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Burnin’ down the forest February 15, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Enivronmental Issues.

As a warm up to the post I am still preparing on oil/natural gas drilling and logging in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest (best vacation spot ever) here is a little piece I wrote up about the Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative. Originally intended as part of the logging/drilling post, it became its own post because it was too off-topic and didn’t add to the discussion on drilling at all, so enjoy.

The U.S.Forest Service oft cites the Bush administration’s Healthy Forests Initiative. That initiative was created:

“with the intent to reduce the risks severe wildfires pose to people, communities, and the environment. By protecting forests, woodlands, shrublands, and grasslands from unnaturally intensive and destructive fires, HFI helps improve the condition of our public lands, increases firefighter safety, and conserves landscape attributes valued by society.”

Why are fires “unnaturally intensive and destructive?” The answer lies in what ecologists and others have said all along. The more fire prevention measures humans take the more destructive fires will be. The reason?

In a forest ecosystem, fires are an essential part of a natural cycle. Their are some plants that will not even release their seeds until they are burnt or others that are fire dependent. By prolonging the periods between major fires, human beings inevitably make the situation worse. With more unburned fuel adding to the mounting pile of detritus, the forest floor becomes a kinder box, just waiting for ignition. I doubt the answer to that problem is further preventing fires.

From the National Park Service link above:

“Many of Yellowstone’s plant species are fire-adapted. Some (not all) of the lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta), which make up nearly 80% of the park’s extensive forests, have cones that are serotinous sealed by resin until the intense heat of fire cracks the bonds and releases the seeds inside. Fires may stimulate regeneration of sagebrush, aspen, and willows, but the interactions between these plants and fire is complicated by other influences such as grazing levels and climate. Though above-ground parts of grasses and forbs are consumed by flames, the below-ground root systems typically remain unharmed, and for a few years after fire these plants commonly increase in productivity.”

Photo 1: A stretch of the Kinzua Creek, near the Allegheny Resivior, Allegheny National Forest, McKean County, PA. (Credit: Me).

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1. Anonymous - February 15, 2006

Nice pic of the crick.

Looking forward to your logging/drilling blog.

Dekalb is a long way from Sheffield, PA.


2. A Mc - February 15, 2006

Is it ever, but is that trip ever worth it, thanks for reading.

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