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A stand of trees, mostly Douglas fir, burned by the Usal Fire this week on Shady Dell. Photo by Richard Campbell

Good News/Bad News Following Fire at Shady Dell

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If you’ve been following our social media over the last week or so, you’ve heard about the Usal Fire, which started July 27 and burned about 180 acres. About 150 acres of the fire took place on our Shady Dell property. The fire is now almost completely contained.

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Panorama of a prescribed fire at Boyes Prairie in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. The three panels show immediately before, during, and after the fire.

Prescribed Fire and Coast Redwood Prairies

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During a brief burn window in October, crews from California State Parks and the National Park Service diligently worked to restore the natural process of fire to various ecosystems in over 2,800 acres of Redwood National and State Parks.

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San Vicente Redwoods prescribed burn. Photo courtesy of Sempervirens Fund

Modern Fire Management and Ancient Land Stewardship Traditions

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After witnessing the many wildfires that occurred over the past summer, it’s hard not to think of them as extremely destructive. However, fires are misunderstood; they play an integral role in the unique ecosystems that California has to offer.

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Soberanes Fire Burns in the Redwood Region

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At the time of writing, the Soberanes Fire has burned over 60,000 acres in Monterey County and is about 45% contained. The fire area covers much of Garrapata State Park, a scenic and rugged redwoods park at the southern end of the coast redwood range. We don’t yet know whether, or to what extent, the park’s redwood groves are suffering damage; and while the primary concern is for the well-being of nearby human communities, it’s interesting to consider the implications of fires like this in the redwood forest.

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One year after a wildfire, burnt redwoods regrow foliage. Photo by Benjamin S. Ramage

Re-Sprouting After Fire

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Last weekend, while I was hiking in the forests of Northern California with strong winds and thunder and lightning storms, I was reminded that we are entering fire season. While the thought of forest fires often stir fear in us Continued

This redwood grove on a League-owned Napa County property will get protection from extra-intense wildfires.

Fierce Fires Pose Threats to Forests, Water

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It’s fire season again. Last week, the local news reported on a 2,500-acre fire in Napa County, just east of the redwood range and Save the Redwoods League’s property near Bothe-Napa State Park. As I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs, Continued

Left, Cape Vizcaino in 1947, with meadows clearly visible. Right, the present view, with trees encroaching heavily.

Burning Cape Vizcaino

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The view from the picnic table was grand to be sure, the blue infinities of sea and sky meeting where the distant fog gathered offshore (and coastal fog, when you think about it, really is the perfect blend of the Continued

Deliberate burning as a restoration tool. Images by Leonel Arguello, National Park Service

Burning as a Restoration Tool

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Last week, the sky around the Bald Hills area of Redwood National Park was hazy beyond the normal shroud of fog.  Smoke filled the air.  The forest was burning.  Water trucks stood at the ready, fire crews and park staff Continued

One Way to Manage and Protect a Forest: Burn It

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Lately we have been thinking a lot about fire. It is fire season in California and sadly huge fires in the west are making headlines with their destructive activity. So, we’ve been discussing ways to decrease these devastating forest fires. Continued

Dudley's lousewort (Pedicularis dudleyi). Photo by asadotzler, Flickr Creative Commons

A Rare Plant Inhabits the Forest – Or Does It?

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It was a beautiful day for a hike along Peters Creek. The ancient forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains was in full bloom; chattering woodpeckers, the tumbling creek, giant redwood and Douglas fir trees all begged for acknowledgement and appreciation.  Continued

Fire-suppressed sequoia grove – note the large fire scar on the giant sequoia on the right.

Setting Fire to the Forest

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We’ll do all the law’s allowin’/Tomorrow I’ll be right back plowin’/ settin’ the woods on fire —Hank Williams In a recent post, I discussed the role of natural disturbance in creating the forests we see today. This week, I’d like Continued

Burned tree in Redwood National Park.

Where do forests come from?

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Whenever I’m out in the forest, I can’t help but think about how it all got started.  Even though the redwoods may seem timeless and unchanging, they almost always began in turmoil.  These periods of rapid change are known as Continued

The ancient tree known as “Treebeard” has often been used as a traveler camp, and though burned from the inside many times, it has survived with some portions left dead from the fires. Photo by Mark Andre, Environmental Services

Old-Growth Redwood Burns in Arcata

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“Transient Camp Causes Fire in Old-Growth Redwood Tree,” reads the headline posted by the City of Arcata at www.arcataeye.com. The fire did not damage just any old redwood.  It burned (and is apparently still burning) in ‘Treebeard,’ a redwood estimated Continued

A researcher climbs a giant sequoia at Mountain Home Grove next to a burned giant sequoia that remains alive with two vigorous sprouts near its broken top. Photo credit: Bob Van Pelt

Burned out but not fading away

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It’s fairly difficult for me to imagine living for 3,000 years. Yet giant sequoias live for millennia, standing tall in a single location as the years, decades, and centuries tick by. They are pounded by rain, snow, sweltering heat, lightening, Continued

Giant Sequoia

25 Years of Controversy amid the Monarchs

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I just got back from a trip to see the cinnamon-colored giants of Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest in the southern Sierra. It was a real treat to explore a giant sequoia grove for the first time, especially when accompanied Continued

Fires and humans shape redwood forests.

Impact of Humans on Forest Spans Thousands of Years

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Imagine being the first person to set foot inside the redwood forest. I can picture this visitor pushing through lush ferns as they gazed up at the towering trees. This brave explorer would have no trails to follow as they Continued

One year after a wildfire, burnt redwoods regrow foliage. Photo by Benjamin S. Ramage

Redwoods Regrow After Fires

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In the past 70 to 80 years, most fires in California’s coast redwood forests were prevented or suppressed. But in 2008, more than 2,000 fires ignited forests in Northern and Central California during a single summertime lightning storm. Overwhelmed by conflagrations in drier areas, firefighters allowed many of fires in coast redwood forests to burn. Learn more about this research.

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High-severity treatments have boosted the growth of isolated giant sequoias in what is now Giant Sequoia National Monument. Photo by Rob York

Disturbances Benefit Giant Sequoias

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Being dwarfed by Earth’s most massive tree, the giant sequoia (aka “Sierra redwood”), fills you with wonder. It’s hard to believe that a living thing can be so enormous and old. It may be alarming to see these forests on fire, but research funded by your gifts shows that disturbances such as these actually are good for giant sequoias. Learn more about this research.

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Fire is an example of a disturbance event that redwoods face.

Coast Redwoods’ Response to Disturbance Events

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In 2006, Save the Redwoods League recruited eight scientists to survey scientific literature about how coast redwood forests respond to “disturbance events” such as fires, windstorms and floods. The scientists considered how redwoods fit into two broad categories of trees: those that need major disturbances to perpetuate themselves and those that don’t. The seedlings of disturbance-dependent trees germinate in open spaces, grow quickly to outcompete other vegetation and tend to form even-age stands. Species that don’t need disturbances tend to be shade tolerant, slower growing and longer lived.  They usually grow in uneven-age stands. Learn more about this research.

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