FLATHEAD RESERVATION, Montana – Art Trahan picked a huckleberry and popped it into his mouth, surveying the forest around him. To Trahan, a veteran fire technician and firefighter for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Division of Fire, the legacy of fire is clear in the Garden Creek area of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana.
This forest has seen multiple prescribed burns under CSKT management, and forest growth is indicative of that. Mature ponderosa pine trees tower above younger ponderosa and western larch. Huckleberry and buffaloberry bushes intermingle with other bright green foliage in the underbrush. [Read more…]
FLATHEAD RESERVATION, Montana – The Fire History Project of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes includes interviews with tribal elders who have long memories and many stories to share about the traditional knowledge and use of fire.
Several elders talk about a sxʷpaám, the Salish word for firekeeper. The sxʷpaám would carry hot coals and ashes in a container, lifting it with sticks for short journeys or in a clam-shaped container for longer journeys. If the fire went out, tribes could start a new fire using drills or flint. [Read more…]
PINELANDS NATIONAL RESERVE, New Jersey – What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about New Jersey? Probably not forests or wildfire, more likely it’s an image of dense cities, or industrial manufacturing and pollution.
Our preconceived ideas need to be challenged on a regular basis if we want to be knowledgeable citizens. I had my biases rearranged after I visited New Jersey for my younger daughter’s graduation. I flew in an out of Newark, an accurate basis for the stereotype, but I was to learn how limiting that stereotype is. [Read more…]
Western wildfires are the headline grabbers, but forests in the eastern United States are also fire-dependent and increasingly at risk because of fire exclusion, according to a researcher at Penn State University.
“Many people have been lulled into believing that it is just the West that is prone to devastating wildfires, but that’s not true,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology, who for three decades has studied the historic role of fire in Eastern forests.
“Fire has played an important role historically in the forest ecosystem in the eastern United States, but the balance created by frequent — but not catastrophic — forest fires was upset by the Smokey Bear fire suppression regimen beginning in the late 1940s. Now, Eastern forests, when faced with prolonged drought, are more vulnerable to hotter-burning, terribly destructive wildfires.” [Read more…]
The helicopter circled over a small fire in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, near the border between Idaho and Montana. It was the summer of 2013 and Dave Campbell, the U.S. Forest Service district ranger responsible for the wilderness, peered down, trying to decide how far the fire would spread.
Based on his observations of hundreds of fires in the area, he believed it would probably burn down a hill and stall out on the banks of the Selway River. The computer models backed up his prediction, so Campbell decided to let it burn. [Read more…]
In the summer of 1968, the U.S. Forest Service sent wildlife biologist George Gruell into the forests of northwestern Wyoming with a camera, a tripod and an old photograph.
His assignment: Find the exact spot where the photo was taken — and take it again. [Read more…]
“Land on Fire: The New Reality of Wildfire in the West” is a new book by writer Gary Ferguson in which the subject of wildfire and Western land is discussed in great detail. This book is something of a departure for Ferguson, who has previously written several wonderful, personal books about his experiences and observations in the American West.
This book trades his usual poetic treatment for a more informational, educational approach and sheds light on questions now being asked about our ability to better manage lands with a greater appreciation for and acceptance of wildfire. [Read more…]
I spoke with author Gary Ferguson about his newest book, “Land On Fire.” Ferguson is a prolific non-fiction writer with over 20 published books about nature and the American West, including “Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone,” the first nonfiction title to win both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award for Nonfiction. Other works include “Decade of the Wolf: Returning The Wild To Yellowstone,” written with Douglas Smith, which won the 2005 Montana Book Award; “The Great Divide: The Rocky Mountains in the American Mind,” and “The Carry Home,” a very personal memoir which deals with his grief following the death of his wife Jane in a 2005 canoeing accident in Canada. [Read more…]
Eight years passed while a diverse group of Missoula, Montana, residents worked their way through the controversies to find compromise. And now the 13,000-acre Marshall Woods Restoration Project is finally approved and starting to take shape.
The to-do list includes commercial harvesting, tree thinning, prescribed fire and recreational improvements in several areas just north of the Missoula city limits, in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.
The intent is to restore native vegetation, promote forest health and reduce the wildfire danger at the head of a narrow, heavily populated valley.