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 The Trek: The Journals

•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
Saturday, August 24
Fire In The Whole
A fire such as the Rodeo-Chediski fire near Show Low could have very easily have happened here near Flagstaff. The conditions are the same: ponderosa pine forest, extensive tree crowding and amply ladder fuels. That fire wiped out a huge swath of forest. It didn’t just burn some trees and look and smell bad, it burned so hot it ravaged the land. Here the forests don’t have the resiliency of other forests like those in the northwest. When these forests burn they burn so hot all the trees are killed and it takes a very long time for the forest to regenerate.
These tales and more were the subject of our program at Northern Arizona University. Dennis Lund, an American Frontiers volunteer who spent a good portion of his professional life in the Coconino before he retired, put together an impressive panel of two people to fill our day with information and wonder.
First was Jim Golden, the Forest Supervisor. He’s the one at the Coconino who answers to all the controversies and forest health issues. Unlike the early years when the Forest Service attracted employees with ads that promised a life full of hunting, fishing and trapping, Jim says he spends his days hunting for ways to get the job done, fishing for solutions, and he’s often trapped.
Social, political, biological and economic issues drive forest decisions. Imagine juggling a load like that.
He said that fire issues will become a fire storm of its own over the next couple of months. He was eluding to what President Bush recently said about our fire problem in the forests. In essence, if I understand it correctly, Bush says we have fire problems and there are some common-sense solutions out there that we need to use.
Thinning back the ponderosa forest from 800 to 2,500 trees per acre to a healthy 18 to 25 is a focus here. Jim said that upwards of 70 to 80 million acres need to be thinned in our national forests. In the Coconino, the total acreage that needs to be thinned is 300,000 acres to the tune of $500 an acre or $150 million. He said that it is very unlikely that the Coconino will get the money it needs to meet its goal. Currently the Coconino gets $20 million a year for everything it needs to do.
And, he said, there is no market for the size of trees that need to be harvested. “There is no industry around Flagstaff that can use small-diameter trees that will be cut to thin forests.” What needs to happens, he added, is that there has to be created a need to make utilization of the thin wood attractive to an industry. A challenge.
Furthermore, he said, recreation, wildlife, and watershed issues need to be considered when thinning the forest.
He agrees with the president. “This is common-sense stuff and we need to get on with it.”
And get on with it soon. “We have a window of about two months before the public forgets about the fire season,” he said. Four states -- Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona -- have suffered the largest fires in their recorded history. For the record, the carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere from the Rodeo-Chediski fire equals all the carbon dioxide produced by all the automobiles in the United States in one day.
As a nation we deal with issues when they are ripe to deal with, and now the forest health issue is ripe to deal with. Golden said he is optimistic in the short term. He said that the Coconino will probably continue to lose chunks of forest to fire. But on the bright side he is optimistic that wildlife sensitive areas and forests near communities can be treated to minimize fire risks.

Doc Smith, a retired Forest Service employee who went on to receive a masters in forestry with an emphasis on ecology, took us into the field to show us examples of fire treatments. Again and again we learn that fire suppression knocks off kilter the natural and healthy balance of ponderosa pine forest. Doc showed us how thinning the proper number of trees per acre can affect the land. It simply looks nicer and creates a “robust” plant community. He said that a tiny wasp was recently discovered to use a plant that grows best in a natural ponderosa pine forest. That’s just one discovery whose significance is yet to be uncovered.

Yes, let’s get on with it.

While we’re getting on with it let’s talk about forest demonstration fees. Golden said that fees are the one thing that seems to make sense for raising the monies necessary to effectively manage the forests. That’s the one thing he said that does not make sense to me. In my opinion public lands are the legacy of the American people. They represent the freedoms that are unique to America. Having to explain why the freedom to access our public lands is the right of every American is akin to explaining why sunlight feels good on our faces. Let’s not turn out the light on the one of the best things we have going for us: freedom to access our public lands.

Where will the money to manage public lands come from? Where did it come from when my father’s father came to this land? From all Americans. We all share the same freedoms.

Not long ago on this trek we first broached the topic of demonstration fees at a roundtable discussion in Silver City. Stories emerged, including one of my own, that went to the heart of the matter. I had a difficult time paying for my college tuition and living expenses. In fact, I cruised to a degree in nine years. Bunched together my college days lasted five years, but spread out to nine the gaps were filled with working in the oil field, the rich fishing grounds of Alaska and the logging areas of Montana and Idaho. Running out of money and facing possible extinction often led me to the forest where I could think about my next move. Time and again I found my answers in the forest. Several of my favorite spots are now fee areas. Then I wouldn’t have been able to afford them. Now I despise them.

The social considerations had not eluded the forest supervisor who attended the discussion. That’s why her forest had the occasional “free day”. Sorry, free days are not timed to the schedules of those Americans who need time on public lands. For some, like the young man in my story, having to make a decision between eating and a walk in the forest is a shame. I need the freedom to walk into my lands without first checking my wallet to see if I can afford it. I am not alone. I promise!

for Saturday, August 24
North South Both




Biographical
•
Team: South
Jan Nesset
An experienced outdoorsman, Jan Nesset knows that everyone has to pitch in at camp
A native of Montana and the third of four children, Jan Nesset joins American...
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List of All Journal Entries
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Wednesday, April 28
Jan Nesset
American Frontiers: Part II: Taking Stock
   >> more...

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Sunday, December 1
Jan Nesset
Canyonlands in December
   >> more...

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Thursday, November 21
Jan Nesset
Snow Raspberry Bounty
   >> more...

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Sunday, November 17
Jan Nesset
The Bisti Badlands
   >> more...

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Friday, November 15
Jan Nesset
Public Land Flows Through It
   >> more...

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Thursday, November 7
Jan Nesset
A Day At Earth Analytic's Home
   >> more...

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Tuesday, October 29
Jan Nesset
Slot Canyon Adventure
   >> more...

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Monday, October 28
Jan Nesset
Some Things Never Change
   >> more...

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Sunday, October 27
Jan Nesset
Back To The Wave
   >> more...

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Monday, October 7
Jan Nesset
The Thing About Summits
   >> more...

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Saturday, September 28
Jan Nesset
A New Beginning: National Public Lands Day
   >> more...

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Thursday, September 26
Jan Nesset
Big Day of Sneak and Salvage
   >> more...

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Wednesday, September 25
Jan Nesset
History-Coated Strawberry
   >> more...

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Tuesday, September 24
Jan Nesset
The Last Of It
   >> more...

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Monday, September 23
Jan Nesset
Dinosaurlandia
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Sunday, September 22
Jan Nesset
Over The Edge
   >> more...

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Saturday, September 21
Jan Nesset
God Bless America
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Friday, September 20
Jan Nesset
Sometimes It's A Tough Life And We Get To Do It
   >> more...

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Thursday, September 19
Jan Nesset
The Niche Near You
   >> more...

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Wednesday, September 18
Jan Nesset
Snow Day
   >> more...

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Tuesday, September 17
Jan Nesset
A Capitol Reef Bull's Eye
   >> more...

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Monday, September 16
Jan Nesset
A Lucky Rift
   >> more...

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Sunday, September 15
Jan Nesset
Riding The Hog's Back
   >> more...

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Saturday, September 14
Jan Nesset
Oh Rhythm My Rhythm
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Friday, September 13
Jan Nesset
Precious Images
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Thursday, September 12
Jan Nesset
From the Hole to the Staircase
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Wednesday, September 11
Jan Nesset
Happy Days
   >> more...

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Tuesday, September 10
Jan Nesset
Do You Believe In Magic?
   >> more...

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Monday, September 9
Jan Nesset
The Bridge Over the River Why
   >> more...

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Sunday, September 8
Jan Nesset
Public Lands And…Not You?
   >> more...

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Saturday, September 7
Jan Nesset
That Place So Special
   >> more...

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Friday, September 6
Jan Nesset
Just Looking To Have Some Fun – Be Dammed!
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Thursday, September 5
Jan Nesset
Do The Wave
   >> more...

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Wednesday, September 4
Jan Nesset
The Condors Are Coming!
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Tuesday, September 3
Jan Nesset
Fires Are For The Birds
   >> more...

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Monday, September 2
Jan Nesset
Back On Top
   >> more...

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Sunday, September 1
Jan Nesset
Perfection
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 31
Jan Nesset
The Wheels Have Left The Tarmac
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Friday, August 30
Jan Nesset
Star Light
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Thursday, August 29
Jan Nesset
The Traditional Connection
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Wednesday, August 28
Jan Nesset
Onward and Upward On Mountain Bikes
   >> more...

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Tuesday, August 27
Jan Nesset
Checkerboard Kings and Queens
   >> more...

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Monday, August 26
Jan Nesset
Aldo Leopold As Ranch Manager
   >> more...

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Sunday, August 25
Jan Nesset
A Story In Everything
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 24
Jan Nesset
Fire In The Whole
   >> more...

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Friday, August 23
Jan Nesset
"Good Morning, Flagstaff!"
   >> more...

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Thursday, August 22
Jan Nesset
Hoping For The Best
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 21
Jan Nesset
Could Get Stinky
   >> more...

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Tuesday, August 20
Jan Nesset
Wheels Asunder
   >> more...

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Monday, August 19
Jan Nesset
Hurt Me, Thank You!
   >> more...

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Sunday, August 18
Jan Nesset
Roads Aplenty and Rocks of Pleasure
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 17
Jan Nesset
Of Dragons and Fire
   >> more...

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Friday, August 16
Jan Nesset
Motorcycles and the Zen of Route Mechanics
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Thursday, August 15
Jan Nesset
Puzzled
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Wednesday, August 14
Jan Nesset
A Day Off, Sort Of
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Tuesday, August 13
Jan Nesset
A Delightful, Light Day
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Monday, August 12
Jan Nesset
Courage On Eagle Mountain
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Sunday, August 11
Jan Nesset
Farewell
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 10
Jan Nesset
My Aching Back In The Saddle
   >> more...

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Friday, August 9
Jan Nesset
Back In The Saddle
   >> more...

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Thursday, August 8
Jan Nesset
In The Saddle
   >> more...

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Wednesday, August 7
Jan Nesset
Shut My Mouth!
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Tuesday, August 6
Jan Nesset
Diversity and Song
   >> more...

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Monday, August 5
Jan Nesset
An Unraveling
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Sunday, August 4
Jan Nesset
A Bagged Peak
   >> more...

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Saturday, August 3
Jan Nesset
Lines On A Map
   >> more...

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Friday, August 2
Jan Nesset
GPS-Marriage Made In Heaven
   >> more...

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Thursday, August 1
Jan Nesset
Free Wheelin'
   >> more...

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Wednesday, July 31
Jan Nesset
An Excellent Start
   >> more...








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