Paul Bunyan wouldn’t have known what to make of Gordon Ash’s little logging crew in the Pioneer Mountains last week. Instead of axes or saws, the U.S. Forest Service team went after trees with sticks of high explosive.
“You’d calculate the proper amount of explosive, and then fix that on the tree with shrink wrap,” Ash said. “You’d put it right where a face-cut would be, and sever it off right at the point where you put the explosive, almost like a directional fall. The idea is to link as many of those trees as possible to be efficient. In three and a half days, we did 500 trees.”
To be clear, this job went for quality, not quantity. Ash’s targets were beetle-killed pine trees overhanging parts of the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway in the Wise River Ranger District. Assuming the project pencils out, more blasters could take out stands of dead timber along highways in the Helena National Forest.
Blasting trees makes sense in certain situations, Ash said. Insect-killed trees in particular can pose hazards that healthy forests don’t. They often rot from the inside, making them prone to shattering or falling in unpredictable directions. Put that rotten tree on a cliffy hillside over a road, and there’s no safe way for a lumberjack or mechanical cutter to cut it down.
From The Missoulian: http://missoulian.com/news/local/2ccac418-9cbb-11e1-afb2-0019bb2963f4.html