Fire Adapted Forests
Our watersheds are in need of holistic forest management. The traditional timber sale approach is not restorative. Landscape treatment options to restore natural fire processes in the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains include; the practice of Traditional Ecological Knowledge through cultural burning, the use of prescribed fire, passive restoration, appropriate fuel reduction, and the management of wildland fire for resource benefit.
Ecologically based thinning
Since the 1950s industrial forest management and old-growth logging have created plantation stands that are very susceptible to uncharacteristically hot fires and have removed innumerable large, fire resistant trees. These large trees with their thick bark, high canopies and diverse structural conditions are not only the most likely forest vegetation to survive a fire event, but they also act to moderate fire conditions and reduce the likelihood of stand replacing crown fire. The impact of industrial logging has been a major compounding effect on forest health and fire management concerns when coupled with fire suppression.
Responsible small-diameter thinning operations, in combination with prescribed fire use adjacent to communities, can best provide effective community protection from wildland fire. By focusing on the public and private lands adjacent to rural or otherwise fire prone communities we can effectively protect human and private property values, while allowing wildfire a more natural role in the backcountry.
Thinning operations conducted to restore more resilient fire adapted conditions to forest stands should
emphasize the treatment of plantation stands and logged-over forests that currently support uncharacteristic species composition and structures. The retention of large diameter, fire resistant trees should be of the utmost importance and should be the “anchor” for any forest treatments. All forms of thinning should be based on natural processes and forest conditions that incorporate the influence of natural disturbance processes, including fire. Natural fire adapted stand structures and patterns should be incorporated into forest restoration planning efforts.
Likewise, in forested stands, canopy conditions should be retained, on average, at 80% on north slopes and 60% on south slopes to reduce exposure to drying winds and increased solar radiation that could increase future fire behavior and decrease available moisture. Retention of canopy conditions can also reduce the understory shrub response initiated by heavy thinning. The increased reproduction of conifer and brush species, as well as stump sprouting hardwoods, can increase future fire risks and fire behavior.
Prescribed fire and Cultural Burning
The Klamath Forest Alliance supports the use of prescribed fire which includes cultural burning on public and private lands to reduce fuel loading, restore natural fire adapted conditions, enhance culturally significant plants and landscapes and encourage more healthy, resilient ecosystems. We see fire as an essential natural process and acknowledge the impact fire suppression has had on the Klamath-Siskiyou region. The responsible use of prescribed fire should be an