said the team’s deputy incident commander, Steve Brown. “If we are all doing it consistently, it becomes a whole lot easier to explain.”

With time of the essence, the team turned to technology to help it pinpoint the places needing emergency work to manage runoff, and places where burned timber could be salvaged.

“With so much devastation, we had to make decisions on where to put our attention,” said Vince Archer, the regional BAER coordinator.

During the past decade or so, the Northern Region has developed a vegetation database through satellite imagery and bio-physical modeling that was used in deciding where timber could be salvaged.

“That helped us identify, in a consistent manner on different forests, what the fire had burned through and where some of the opportunities for salvage might be found,” Brown said.

The maps allowed the agency to create a coarse filter that could identify areas that wouldn’t either be economically or environmentally feasible for timber salvage.

For instance, the Sunrise fire burned about 26,000 acres southeast of Superior.

Brown said when the team used the mapping resource to exclude areas that weren’t national forest lands or were considered wilderness, roadless or protected riparian areas, the potential acreage for salvage dropped to about 17,000.

The next filter looked at accessibility and marketability of the timber. The slopes adjoining roads couldn’t be more than 35 percent above road. The timber needed to be no more than 1,500 feet from the road. That cut the potential area down to about 9,000 acres.

Finally, the acreage that was left had to hold enough trees to make a salvage sale worthwhile to local mills.

Those areas that have a road to them are places where the agency has done previous timber management, which cut into the potential for salvage sales. To be considered, the team decided there had to be at least 5,000 board feet per acre with a minimum average stand size of a 10-inch diameter.

That reduced the amount of acreage available for salvage down to 2,400 acres, with the potential of about 22 million board feet.

After completing the analysis, the team determined that about 48,000 acres, or about 6.7 percent of what burned, had the potential for salvage timber sales, which could provide up to an estimated 516 million board feet.

But after working with the local wood products industry representatives about what they could actually harvest in the shortened time period that salvage timber would remain merchantable, Brown said the number dropped to somewhere between 250 million and 370 million board feet.

At this point, 11 fires have been selected for salvage projects, including Rice Ridge near Seeley Lake, Caribou near Eureka and Sunrise near Superior. Nine of the fires will require an environmental analysis before any salvage work will begin.

The region is applying for an emergency situation determination that would shorten the environmental analysis by 90 days by removing the objection period.

There are some fires where salvage isn’t being considered, including the Lolo Peak fire.

Brown said the main reason is capacity of both the Forest Service and industry.

“Once it went through the whole ranking process, it didn’t rank out as having high opportunity,” Brown said. “There are limited roads and where the roads are, there’s not a lot of merchantable timber.”

Most of the timber that could be harvested would require a skyline system. That’s the same system that will be used on other salvage sales in the area.

“With the ultimate goal is be able to sell these, Lolo Peak wouldn’t compete well with the other ones that will be offered,” Brown said.

It also takes good deal of time and effort to complete an environmental analysis.

“We already have to contract some of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis to handle just what we have now,” Brown said. “We could call in all the troops from across the region to focus just on this, but that would create a big impact to other work including the increases in expected output we are getting from Washington.”

Elson said industry representatives weren’t interested in making that tradeoff.

“They don’t want to see a boom and bust cycle either,” Elson said.


Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture