Monday, June 26, 2017

Burn Baby Burn - Fire Ecologist Celebrate Fire Season

"Life goes on though, and fires are not unnatural"
Margarethe Brummermann
Image - CNN

Annimated Graph - USA Today
The quote at the top of the post is from Margarethe Brummermann, Biologist from Dortmund Germany who resides in the Tucson area. She had written a post about Mount Lemmon which towers above Tucson to the north. I made a comment on her page about how my wife and I had driven up to Mount Lemmon last year May 2016 and how sad we were to see so much of the forest destroyed by wildfires. I made mentioned how I had first visited Mount Lemmon back in the late 1970s and there was hardly ever a scene where wildfire had damage anything. There was always the occasional snag here and there, but forests and even the high desert scrub were always able to recovery properly. That has all changed now. But her reply to me was simply, "Life goes on though, and fires are not unnatural." Her viewpoint is reflective of most all fire ecologists who champion fire as natural, yet often times have a hard time differentiating between human (especially if Native American) and lightning caused fires. Earlier this year, researchers revealed that 84% of all wildfires are human caused. So is that something natural or unnatural ??? The majority of wildfires on Mount Lemmon have had a human cause. This has also caused human introduced non-native, Buffel Grass, to invade clear up through the Saguaro Forests into the mid-elevation ranges of the Mount Lemmon. Here is that interesting finding regarding the origin of most wildfires.
Smithsonian Magazines: "Study Shows 84% of Wildfires Caused by Humans"

Aaryn Olsson, University of Arizona

Last year when we traveled up the Mount Lemmon highway, we were greeted all along the way by an overwhelming sea of Buffelgrass which blanketed all areas of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. Researchers say warming temperatures and fewer winter freezes are helping the invasive plant spread, posing a threat to saguaro cactuses and other native plants. The Tucson Sentinel even had an article with a chilling title, "Arizona without Saguaros? As climate warms, desert's future uncertain." The Saguaros are such an iconic symbol of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. But they cannot take wildfire. They have no protection against it. I can't hardly imagine them being eliminated permanently.


Grant Martin/Cronkite News Service

Bromus tectorum, an invasive species commonly called “cheatgrass,” grows in an area of the Coconino National Forest burned in a 1996 wildfire. I strongly dislike Cheatgrass. This is the invasive noxious weed whose stickers you have to pull out of your socks every so often down the trail when you go on a hike.


Grant Martin/Cronkite News Service

Researchers say this area of the Coconino National Forest, which burned in 1996, is decades away from returning to its native state, if it ever does. They say rising temperatures have weakened trees, raising the potential for devastating wildfires that will open the door to invasive species. Don't expect recovery anytime soon.



Image - Getty Images

I remember reading the fire ecology literature some time back in 2006. There was an account written by Arizona Historian Marshall Trimball of the old west in New Mexico, when a Cavalry Officer was complaining to his superiors about his men smoking cigarettes and dropping them along the trail as they all rode horseback. The problem was they were starting grass fires from their careless bad habit. Of course this was in the 1800s, when Indians still existed and practiced their ecological conservation with fire. Yet hsitorical writings from the 1800s relay that they used fires to war against their enemies. Not exactly eco-friendly. I know, it destroys the narrative. This 1800s is the time period for celebration for most fire ecologists who champion how natural the forested ecosystems all were back then because of Indians. But as I've questioned this before, if fire ecologists were looking at the world back then and telling us how natural wildfire played in ecology of all plant community systems, how did they reconcile white European Soldiers starting fires with their cigarette butts ? Was that a good thing for Nature ? How did this factor into their research of what was good for the plant community environment ? Native Americans generally get a free pass on why they started fires and they really shouldn't. See the post, Dances With Myths. But now what about the white man back then ? Today there is a movement to down grade human beings as not being so exceptional. Mankind is now being considered nothing more than animals equal to everything else. Does this now mean that the research on wildfire causes being 84% human fault provide us a new designation of the term, "Natural"   ??? ๐Ÿ˜ฒ Would it mean that humans carelessly throwing down a cigarette butt today should now be considered perfectly normal behaviour ??? ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ We seem to be living in a time period of redefining everything from it's historical normalcy.
But what about all those heavy Rains ๐Ÿšฟ ??? Didn't things get better ??? ๐ŸŒณ
Image - Pismo Hotels

This year's rainy season of 2017, California experienced one of those unprecedented rainy seasons, after four years of serious intense drought. But everyone cheered Hooray ๐Ÿ™Œ and celebrated with pom poms that all was well again in California again. The drought was now over, or is it. Indeed, heavy rains came, even to the point of major flooding events up and down the state. While there were some very clear catastrophic negatives, one of the great joys of all that rain brought out a spectacular display of wildflower blooms. Starting in early March, flowers popped up all across Southern and Central California and produced some seriously spectacular scenery. The photo opportunity didn't go unnoticed nor wasted by many of the non-profit eco-activist groups hoping to cash in on a fund raising opp by posting pics on their site's indicating that Nature seemed to have rebounded from the jaws od death. Or you know, life found a way. Except that things really were'nt all that rosey as they advertised. First, some of the people were a little too anxious about getting out there first. Then it appears that much of the water came in so furiously, that most of it raced back to the Pacific Ocean like a bullet train. Some water did fill up many of the State's reservoirs, but the surrounding landscape didn't have great percolation into the hills and mountains. I know this from viewing early on the photographs of dried dead invasive weeds not all that long after the flowers died and now look where they are over there with heat waves. Plus as indicated at the top of this post, lookie where we are now with the 2017 Wildfire stats. So have things really changed for the better ? Nope, same old same old. ๐Ÿ˜




Look, I refuse to celebrate fire the way most fire ecologists worship it. Yes fire can be used as an excellent tool for correcting problems with any ecosystem if done properly. And I've actually done that. But mostly humans have misused and abused fire, even the so-called experts. Prior to 2006 I never read much of anything about the discipline of fire ecology, although I worked with people in the US Forest Service back in the 1980s who did prescribed burns. I've fought tooth and nail against many of their ideas which are complete failures when it comes to reforestation techniques. Take the Fire Ecologist insistence that fire is needed for the wild seed germination. For example, Tecate Cypress is one of those trees in which Fire Ecologist have insisted for decades needs fire to propagate itself. Prior to reading their literature, in all my 30+ years of outdoors exploration experience and seed collecting, I never found this to be true of Tecate Cypress. There are numerous circumstances under which the seed is spread and germinates without the need of fire within old growth chaparral which hasn't burned in a couple of hundred years. Same with Arizona Cypress. Fire is not always necessary, but you cannot tell them this. Science is not supposed to be about working in a Lab and venturing outdoors once in a while on a couple token field trips to make the research look legit. You have to live outdoors with nature. Look, I am not credentialed. I have no alphabet soup initials behind my name, nor some fancy coveted title before my name. Thank God. That allows me the freedom of not having been infected by the worldview biases and flawed presuppositions common to the Scientific Orthodoxy's industrial business model. I'm just one of 6+ billion people on Earth subjected to the negative consequences of inept decision making from a world leadership which has been weighed in the scales and found deficient. 
References I've written for seed germination, not entertainment, just practical real world application and fun:


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

I will try to respond to each comment within a few days, though sometimes I take longer if I'm too busy which appears to be increasing.