Category Archives: fish

[NEWS] Kentucky Biodiesel Leak Suffocates Thousands of Fish

– by Trey Crumbie, December 1, 2016, Lexington Herald Leader


Little Eagle Creek (Trey Crumbie)

Thousands of fish have been killed by 3,000 gallons of biodiesel that leaked into a river from a truck stop in Kentucky, US.

The diesel leaked into Little Eagle Creek near Sadieville in early to mid-November from a branch of the national Love’s Travel Stop chain of truck stops.

Jack Donovan, director of the Georgetown/Scott County Emergency Management Agency, told Lexington Herald Leader that the agency receive a notification of the leak on 18 November, but some locals said they had noticed the leak up to two week prior.

The cleanup of the leak, the exactly source of which has not bee determined, is in progress and will take a “long time”.

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[NEWS] California Biomass Facility Under Fire from Tribe Over Pollution Violations

– by Will Houston, November 18, 2016, Eureka Times Standard


Blue Lake Power (Shaun Walker)

When the Blue Lake biomass power plant opened in 1987, many in the community welcomed it as a new renewable energy source, but for some, that welcome seems to have worn thin.

“At the time, it was a good solution to our problems,” said Kit Mann, a 38-year Blue Lake resident. “And times have changed.”

The Blue Lake Rancheria recently intervened in a federal lawsuit against the 11-megawatt power plant, now owned by Blue Lake Power LLC, for alleged federal Clean Air Act violations. The tribe states the proposed settlement agreement in the case will not address pollution issues that have impacted the tribe for about 30 years. Meanwhile, Blue Lake residents are circulating a petition calling on the city council to revoke its property lease for the power plant at the earliest possibility.

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[EXCLUSIVE] Forest Service Studies Soil Impacts of Bioenergy Logging

– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor

A recent study from the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Rocky Mountain Research Station investigates the potential impacts on forest productivity from logging for biomass energy. While the study focuses primarily on the Northern Rockies region—where only a handful of small combined heat and power and biomass heating facilities operate—many of the findings may be applied to western forests.

The study, Impact of Biomass Harvesting on Forest Soil Productivity in the Northern Rocky Mountains, by Woongsoon Jang and Christopher Keyes from the University of Montana, and Deborah Page-Dumroese with the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Moscow, Idaho, assesses one of the main environmental concerns surrounding an expansion of bioenergy, the impact on forest soil productivity.

USFS defines forest productivity as the “integration of all environmental factors encompassing soil productivity, climate, topography, geology, vegetation, and the history of natural disturbances and anthropogenic interventions.” Ultimately, the question is whether logging for bioenergy may impair future forest growth.

Logging for bioenergy involves removing more organic matter from the forest than conventional logging for lumber alone. The practice of whole-tree logging extracts not just merchantable tree trunks for lumber, but also treetops, branches, and other logging byproducts, and has a “substantial impact on live vegetation,” according to study authors.

Though whole tree logging is not typically employed in the western U.S. forests, the authors predict that forests will “likely be managed more intensively in the future,” in part for biomass energy.

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[NEWS] Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe Intervenes in Action Against California Biomass Facility

– by Jana Ganion, October 17, 2016, Business Wire

California Agriculture journal, July - September 2015, Volume 69 number 3.

Blue Lake Power Biomass (Photo: California Agriculture Journal)

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016 the Federal District Court in San Francisco issued an order allowing the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe to intervene in the Clean Air Act enforcement case currently pending against the Blue Lake Power biomass facility in Blue Lake, California. The Tribe has been opposed to any restart of the facility because of significant air pollution impacts on the Tribe’s members and the surrounding area.

Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe Energy Director, Jana Ganion, explained the impact the Blue Lake Power plant has had on the Tribe, “When the facility is operating our air quality suffers, and the community is directly and immediately affected. This area has not attained healthful air quality standards in general and we now know exposure to this type of air pollution causes acute and chronic health problems and premature deaths. And the toxic emissions from this plant not only affects humans, we are also very concerned about Mad River water quality, fisheries, endangered species, and other environmental impacts.”

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[OPINION] Wildfire: Dead Trees Vital to Forests

[Read the opposing view to this opinion piece, “Wildfire: Thinning Forests for Biomass Energy Can Reduce Fire Severity,” by John Buckley, Executive Director, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center]

– by George Wuerthner, Ecologist

Dead. Most of us have negative associations with the word. So it’s not surprising that most of us tend to view dead things as undesirable, unless we are talking about mosquitoes and rattlesnakes.

We impose this cultural bias about dead things to our forests as well. Public land management agencies spend billions annually trying to contain wildfire and insect outbreaks based upon the presumption that these natural processes are destroying the forest by killing trees.

And this bias feeds the biomass industry. After all if dead trees are a “wasted” resource, why not burn them to make “clean” energy? That is the prevailing idea behind many biomass proposals.

For example, throughout much of the West, advocates of biomass burning suggest that forest thinning projects, particularly removal of bark beetle-killed trees or the aftermath of a wildfire, could be used to accomplish two goals: making the forest “healthy” and producing power.

But the idea that removal of dead trees or reducing tree density to preclude wildfire and/or beetle outbreaks is based upon flawed ecological knowledge.

A new perspective is slowly taking root among forest managers, based on growing evidence that forest ecosystems have no waste or harvestable surplus. Rather, it seems that forests reinvest their biological capital back into the ecosystem, and removal of wood—whether dead or alive—can lead to biological impoverishment.

Large stand-replacement blazes and major insect outbreaks may be the ecological analogue to the forest ecosystem as the hundred-year flood is to a river. Scientists are discovering that dead trees and downed wood play an important role in ecosystems by providing wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, aiding plant regeneration, decreasing erosion and influencing drainage and soil moisture and carbon storage.

Dead trees are important to wildlife. Think woodpeckers. But a lot more species than just woodpeckers depend on dead trees and downed wood for food and shelter.

But it’s not just the use of snags for nesting, or even feeding as with woodpeckers, that attracts birds and other wildlife to recently killed forests. Burned forests also are used extensively by seed-eating species that are attracted by the abundance of new seeds shed by cones and colonizing plants.

Some two-thirds of all wildlife species use dead trees or downed wood during some portion of their life cycle. Among Pacific Northwest vertebrates, sixty-nine species depend upon cavities for shelter or nesting, while forty-seven other species are strongly associated with downed wood.

It’s easy to identify an ecosystem for its most photogenic species, but there are dozens of small cogs that are of equal importance.

One of those is ants, and downed logs are their preferred home. Ants are among the most common invertebrate in forest ecosystems and, not surprisingly given their abundance, are critical elements in forest ecosystems. The most obvious value of ants is as food—from birds such as flickers to much larger animals like bears.

Dead logs and snags are also home to pollinating insects.

Healthy forest soils also require decomposing material. Below the litter layer in the soil is yet another layer of life that depends on dead wood.

People commonly assume that wildfire destroys trees and leaves a smoldering pile of ashes. In truth, some live trees and a lot of dead wood physically survive blazes. Beyond the value of dead trees as feeding, hiding and resting habitat for wildlife, downed logs play an important role in forest regeneration.

Snags and downed logs modify micro-sites that can affect seedling establishment. For instance, snags provide some shade and reduction of drying winds, creating more favorable conditions for tree seedling survival.

Trees heated and killed by fire create sapwood that resists rotting and lasts longer in the ecosystem. Trees dead prior to the fire tend to become blackened and charred. Charred trees are also resistant to decay. Thus, wildfire creates long-lasting biological legacies that can survive for a century or more.

Wildfires and/or insect outbreaks create downed logs that fall into streams and across slopes. Downed logs, by slowing the velocity of the water, allow sediment to settle out and help return sediment flows to pre-burn levels.

The loss of salmonids in many parts of the west can be attributed to the absence of wood in streams.

The criteria for healthy ecosystems can’t be easily defined or exhaustively listed. But healthy ecosystems have a full array of processes operating unimpaired, including hydrologic function, soil productivity, carbon sequestering, provision of wildlife habitats, and keystone disturbances such as fires, floods, storms and insect outbreaks.

One crucial element present in unmanaged, healthy systems is a significant amount of dead trees and downed wood.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and publisher of 38 books on environmental subjects, including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.

“New” Conservationists Push for Logging for Wildfire and Biomass Energy

– by Josh Schlossberg, March 22, 2016, Earth Island Journal

The Nature Conservancy’s Russ Hoeflich might not like the spotlight, but he’s among the vanguard of a new conservation movement hoping to move beyond conflicts with the timber industry to find common ground on forest management.

Abandoning the long-time environmentalist focus on wilderness, “new conservationists” such as Hoeflich want to strike a balance between natural ecosystems and people by creating “working landscapes,” where only limited forms of extraction are allowed.

Over his 27 years as director of the Oregon Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hoeflich helped reinvent the role of conservationists by allying with the timber industry to promote restoration logging in both public and private forests. Hoeflich has made ample use of his smarts and charisma in an effort to alert the public and elected officials to what he calls the “ever degrading forest condition” of national forests, Bureau of Land Management tracts, and industrial timberlands, thanks to high-grade logging, livestock grazing, and wildfire suppression.

These unhealthy forests, according to Hoeflich, are at high risk of devastating wildfires, which threaten ecosystems and human communities alike. His solution is the expansion of “fuel reduction” logging to restore forest health, protect homes from burning, and provide a source of renewable “biomass” energy.

In 2014, Hoeflich’s focus shifted from Oregon to the US as a whole, as he took on the role of vice president and senior policy advisor for the $6 billion organization’s Restoring America’s Forests Program, the main goal of which is to “accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration.” Hoeflich certainly has his work cut out for him, what with Forest Service estimates that up to 82 million acres of national forests are in need of restoration.

However, not everyone’s on board with the new conservationists’ agenda. Some forest ecologists, hydrologists, and more traditional, wilderness-centric conservationists contend that groups like The Nature Conservancy aren’t helping the forest, but instead are doing the bidding of the timber and bioenergy industries by inflaming fears of natural wildfire and “greenwashing” logging as restoration. Far from a forest remedy, they see this “log the forest to save it” mentality as a major threat to the nation’s carbon-storing forests, one of our best buffers against climate change. (See earlier Journal articles on the importance of wildfires here and here.)

Has The Nature Conservancy found a more realistic, and ultimately effective, approach to conservation by teaming up with an industry long despised as the enemy? Is Hoeflich, as some of his toughest critics suggest, merely an industry shill in environmentalist’s clothing? Or is the rift the result of two very different views on the relationship between humanity and the natural world?

READ MORE / COMMENT at Earth Island Journal

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Woody Biomass, Forest Operations in the Inland Northwest

– by David Jackson and Patrick Wilson, March 27, 2016, Biomass Magazine


Photo: National Agriculture Imagery Program

For well over 100 years, relatively dry forests on national forest lands in Idaho and Montana have undergone pronounced change. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var scopulorum Engelm) and western larch (Larix occidentalis), dependent on frequent, low- to moderate-intensity surface fire, have been replaced gradually by more shade-tolerant tree species such as grand fir (Abies grandis) and western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). Physiologic stresses triggered by one set of species preempting another have created forest conditions favored by insects and disease. Widespread outbreaks have impaired forest health, leaving 2.3 million hectares of national forest land in Idaho and Montana in need of forest restoration, according to the USDA.

Managing invasive insects and disease requires prevention and suppression, but a one-size-fits-all strategy is misguided. Instead, what may have potential is an option tailored to individual forest types and site conditions, whereby a single action is used to achieve multiple objectives: specifically, active forest management to improve ecosystem functionality, lower fire risks, and generate woody biomass for innovative purposes. Read more