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After Fires Burn, Forest Healing Begins

8-18 ecology

CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. – As the fires continue to consume more and more land, experts are looking at how the forest will heal in their wake.

Ecologists say fires are natural in the evolution of a forest, and can create a diversity of habitats that can support life. They say as trees burn down, it opens up a canopy so that wildflowers and grasses can grow. Small stands of live trees and living roots underground will allow the forest to eventually return in full.

And a similar recovery is expected for wildlife in those areas.

“Seldom do we get a fire that completely eradicates all the wildlife from an area,” said retired US Forest Service wildlife expert Bob Gale. “Even when Mt. Saint Helens erupted it was just a few years before people began seeing deer and elk.”

Gale says birds and insects that rely on hardwood trees will usually disappear for a time.

Deer and elk, because they survive on ground vegetation, will sometimes just move over to the next ridge while the fire burns, and can be seen almost immediately afterwards.