While we continue to stay home and stay healthy, there’s a logo contest from a new local group, C6 Forest to Farm, which is appealing to local talent for help. They want your creative spirit to design a new logo for their project. It’s all about creating a resilient forest and community.
As we approach fire season, it’s a good time to start preparing for the inevitable hazards we face. Now we all have masks, and while the smoke is a real health concern – there’s a lot more at risk. Our homes and our forest themselves are under threat from continued extreme fires. These extreme fires are legacy of years of fire-fighting, past logging, lack of forest thinning, and climate change, and we at risk of losing the forests all together.
A recent study by the University of Montana suggests that our dry forests at the lower/drier margin of their range are simply not regenerating after fire and retreating to higher, cooler zones. These are the forests near our homes. We are losing an entire ecosystem to catastrophic fires – and it’s happening right before our eyes in this valley. A hike through the Loup, up Finley Canyon, and up Pipestone are a testament to this process.
Fires have been a part of the landscape for tens of thousands of years. Fires historically burned anywhere from every 7-20 years in our forests, but were of lower intensity and less severity, leaving larger, resistant trees and thinning out the little ones. Small, ground surface fires were and still are a natural way to thin the forest. That’s why the U.S. Forest Service continues using prescribed burns. But prescribed burns alone can’t remove the overabundance of small-diameter trees.
Forest managers have known of this dilemma for decades. The problem is that there is no economically viable market for these small-diameter trees choking the forest. Pilot projects for utilizing this small diameter wood in furniture making, pellets or biomass generators have come and gone with promises and hopes of a solution. Access to mills and necessary infrastructure to process and market the material is a barrier that rural communities throughout the West are grappling with. C6 Forest to Farm has one possible solution that can has a positive impact on health of our forests, climate change, and our local economy.
Tom and Gina McCoy and a group of seasoned natural resource specialists have formed C6 Forest to Farm to address this problem in earnest. Recently established as a 501(c)(3), they have the sole purpose of getting a biochar processing facility up and running in the valley. Biochar is a product, similar to charcoal, that comes from the pyrolysis of organic matter.
Pyrolysis involves heating the wood in an oxygen-free environment at a particular temperature range, resulting in biochar, liquid water, acetic acid (wood vinegar), tar and bio-fuel. Biochar is the main product of interest and it’s use as a soil amendment is gaining traction in the agricultural sector. Biochar has the ability to bind with water, improving soil water retention; it creates soil micro-habitats for soil microbes; and it can be used as livestock feedstock. An added and important benefit of this solution is that it is a sink of carbon. That is, it creates a stable form of carbon and puts it back into the soil where it won’t release CO2 into the atmosphere, at least not for thousands of years.
This is important because when our forests go up in flames, we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere. When those forests don’t regenerate because the soil is too baked to grow trees, we lose the ability to sequester carbon, creating a positive reinforcing loop of climate change which further threatens the health and resiliency of our ecosystem. I don’t want to get too grim, but many experts believe we are the brink of system collapse of many ecosystems at the margin. Investment in both reducing our release of greenhouse gasses, along with capturing it, is the only way we can get out of this predicament. Solutions at all scales are required. They involve investment and risk.
C6 Forest to Farm is taking that risk. They are working with state, federal and private organizations to put together a feasible business plan. They are offering one ton of biochar for the winner of their logo contest. They are looking for a logo that captures the integration of the forest and farm connections with an overall compelling message that conveys the importance of saving our regenerative, resilient forest. Submit your logo ideas on their website, where you can read more about their proposal, biochar and its uses: www.C6F2F.org.