Saturday, August 24, 2002
Another Fine Day In Flag
Team South gets to spend another day enjoying the clear air and pictureque streets of Flagstaff, Arizona (not to mention showers and flush toilets!). Today the University of Northern Arizona, the National Interagency Fire Center, and the USDA Forest Service are teaming up for a special presentation on wildfire and fire restoration. During the last decade, the American West, and therefore most of our public lands, have seen an increase in massive and often catastrophic wildfires, including the Rodeo-Chediski fire which the Team toured last week. Land managers are struggling to understand both the important role that fire plays in ecosystem health and how to restore burned areas.
These issues are complex and varied: fire can create meadows which provide important forage for animals, but noxious weeds often recover faster than native plants and can prevent the native plants from growing back. Some trees require intense heat for germination, but recent fires have been burning too hot (due to heavy fuel loads and drought) and draining nutrients from the soil. Many recent fires have been exacerbated by unnaturally dense thickets of trees, due to a century of fire prevention, yet logging is not economically viable, since these trees are too small to have value as lumber. The President addressed the issue of reducing fuel loads on Thursday, and today Team South will grapple with this and other hot issues.