July 1, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Wisdom From Dixon Orchards

"We need more environmentalists who know how to use a chainsaw and a bulldozer properly."

By Thor Sigstedt

Thor’s Hammer

Thor Sigstedt is an artist in wood, words, cameras, bronze, cast iron, glass, notes and steel; a homesteader from Spirit Valley specializing in forest diversity and “land ethics” and a dabbler in practical and non-practical non-zero new paradigm complexity in the multiverse.

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I watched the news last night and, for the first time, I heard someone talk about something other than fireworks issues (no brainer) or the number of acres burned, how hard the firefighters are working (rarely how much they are paid or what the total cost is), the percentage of containment (a vague number based on ?), how the Santa Fe watershed is safe (but the Nambe watershed is devastated) and the smoke.

An interview at the Dixon orchards, which was first reported to be safe and then was found to be devastated, was the first time I heard from someone close to the land who had a thought more piercing than the above banter.

He actually wondered why the forests had not been previously logged and thinned? The nerve -- to mention the unmentionable. Why not wisely use the forests and get the wood and biomass before the fires do and protect the surrounding areas at the same time?

How dare he mention this kind of stuff when we are in the midst of a crisis like this (which occurs every summer with varying size and location)?

How dare he suggest we create erosion in the forests with roads (ever looked at the erosion caused by these fires)? Doesn’t he know we are in serious drought (of course we were in serious drought in 2000-2001, 2004, 2006, and pretty much every year).

Doesn’t he understand our love of trees (he is part of one of the most celebrated orchards in this country)?

Isn’t he just ignoring the need to protect our wilderness (believe me these areas are not wilderness areas, including the Pecos wilderness, as they are the result of massive logging and poor management from 1850 to the present).

Maybe it is time to listen to some of these people and try something new, other than a steady diet of controlled burns (if only they knew when to light that match). Maybe it's time to and compare the millions of devastated acres to a network of very carefully thought out roads and access to the forests that would allow biomass fuel production (kind of a controlled burn wouldn’t you say?). It could be a way for the people to help out (rather than the easier job of hired hot shot firefighters, planes and fuel-guzzling helicopters who can really do very little under these conditions).

All this is to appease the litigious guard dogs of the forests and the naïve enviros.

The solutions are right in front of us and represent billions and billions of btus that do not have to go up in smoke and can create jobs, a true environmentalist movement that is based on careful interaction with our forests, which represent the only thing that will prevent our civilization from collapsing. Imagine: thousands of young people in clear and purposeful interaction with the one thing that will save our economy.

Hmmm…..sounds like a plan.

At least the subject should be raised rather than tossing off such thoughts as "not cost effective" (as the price of gasoline goes up, the cost effectiveness changes, doesn’t it?). There is a wealth of ideas out there that have been worked out in detail and are close to being foolproof.

I would look up the work of Jean Pain for something that might be of interest to some and see that he was thinking of what to do in arid areas surrounded by forests. Check this out as well as the numerous other sources. "Read Away With All Pests" by Norman Bethune for some idea of what “the people” are capable of. As Henry David Thorea said, “….the world is bigger than our view of it!”

In the end, it is all about aesthetics, as many have suggested. When we solve the aesthetic problems (Santa Fe might be able to glom onto that idea), we are on the way to solving all the rest. I find the aesthetics of helicopters and burned out watershed to be almost untenable. How about you?

The forests are like the acequias and water rights: you don’t use them, you lose them. That was the "Law of the West." We need more environmentalists who know how to use a chainsaw and a bulldozer properly. Same goes for newscasters who reflect the air-conditioned response to the problems and the lack of clarity by urban people for a rural problem. We need more people who can protect the watershed, the viewshed, the soil, the air quality and our economy at the same time.

I pose the question: How many foresters do we have in the state? What is the nature of their jobs? Is this about competing with oil interests? Do most people know that utilizing biomass is carbon-neutral? As Einstein suggested, “problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them."

I might add that in the '70s, after a big fire in Bandalier and Los Alamos, they invited the populous to go into the area and collect wood and vigas that were left over. Why do they not do that anymore?  It was a wonderful community effort and economic boon.

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