Monday, November 21, 2011

fires were part of nature thousands of Gila National Forest of years. But then we tried to delete

This year marked my tenth round was the fire itself, providing a portion of the Gila National Forest in southwestern New Mexico, where every year hundreds of fires caused by lightning strikes broke out in the landscape. When people ask me what I'm doing here, the simplest answer I can offer is that I paid to see the mountains all day. If a column of smoke rises, I use my two-way radio to call a dealer and the alarm. Sometimes fires are fought, sometimes allowed to burn, according to a calculation of the Dark "risk values" against the "benefits to forest resources." From early May to mid-August this year, I saw six fire , less than one in ten days I spent in my watchtower. For most of the summer, when my time was mine and so were the moods of the mountain. No TV. No connection to the Internet. No phone. Five miles from the nearest road.

pure happiness, in other words. For a while.

There is a saying among some of my colleagues in the fire, that during the 20th century, despite our phenomenal success in extinguishing fires on public lands, not so much extinguishing fire as their answer. No more. Especially among the effects of climate change on the day the fires to have ended. But if I learned anything in my decade of silence, watching the mountains, is that fire is as creative as a destructive force, and from among the blackened stumps of the forest is renewed once. What types of forests is uncertain. Will we follow the prescription of ranchers and loggers and their cohorts in Congress, and turn the cattle loose and cutting, the mistakes that got us here in the first place? Or will we learn a little humility, recognizing that we live in a fire-adapted ecosystem, and allow the ground to go its own way, sometimes the fire to the recovery?

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