Thursday, July 23, 2009

Zion National Park's Horse Fire Update

In the previous post we talked about the lodgepole pines trees and how wildfire plays a role in their life cycle. Lodgepoles are a "pioneer" species, meaning they are the first tree to re-establish after a forest fire. We also discussed how the government's policy of forest suppression over the past 50-100 years has resulted in a forest make-up that is possibly more suseptible to pest infestation. Fire management has changed radically in recent years, and the Horse Fire in Zion National Park is a perfect example. I started following the progression of the Horse Fire two weeks ago on July 9th. Rather than aggressively put out the fire, the fire fighters on the Horse Fire have been letting the fire burn, in a controled fashion. Here's the goal, according to the National Park Service Website update:

"The fire is burning in a fire-adapted ecosystem and is achieving the resource benefits it is being managed for. Most of the area has shown a light understory burn, with little torching of larger trees. This will reduce the amount of dead and down fuel and provide an opportunity to regenaration of native plants. The reduction of fuels will also lower the risk of wildfire to adjacent private lands from future wildfires."

Although the fire has closed a section of the West Rim Trail for a couple weeks, its in the remote, northern portion of the park. Aside from some smoke settling Zion Canyon at night, there little adverse effects from the fire. Its cool to see a new approach being implemented! If you'd like to learn more about what's going on with the fire here a link to the NPS page.

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