The fire ecology story: Severely burned conifer forests are magical places

Some species have evolved traits that tie them to severely burned forest conditions

Blackened forests are absolute, what's the problem?

Why are we so hell bent on demonizing fire?"

So, is there any way to address these concerns while also allowing conifer forests to occasionally burn severely, as most have for millennia?

Step 1.  Accept that ECOLOGY is central to public land management

Step 2.  Use ecology to understand that all conifer forests are disturbance dependent and that the most important agent of disturbance in conifer forest systems is fire, which varies in average severity among forest types.

Step 3.  Use ecology to understand that, even though fire regimes vary, MOST western conifer-dominated forests historically burned severely enough to yield mixed-severity effects.  

Step 4.  Use ecology to understand that ONLY high-severity fire can stimulate the critical process of forest succession.  Don't be misled by messages suggesting that severe fires are "bad," and only low-severity, understory fires are "good."

Step 5.  Use this ecological knowledge to develop land management practices that are not only economically viable, but ecologically sound as well.  Specifically... 

1.  Thinning and prescribed burning before fire

2.  Firefighting itself

3.  Salvage logging after fire

This webpage summary was developed by Dick Hutto, who is an Emeritus Professor in biology and wildlife biology at the University of Montana.  He taught there from 1977-2014 and focused most of his research on conifer forests that have been restored by severe wildfires.  

Once he came to appreciate that most people have no clue about the naturalness and necessity of severe fire, his attention began to shift toward delivering research results through avenues that lie beyond the traditional publication route.  These avenues include radio, television, newspaper, magazine, book, and web-based outlets like the one you’re looking at now.  

For more information on Hutto's background and experience, here is a link to his personal web page: