“Green Glacier” Encroaches on Prairies

This isn’t a USFS planning topic, but interesting nonetheless. According to an NPR story yesterday and on other dates, a “blanket of shrublands and dense juniper [eastern red cedar] woods gobbling up grassland leads to wildfires with towering flames that dwarf those generated in prairie fires.” In part, this is due to eliminating Indigenous fire-based land management.

Trees And Shrubs Are Burying Prairies Of The Great Plains

4 thoughts on ““Green Glacier” Encroaches on Prairies”

  1. God hates Texas; that much is certain.

    Republicans on the High Plains are facing the effects of their climate denial as wildfires clear the eastern red cedar, dead fuels and grasses they’ve failed to manage. And they’re not small fires either as the Smokehouse Creek Fire Complex spread to over 1.2 million acres of the Republican Texas panhandle where sixty counties face disaster declarations.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Steve!

    “It’s more than a key contributor,” Nippert said of the role that increased CO2 plays in woody encroachment. “It’s probably the main reason.”

    How could you possibly know that? What data could you acquire and experiment to set up to prove or disprove that hypothesis?

  3. First of all I have grown to not put too much stock in articles from National Public Radio, as their reporting is frequently shallow and often one sided.

    Secondly – and the story never discussed this – is my understanding that much of the Midwest was originally tree covered, and that settlers cleared much of the forests. So is it so unusual for trees to be making a comeback? And note that the story points out that they are almost all native species, not introduced.

    And then there’s the whole ranching side of the story – of course people who raise beef cows want more grass, and there’s a long history of USFS, BLM, and NRCS declaring war on native ecosystems to further the beef industry. The Montana papers recently had a story about this “encroachment”, and it showed a ranch couple holding a photo from the 1950s that showed their land had fewer trees, and they contended that the photo showed a “normal” landscape. Compared to what? What is normal?

    I believe that these ecosystems have been fluctuating for millennia, in response to climate fluctuations, and this is another phase of tree expansion. Let the damn trees grow!

  4. NPR is one of the last reputable news outlets in the United Untied States and yes, deciduous trees had a much bigger footprint before the European invasion and the death of the American chestnut is testament to the horrifying effects of colonialism.

    The reading of the Declaration of Independence by members of the reporting staff at NPR on the 4th of July gets me every time. Past on-air personalities, some now correspondents at the pearly gates, also read for this decades-old feature. The tears stream down my face right up to the line that begins:

    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare…

    That’s when it hits me right between the eyes.

    When those words were being written, thousands of cultures inhabited a continent that seemed to keep growing huge ripe plums just waiting for Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and the rest to pick and pick and pick and pick. Already, the Chesapeake Bay estuary had been mostly denuded of native vegetation, not to mention of its former human inhabitants.

    Enslaved people tilled the fields and built the infrastructure, the ancestors of the Lakota and other Siouan groups that had been forced westward out of North Carolina generations earlier, traded with the Spanish and French while forging their own alliances (and marriages) with other indigenous peoples.


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