6/20/13 – Stories From the Field: This guest post is written by Katie Haynes, a student in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program. Katie is co-founder of Phoenix Forest Solutions, working in partnership with local mountain communities on forest fire mitigation.
The devastating fires this month in Colorado serve as a grave reminder of what it means to live in this lovely state in the summer. While there are many elements that contribute to the occurrence of forest fires in this region, in this post I have decided to focus on one contributing factor that humans can control.
The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic has triggered many negative effects for the local ecosystem affecting transportation, fire safety, and property value, while increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing carbon sequestration. The dead trees left behind can be removed from the forest and used for some traditional applications, but the branches and smaller pieces (known as “slash”) are either left in the forest to decompose, or burned in open piles. Both of these options increase the risk of forest fires, and are detrimental to the environment. And coincidentally, this is where we come in.
Phoenix Forest Solutions manages community-driven, local solutions to mitigate fire risk for mountain residents through the responsible and timely disposal of forest waste. We are working with a partner in Red Feather Lakes, a small mountain town in Northern Colorado, to help residents deal with their slash sustainably.
Currently, we are researching and testing ways to sustainably reduce negative environmental impacts by capturing the energy wasted during the standard burning of the dead pines. Examples of these solutions include increasing burn efficiency, gasification of the burning slash to create energy, and applications for the bio-char, a by-product of gasification. We will spend the majority of July on site in Red Feather Lakes to test the viability of these ideas and others.
We are Phoenix Forest Solutions, and we are fighting fire with fire.