Sunday, May 4, 2008

Prescribed burning in Arkansas

The Arkansas News Bureau has a thoughtful article about prescribed fire as one of the tools used for managing forests. It is written by Joe Mosby, the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Here is an excerpt:
"This is what those earlier people found in Arkansas, said John Andre, ecologist with the Ozark National Forest. He told of records from the 1829-1845 period in the Government Land Office that said (this area) was surveyed with an average of 29 trees per acre, and these had an average diameter of 14 inches. Today, the choked forest has anywhere from 60 to 100 or more trees to the acre.

"In those days, they drove wagons through these forests. Can you imagine trying that today?" Andre said.

Historical accounts of Southern woodlands include descriptions of enormous trees and open, grassy floors. These accounts often detail the abundance of animals that inhabited the woodlands as well. Take a walk in the Ozarks today and you'll likely find a dense canopy of smaller, shade-loving trees instead of a more open forest landscape."

An article at NWAnews.com, also about prescribed fire, has a different point of view from an official with the Arkansas Sierra Club. An excerpt:
"Some don’t agree with the controlled-burn policy.

Tom McKinney, forest chairman with the Arkansas Sierra Club, said the Forest Service is burning too much Arkansas forest. He said the Forest Service is mistakenly trying to convert the forest from an uplands oak forest to an oak-pine savannah.

Much of the forest doesn’t need fire to rejuvenate itself, he said. The wet climate rots dead trees and leaves unlike Western forests that are in dryer climates.

He said the Sierra Club believes the Forest Service should revert to burn levels of the 1980s, about 20, 000 acres a year.

“We think their policy is to spend money in the guise of restoring biodiversity,” McKinney said."

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