Panel 1 – Fire & Forest Management
Ponderosa Forests of Yesterday
Over a century ago, our landscape looked much different than it does today. Forests had an open park-like feel where an acre might contain 20–40 large, healthy trees and only a few scattered smaller trees. Trees grew in clumps interspersed with expanses of thich bunches of native grasses.
Fire: Nature’s Clean-Up Crew
In the past, ponderosa pine forests evolved with fire. Frequent, low-intensity fires burned through the grassy understory every 2–14 years.
These fires helped maintain the openness of the forests by clearing away small, unhealthy trees and brush. Larger trees, protected by thick, insulating bark, escaped serious harm.
Sustainable Healthy Ecosystem
Early forests had healthy ecosystems. Ash produced by frequent, low-intensity fires helped recycle nutrients into the ground. Plants and soil organisms flourished, providing habitat and food for small mammals, such as squirrels and mice; large animals like deer, elk, and antelope; and many bird species.
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