How Can Forest Fires Be a Good Thing?
Fire Season is once again upon us – there have been 580 wildfires covering 143,964.09 hectares in Alberta so far this year.
As disturbing as it is to witness, huge wildfires are a necessary part of our forest’s ecosystem. And as much as eco-environmentalists would like to blame global warming entirely for the increasing trends in fires, a more accurate cause is Forestry Management and it’s Fire Suppression policies from the 1800s.
Forestry policy nationwide starting in the late 1800s stipulated all wildfires were to be suppressed as quickly as possible for fear of of uncontrollable and destructive fires. Thus, historic fire suppression in Canada and the US has allowed for the creation of excess burnable vegetation. Which has lead to massive old forests and large quantities of underbrush finally burning by the hand of Mother Nature or by man.
“We have done such a good job of suppressing fires for so long that when you drive from Jasper to Banff you see stands of 80- to 100-year-old trees that are just waiting to burn.” said Edward Zruski with the Institute for Energy & Environment Policy at Queen’s University.
Fortunately the policies have changed and we now understand the importance of controlled burns for the purpose of forest management, farming and prairie restoration. Whether Mother Nature takes over or a uncontrolled burn occurs, we need to keep in mind, that fires are not bad, they are necessary, and just like the homes that flood on the banks of rivers and beaches, it’s truly unfortunate when these massive fires impose on the places we live.
“Those old trees are ready to burn and we need to understand re-growth won’t occur unless there’s a fire to open up their cones and throw out the seeds.” Zruski said.
Albertans are going to be living with fires for a long time to come due to our past faulty fire management models which suppressed what Mother Nature naturally would have done to maintain the health of our forests. Through controlled burning methods along with Mother Nature, the health of our forests will eventually be where they need to be. And hopefully in time, these destructive massive fires will be a thing of the past.
To discuss creating a Fire Management Plan as part of your project, reach out to Janine Wildschut – AiM’s Manager of Remediation and Reclamation.