Wildfires Rage the West

Fall 2000

Fires, fires everywhere. “Worst fire season in 50 years”. “Ranger District Burns Up”.

This year’s fire season has really generated the news headlines. An incredible number of acres have burned and many homes lost. A true disaster – at least for the people directly affected by the fires. Once again, Mother Nature flexes her muscles and demonstrates she has her own plan.

What is her plan? As most people know, wildfires are an integral part of our Inland Northwest forest ecosystem. They are Mother Nature’s common method of forest renewal. Without fires, or mankind’s manipulations, a diverse forest can’t exist which promotes wildlife and the long-term health of the ecosystem. Without our intervention, young forests eventually grown old and overcrowded. Then due to the stress created by these conditions, insects and diseases kill the weakened trees and created prime fuel for a fire. Lightning strikes, and the rest is history.

Although the resulting scene is devastating for people, it’s a kin to a newborn baby for Mother Nature. Succulent plants are established for the benefit of big game species and young, thrifty trees begin growing. The forest development cycle starts another round.

Fortunately, we can apply fundamental forest management principles to immulate Mother Nature’s plan and forego the wildfire nightmare. By utilizing prescriptions such as selective thinning, prescribed fire, group selections (mini clear cuts) and reforestation we can maintain a healthy forest. These treatments increase forest vigor, reduce fuel loading and enhance diversity. All qualities which benefit ecosystem as well as humans.

Of course, determining which activity or set of activities is appropriate for a specific situation must be based upon a landowner’s objectives. For example, forest aesthetics are commonly of pertinent importance. In essence, blending landowner objectives with the needs of the forest is the crux of professional forest management.

Change within the forest is inevitable. Horrific wildfires can be the change agent or the implementation of sound forest management principles. In other words, pro-active landowners can take action to impose their forests or be prepared for Mother Nature’s action plan.


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