What’s wildfire to you? Choking smoke, blackened trees, charred earth, burned homes? All true. But there can also be numerous benefits to nature and people, particularly with carefully planned burns.
At the Conservancy’s latest Zoom with a View on July 15, “Climate, Fire, and Forest Resiliency,” Ray Entz explained the positive aspects of managed wildfire. A former INLC board member, Ray is uniquely qualified to address this topic. Not only is he the Director of Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources with the Kalispel Natural Resources Department, but he is also a life-long conservationist and wildlife professional, fully versed on the many facets of wildfire in forest management.
According to Ray, climate change, a century-old policy of suppressing fires, and mixed forest management have put our forests in danger. Insect and disease rates are rapidly increasing. Many of our Douglas firs are infected with Armillaria root rot and pine beetles are killing entire stands of trees, which fuels rogue fires. Monocultures of invasive species such as Hawthorn are rapidly crowding out beneficial native plants such as camas, historically an important food source for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and other tribes in our area. Our forests are so choked with ground fuels that when a fire starts, either from natural or man-made causes, it frequently turns into a high-intensity, catastrophic wildfire that destroys virtually everything in its path.
Ray explained that planned, managed burns are an important tool in preventing such destructive fires, as well as in cleansing forests and increasing habitat. For example, among many benefits, fires can remove some of the species prone to pine beetle infestations, and can regenerate stands of Aspen trees, which are much more resilient. Prescribed, managed burns also reduce the ground fuels that contribute to wildfire intensity.
Ray reported that the Tribe can’t do planned burning right now due to COVID-19, both because social distancing for the fire crew members is impossible during the burns, and because smoke s especially detrimental to people with compromised respiratory systems who are already at increased risk to COVID-19.
Thanks, Ray, for such an engaging, informative presentation! Feel free to watch and share the recorded Zoom presentation, which can be found on INLC’s youtube channel. Also, stay tuned for the Conservancy’s next Zoom in August. The topic is the crucial one of our great Rathdrum Prairie-Spokane Valley aquifer.