The Wildfire Climate Relationship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness:
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The Wildfire Climate Relationship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness: Using Management Strategies to Return Wildfire to Wilderness Landscapes. When you think of wilderness…….What do you imagine?. Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area. Area of Interest. IDAHO. The Wilderness ACT of 1964.

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The Wildfire Climate Relationship in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness:Using Management Strategies to Return Wildfire to Wilderness Landscapes


When you think of wilderness…….What do you imagine?


Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area

Area of Interest

IDAHO

The Wilderness ACT of 1964


The Wilderness Act of 1964

  • Wilderness is to be “untrammeled” by man.

    • Who knew a reference to a horse could be so important to wilderness legislation.


BUT…….

  • Fire has and is successfully suppressed across wilderness landscapes.

  • Effectively, 99% of all wildfire is suppressed


Wildfire Suppression

  • Alters fire occurrence changing……

    • Natural plant communities

    • Succession

    • Vegetation mosaic

    • Accumulations of fuel

    • Wildlife habitat

    • Nutrient cycles

    • Energy flows

    • The interplay between fire, insects and disease

    • Ecosystem productivity, diversity and stability

    • Water quantity and quality

  • Direct Conflict to Wilderness Legislation!


Understanding the Variables

  • Fire Extent, Frequency and Severity

    Influenced By

    • Topography (elevation, aspect, slope and geology)

    • Vegetation types

    • Climate


Climate and Fire

  • Palmer Drought Severity Indices (PDSI)

  • Superposed Epoch Analysis (SEA)

  • Fire Atlases/National Interagency Fire Management Integrated Database (NIFMID)


So, What do the Pros Say?

  • Fire atlas data:

    • 70% of the SBW has burned

      • Between 1880 and 1996

      • 524 fires

    • 75% of this total is attributed to the 6 largest fire years.

      • 1889, 1910, 1919, 1929, 1934 &1988

        • WHY IS THIS?


Extreme Drought

PDSI Values

Generally……….


300 Year Perspective


Similarly………


Local/Global

  • La Nina and El Nino Phases are important

  • Variance in precip. Occurs at 40 degrees N.

    • So………


Wilderness and Fire

  • “Wilderness fire, in its purest form, should be “wild” fire: unfettered by the constraints of humans. We have never prescribed a “let-it-blow” policy for tornadoes and hurricanes, a “let-it-erupt” policy for volcanoes or a “let-it-grind” policy for glaciers. Why, then, did we need a “let-it-burn” policy for fires.”-Agee

    • Fire is a natural disturbance that humans can sometimes manipulate.

    • Social stigmas, politics and economics all influence the human response to wildfire.

    • Fire suppression has previously been viewed as a way to protect forest resources for future harvest.


Fire & The Future

  • A natural disturbance

  • Wilderness… and its future ecological health

  • Scientific Knowledge and Current Conditions

    • Provide land managers with tools for re-establishment of fire in wilderness ecosystems…..WFU’s and AMR


Associated Costs & Benefits

  • Standard Suppression $150-250/Acres

  • Fuels Treatment $1200/acre at an estimated 90-200 million acres

  • WFU’s 43$/Acre


Conclusion

  • Natural interaction exists between climate and wildfire in the SBW

  • Larger scales of interest also are important to consider

  • Suppression has altered wildfire frequency, extent and severity normally influenced by climate, topography and vegetation


References


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