Wildfire watch.Authorities pinpoint certain western forests so stressed and vulnerable that catastrophic fires threaten this summer.
With over 10 million acres of forest showing serious stress in the West, wildfire is an enormous concern everywhere. That concern heightens during hot, dry summers. Actual events cannot, of course, be predicted. They are shaped by random factors such as weather conditions, lightning strikes
AMERICAN FORESTS American Forests is a nonprofit conservation organization that promotes healthy forests and urban tree planting.
The organization was established in 1875 as the American Forestry Association, by physician/horticulturist John Aston Warder and a group of like-minded citizens , in cooperation with forestry agencies and experts across the country, has identified some of the most serious problem areas at this time. These are forests that contain major areas with unusually heavy loads of dead fuels and dying trees.
In addition to demanding extra vigilance by fire-suppression agencies, these unhealthy forests cry out for preventive treatment preventive treatment
See prophylactic treatment. . Careful salvage logging Salvage logging is the practice of felling trees in forest areas that have been damaged by fire. In the United States, salvage logging is a controversial issue for two main reasons. , thinning, fuel treatment, and prescribed fire is the first step toward ecosystem management in most places. Building a more diverse mosaic of forest types, conditions, and ages protects biodiversity, helps wildfire outbreak to be more "spotty," less intense, and less likely to damage watersheds. Investments in treatments to improve forest health will produce enormous financial savings to the nation, as well as the affected regions.
Alaska: Entire watersheds are at extreme risk in Alaska, where over three million acres of spruce forests have been killed by spruce budworm spruce budworm
Larva of a leaf roller moth (Choristoneura fumiferana), one of the most destructive North American pests. It attacks evergreens, feeding on needles and pollen, and can completely defoliate spruce and related trees, causing much loss for the lumber industry and in the last
five years. When these areas burn, fish and wildlife impacts will be felt over entire watersheds, and some of those impacts may last for decades.
Arizona: Spruce-budworm and bark-beetle attacks affect 200,000 to 300,000 acres of mixed conifer conifer (kŏn`ĭfûr) [Lat.,=cone-bearing], tree or shrub of the order Coniferales, e.g., the pine, monkey-puzzle tree, cypress, and sequoia. Most conifers bear cones and most are evergreens, though a few, such as the larch, are deciduous. forests in the high-elevation San Francisco peaks San Francisco Peaks, N Ariz., N of Flagstaff, consisting of Mt. Humphreys, 12,670 ft (3,862 m); Mt. Agassiz, 12,340 ft (3,761 m); and Mt. Fremont, 11,940 ft (3,639 m). . Intense fir encroachment is overtaking meadows, which decreases productivity of the herbaceous her·ba·ceous
1. Relating to or characteristic of an herb as distinguished from a woody plant.
2. Green and leaflike in appearance or texture. understory un·der·sto·ry
An underlying layer of vegetation, especially the plants that grow beneath a forest's canopy. , which in turn affects the prairie-based food chain and, ultimately, big-game populations.
California: The Modoc National Forest Modoc National Forest is a 1,654,392 acre (6695 km) national forest in northeastern California. Most of the forest was covered by an immense lava flow millions of years ago. in the northeastern corner has large areas of white fir that have invaded lower-elevation sites due to fire suppression since settlement. These are under severe stress, with insects killing virtually all the trees in heavily infested in·fest
tr.v. in·fest·ed, in·fest·ing, in·fests
1. To inhabit or overrun in numbers or quantities large enough to be harmful, threatening, or obnoxious: areas. Aggressive salvage is underway, but high-remain.
Idaho: Conditions are most serious on the Boise and Payette national forests. Insect and disease outbreaks over large areas, high fuel loads, and dry, moisture-deficient foliage on live plants contribute to high wildfire risk. Small communities, recreational homes, and valley farms and ranches are at risk as well.
Nevada: The Tahoe Basin in Nevada and California, is one of the most high-risk regions in America. Recent surveys have identified watersheds near Lake Tahoe where 85 percent of the trees are dead. Dense fir forests, the legacy of the pioneer logging era of the mid-1800s, are involved. Adding to the risk are the enormous number of high-value homes scattered throughout the forests.
Oregon: The Blue Mountains in northeastern Oregon have been experiencing a forest health crisis for a decade. A report issued by the four national forests involved estimates that half of the area is so far outside "ecological balance" that emergency treatment is needed. Wildfires have been avoided in recent years by a combination of favorable weather, good luck, and aggressive suppression efforts, but risks remain extreme.
Washington: The Colville, Wenatchee, and Okanogan national forests in the northeast all have areas of serious stress. Widespread spruce-budworm and bark-beetle infestations affect both federal and non-federal forests. The species shift from pines toward firs, largely the result of fire suppression since settlement, has affected nutrient and biomass cycling, increased wildfire intensity, and damaged soils and watersheds, according to Forest Service assessments.
Neil Sampson is the executive vice president of AMERICAN FORESTS.