NC Fires Destroying Irreplaceable Ecological Treasures

12:26 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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I am physically ill to have just learned that the Joyce Kilmer Virgin Forest in Graham County, N.C., has been ravaged by the Maple Springs wildfire, and that several other locations of great importance are likely to be burned in the next 24 hours.

I know my friends, Patman and Tipi care about these places, too. 


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The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest contains one of the very last segments of unspoiled Virgin Forest in the eastern United States, with Poplars that rival redwoods in size, as well as massive White Pines and Hemlocks that are nearly as large. 

The western reaches of the fire will have likely burned both The Hangover and Bob Stratton Bald within the next 24 hours. 


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My Brother sitting on the Hangover


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This is all burning right now. 

The Hangover is a place of particular worth ecologically, and a place that is both precious and sacred for many whose soul is bound to these mountains. It is home to rhododendrons that are hundreds of years old, and an ecological diversity and balance found virtually no where else on earth. 


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A naturally sustained high elevation meadow, Bob Stratton Bald is one of the exquisite and invaluable wonders of the Appalachian Mountains.

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It is home to many of the rarest lilies and other plants in the country and region, and harbours a stand of Spruce and Firs that are a holdout from the last Ice age. Should they be destroyed in the fire, they will likely never regrow.

This and the majority of other fires in the Southeast have been determined to be or suspected of being Arson.

I hope those responsible find themselves in prison for the rest of their deplorable lives.   

3:21 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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Gonzan,

Take heart. Fire has been in these forests many times before.  Many of the stands are likely to survive.  The understory herbaceoous, and shrub layers will regenerate.  All is not lost. 

Incendiary fire has been commonplace in the South for generations.  In normal years it has many advantages. During droughts it can be catastrophic. That is why prescribed fire is best left to people that are trained in it.

We live with fire in the West all the time and have more experience with it.  One of the inconvenient truths is that some of the biggest arsonists around are out of work wildland firefighters.

Fire suppression for the last 125 years has created enormous problems in the forests of North America. It is has created more problems than arsonists. It is the main reason our fires now tend to be so large and devasting.

4:11 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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I have to agree with ppine on this one. Fire is a part of nature and even though the areas burned may not look the same they will still be beautiful. I hope the Joyce Killer area can survive this. It's a magical place but it has needed prescribed burns to clear out the dead wood for a long time. The park service may have let it build up to the point of no return.

4:15 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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In East Tennessee, whenever we have brush fires or barns being set on fire. The state arson investigators go to the volunteer fire department that has jurisdiction, asks for a list of the newest members, and usually have a confession in a couple of days.

7:28 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks to Jason.

10:02 p.m. on November 16, 2016 (EST)
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Jason, do you have any documentation on what you say?  I am not contesting you - I just find it abhorrent.  Logical - and mentally disturbing...I live in East TN myself (transplant from KY)...

12:04 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Jason correctly points to the Park Service as the culprit in their mis-management.  Protectionism does not work very well in the long term. 

8:17 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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It is quite possible, as others suggested, the big trees will survive, and as we know the remainder will come back sad and as bad as the fires now are. As nasty as it will be afterwards you will get to see reforestation as it occurs naturally and much of that will be amazingly and surprising beautiful.

9:38 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Precisely who is this "park service" which has these strict no burn policies?  Is it the NPS, some specific state agency or just the nebulous gov'ment. I started in the NPS as a fire fighter (back in the 50's) and yes the doctrine then, with NPS and just about everyone else, was instant response and total suppression.  This started to shift in the early 70s toward a more nuanced approach.  For one thing, we realized that fire suppression sometimes did more damage to resources, especially archaeological sites, than the fire itself.  Controlled burns came into being and are now in routine use.

There have been big mistakes along the way with controlled burns - after all, you are playing with fire, but unquestioned, automatic suppression is no longer in vogue with the NPS or any other agency of which I am aware.

The reforestration that occurs after a moderate burn is not only often very pretty, but is also good for thee wildlife.  We are learning in southern California that native Americans routinely set fires that provided browse for the critters they hunted, but that also maintained open country in which travel was easier.  Who really enjoys busting through gnarly chaparral?

9:45 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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The NPS has also been notoriously abusive with prescribed fire.  They have refused mentoring by the USFS on many occasions.  The Los Alamos Fire, the big one in Arizona, Yellowstone NP are case studies in rookie fire management.

10:14 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Very useful thread. Actually Joyce Kilmer is administered not by the NPS but by the United States Forest Service, which has an even longer and more complex history re controlled burns. Wikipedia has a good article on JKMF.

10:19 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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I cant speak to burn policies and management philosophies as I'm not qualified.

But natural or not, healthy in the long-term or not, I'm still heart-sick that this beautiful forest has burned.  I really can't express it.

 

 

 

11:44 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Red River Gorge Geological Area, Eastern Kentucky: Fires are being set/caused in far too many places. My belief is it's a lack of promoting good stewardship of our land, much of which land was sacred to the Native American tribes who managed the land far better than we.

With national forests and state parks within easy range of so many large cities, colleges, and universities, frequented by so many so often by those who have no regard for maintaining the pristine condition of those natural settings, it ought to come as no surprise that a nation that cannot manage properly its natural resources ought not expect its citizens to do so.

Always I take extra trash bags into the wilderness with me because always, I know, I will discover some egregious fouling of the land I cannot ignore or leave behind after I've witnessed it; it's as much a scar and a blight on my psyche and the memory of what is supposed to be Nature's beauty and grandeur as it is a scar and a blight on the land itself.

Always I come out of the woods with far more trash than I ever create. Wildfires may burn away the beautiful portions of a landscape which some find saddening, but for me these trash deposits are equally as saddening and far more jarring to the outdoor experience. I ought to be able to walk the woods in my deerskin moccasins, but can no longer do so for fear of lacerating my feet on broken glass.

My proposal would be NPS USFS forest campfire certification standards with appropriate fees to keep out the unwanted rogues who know full well the hazards of fire but leave the area before they are caught causing the land to burn.

As a backpacking camper of the red River Gorge Geological Area, too often have I found smashed liquor bottles strewn around a morning campfire left burning by lazy, unethical perpetrators who not only refuse to pack out their refuse, but also haven't even the wherewithal to cut the dead logs they drag up to their morning fire, leaving the fire going and the uncut log a perfect fuse-like relay leading the fire into the dry mast and detritus of the fall forest floor.

In the Red River Gorge Geological Area, the Auxier Ridge area was "my spot" to go backpacking and camping starting in the late 1970s. Off and on through the years I would return to this ridge to rest, relax, and gather my soul.

Over the years, the Red River Gorge Geological Area has survived numerous wildfires. Some are caused by campers, an easy suspect to target, but I wonder how many are set by arsonist out-of-work wildfire fighters using a camper's techniques, a practice of which I first learned when I considered buying a cabin in West Virginia.

On a cabin-buying speculator visit I first heard of this practice. A meal at a local area diner restaurant and conversation with the waitress staff included me — a fellow with out-of-state-license tags —having to explain my presence by telling about buying a cabin in a certain area nearby. The roads into and out of the area where the cabin was situated made it appealing as a weekend getaway from Washington, D.C., my residence at the time. The waitresses clued me in on what was a popular pastime for local wildfire fighters in that area, which was to set fires to make paid work for themselves. It helped to explain why the cabins in that locale were relatively new compared to other areas. According to the waitresses — who apparently knew everyone about the area and everything about them, too — it was the road system that afforded the fire-setters easy in-and-out access. They advised me not to buy in that area if I wanted a long-term relationship with a cabin.

Returning now to the Red River Gorge as a topic with respect to wildires, and once again the same Auxier Ridge is burned for the umpteenth time, blamed yet again on careless campers and a fire left burning. Although I've seen this with my own eyes, it's also just as likely the errant campers (if, in fact, that's the cause of the fire), could have faithfully put out their campfire and believed they had done their duty. As often as not, the uneducated in the lore of campfire building choose a spot for it that's "easy to dig" (if they bother digging), or is close to the source of the dead wood for the fire. In either case, it's as likely as not the bed of pine needles and twigs that make up so much of the forest floor before getting down to mineral dirt is the bed of these campers' fires as well. While they may put out their campfire, what they may not realize is that the coals that burn beneath the surface will set the peat and roots afire, sometimes for months, and spread far and wide over the hillsides.

The resulting damage of these uncontrolled, and often now uncontrollable fires in extreme drought areas is overwhelming. Arsonists may never be controllable, but I'm in favor of paying to have a Federal and/or State license to build, monitor, maintain, and extinguish a campfire. This would open up a wealth of opportunities to license otherwise underemployed outdoorspersons to train for profit backpackers and others who want to enjoy the "great outdoors," as well as helping to achieve and to accomplish its target goal of reducing these "accidental" wildfires.

TigerFang


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11:48 a.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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I heartily agree that fires are good for forest in general, and that the current situation is the result of over 100 years of "Only YOU can Prevent Forest Fires" philosophy of total suppression that ruled policy until changes slowly started in the 70s and 80s. 

However, of the nearly hundred fires that have started in the southeast in the last month, 75% of them have been determined to be arson, another 10-15% are being investigated as arson. The remainder were simple negligence or natural causes. THAT is not natural or beneficial, and is entirely unnatural in scope and scale. The sheer number and area covered by the fires means that there aren't enough firefighters and resources to control the blazes raging in unprecedented intensity due to the severe drought. Many were started in some of the most wild, remote, and ecologically important locations, but because there are some many fires, nearly all resources are devoted to protecting people and structures.

Also, the severity of the worst fires is due in significant part to the massive quantities of dead Hemlock trees, which burn with astonishing vigor, which is a result of human negligence by introducing the Wooly Adelgid into North America from Asia, which has killed over 90% of the Hemlocks in the Appalachian mountains.

The spruce groves at Bob Stratton Bald were remnants of vast spruce forests remaining from the last cool periods, either the Maunder Minimum / Little Ice Age 400-800 years ago, or from the last Ice Age ~15,000 years ago (under a evolutionary / old earth timeline).https://en.wikipedia.org/.../Southern_Appalachian_spruce... 

The spruce groves probably will not return. Firstly, the spruce/fir forests are much more flammable because of the pitch they contain. Secondly, there are no neighboring stands of spruce/fir forests to re-seed the high places, and they will not spread from other mountain ranges because they are not suited to the intervening low elevations. Thirdly, even if fir and spruce seeds have survived this fire, warmer temperatures at the present epoch/era make it doubtful that the spruce/fir forest can outcompete the deciduous forest that will spring up over it after the fire. So this remnant is probably gone for good (or at least until the next ice age).

12:34 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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I was at the Smokys last year and heard about prescribed burning in the area.  You can find more about it here <Google: "prescribed burns in great smokey mountains national park">.  The article explains that there are many species that need wildfire in order to survive/thrive.  While many of the fires may be man-made in origin, that does not mean there won't be benefits.  While the Smokey Bear campaign has limited wildfire greatly (and the consequences are severe as the Yellowstone fire, to name just one, illustrated) do not discount the impact of timber companies and their lobbyists, arguing fire takes profit away from them.  The source to turn to for a full picture is Stephen Pyne's Fire in America.  I read it in grad school and it lays out a long, complicated history of man, nature, and fire.

2:12 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Timber companies are a huge ally of anyone that cares about forest health. That is how we can thin forests and reduce fuels  by logging instead of burning.

People seem to under estimate how firmly imbedded the use of incendiary fire is the in the South.  In normal years it is not a big deal, but the Bubbas out there that "have always burned in the fall since my great grandfather's day" are a real problem during the drought.

Smoky the Bear needs to retire.

Remember that disturbance is normal in forests and it mostly comes as fire and logging. If your suppress fire you need to log more.

2:15 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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/Law-Enforcement/2016/10/27/Roan-Mountain-firefighter-charged-with-arson-4.html This is the only one I can figure out how to share. Kingsport times news has a couple of more, main one is where 2 volunteer firefighters and a teen that was wanting to become one burnt some barns. I used Google voice search "local volunteer firefighters arrested for arson" results came up from New York to California. I can remember several more from east Tennessee since I was a teenager, it's just going to take some internet digging to find them. And I messed up this link.

/Law-Enforcement/2016/10/27/Roan-Mountain-firefighter-charged-with-arson-4.html

4:33 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

Timber companies are a huge ally of anyone that cares about forest health. That is how we can thin forests and reduce fuels  by logging instead of burning.

If your suppress fire you need to log more.

 This is one of the most incredibly untrue statements I have ever read here on Trailspace.  We're still recovering in the Southeast wilderness areas where I backpack like Big Frog and Citico and Slickrock from the godawful logging that occurred 40 to 70 years ago. 

And no one in their right mind after walking thru a recently logged mountain forest will ever say such behavior is a huge ally to anyone who cares about forest health.

Here's a pic of very recent logging next to the Benton MacKaye trail in TN---


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This is the view from the trail and adjacent to the wilderness boundary, and taken in 2014.  It's a hateful eyesore which will not heal in the next 500 years if that.  Why is logging so horrible to our mountains?---

BULLDOZING ROADS

BULLDOZING ROADS

BULLDOZING ROADS

These terrible land scars forever change the lay of the land and the mountain contours.  Many of the trails I backpack in designated wilderness areas have permanent sign of logging when they used dynamite and bulldozers (and chainsaws) to blast apart rock boulders next to creeks in once-protected watersheds and bulldozed the blasted rock down into the creek to make way for either logging trucks or railroads.

It's amazing how many of these old roads crisscross our Southeast forests like giant rakes ripping strips out of the land.

Here's another example from the web---


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If you really want to have a bad day, check out---

https://www.google.com/search?q=logging+roads&biw=1408&bih=628&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR9Zml3rDQAhWDChoKHbj7D_MQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=_

Now imagine these wonderful improvements get to happen in your favorite national forest or wilderness area.

5:04 p.m. on November 17, 2016 (EST)
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Logging has changed a great deal since that which occurred 40-70 years ago.  Much like mining.  Harvest units are much smaller. Road grades are flatter and have better drainage. There are many more silvicultural treatments available besides clearclutting.

Some people would rather see forests burn up than be logged. 

It is easy to make decisions based on emotions, when the smart thing to do is make them based on knowledge. 

Forests are one of the greatest renewable resources we have. You cannot protect them and expect them to stay the same.

None of this is really up for debate.  Healthy forests are no accident.

12:15 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

Logging has changed a great deal since that which occurred 40-70 years ago.

Some people would rather see forests burn up than be logged.

Forests are one of the greatest renewable resources we have. You cannot protect them and expect them to stay the same.

None of this is really up for debate.  Healthy forests are no accident.

 You must've not seen my pics from recent bulldozing in 2014---this was not 40 to 70 years ago.  Nothing's changed in my neck of the woods.  And you must've not looked at the google images in my link.

Forest fires are part of the natural ecosystem, logging and especially bulldozing in roads is not.  You make no mention of these terrible bulldozed scars in your discussion of logging.

The best way to protect these forests (IF humans think they should play god), is to leave them alone.  "Leave it alone" is the hardest words in the english language.

Healthy forests are no accident?  The healthiest forests I have seen are small stands of old growth forest---like the Joyce Kilmer valley of around 4,000 acres.  Never logged and only disturbed by foot trails---until thru capitalism and human ignorance we brought over the woolly adelgid from Japan and killed off all the hemlocks.

What do loggers think of old growth forests?  Uh, they wiped them out near absolutely from Florida to Maine.  They bring in bulldozers and chainsaws and call it Forest Management.  And like I said, once the rock is dynamited and the bulldozers cut in the roads, well, you've just ruined a mountain completely for generations.

5:11 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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From a reliable source they have caught several arsonists in  Georgia also..We have a fire ban hear in my state  Virginia and the Appalachian trail from Harpers Ferry to Georgia is under a fire ban now...

9:01 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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Tipi Walter said,

This is one of the most incredibly untrue statements I have ever read here on Trailspace.  We're still recovering in the Southeast wilderness areas where I backpack like Big Frog and Citico and Slickrock from the godawful logging that occurred 40 to 70 years ago. 

These terrible land scars forever change the lay of the land and the mountain contours.  Many of the trails I backpack in designated wilderness areas have permanent sign of logging when they used dynamite and bulldozers (and chainsaws) to blast apart rock boulders next to creeks in once-protected watersheds and bulldozed the blasted rock down into the creek to make way for either logging trucks or railroads

Forest fires are part of the natural ecosystem, logging and especially bulldozing in roads is not.  You make no mention of these terrible bulldozed scars in your discussion of logging.

Healthy forests are no accident?  The healthiest forests I have seen are small stands of old growth forest---like the Joyce Kilmer valley of around 4,000 acres.  Never logged and only disturbed by foot trails---until thru capitalism and human ignorance we brought over the woolly adelgid from Japan and killed off all the hemlocks.

What do loggers think of old growth forests?  Uh, they wiped them out near absolutely from Florida to Maine.  They bring in bulldozers and chainsaws and call it Forest Management.  And like I said, once the rock is dynamited and the bulldozers cut in the roads, well, you've just ruined a mountain completely for generations

AMEN, AMEN, well said!!!

11:22 a.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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I mostly agree with the sentiments here and will just add that I've seen good data which supports the notion that a given patch of Eastern mixed mesophytic hardwood forest burned every 3-7 years before European contact. Since we've started living among forests, that figure is once every 100 years. A staggering change.

12:58 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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We also need to talk about what a "healthy forest" is, to have any hope for discourse. I posit it includes a definate estimate of the "ecological diversity" of a given watershed.

My gut makes me want to say that a healthy forest is one which produces a certain level of both biodiversity and total mass while maintaining another, certain "turnover rate", or decomposition factor.

This could get hairy...

2:41 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks to pillowthread. I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm. I would encourage everyone to read a basic forestry text.

5:42 p.m. on November 18, 2016 (EST)
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As for logging disturbance, well, when you think of things like forest fires or avalanches or mud slides as disturbances to the forest floor--creating new canopy gaps and microclimates that will favor a multi-age patchwork forest---then one can not discount the role logging has here, especially when considering the stocking that comes in behind it.

Now whether or not all this does justice in an ecological sense is another matter. But as far as Forest Service lands are concerned, ecocogical goals are always moving forward.

1:50 p.m. on November 19, 2016 (EST)
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While I am in the natural resources field I'll leave the forestry discussion to those with more experience in that area. My only contribution is my trip to Yellowstone in 1989, one year after the biggest fire in their history. There was already some early recovery happening, which was neat to see. On the other hand many areas are still young forest today. I had mixed emotions while there even though intellectually I knew it would come back and likely be a healthier forest. 

It will be interesting to see how the NC areas recover. I feel like the balds will come back quickest being herbaceous and scrub where natural, but the older growth recovery will depend a lot on the strength of the fire and if the mature trees survive . 

Patman, Gonzan, and others...I understand your frustration and the effect such a drastic change will have on one of your favorite areas. I hope you will keep visiting there and see if there is solace in witnessing the recovery as it begins to come back.

2:19 p.m. on November 19, 2016 (EST)
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I think another point that must be highlighted is the role our perspective has on our ability to perceive Forest Ecology on a forest scale. We think in terms of years and decades, while trees work on the century or millenia scale. What we perceive as wonton destruction is usually of little consequence to the watershed on an ecological scale, assuming proper NEPA has been done.

9:24 a.m. on November 21, 2016 (EST)
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Old growth is important as an outdoor laboratory, and a place for people to visit for inspiration.  A State Park would probably never allow it, but I have given some thought to a silvicultural prescription for a place like the one in question.  Old growth forests nearly always have a lot of dead and dying trees.  They have little understory. It would be possible to remove the standing dead and the dead decaying material off the ground. It could by skidded out with horses or mules.  This would make the stands much more resistant to fire which is their main enemy besides disease and insects.

This would an example of a way to improve the resilience and health of an old growth forest.  Removing the dead material also reduces the chance of the spread of insects and disease. When forests reach old age, they are dying faster than they are growing.  

Pillowthread is exactly right when it comes to time in forests.  Foresters dedicate themselves to growing forests for the next generation.

Most forests have evolved with fire and some like lodgepole pine and ponderosa pine are dependent on it.  After the fires are over, make it a point to visit you favorite places and watch the recovery. Within three to five years the area will look totally different.

10:13 a.m. on November 22, 2016 (EST)
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The Protectionist Doctrine developed by the National Park Service has been found to have some serious flaws.  A good example is the management of giant sequoias in Sequoia NP.  For decades the NPS could not figure out why they had failed in the regeneration of sequoia seedlings in the Park.  They have plenty of botanists, natural historians, museum people, and specialists in outdoor recreation. What they needed was a forester to explain to them the physiology of the species.

Sequoias are shade intolerant and require full sunlight to reproduce. They also require that the seeds have mineral soil contact in order to germinate.  Old growth stands nearly always have full canopy closure with little natural light that reaches the ground. The accumulations of organic matter on the soil surface typically amount to 4-12 inches of decaying leaves from leaf drop in the fall. Then they are covered with branches and multiple dead trees.

The NPS became successful with regeneration in the Park when they created some small forest openings, and used prescribed fire in the safe time of the year to remove the organic matter.  Now there are lots of sites with new sequoia seedlings and more and more stands of multiple age classes.

 

7:19 p.m. on November 23, 2016 (EST)
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8:48 p.m. on November 23, 2016 (EST)
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We just had a group of Oregon firefighters come into town to relieve the local ones over this holiday weekend. They mentioned the help NC firefighters have given to their state the last 3 years. However our opinions may differ on forest management or the recent election , the comoradery and cooperation in tough times is a shining example of us at our best. Happy Thanksgiving.

9:38 a.m. on November 24, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks to Jason for the update. That kind of a fire will greatly benefit the area without doing much damage to the old growth forest.  The headlines to this thread sound greatly exaggerated.

Air shows are the main way that modern forest fires are controlled. 

Drought is a relative term.  When a forest is really dry a moving fire front can spot 1/2 miles or more. I have never heard of leaf blowers being used on a fire. Typically a fire line is the width of a bulldozer or a round 8-10 feet if dug by hand in a wilderness area.

6:36 p.m. on November 24, 2016 (EST)
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Well, PPine, drought is not a relative term as applied here. The area of the mountains mentioned here is normally classified  as a temperate rainforest, yet this year there has been only a scant few inches of rain since May, and only about as much rain during the same period as in Santa Fe, NM and Chihuahua, Mexico, the two cities in the Chihuahua Desert.  In the day prior to when the original thread post was made, the fire had covered five times the distance remaining in between it and two of the locations of great ecological value mentioned. up to that point nearly all firefighting resources available for this fire were dedicated to the eastern flank of the fire where homes, roads, and structures awere being threatenened. Thankfully, the wind lessened and changed direction, more resources arrived from western states, and much of those already present were reassigned to protect the precious locations that were in immediate and imminent danger. I only made the post after talking directly with the Forest Service and Ranger service offices closest to the area, and only included information that was factual or being given on good authority which relied on the best information available at the time.  So no, the original report was not greatly exaggerated. 

I am as glad as anyone that the specific and precious locations mentioned have been protected, and that the Maple Springs Fire is currently under control, if not out. But let's not erroneously conflate that to mean this was not a highly aggressive fire in the majority of its growth. One that raced across nearly 10,000 acres of normally verdant rainforest in a matter of a short three days. 

9:48 a.m. on November 25, 2016 (EST)
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Santa Fe, NM sits at 7,000 feet and is pinon/juniper country adjacent to a large forest.

A drought in the Sierras means no rain from May to October.

A large fire out here starts at around a half  million acres.

The East Coast is a different animal.

So what is the report on the old growth after the fire?

2:09 p.m. on November 25, 2016 (EST)
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I have not been able to find much info. Partners of Joyce Kilmer has a few pics on Facebook. Doesn't look bad from those.

5:02 p.m. on November 25, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks for the info, gonzan.

8:32 a.m. on November 29, 2016 (EST)
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Thanks for the info, Jason. 

Your welcome, Pillowthread. 

8:45 a.m. on November 29, 2016 (EST)
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Thought not the same fire, another arson set fire further north in the Smoky Mountains is wreaking destruction on Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and all of neighborhoods around them. Many homes have burned, along with several hotels, resorts, and other businesses. 

Most years, fires in the southeast don't burn that hot, spread rapidly, or behave erratically. That is not true this year. The extreme drought here in the southeast is causing intensely hot fires that are spreading incredibly fast.

This fire was isolated high above the valley and city on the peak of Chimney Tops, but it raged so fiercely in Monday's high winds that burning branches and pieces of trees were blown from the peak and literally rained fire down all across the valley, and in a matter of hours the whole town and area was burning, forcing a mass evacuation where many people barely escaped. 

http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2016/11/29/30-gatlinburg-structures-fire-tema/94584554/

9:16 a.m. on November 29, 2016 (EST)
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A harrowing video of two men fleeing the inferno, barely escaping the waves of fire and fallen trees. 

https://www.facebook.com/lucianoinvestments/videos/1145524975496260/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED

2:09 p.m. on December 4, 2016 (EST)
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Over one hundred years of fire suppression have gotten us into this mess. Then logging was curtailed in 1991 on USFS lands compounding the problem. Our large number of fires and more severe fires are a direct result of bad policy and bad management. They are not a result of climate change.  The really bad fires always occur after a drought and some really dry and windy weather.

It does not matter at all whether a fire is caused by lightning or your next door neighbor.  If the fire is a bad one the results are the same. Fire is a natural part of forest ecosystems, but obviously not all fire is a good fire. Forests have evolved to have relatively frequent low intensity fires to clear out the understory, release nutrients and eliminate decaying vegetation.  Low intensity fires have little effect on the overstory.

Forest health can be measured with parameters like ecological stability, species diversity, productivity, resilience to pests and disease, multiple age classes, and many others.

If we look carefully at the stands (oranges grow in groves), in most American forests, what we see is overstocking, a lot surpressed trees, overgrown understory, high amounts of fallen trees and organic matter on the ground, and poor resilience. 

We have a lot work to do. Changes need to be made in our management and policy on public lands.

February 18, 2020
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