Presents list of lectures for the 2010-11 Colorado College State of the Rockies speaker series: Are the trees falling? How pine beetle and wildfire shape Rocky Mountain forests / Dave Theobald, Jason Sibold -- Big burn: the lasting legacy of the nation’s largest wildfire / Timothy Egan -- The White is turning red: case study of the White River National Forest / Tony Dixon, Jan Burke -- Colorado State Government & forests: controversy over health, climate and roads / Mike King, Nolan Doesken -- Environmental groups and public involvement in forest health decisions / Suzanne Jones, Sloan Shoemaker -- Private solutions: ownership, philosophy, management.
Wildfires worldwide are increasing in intensity and frequency while more residents move into the wildland urban interface. Fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado emphasized this sad reality in June of 2012. Because of worsening conditions, many regions around the United States are exploring innovative policies to ensure residents are protected and the loss of structures is reduced. One such policy is the Prepare, Act, Survive approach developed by the Australians. Prepare, Act, Survive emphasizes mutual responsibility between residents and fire or land management authorities and encourages residents located in fire prone areas to prepare their property well before a blaze. Residents are then formally allowed to stay and defend their properties if they wish to do so or encouraged to leave well before the fire threatens them if they desire. This paper explores both the American Mandatory Evacuation policy and the Australian Prepare, Act, Survive approach. Finally, it predicts how many homes could have potentially been saved if residents had been allowed to stay and defend their property during the Waldo Canyon Fire.
State of the Rockies Lecture: Nolan Doesken is a state climatologist who has been monitoring Colorado’s climate for decades. Mike King is the executive director of Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Their combined expertise offesr a unique view of Colorado forests from a Colorado government perspective. Recorded December 6, 2010.
Large wood (LW) provides habitat to aquatic organisms and can significantly alter stream geomorphology. Sources of LW to stream ecosystem originate in riparian forests and are influenced by wildfire regimes. To quantify the relationship between burn severities and in-stream LW, we surveyed 15 low order streams effected by varying wildfire burn severities in a near-pristine watershed of the Frank Church River of No-Return Wilderness in Central Idaho. In the field and using remotely sensed imagery, burn severity was divided into four categories: “unburned,” “low,” “moderate,” and “high”. We hypothesized that burn severity would be positively correlated with in-stream LW. Alternatively, in areas with the highest burn severities, LW might be limited due to combustion. To test this hypothesis we used principal components analysis that indicated fire severity, recruitable LW, and pre-fire vegetation are the most important predictors of in-stream LW in landscapes with a natural wildfire regime. In particular, high category severity burns had significantly more LW than the other categories. An increase in burn severity is also correlated with increased average piece size. The comparison of fire severity maps to field data found a significant correlation locally but no correlation with fire severity of upstream reaches. Few studies have compared the interaction of in-stream LW and fire severity in a near-pristine stream ecosystem. The results of this study improve our understanding of LW dynamics in Intermountain West watersheds with a natural wildfire regime, and could inform post-fire salvage logging management practices.
During the summer of 2012, images of hillside homes engulfed in flames played on repeat on news stations across the country. In the foothills of Pikes Peak, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and killed two people between June 23 and July 10, 2012. Catastrophic fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire are increasingly common throughout the west, especially in the wildland urban interface (WUI). These mega-fires are far from the natural disturbances that occur in many Western ecosystems. Instead, they are the product of a century of federal fire suppression compounded by changing climatic conditions. This scenario is complicated by increasing development in the WUI, where houses literally add fuel to the fire . This research assesses the specific conditions that contributed to the production of vulnerability to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Timothy Egan's talk is based on his new book, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, a New York Times Bestseller and winner of 2009 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. Mr. Egan is also author of The Worst Hard Time, winner of the national book award for nonfiction and an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, writing his weekly "Opinionator" section. Recorded October 18, 2010.