Stop burning the Lower Buffalo Wilderness

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Stop the burning of the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. Call, email or write the National Park Service at the BuffaloRiver and ask them to stop this experiment that has no real science for back up. http://www.nps.gov/buff/contacts.htm

Background: http://www.nps.gov/buff/parknews/prescribed-fire-in-lower-wilderness.htm

Reality:

When I go into the Buffalo National River Lower Buffalo Wilderness every year, I am saddened. Reminders of burnt, scarred dying oak trees; destroyed and falling den trees; bare ground from litter burn off, charcoal remains of downed trees that could have fed nutrients to the bugs and soil. Seedlings and small trees but bare dead sticks. All reminders of an experiment that has no real scientific validation or apparent end. The acts of trying to return lands to a guess-timation of what it might have been like 400 years ago is a practice in futility. An oak and cedar savanna only means 90 percent of the good and living trees must die.

If wilderness survives modern man’s interpretation of how it should appear, desire to control and manipulate its entire structure, pressure by increasing use and abuse, and then just maybe generations to come will enjoy the solitude and peace that real wilderness can offer.

National Park Service response to questions:

· They said this would be the 3rd total burn in the last 10 years. Thiswould be the 6th burn of the TurkeyMountain area in last 20 years.

· There has been research by grad students but no definitive science on exactly what changes have taken place or any evidence that a goal is near or achievable.

· They did say there are fewer funds available for the burn project. Does this mean that other areas of the park will suffer to fund this long term savanna experiment?

· They did say that the national research folks would evaluate the “progress” after this 3rd total burn to make a determination of the next steps.

· They said they would burn from ridge tops down because of less manpower and less likelihood that a hot fire would occur. (Like one of the previous)

· They did say that the entire wilderness may not burn but they were looking at 40 to 60%.

My questions:

· Who is doing the evaluation at a regional or national level to see what has been accomplished and whether it needs to continue? Are they aware of the concerns and opposition of conservationists?

· What is the course of appeal on the current and future burns?

· Where is the definitive evidence that anything has changed because of the 20 years of fire?

· What scientific studies are being done to prove that the box turtle, lizards, salamander (as examples) are not becoming extinct in the Lower Buffalo?

· What detailed science is the NPS itself doing? I have only heard of university thesis research. I have worked with some of these researchers. When the thesis is done to the professor’s satisfaction, the researcher moves on, the papers are shelved.

· Why are burns advertised as fuel reduction? This is part of the ad campaign to get the locals to buy into the plans because they think it is protecting their property. Truth is, there are not many houses close to the wilderness. Most the land west of Lower Buffalo has been stripped to raise cows. Besides, there is just not that much fuel because of all the other burns.

· If “savanna” restoration is so important, why is the NPS not attempting restoration in any other part of the park? Why is Ponca Wilderness not being restored? It sure needs protected from overuse.

· If “savanna” restoration is so important, why is the NPS not working to get more funding or moving funds from other parts of the park? Sounds like a project of convenience.

· If “savanna” restoration is so important, why is the NPS not working with and pressuring the Forest Service to join the project with their adjacent lands?

· Even if a “savanna” restoration was successful on the isolated patch of 15 thousand acres, what will be the cost to maintain it with all the influences from all the surrounding widely diverse management practices?

· Will the practice (exceptions included) of using chainsaws in the wilderness stop? This is not practicing leave no trace and against everything wilderness stands for. There are volunteers with crosscut saws.

· What is the current management plan for the entire Wilderness on the BuffaloNationalRiver? What is being done about use monitoring, acceptable limits of change, trail conditions, overuse, and logging user experiences? What are the plans for review, revision and public input into wilderness, backcountry, fire management plans?

· If the Lower Buffalo was not wilderness, then another excuse for fire would be for a “HealthyForest”. In other words, Timber Management. In other areas where fire is used, the managers expound on the benefits to wildlife, disease control and maintaining a “healthy forest”. None of these are purported for the Lower Buffalo Wilderness; where for some reason, a 90% reduction in the trees is a good thing. So what affect does the “savanna” experiment have on all the wildlife? What it means to me is less acorns, nuts, berries and fruit. Less dead decaying logs on the ground to grow bugs for the turkey and bear. Less squirrels and chipmunks for the hawks and owls.

If the Lower Buffalo was not wilderness, then another excuse for fire would be for a “HealthyForest”. In other words, Timber Management. In other areas where fire is used, the managers expound on the benefits to wildlife, disease control and maintaining a “healthy forest”. None of these are purported for the Lower Buffalo Wilderness; where for some reason, a 90% reduction in the trees is a good thing. So what affect does the “savanna” experiment have on all the wildlife? What it means to me is less acorns, nuts, berries and fruit. Less dead decaying logs on the ground to grow bugs for the turkey and bear. Less squirrels and chipmunks for the hawks and owls.

Lastly, “prescribed” fire makes it sound like there is a cure in there. These human set methodical fires should only be considered an experiment. The 20 years of trying with no signs of healing and only the call for more treatments must stop. Please allow the wilderness the chance to take its own natural course.


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