Thursday, October 22, 2020

Wallow Fire Update

July 18, 2011  

I spend a couple of hours last week driving through a portion of the Wallow Fire south of Alpine, AZ.  Very different look to the country since I was last there.  Some areas will take decades or longer to recover to their pre-fire conditions — at least relative to tree cover.  Other areas will recover very quickly as the fire stayed on the ground and out of the canopy.  The very little portion of the fire I saw showed a typical mosaic pattern.  I will soon have an opportunity to see a more extensive portion of the burn and look forward to seeing the results.  And while I know some homes, cabins, and other buildings were lost in the fire, I will only speak about wildlife habitat here: I do not like to use the words “destroyed” or “lost” when talking about a fire’s effect on the forest.  Forests in the Southwest evolved with fire and are resilient to burning.  However, with the short time humans are here during a normal life span, it is hard for us to see the good in fires.  It is very likely no one alive today will see the entire extent of the Wallow Fire landscape return to pre-fire conditions, but we will see a tremendous  re-establishment of aspen, followed by conifers and the whole ecosystem process starting over, often times right next to unburned areas.  It will provide for decades of study and research into the effects of large-scale wildfire in a high elevation forest.

And the wildlife response will be tremendous.  Some species will recover quickly, other species will take a little while, but populations of all species of interest will eventually return to those areas burned and go on about their lives.  I’ll keep you posted on what I see over the next few years.  In the mean time, I will also be looking at, and for, those wildlife habitat improvement projects lost or damaged in the fire such as fences, waters, pipelines, etc.  This is where we can all help wildlife following the fire — rebuilding and replacing habitat improvements. Hope it rains soon here and at your place as well.   SPL

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