State land stewards are experimenting with an ancient method to improve the health of Nevada forests and make use of the renewable resource — baking tree trunks and limbs in a slow cooker to turn them into charcoal.
The technique is as old as the ages and was commonly used by Nevada pioneers and early miners to create an energy source for warmth and smelting.
Today there is a new focus: using "biochar" to improve soil nutrients and water retention.
Eric Roussel, a biomass and seed bank coordinator with the Nevada Division of Forestry, has been toying with the idea for several years.
"The idea really came out of pinyon and juniper utilization," Roussel said. "We're having tremendous issues with pinyon and juniper in terms of forest health and fire fuel."
Pinyon and juniper forests across Nevada's many mountain ranges have been left largely untended, making them more susceptible to devastating wildfires, disease and insect infestations.