Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
A Good Burn by Katie Garza - Winter 2002Mother Nature" right now is saying to Arizona and saying to the West that we have got to clean up these forests," Arizona Gov. Jane Hull told the press in June about the state's largest wildfire this summer. The blaze destroyed nearly 500,000 acres and numerous homes and buildings north of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in east- Central Arizona. "Nature did it on a regular basis before people came out here -- Clean forests are the way we've got to go."
The definition of a clean wilderness, however, varies depending upon your point of view. But because everyone can agree that something needs to be done about the wildfires wreaking havoc on the American West, perhaps "clean" in this case means a significant reduction in the amount of hazardous fuel -- or the buildup of brush and smaller trees -- that can cause them.
Solutions about how to reduce fuel levels vary from logging to letting nature take its course. But managing natural systems to reduce wildfires requires an ecological approach designed to respect the biodiversity of our ecosystems and ensure sustainability of these natural resources.
Experts link destructive wildfires to years of fire suppression by humans that has resulted in forests with unnaturally high fuel loads and diminished plant diversity. They advocate an ecologically based fire management plan that is focused not only on saving lives from raging wildfires, but also on maintaining ecosystem health. Increasingly today, ecologists are working to restore healthy ecosystems by removing brush and dense thickets of small trees and by using deliberately set, controlled fires (prescribed fire) that deter dangerous wildfires and return plant diversity to ecosystems by "opening up" forests and grasslands.