In 1748 : Every Mountain Range Burned

Interesting story in the NYT explaining how fire suppression has caused big forest fires.

Using data from tree ring studies, scientists have reconstructed a history of fires in the Southwest. The wildfires of the past were frequent and massive, but they stayed close to the ground and mainly helped prevent overcrowding. Take 1748. “Every mountain range we studied in the region was burning that year,” Dr. Allen said. “But those were surface fires, not destroying the forest but just keeping an open setting.” Cyclical wildfires were the norm.

But beginning in 1900, when railroads enabled the spread of livestock, cattle devoured the grassy surface fuels and the fire cycle stopped. A decade later, a national policy of forest fire suppression formalized this new normal. Over the next century, forest density went from 80 trees per acre to more than 1,000.

Then in 1996, the climate emerged from a wet cycle into a dry one — part of a natural cycle for this region. Winters became drier. And “we immediately began seeing major fires,” Dr. Allen said.

With so many trees crammed into the forest, fires climbed straight to the canopy instead of remaining on the ground.

“These forests did not evolve with this type of fire,” said Dr. Allen. “Fire was a big deal in New Mexico, but it was a different kind of fire.” The result, he said, is that the species that now live there — ponderosa pines, piñon, juniper — cannot regenerate, and new species are moving in to take their place.

“Ecosystems are already resetting themselves in ways big and small,” Dr. Allen said. The challenge for managing these ecosystems, he said, is to try to help them adapt.

Seeking to preserve existing systems is futile, he said.

Goodbye to Mountain Forests? –

In other words, environmentalists wrecked the forests by insisting that all forest fires be put out, and then blamed the consequences  of their stupidity on global warming.

About Tony Heller

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6 Responses to In 1748 : Every Mountain Range Burned

  1. Sundance says:

    The CO2 sequestration calculation in the comments section is interesting.

  2. Sundance says:

    OT but funny.

  3. Pathway says:

    This is bull pucky. The mountains burned every year because the Indians set them on fire. They knew that habitat that was frequently burned was the best habitat for deer and elk. The fire cycle stopped when the Indians were moved to the reservations. I have seen pictures of the Uncompahgre Plateau taken about 1890 when the last of the Utes were moved to Ignacio. You could sit on you horse and have a panoramic view of all the surrounding mountains. Today you can sit on that same spot and not see 50 meters. Mismanagement of our forests is the reason we have so many catastrophic fires.

  4. Lance says:

    Oh, and lets build expensive houses in the forest too, and when we lose it….we must be compensated…

  5. John B., M.D. says:

    Blaming cattle for making fires worse? Cattle get a bum wrap – the ruminants also fart and burp too much and that causes global warming. The real agenda is to turn everyone into vegetarians.
    Fire suppression by man is the cause of the severe fires. The more you suppress, the more fuel gets accumulated. Duh!

  6. jabali316 says:

    Another part of the management puzzle is TSI (timber stand improvement). After a timber sale, it’s fairly routine to have a controlled burn of the logging slash on a cool day in the Fall. After that–or after an intense fire that kills everything–replant, yes. But then return several years later to do some thinning, to get a more reasonable spacing between the young trees. This will slow down future fires and discourage bark beetles.

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