Friday, March 5, 2010

Fire on the mountain

fire on the mountain - run boys run

When most people think of forest fires - they think of them in negative terms. While there are some definite downsides to a forest fires - there is actually a lot of good associated with them as well, so today's Ying - Yang lesson will be about the benefits of fire.

Back in the day when I was working for a guide outfitter in the northern Rockies, we would have a yearly spring burn (sanctioned of course by the 85 government agencies that one must deal with). The burns, were carried out only under the most favourable of weather conditions and normally the window for such activities was only 7-10 days. This window usually occurred when there was still snow on the backsides of the hills we were burning and a good cover of snow in the heavy timber at the base of the hills. The hillsides in late spring would dry up and with a forecast of rain in the next 5-7 days we'd "light 'er up"

The fast moving fires would clear out all of the old grass and debris from the forest floors. This allowed fresh grasses and legumes to sprout and serve as feed for our horses and all of the wildlife that relied on this particular food source. Some of the mature trees would die but these were considered collateral damage and not our primary target.

The natural fire regimes of the north are much longer than down south and it seems it would be every 80-150 years before a really big fire would burn through the valley. This resulted in much larger fires - that scorched the earth and provided a totally different effect that the periodic burns that we were trying to mange our area with.

As you can see from these photos, the effects from these fast fires are quite pronounced.

without fire, the new grass fights through the old

with fire, the growth is dramatic

minor scorching of the trees - but great regrowth on the forest floor

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Please feel free to leave a comment. Ever since old Rebel rolled on me and I've been strapped to this old hospital bed I've enjoyed whatever posts come my way.