Fire Myths and Fire Realities

George Wuerthner, who wrote the essay below, is the editor of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy published by Island Press. He has 33 other books on natural history and ecological topics. This essay is a reflection on the current fire season compared to the past and what should be done.

Wildfires in the West: Myths and Realities-

With most science, it takes a while for the latest research and observations to be published, and then be assimilated into the public consciousness. Typically new science does not entirely invalidate the old ideas, but provides new insights and nuances. I see that happening now with fire ecology and how fire issues are reported in the media.
One of the frequently repeated “truths” is that fires are more “destructive” than in the past due to fire suppression. By putting out fires, we are told, we have contributed to higher fuel loads in our woodlands that is the cause of the large blazes we seem to be experiencing around the West.
But like any scientific fact, the more we know, the more we understand how little we really understand. While fuels are important to any blaze, the latest research is suggesting that weather/climatic conditions rather than fuels drive large blazes. In other words, you can have all the fuel in the world, but if it’s not dry enough, you won’t get a large blaze. Read the rest of this entry »

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Opinion: Voluntary buyout programs should phase out sheep in Western Idaho wolf country

This link to the WWP Blog is to a piece is by Debra K. Ellers, Western Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. She wrote in response to a story in the McCall, Idaho newspaper that was complaining about wolves making it hard to raise sheep in the mountains of the area (actually, wildfires in recent years have greatly increased the forage for sheep and elk).

Wild horse roundup in the Great Divide Basin

The BLM is going to remove about half the wild horses in the Great Divide Basin of south central Wyoming. Story by Cat Urbigkit in the Casper Star Tribune.

I found it interesting that they have done a genetic analysis of the origin of the horses.

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Reid Fire starts near Arizona Creek in Grand Teton

This fire will be monitored and treated as a wildland fire (allowed to burn as long as it does not surpass pre-established conditions).

Arizona Lake and Creek are in the extreme NE part of the Park adjacent to the huge Teton Wilderness on the national forest. Much (most) of the west half of the Teton Wilderness burned in 1988 in the huge fires of that year.

Lee Mercer and I walked through miles and miles of burned timber in the West half of this Wilderness when we were writing our guidebook to the area in 1996-7. I’m not so sure that more burning in the area is harmless, given the wholesale transformation of the landscape and ecology of the area after 1988.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Reid Fire starts near Arizona Creek in Grand Teton National Park.

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Getting inside bears’ brains

Bear brains and bear noises are so sensitive to odors that that their perception of their surroundings is totally unlike humans.

Story on bear brains by Michael Jamison. Missoulian (mirrored in the Casper Star Tribune).

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Rocky Barker’s blog: Homes in Ketchum area are the hardest fuel to treat

Rocky Barker’s blog: Homes in Ketchum area are the hardest fuel to treat. By Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman.

Regarding the impact of the Castle Rock Fire, Barker writes; “This [fire] will have bigger economic impacts than the Murphy Complex did on ranchers and the fires near McCall are having on little communities like Warren and Yellow Pine.”

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