The role of Fire and Thinning – One More Time

In case you haven’t seen it yet, click on the photo to go to the article.  Nothing different from what I learned in undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech from 1963-1967 – Rated #1 in our field in the US the last that I saw.  I and many others have been trying to explain this well established and long validated science to many on this site who came here with their own emotionally driven faux science and without any interest in anything that didn’t support their pet suppositions or studies that haven’t been validated over a long time and varied places.  I haven’t checked in to the Smoky Wire for a long time, so I sincerely hope that things have changed for the better on this site.

No matter, it’s time to unite behind the validated science based on sound research rather than walks through the woods and statistically confounded studies.  If you really love forests, cleaner air and a healthier planet; get on board with what works instead of letting your ego carry you and everyone else down the path of increasingly greater catastrophic destruction.

Twenty-year study confirms forests are healthier when burned or thinned

6 thoughts on “The role of Fire and Thinning – One More Time”

  1. Burning, yes but not now. The public forests especially, having not been adequately maintained for about 30 years, are in no condition to “accept” unplanned wildfires. The intensity is too great and the destruction is horrendous. So, for now, allowing fires to be “managed” as “beneficial” is strictly an intellectual argument. See A Call to Action (rev. 17.4) for a very detailed discussion on this issue. Be careful with the science-based argument. It can make sense, but not now and especially in the west. Again, check out A Call To Action. The document currently has 72 contributors.

    • The idea that one cannot reintroduce fire without first doing mechanical is nonsense. There are countless examples of this being done successfully. During suppression, areas are routinely back-fired without mechanical with beautiful effects during peak fire season. Sure, I have seen it go wrong during suppression, but it was because of a lack of experience in western forests or lack of patience. If they can do it during peak fire season, they can sure as hell do it during the shoulder season. There are many other examples of fire without mechanical that resulted in beneficial effects.

      NTM, the idea that we can wait until we get a machine on every acre is not helpful. Not only are we running out of time, but a lot of acres are not accessible for mechanical and don’t have nearly enough volume to support a helicopter operation. What do you think should happen to those acres? I’d rather see them burned under moderate fire weather than experience a wildfire on a bad day, which is what doing nothing results in.

      • On a fire salvage project, there were areas where backfires were effectively used. Fast-forward to the following June and many of the stands were still uniformly-green. There were dead trees to harvest on the same road system, though. As the loggers showed up in July, entire stands were turning brown.

        The bigger picture was that the Forest Service lit their backfire from a main road, with significant slopes above, covered with thick, pungent and highly-flammable bearclover. This chunk of land was highly ‘managed’ by the pre-European residents, even including artifacts and rock drawings. The was very little understory, resulting in very little crowning. I’m sure it raced up through that thick bearclover, burning hot, but quickly cooling down.

        I think if they had been smarter about lighting the backfire, they could have lit the fires farther up the slope, working their way down to the main road. (At least, that’s how I learned how to light prescribed fires in those kinds of fuels. Don’t let the fire get a running start.)

        I do agree that logging isn’t required for prescribed burning, but every technique in every project area should be based on site-specific conditions. That “Mountain Misery” will be a big help in accomplishing burning goals, usually without any logging. In those stands, the bearclover keeps the competition out from under the mostly pine canopy. The bearclover can carry fire to a substantial amount of acres, every 2 to 3 years. The fires can be quite benign, if done properly.

  2. Proven time and time again; but the cautionary tale from Michael T Rains is spot on, when describing the current state of our forests. These types of valuable research have been proven time and time again, especially (in my experience) most successful in Regions 3 and 8. I’ve seen good results in Regions 2 and 6, too. The San Juan fire of 2014 burned through repetitive research plots under NAU’s work. I spent many a day with Congressional leaders, showing the virtues of thinning and burning to lessen the impacts of wildfire effects.

    However, I’m sure some obscure researcher will validate their concerns of harming “something”, and give the “non-believers” a manuscript to thump…..

    I learned these methods and effects a bit later on in time, like 1970’s (I know right, still a kid), and all the holes attempted to be poked in these management techniques are still out there. Thankfully, still inept…..

  3. The cumulative impact of logging in the managed forest estate of Ontario and Quebec has resulted in the truncation of the landscape-level diversity of stand ages, particularly with regard to older forests, by solely using even-aged management harvesting with clearcuts. This has degraded the boreal forest environment and increased the prevalence of at-risk boreal caribou populations. Major changes are needed to boreal forest management in Ontario and Quebec for it to be ecologically sustainable for caribou populations but also for other elements of biodiversity associated with older forests and their attributes.

  4. “The impetus of this study was: If you’re going to implement these treatments at a large scale, is there anything that’s going to be lost?” I didn’t see any discussion of actually trying to identify anything lost (along the lines of Larry’s comment).

    “We think that, overall, our management actions, coupled with the weather, did have a pretty big impact on the behavior of the fire,” Roughton said. Based on other things I’ve read, maybe it was just the weather? The study “used computational modeling to estimate how many trees were likely to survive wildfire.” I wonder what weather they were assuming would occur.

    I don’t know how “restoration thinning” is different from other thinning, but it’s too bad if they didn’t have plots where they did not remove any of the overstory.

    Is an “index of competition” a useful abstraction to represent “resilience?”


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