Fire is a natural and vital component of most western forest ecosystems. In the dry forest types, such as ponderosa pine, fire was historically present as a frequent, low-intensity disturbance. Fire is necessary for the health of the forests, and the forests have evolved to depend on fires to clean out underbrush and maintain biological diversity. Dead trees serve as important wildlife habitat and contribute to the nutrient cycle, and patches of dead trees allow for forest succession. Even stand-replacing fires have historically occurred at some level in almost every forest type in the West.
The vast majority of western dry forests are at risk of large, high-intensity fire because of the effects of management over the past 100 years. The primary factors that lead to the current forest conditions include logging large trees, fire suppression, and livestock grazing. Since the beginning of the 20th century all three of these factors have been present in our forests, and all continue today.
Logging operations have historically removed the largest trees. Unfortunately, large trees (especially ponderosa pine) are fairly well adapted to fire, and are able to withstand low-intensity fires. On the other hand, the young trees that replace the cut trees are relatively highly susceptible to fire, and serve as fire ladders, allowing the fire to reach up into the canopy of the forest.
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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
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