Wilderness Develops From Wildfire
Incident: Carpenter 1 Wildfire
To protect lives and homes, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest worked only to extinguish the Carpenter 1 fire from its first hours. Due to strong firefighting, the effects of the fire are seen mostly in the Mt. Charleston Wilderness of the Forest.
In the 1964 Wilderness Act, the U.S. Congress decided the nation deserves spots “untrammeled by the hand of man,” where human influence is not felt. Mike Rowan, Recreation/Wilderness Program Manager for the Forest, said, “Our wilderness is not a place where we do nothing. We try and manage it to preserve its character. Lightning strikes are part of our world’s natural processes.”
Some may think that burnt forests don’t look very good, but it’s a matter of perspective, Rowan said. From a wilderness perspective, there’s no difference in value between a burnt and a green tree. A green tree earns more for lumber, but that’s not why we keep wilderness a part of our heritage of America. We value the importance of maintaining places where natural processes rule.
“It’s a three dimensional piece of art you can walk through. You can smell it; you can touch it. If we allow ourselves to go in and modify the land, it’s like taking art and messing with it. We destroy it by inflicting our values on something greater than ourselves. It’s presumptuous to think we can improve the woods when they’ve been operating their own way for a long, long time.”
Rarely a Forest Supervisor authorizes a special exemption for use of aircraft and chain saws in a Wilderness. The Carpenter fire received this exemption only to protect human safety and property. Bulldozer use, for example, was permitted along Kyle Canyon Road, but not in Wilderness.
Hikers should enjoy watching the neighborhood rebound. Sure, the landscapes will hold hazards such as snags, widowmakers (trees that fall silently), and ash pits. Yet the fire offers an opportunity to watch the landscape evolve. Some areas “go from being totally nuked to turning lush, and it doesn’t take that long,” said Rowan.
Raptors follow predators that follow birds that follow insects into a new burn. It doesn’t take that long. We can see new connections among species and the landscape in our lifetime or, in lightly burned areas, even in a few months.