Sunday, June 13, 2010

Be a friend to the forests

Mogollon Connection Editorial

By Matt Brabb

It’s June in Rim Country, and that means many things. Visitors come up from the Valley to escape the heat. The economy generally picks up, along with the traffic. A wide variety of festivals are available every weekend for locals as well as our guests.

Unfortunately June comes with a major challenge as well. It is the month our forests are most vulnerable to fire. Until the Monsoon season kicks in, the dry air, high temperatures, and abundant fuel on forest floors can be a recipe for disaster.

Those natural dynamics are bad enough, and when coupled with an untimely lightning strike, a conflagration like the Dude Fire can be the result. But fires should never be caused by the careless actions of visitors to the forest.

A member of the Mogollon Connection staff recently discovered two campfires, on two different occasions, which were still smoldering after the campers had left. What were these people thinking? One assumes that people who visit the forests do so because they love and appreciate the beauty they find there. Only to take off? Leaving the potential for a disaster?

Humans are responsible in another way for the mega-fires seen across the Western United States in recent decades. An example of ‘The road to hell being paved with good intentions’ is the method used to protect the forests over the last century.

Wildfires used to occur naturally about once a decade in the forests of the Rim Country. They consumed the grasses and small trees, sparing the mature Ponderosa Pine. Fire suppression techniques over the last hundred years have resulted in dense forests, with 40 times the numbers of trees per acre than was normal in the past. When the fires come now, they are massive, and even the mature Ponderosa burn.

That is why the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 was so necessary. It allows for the thinning out of underbrush and dense pockets of young trees. It came too late for the Dude and Rodeo-Chediski Fires, but hopefully we can avoid the next big one.

Our forests are Rim Country’s greatest asset. If you see someone doing something stupid out there, speak up, or at least report it the authorities.

This is the season the trees are at their most vulnerable. We’ve all seen how quickly a single mistake can turn into tragedy. Lets do all we can to avoid the next one.

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