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Lands Council Tests New Kiln To Burn Forest Waste


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.


Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.