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CASH Courier > 2005 Fall Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2006 Issue

FIRE MANAGEMENT: AN INCREASINGLY DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICE

MAN A PART VERSUS MAN APART

Local fire proponents claim that fire has played a major role in shaping the ecology of the forests of the Shawangunk Ridge. That much is true, although during the past 60 years fires there have been infrequent and usually confined to small areas. (The last severe and widespread wildfire in the Shawangunks was in 1946.) What are the reasons that fires have occurred in that area? In southeastern New York state lightning-set fires are very rare. The vast majority of woods fires there are a result of human carelessness or deliberate fire setting, as in the case of the Pine Bush and New Jersey Pine Barrens. Thus, in a truly natural situation this overwhelming majority of fires in the Shawangunks would not have occurred.

The proponents of controlled burns are unable to see the forest for the trees. One of the first subjects that people study in ecology is natural succession. Perhaps fire proponents at Mohonk Preserve did not study this because one of their goals is to “reduce invasive species.” (These are any new species of tree or bush that fire proponents do not want on a parcel of land. Often, they are non-native species.)

Another goal of fire managers at Mohonk Preserve is to keep fields open so as to maintain their plant or animal species. But an ecologically-based counter-argument would be “preserve them how and for what purpose?” Nothing is static in Nature. Nature is in a continuous evolutionary progression toward a climax state, although this is seldom reached any more because of human activities.

Most open areas in wooded terrain were originally cleared for home building or farming. As these fields grow more wooded some species of plants and animals will slowly disappear while new species slowly move in. Is the use of fire in fields some kind of a solution or is it part of the overall problem of failing to live in harmony with Nature?

Mohonk Preserve has used a tractor with a hay rake-like attachment on three fields in the Spring Farm section in September 2005, prior to last Spring’s burns there. This device cuts grasses and other plants and mutilates saplings, creating a visual eyesore; and burning creates an even greater visual eyesore! Fortunately, aesthetic beauty is usually an indicator of a healthy natural ecosystem and vice versa. The very narrow objectives of some people are often at odds with what is best for Nature from a total ecological perspective. (Meanwhile, writers for Ridgelines, the official publication of Mohonk Preserve, regularly commend the preserve for its clean air and the responsible land stewardship of its administrators.)

Go on to A LACK OF EMPATHY WITH NATURE

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