There was a long, pretty interesting and wide-ranging, discussion in the comments to this piece in High Country News, titled “Fire scientists fight over what Western forests should look like.”
Bryan Bird linked to the photo above of the Las Conchas fire, USGS gallery here.
Greg Nagle had these photos that couldn’t be posted there, so I am posting them here.
Here are Greg’s comments.
First two views are west up the canyon. I did not check closely for conifer regen but on the northerly facing slope aspen regen is vigorous. Sedimentation dam in the canyon, which I believe was put in to catch sediment contaminated by old waste dumps burned over in the fire, Note the large older trees surviving the fire on the valley floor.
Third is a view of a southerly slope showing variability in revegetation.
You can click on the photos if you want to look more closely. I tried to make them larger here but they seemed to lose their perspective. I tried to make the Las Conchas one above smaller, and it got too small.
Here are some USGS photos and the comment with it by Colin Holloway
Needless to say, you can find better & worse spots of regrowth (it does seem that the photos tend to the optimistic). in some of the slopes immediately adjacent to Los Alamos it’s all still rather desolate. In the drainage’s that managed to hold onto a little soil, things are better.
I had avoided Los Alamos for the better part of my time here, the place is kind of like David Lynch does Twilight Zone. My first impressions of the place was that it was going to be toast in a few years. I had started surveying for environmental remediation work up there in ’99. Don’t know if you’ve ever smelt that smell a ponderosa forest smells like when it’s ready to go up? Not that sweet is-vanilla-or-is-it-butterscotch smell, don’t know how to describe it but there’s a distinct odor of a distressed ponderosa stand. Or so I’ve convinced myself. Any rate the place reeked of it.
Those places are have just started to have the oaks tangle, ten years on. I haven’t had the heart to get up there since Conchas. Makes me feel like Treebeard “Many of these trees were my friends”.
On a note of insane Conehead (local vernacular for the lab rats up there) over management, engineering insanity, they built these insane check dams up there in those tuff slot canyons. Just crazy. Talk about destroying the village to save it. Of course the photos don’t describe the enormity, though one photo, in the link below, does show a huge ol’ excavator for scale.
Of course, at Los Alamos, they were worried about radioactive material.