Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

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Chip Down
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Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by Chip Down » July 9th, 2018, 6:21 pm

Interesting story in The Oregonian: "10 months after the Eagle Creek Fire erupted, Gorge shows promising signs of recovery".

A couple quotes:
Even with embers still smoking, parts of the Gorge have gone from ashen black to verdant green in less than a year. It's a sign, fire experts say, that fire is a natural phenomenon, and that the Gorge as we know it will be back again.
Hmm. Recovery overlaps with isolated pockets still smoldering. fascinating, isn't it?
speaking strictly from an ecological standpoint, the fire was beneficial for the forest, Ellsworth [an OSU fire ecologist] said.

"We've had a fire deficit in this area for many decades," she said. Forests need for that underbrush to be periodically cleared out and many species, like cavity-nesting birds, need dead trees in which to make their homes. "Ecologically, this was a really good fire."
Wow! It's not unheard of for that to be hinted at, but in a high-profile fire like this, people are usually a little more balanced and discreet. I appreciate her candor. (She did also acknowledge the hardships caused by the fire, but that's a token remark. After all, she's a scientist, not a diplomat.)

Incidentally, I can't help noticing that an Oxford comma is desperately needed here:
Businesses were shuttered for months, hundreds had to evacuate their homes and trails in the area, which hold a special place in many people's hearts, have yet to recover.
In fact, maybe semicolons could be employed: Businesses were shuttered for months; hundreds had to evacuate their homes; and trails in the area, which hold a special place in many people's hearts, have yet to recover.

source: https://www.oregonlive.com/expo/news/er ... t_breaking

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jeffstatt
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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by jeffstatt » July 9th, 2018, 6:27 pm

Businesses were shuttered for months, hundreds had to evacuate their homes and trails in the area,
which hold a special place in many people's hearts, have yet to recover.

Whoa yeah I had to read that several times! I'm not the grammar police but I thought the "hypen" was the right thing to use in this case? :)
Businesses were shuttered for months, hundreds had to evacuate their homes and trails in the area -
which hold a special place in many people's hearts - have yet to recover.

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drm
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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by drm » July 10th, 2018, 4:45 am

This is a head vs heart thing for me. I know in the academic sense that fires are a natural part of the forest and are ecologically beneficial. And while many areas we've already gotten into probably will recover very quickly since not all trees were killed, we haven't seen the worst areas of 100% kill zones yet. What about Dublin Lake? Probably complete char. Of course I'm thinking more of the burns on Mt Hood and Adams, where the intensity was much higher. My heart tells me these areas will not recover in my lifetime and a charred forest is just not a green forest. That's the heart talking. "Forever" isn't really relevant to us.

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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by Aimless » July 13th, 2018, 11:13 am

This week I walked through some heavily burned areas from the 2003 B&B complex fire (it was Cabot Lake trail) and was happy to see that all through the acres and acres of snow brush there were pine saplings emerging above the brush. Given a few more decades, those trees, which grew in the shade of the brush will in turn shade out the brush and be replaced with a more shade tolerant understory. It is discouraging for us, who operate at human time scales, but the forest is not human and this is a part of its life cycle.

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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by sgyoung » July 13th, 2018, 11:38 am

drm wrote:
July 10th, 2018, 4:45 am
This is a head vs heart thing for me. I know in the academic sense that fires are a natural part of the forest and are ecologically beneficial. And while many areas we've already gotten into probably will recover very quickly since not all trees were killed, we haven't seen the worst areas of 100% kill zones yet. What about Dublin Lake? Probably complete char. Of course I'm thinking more of the burns on Mt Hood and Adams, where the intensity was much higher. My heart tells me these areas will not recover in my lifetime and a charred forest is just not a green forest. That's the heart talking. "Forever" isn't really relevant to us.
Same here. In hindsight, my initial reaction to the fire was overwrought, but it was sincere. It also isn't irrational to be saddened by a fire impacting a familiar and well-loved area, even if that damage has long-term benefits and the area will recover. Also, the fire did spread rapidly at first; there was no way to know at the time that most of the burn would be moderate to low intensity. Recognizing that now makes it easier to focus on regrowth, but I was definitely fearing the worst and picturing a fully charred gorge. Very glad that didn't happen!

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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by Charley » July 14th, 2018, 9:01 am

sgyoung wrote:
July 13th, 2018, 11:38 am
In hindsight, my initial reaction to the fire was overwrought, but it was sincere. It also isn't irrational to be saddened by a fire impacting a familiar and well-loved area, even if that damage has long-term benefits and the area will recover. Also, the fire did spread rapidly at first; there was no way to know at the time that most of the burn would be moderate to low intensity. Recognizing that now makes it easier to focus on regrowth, but I was definitely fearing the worst and picturing a fully charred gorge. Very glad that didn't happen!
Ditto.

I still have the feeling that, in a perfectly managed National Forest this close to town, a plan of prescribed burns would have been better. We'd sacrifice some of the "wildness" of the wilderness by managing with fire, but we'd gain safety for nearby communities, and might be able to replicate the beneficial ecological effects without the risk to human life, and human infrastructure.

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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by drm » July 15th, 2018, 6:53 am

Prescribed burns in the Columbia River Gorge? I don't think we would ever see that. The terrain and closeness to infrastructure - including major power lines - make it very unlikely I think. There are a list of conditions or requirements for intentionally setting fires, and I think the deep vertical gorges that define almost all of the terrain there make it unlikely. But if people who work directly with these know otherwise, I'd like to hear it.

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Re: Heresy at the Big-O: Eagle Creek fire didn't destroy the gorge forever

Post by retired jerry » July 21st, 2018, 7:07 am

The last few years I've walked through recently burned areas on Mt Hood and Three Sisters. They are recovering nicely. This is natural. Take Cairn Basin, one edge is severely burned and it will take years before I'll want to camp there like I have in the past, but there are fine camping spots nearby. Seeing how the burned areas are recovering is quite interesting.

There is a problem with the interface between humans and the forest. They could do more thinning, prescribed burns, hardening of human structures. There are some legal problems that could be resolved, like there's funding and authorization to fight fires, but not to harden human structures.

They could lock up all males when they reach age 16 and release them when they're 26 :)

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