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Renewal

If you live in the west long enough, you will eventually make a print about fire.

The forests of the western half of the American continent are adapted to burn. Fire clears out the understory, fertilizes the soil with ash, and liberates fungal mycelium from the soil. Numerous evergreen tree species are fire-dependent, needing intense heat to melt open their cones and release their seeds. Precolonial peoples regularly burned the forests that they inhabited to select for certain tree species and to open space for game. Unfortunately, for the past century there has been an ill-advised policy of fire suppression throughout the forestlands of the west, leading to a much higher incidence of catastrophic fires that burn much hotter than they used to, and regularly kill even ancient forests most resistant to the flames. We need to bring fire back to our lives, to live closer to its wild energy and let it shape the landscape, and shape us.

The bird in this image is a Lewis’ Woodpecker, a beautiful, dwindling creature that has mostly given up on pecking wood and hawks insects from exposed branches. Burned forests are a preferred habitat.

Here’s a good article that sums up much of what is wrong about how we relate to fire.



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