Forest Hydrologist Tracy Weddel helps restore meadow landscape burned by the Rim Fire. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)
Watching the golden glow of the sun alight upon meadow grasses stirs my imagination. My mind conjures up misty visions of the famous naturalist, John Muir, traipsing through the Sierras, admiring Corn Lilies and sedges. A red-tailed hawk swoops into this vision and silently plucks a pocket gopher with outstretched talons. Coursing through this living landscape, creating a back drop for this scene, is the magical, musical sound of water.
Aside from their beauty, meadows provide a variety of important ecological functions. A multitude of species depend upon riparian areas and meadows to survive. Black bears turn over meadow logs looking for ants. Deer nibble the grasses and brush. Coyote music echoes across the flatlands and bounces between walls of lava stone. Walk close to the waterway of a meadow and you may hear the plop of a basking frog as it jumps the bank to enter the stream of life. Read more »
Fire prevention specialist Bob Blasi works to contain a small wildfire on the Tusayan Ranger District. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
In calendar year 2014, the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest achieved a longtime goal of zero human-caused wildfires.
According to forest wildfire records, the last time the district had zero human fires was in 1965, exactly 50 years ago.
“Over the last three years, we have had a specific, written goal of reducing human-caused wildfires on the district to zero for an entire calendar year,” said Quentin Johnson, fire management officer for the Tusayan Ranger District. “Given that the district receives millions of visitors each year because it is located immediately adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park, we knew this would be an incredible challenge.” Read more »
Deer mice and chipmunks were among the dominant small mammals in the study area and were mostly unaffected by the fuel reduction treatments. (Photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org)
Forest managers in the western United States often face difficult choices when it comes to reducing wildfire hazards while also maintaining wildlife habitat in forests that have changed dramatically in the last century.
The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and partners are working to find the balance between forest restoration and habitat conservation in a new era of forest management. Read more »
A grass fire burns across eastern Washington.
Land begins to recover one year after emergency reseeding following the Los Alamos fires in New Mexico. Some of the species planted for erosion control and habitat improvement were prairie junegrass, slender wheatgrass, mountain brome, three awn, gambel's oak and mountain mahogany.
Traveling at speeds up to 14 mph, wildfires can quickly ravish landscapes and homesteads. Experts with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS) are studying what plants can slow fire rather than fuel it.
NRCS’ Plant Materials Centers evaluate and study plants, including those that can reduce fire damage or losses, helping keep people, property and natural resources safe. These centers, located across the United States, can provide information on the type plant best suited for an area given factors such as geography and climate. Read more »
This year has been an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anyplace. Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather event, including wildfires in California, extreme cold and snow through the Midwest and East, and destructive tornadoes in the South and Central Plains.
All of these events resulted in the loss of power for hundreds of thousands, and without power comes food safety challenges. The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this. Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »
Lincoln Bramwell, Chief Historian, U.S. Forest Service (Courtesy Tim Palmer)
For the better part of a decade, Lincoln Bramwell spent summers fighting wildfires across the West for the U.S. Forest Service. But over the years he spent on the fireline, he began to see his job change in ways that felt more obvious and dangerous.
This is because Bramwell began to see more homes on mountain slopes and ridges. An increasing wildland-urban interface adds challenges further complicated by public demands that firefighters make heroic stands to save houses from approaching wildfires.
What struck Lincoln was how entire subdivisions rolled over the rough mountain landscape nestled into the forest and shielded from view from the main road. And not all of these homes looked new. In fact, from his observations, many seemed quite old. Read more »