The fall is firmly here, leaves are changing and the workload is tapering down. I got to spend a week in the Big Horns working on a timber sale. It was a great experience, as we got to see some of the issues facing forests elsewhere. The Big Horns have a lot of diversity when it comes to their tree species. Trees like douglas-fir, limber pine, ponderosa pine, subalpine fir, and lodgepole pine and exists in very close proximity, all with different needs and issues. While in the Black Hills the predominate tree species, by far, is ponderosa pine. Ponderosas in the Black Hills have been hit hard by mountain pine beetle while the Big Horns has been largely spared this fate.
Seeing how a mixed conifer forest is managed, balancing different light tolerances and regeneration levels reminds me of the issues facing Eastern forests. One thing that I had not anticipated is the destruction being caused by white pine blister rust. Limber pine is a white pine, generally having five needled, and there was not one stand that we saw which was not infected. As such, there have been a lot of sanitation harvests to stimulate regeneration and reduce fuel loads. This is one of the main purposes behind the timber sale we worked on, improving the health of the forest. The douglas-fir are showing their age as well as some massive lodge pole pine; these trees are reaching the end of their natural life and instead of creating excessive down woody debris a useful product can be created.
Besides the fun new trees to look at there was so much wildlife. Just driving to our work site we saw a huge bull moose eating some willow. It’s amazing just how big they are. There was also amazing raptors present; we saw countless hawks as well as a bald, golden eagle and a northern harrier.
A great place to spend the week in the Big Horns
Our final day in the Big Horns, a great view of Cloud Peak. Checking out a burn site and firewood sale. Such a great ending to a great week.
While in the Big Horns we were able to go to a Society of American Foresters meeting. This is a great organization that provides a lot of information on what is happening within the forestry arena. We met at and got a tour of the Tensleep Nature Conservancy Preserve. This is a great place to visit, amazing views and an abundance of petroglyphs. If you are in the area it is worth a stop.
Back in the Black Hills the end of the tourist season finally came and with it the last hurrahs of many of the places that have been so much fun over the summer. Custer State Park, home of one of the largest bison herds, has an annual roundup where they collect the bison and preform health checkups and have an auction. It was amazing seeing 25 people on horseback trying to corral wild animals, at times the bison were very uncooperative. I just can’t believe that the summer is almost over and I have to go back to real life.
Bull Moose eating willow
Hazelton Peaks, this is just some of the great views and settings that I get to experience.