Using control burns to clean out the forest floor is not only a good thing, it makes our forests healthier
The current wildfire season in Central Oregon, and in many areas around the West, has been called one of the worst in human history – with an emphasis on “human” history. Long before humans with their fire trucks, borate bombers and bulldozers came on the scene, Mother Nature pretty much took care of her forests using a natural resource – namely lightning. Lightning was the fire starter that caused enough fires so that fires seldom got so big it would take down an entire forest or watershed. The “understory” brush and smaller trees were periodically “cleaned out” to allow the already established forest to grow big and tall, purifying the air and providing cover and shelter for wildlife, not to mention the cleanest water on the planet.
But then along came Smoky the Bear. The message from an animal (that should have known better) became the mouthpiece for fire-avoiding humans who believed fire was the enemy of the forest rather than it’s closest friend.
Lightning continued to set Mother Nature’s summer cleaning routine. But because humans had cut her fires short, the forest floor literally disappeared behind a wall of undergrowth that now burns so hot and with flames so high, that the lower branches of trees ignite and blow up and entire forest.
Smoky the Bear’s family never had a chance. They were killed along with other wildlife that suffered due to human-kind’s utter ignorance of how forests came to be and how they thrive.
But today, humans are beginning to catch on that fire is the best friend a forest has. But, rather than relying just on lightning to do the job of “house cleaning,” local, state and federal forestry officials have increasingly committed themselves to conducting strategically targeted “control burns,” hoping to catch up with Mother Nature in her eon’s old campaign to produce the best forests the world has ever seen. The article below clearly illustrates that our forest managers, right down to private forest property owners, have seen the light on being better stewards of our forest lands.
From U.S. Forest Service
Did you know fire can be good for people and the land? After many years of fire exclusion, an ecosystem that needs periodic fire becomes unhealthy. Trees are stressed by overcrowding; fire-dependent species disappear; and flammable fuels build up and become hazardous.
So, as a matter of fact the right fire at the right place at the right time can be quite beneficial:
* Reduces hazardous fuels, protecting human communities from extreme fires;
* Minimizes the spread of pest insects and disease;
* Removes unwanted species that threaten species native to an ecosystem;
* Provides forage for game;
* Improves habitat for threatened and endangered species;
* Recycles nutrients back to the soil; and
* Promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants;
The Forest Service manages prescribed fires and even some wildfires to benefit natural resources and reduce the risk of unwanted wildfires in the future. The agency also uses hand tools and machines to thin overgrown sites in preparation for the eventual return of fire.
More prescribed fires mean fewer extreme wildfires.
Specialists write burn plans for prescribed fires. Burn plans identify – or prescribe – the best conditions under which trees and other plants will burn to get the best results safely.
Burn plans consider temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke. Prescribed fire specialists compare conditions on the ground to those outlined in burn plans before deciding whether to burn on a given day.