Why is tree “Pitch” called “Pitch”? Many of you know a former logger from Libby Montana by the name of Bruce Vincent. Bruce was recently on a radio program with our friends from Minnesota, Mr. Peter Wood and Mr. Scott Dane with Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers. Mr. Wood is a logger who is making a difference by educating the public on several topics with the use of radio. The title of the show is “Sound Off, Let the Sawdust Fly” with host Brad Bennett and has been on the air for several years.
The topic of the day was forest management on public lands. As Mr. Vincent stated, trees are like water pumps. Trees in the west consume 200-300 gallons of water per day when they’re growing and they pump the water from the ground right to the top.
Of course, species in Great Lakes are different than those in the west. Out west, 50 to 60 trees per acre is sustainable in terms of water consumption. According to Mr. Vincent prescribed fire and logging were the preferred methods of forest management as far back as pre-European settlement. What’s happened since prescribed fire was no longer used and logging was completely shut down because of lawsuits, the number of trees went from 50-60 per acre up to 500-600 trees per acre. In other words, there are now 600 water pumps per acre instead of 60.
When lower than average rainfall occurs the overcrowded, stressed trees become even more stressed. This additional stress makes the trees extremely susceptible to insect and disease. Such is the case we’ve witnessed in Colorado and Alaska where the once green forest turned into brownfields of tinderbox material ready for catastrophic fire to finish the job of natural forest management. When there’s enough water to go around for all the trees to remain healthy, the cambion layer of the tree has enough juice or syrup, which is what the bugs are after, to pitch the bug out of the cambion layer. Hence the term “pitch.” This is how trees fight off bugs and disease. When the trees are stressed because there’s too many without enough water, they give off a pheromone odor that only the bugs can smell. The bugs recognize the trees are unhealthy and penetrate the cambion layer and kill them.
That leaves the forest with hundreds of dead trees per acre fire prone for devastation like that witnessed over the last few years in California, Colorado, Oregon and other western states. This is opposed to a healthy forest managed with sustainable harvesting and prescribed fire. Clearly a healthy forest is the result of management regimes which implement a variety of sustainable management practices.
It simply doesn’t make sense to let the forest do its own natural management. As the guests on the radio program and host stated several times, fire is brutal and shows no mercy in what it destroys. How many more fires like the “Camp Fire” which destroyed 95% of Paradise and other California towns will have to occur before the anti-logging crowd gets the picture? It’s unfortunate the public’s idea of saving the forest is based on misguided information and leads to no management. If healthy forests are what’s desired look at forests where sustainable forest management has been done. They’re beautiful. I’d be willing to bet once the public sees these well-managed forests, they’d want to save them by stopping logging. That’s working just swell in the western states isn’t it?
For several years past GLTPA has represented the forest industry on the Statewide Town Road Improvement Discretionary Committee. (STRICD) In addition to the STRICD WI Act 9 implemented a one-time Multimodal Local Supplement Committee (MLSC) with one-time funding added in the last budget. The difference being is the MLSC opened the application process to a broader range of projects. Another difference is that the Town Road Improvement program funding is a 50/50 match. Under the MLSC program the funding is a 90/10 match. Even though the funding is a 90/10 match the committee has the option to adjust the funding level for the best public benefit. The MLSC committee consisted of primarily town board members, forestry representation and two representatives from the ag industry. Additionally, there’s a MLSC county roads committee and an MLSC urban community committee. Each group received its own applications and share of the bigger pot of money which is approximately $75,000,000.00
The process used within the group to award MLSC projects is very good and the group did its best to fund as many projects as possible. Before meeting face to face for final decisions, committee members go through a rating system for all submitted projects. Because of the broadening of application criteria under the MLSC program there were 1,037 applications to review. That’s right, 1,037 projects that must be reviewed and rated according to the criteria provided to the committee. That number could be much higher as there are several towns with substantial road issues that didn’t apply for funding. The total cost of the projects submitted for this group alone was approximately $546,000,000.00 and the committee had just over $26,000,000.00 to distribute.
Even though the committee itself uses a good process for final selection, it’s my opinion that how the money was distributed is less than equitable. If memory serves there were five or six counties that didn’t get a dime. Forest and Florence were two of those counties and two of the counties who need funding help the most. They have a large amount of public land and contribute a great deal of the raw material needed to sustain Wisconsin’s second largest industry which is forest products. One of the factors which led to the imbalance is that several applications included chip seal over gravel. Several committee members have experienced road failure with heavy traffic using that recipe. Other applications were not well written and contained little information about the project. Granted there should be substantially more money to distribute which I’m sure everyone agrees with, but the disagreement comes when everyone is asked to pay more into the pot. Everyone wants more but thinks someone else should pay it. It’s human nature.
Included in the awards were several unclassified bridges which do not meet federal and state standards for normal bridge funding. Unclassified bridges are a real problem on the local road system. The committee felt strongly these projects were a good use of the money. It doesn’t pay to have a top-notch road if the bridge is posted for a low weight limit.
Based on the number of applications there’s certainly strong evidence additional monies are needed to support the local rural road system. Of the 1,037 projects submitted approximately 84 were funded. That means 953 went unfunded. How long can this trend continue? In the meantime, industry sees more and more weight limits as local governments try to “save” the roads they have. That only compounds the issue by restricting the only revenue generator there is which is taxpaying businesses. In order to catch up on road work more like 80% of the projects should be funded. Given all the projects submitted, it seems reasonable to think the those who are dependent on local rural roads will be pushing hard making the case for additional transportation funding.
Until next month,
“Winners are losers who got up and gave it just one more try.” Dennis DeYoung