A Spokane conservation group is giving a demonstration of a new burning device it hopes forest managers will use to revolutionize the way they deal with forest slash.
When timber harvests are conducted, piles of wood debris, known as slash are left over. It is often burned to get rid of it, but often there is so much after a logging operation that it can increase fire danger in drier months.
Now the Lands Council and its executive director, Mike Petersen, are promoting a new technology, in the form of a small burner, called a biochar kiln.
“The way it burns, it kind of constricts the amount of oxygen, even though you see the flame and it heats the smoke much better. So you have a lot less smoke, and then you dose it when it a big bed of coals, and instead of turning into ash like a slash pile, it turns into biochar," Petersen said.
He says, rather than releasing massive amounts of carbon into the air during a slash pile burn, much of the carbon is sequestered into the biochar.
That biochar can then be used as a nutrient to feed plants. Petersen says the Lands Council plans to spread it on the forest floor, where it also retains water.
“It has some other nutrients in it, depending on if it's made from wood or grass or ag waste or whatever. So this stuff made of wood has some other nutrients like nitrogen and sometimes potassium and phosphorus," he said.
Petersen says the group received a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to test out the kiln.
A demonstration burn will be performed Wednesday near Sherman Pass. Forest Service and DNR officials have been invited to attend and see the potential of the device.