Giant fire is killing and maybe renewing-

The Wallow Fire continues its sweep across a mountainous region of Eastern Arizona, and is now reported burning into New Mexico. Wildlife are fleeing the flames and the smoke.  During the great Yellowstone Park area fires of 1988, animals died, but surprising few large animals died for the great size of the fires. The Wallow Fire, however, is moving more rapidly than the YNP fires which burned from late June until October that year.

Because the fire will not consume everything in its perimeter, there will be islands of unburned vegetation. These will be both large and small. Many areas will burn lightly with many trees surviving. Some places will burn so hot the soil is sterilized. These take a long time to recover.

Whether the fire’s impact is eventually one of beneficial renewal depends on the weather after the fire and if invasive plants are already so widespread in the area that the fire will just allow them to expand greatly. This scenario would be one of  forever changing the ecosystem that has become established over thousands of years. The fire could also become so large that weather patterns are affected and the climate changes.

Rare animals, like the Mexican wolves could survive unscathed, yet, on the other hand, be completely wiped out. It is a matter of chance when a species is rare.

Here is the current news on the fire and wildlife in the Arizona Republic. Wallow Fire: Wildlife also struggling to flee blaze. Rare species, newborn animals are among the creatures in fire’s path. by William Hermann and Ofelia Madrid. The Arizona Republic.

An on-line search will yield scores of more stories and some incredible video too.

 

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

11 Responses to Wallow Fire will have big impact on wildlife

  1. avatar Jeff N. says:

    This link has google earth images of the fire’s perimeter. For those who are curious,within the google earth perimeter are nice pictures of what this area looked like before the fire. On the right hand side of this link you will see a “incident/fire perimeter” section that shows how this fire spread daily. Click in that section.

    http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2262/

    Ralph, if I disobeyed some forum rule or copyright law please delete post and accept my apology.

  2. avatar Daniel Berg says:

    Knew this would come up:

    “Arizona wildfire rekindles debate over logging rules”

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2015279590_azfires10.html

    However beneficial thinning may or may not be, logging companies will exploit this opportunity to the fullest. They will try and justify as much take of the most profitable lumber in any given area as possible. I can only hope that independent experts will be involved in the process of how much to thin and where.

    • avatar Jeff N. says:

      Yeah, I saw this coming as well. The area burned was extensively logged previously and much of the remaining timber, mainly Ponderosa Pine, (now scorched timber) was second growth with small tree diameters. Large scale commercial harvesting would have been an economic loser unless your intent was to harvest small diameter trees and manufacture wood stove pellets or some kind of processed wood fiber material like OSB. ShowLow AZ has a manufacturing plant that utilizes thes small diameter trees to make wood pellets however it really is the only plant in the area that could utilize small diameter trees.

      There is no doubt that this forest needed to be thinned, and there were plans on the table for this to happen (too little to late), but to think that a large scale commercial logging company would be interested in this timber base is a stretch, especially considering the housing market collapse that persists.

      Furthermore the burned area is mainly used for recreation, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc…so a large scale timber harvest would not have been popular at all.

      Based on the below average snowpack and dry conditions, the smart thing would have been for thr U.S.F.S. to ban fires in the forest, and for them to be diligent in their enforcement…easier said than done. This may or may not have prevented this fire, but by allowing fires, the odds of this event happening were certainly increased.

      I’ve read letters to the editor in our local paper where folks are blaming the enviros, and have read comments like “on the bright side maybe the wolves were killed”…crap like that. I also saw a politician from the affected area on the news stating that, to paraphrase, “only large scale logging and increased cattle grazing could have prevented this”. Not sure who she was, but she was full of shit.

      As I said before this forest needs (needed) to be treated by harvesting small trees, ladder fuels, and some dead timber..no doubt. I do not claim to be an expert in these matters but my background consists of 15+ years in the timber/lumber industry, so I know a little bit about how it works…..and I am certainly hoping that the lobos survived this catastrophe.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        It makes a lot of sense to clear out the small trees beneath the big ponderosa (yellow) pine, but as you say, in the area of the fire many of the big ponderosa were logged in the past so that only small, fire prone trees exist.

        The growth of the small trees under those remaining big ponderosa are due in part due to lack of thinning, but mostly to suppression of the formerly numerous, but light ground fires. The small Douglas fir and other trees underneath the ponderosa were also given a big start by grazing cattle on the native grasses that had tended to suppress the non ponderosa trees.

        We hear this complaint from politicians every time there is a fire, and they are the same people who insist on huge poorly thought out budget cuts that could be used to restore places where the forest composition will lead to big fires. The spokesman quoted with the cabin at Greer is none other than U.S. Senator John Kyl, one of the Republicans currently holding America hostage with the preposterous demand to cut trillions of dollars before the so-called “debt limit” is raised. He will probably complain if the U.S. Forest Service does not devote special resource to save his cabin.

  3. avatar Christopher says:

    This fire is a prime example of why the USF&WS need to open up a second recovery area. There are few lobos to begin with. Those already on the ground in the Blue Range are invaluable genetically and the loss of these wolves will severely handicap Mexican Wolf Recovery. There are several places available for another wolf reintroduction with the Grand Canyon Region leading the way.

    I heard that the fire was started by a campfire. Does anyone know of any further detail of just what party was responsible for this travesty?

    • avatar Jeff N. says:

      Christopher,

      The USF&WS is finally working on an actual recovery plan for the Mexican Gray Wolf and hopefully a second recovery area is in that plan.

      As far as who/what caused the fire, currently all that has been said is that an unattended campfire was the cause. At this time it is not known whether or not they have identified the person/people responsible for leaving the campfire unattended…..Probably never will.

  4. Three of the Mexican Wolf packs have been seen in the burned areas at their dens, so the adults have survived. If the pups didn’t sufficate in the dens, they will survive if the adults can secure enough food in the burned out areas to feed themselves and the pups.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Larry Thorngren,

      Thank you for this good news about the Mexican wolves.

    • avatar Christopher says:

      Yes, thank you for some good news!

    • avatar Jeff N. says:

      Larry,

      I believe that the Mexican Wolf recovery Team has plans to supplementally feed the packs that were denning w/in the fire perimeter if the wolves have diffuculty securing food on there own.

      Based on the latest info it sounds like the Rim Pack was in the most jeopardy of losing pups due to the fire burning at a high intensity thru their denning area…hope those pups made it.

      Sounds like Hawks Nest and Blue Stem should be alright.

      Tallan – Thanks for the link.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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