On the weekend of May 21-22, EPIC sponsored a campout near Ruth to look at recovery from the massive 2020 August Fire, and examine how fire is managed. The 2022 fire campout was a success. Here’s a summary and some pictures.
Many people stepped up in large ways and small to help create this event. Kristen Lark, district ranger for the Mad River District of Six Rivers National Forest, went out of her way to ensure the event was legally compliant, keeping us all out of trouble. The Fir Cove Campground was just right: everything we needed and nothing we didn’t. A cheerful maintenance crew kept it in good shape. Max at the ranger station facilitated a useful road condition report. Thanks to all who keep the Ruth Ranger District running.
Saturday morning, Matt Simmons of EPIC covered the laws that apply to national forest logging and how EPIC looks at post-fire timber harvest. There was a lively discussion afterward.
That afternoon’s field trip drove through the largest area of severe damage in the whole August fire to visit Jones Ridge. Natural recovery was well underway. Although conifers mostly died, oaks, grasses (native and otherwise), forbs, bulbs, and shrubs such as this elderberry were sending up new shoots.
Sunday morning began with a bird walk led by Fred Bauer. Later, Doug Bevington of Environment Now shared his article “Myths of Prescribed Fire.” Several people in the audience had long involvement with prescribed burns, so the following discussion was especially rich. You can read Doug’s article here for a really worthwhile consideration of the appropriate use and limitations of this increasingly popular technique.
That afternoon the group went to Mad River Ridge, between the Mad and North Fork Eel, a lovely and little-visited place. Again, conifer mortality was very high, but almost everything else was coming back strongly. We found top-killed oaks stump-suckering with fresh reddish new leaves:
There were older oaks that had clearly been shaped by the same process in some previous fire:
Speculation about just what happened where a big stump burned out:
Despite the loss of tens of thousands of acres of Douglas fir, the ecosystem is healthy enough to support apex predators such as coyotes or mountain lions:
There’s enthusiasm for next year already. Presentations, field trips, good times learning together. Emphasis on pyrodiversity, natural recovery, and how fire works in natural systems. You might pencil in the weekend before Memorial Day in 2023 if you're interested in learning more about these environments and systems!
*EPIC is so grateful to Susan Nolan for her work organizing this campout and for this wonderful recap and photos describing how it went!