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CASH Courier > 2005 Fall Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2006 Issue

FIRE MANAGEMENT: AN INCREASINGLY DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICE

NOTES

1.  This is based on the very unlikely premise that there would be no additional development or road building in these areas, which might hinder the population of pine barrens with new species of trees, bushes, and low-growth seasonal plants. In the specific case of Albany’s Pine Bush, there are mature white pines, black oaks, scarlet oaks, grey birch, quaking aspen, and other deciduous species, including black locust, in fringe areas around its periphery.

2.  Although the following scientific study was conducted on lands in the Southwest that were scarred by wildfire, many of the biologists’ conclusions would be applicable to some of today’s fire management practices throughout the United States. See: Changes in Nitrogen-Fixing and Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacterial Communities in Soil of a Mixed Conifer Forest After Wildfire, c.2005 by Biosciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Biology Department, University of New Mexico. (See #2715, para. 2; #2719 [Discussion] para. 1; and concl. para. 2)

3.  In one such case the humus layer decreased from 5.3 cm. to 1.6 cm. It took twenty years to completely regenerate. In Minnesota jack pine prescribed burns temperatures between humus and mineral soil reached 572 degrees F. for 14 minutes. See: Fire and Ecosystems, Physiological Ecology, by Isabel F. Ahlgrem, Academic Press, New York, 1975. (pp. 13-14 and p. 49) In Albany’s Pine Bush Preserve, areas that have not been burned in at least ten years now have a thin layer of humus as a result of leaf decomposition. This is most pronounced in hardwood areas, most notably those now characterized mainly by tall black locust trees.

4.  See: Introduction to Forestry (Fourth Ed.), by Grant W. Sharpe, Clare W. Hendee, and Shirley W. Allen, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1976 (p. 233)

5.  One study concluded that there had been no appreciable decline in the numbers or species of birds in the weeks after a prescribed brush fire. If the study were valid it would prove only that: 1) Birds are extremely territorial, and 2) Most species of birds are able to tolerate very adverse conditions. No study was made of mortality rates of birds in the affected area, or whether there were declines in their reproductive rates or fewer eggs per clutch (or damaged eggs), or diminished health of chicks during the season following the burn. The irrationality of fire management was illustrated by a prescribed severe brush burn in a jack pine forest in central Michigan, whose purpose was allegedly to provide nesting sites for Kirtland’s warblers!

6.  See footnote 9, second ref. Although animal deaths are cloaked in pseudo-scientific jargon, the attitudes of fire managers are unmistakable.

7.  During the summer of 1998, 487 people, the overwhelming majority of whom were Mohonk Preserve members, signed a petition asking that deer hunting be stopped on the preserve. The petition was distributed at the preserve by volunteer members of Wildlife Watch. On October 30, 1998, members of five animal protection groups met with preserve officials and board members. They presented the petition and gave many reasons why they believed that deer hunting should cease on the preserve lands. It should come as little surprise, given the intractability of preserve officials and board members, that the efforts of the animal protectionists came to naught.

8.  The retrogression of ecologists’ attitudes about fire and its use may be better understood by examining texts from different time periods. For example, in 1948 it was noted that: “Fires destroy part or all of the forest floor. Several degrees of destruction may be distinguished….The new [plant] community may differ in composition.” But by 1982 another author stated: “On a microscale fire separates chemical compounds; on a macroscale it drives off organic pests and unwanted flora and fauna.” See: Forest Influences, by Joseph Kittredge, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1948 (pp. 41-43.) See also: Fire in America, A Cultural History of Woodland and Rural Fire, by Stephen J. Pyne, Princeton Univ. Press, 1982. (p. 35)

9.  Even publications that promote the use of fires often succeed in demonstrating their destructiveness. The following two books contain graphic color prints of severely destructive burns and their after-effects. There is a photo of a deer that was killed during a stand replacing fire, and passages that indicate the deadly effects that prescribed burns have on wildlife. See: Wildland Fire in Ecosystems: Effects of Fire on Fauna, James K. Brown and Jane Kapler Smith, eds. (p. 15; p. 47; p. 188 (photo 9-12); and p. 194 (photo 9-4). See also: Wildland Fire in Ecosystems : Effects of Fire on Fauna, Jane Kapler Smith, ed. (p. 7 photo; p. 17; and p. 19 photo.) Both books are publications of the USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mt. Research Sta. C. 2000.

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