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Imagination Is Needed After a Forest Fire

My work was cut out for me. In order to enjoy all the goodies of the Mogollon Rim and the White Mountains of east-central Arizona, it is necessary to overcome a natural revulsion of burned forests. If you haven't seen a burnt forest... might underestimate the strength of your reaction. Human nature recoils from fire damage, be it a house or a forest, unless you're like Civil War general, William T. Sherman. It's a primal and fundamental reaction.

How, then, do you get any pleasure from a mountain bike ride through all this ghastly destruction? In the summer, heat and aridity are always a challenge. I rode up an old ATV trail, climbing, and climbing some more. The air got cooler sooner than it should have, which is another way of saying that there was more breeze than is normal, no doubt due to the denuded state of the burned forest. Refreshing air was no small advantage of an open (albeit devastated) canopy.

It was possible to look between the ugly spars to see sky and mountains. (In a typical overgrown national forest, you can barely see the sky.) It was entertaining to hear the sounds of woodpeckers. They sound so mechanical and artificial. How could such a small bird be responsible for such a sound? 

No shortage of food for Woodpeckers in the burned forests of the Southwest.

Surprisingly enough, the Greens haven't been able to block the logging of all of the dead trees. (They want to make sure that the resource industries remain dead, so that the Greens will have a complete hegemony over public lands.) Still, bugs will harvest more dead trees than chainsaws. You'd think that half the woodpeckers in North America would relocate to this area.

A bright green carpet of aspen was getting well-established, only two years after this fire. Someone whose eye and brain are drawn to violent contrast can find a certain grim satisfaction in a burned forest. And any outdoorsman should enjoy the unpopularity of burnt forests to the tourist hordes.

This experience set a new personal record for getting pleasure through skin rather than eyes. 


Chris said…
Boonie, the contrast of the black trees, blue skies and Ivory-white clouds is truly elegant. Was this a serendipitous shot?

Chris H
Chris, well, I guess all photographs are a bit serendipitous. The cumulus clouds on a Southwestern morning -- in June! -- were pure luck.

I was pleased how the photo shows the contours of the topography. Normally a forest obscures it.
XXXXX said…
I think it has more to do with deciding whether the natural habitat is preferred over invasive species. Native Americans regularly did controlled burns, as did the early pioneers, but with ever-advancing human numbers, the danger was too great and what would normally burn off was allowed to accumulate. Of course, this led to the danger or huge fires that are impossible to control and that is our current state.
The aspens were indigenous to the Colorado Plateau and their survival depended on frequent low burns to get rid of invasive species that have the potential of killing them off. These fires were close to the ground and killed off invasive species but not the aspens. Without the burns, the Aspens are choked out and this changes the entire flora/fauna relationship there.
Many of our national parks and monuments are bringing back controlled burns for this very reason. It's good to see "modern" science, which thought it knew everything, bow to the wisdom of the ancients.

Good to hear that parks and monuments are using controlled burns.

I often wonder how much of forest management is "science" at all, versus bureaucratic power games and the lawsuits of Green organizations.

The key word is "natural". It gets used so frequently to imply approval and holiness. It is not a scientific term. It is a theological term, hiding behind a scientific facade, which makes it intellectually respectable.
Tesaje said…
George is right, they were doing regular controlled burns on public lands to try to get the natural balance back and cut the overgrown fuel. The conifers also need regular low fuel burns to clean up the forest floor. They are low heat fire resistant but the high fuel high temp burns from the overgrown forests kills them. It was working pretty well after several years. A few years ago, one of those got out of control and nailed some houses so I think they are again afraid to do the burns. So it gets overgrown and there's too much fuel and more houses get burned. It doesn't help that we have such loud anti-science histrionics in congress that cripple the real scientists working in the Dept of Interior and Ag. You blame the greens. I blame the religious anti-science nuts.
Tesaje, I don't have the energy to take on the entire field of forest mismanagement. As a puny individual, all I care about is finding something interesting and beneficial (to me) in the destruction.