The wildfires that tore through our communities and devastated natural areas were terrifying. We are so sorry for those who had to flee, for those who lost their homes, for those impacted by the fire and smoke. We are sad, too, for the individual animals that might have been harmed due to the wildfires, but it is comforting to note that nature is resilient and populations are generally not wiped out by fire.
Most of the species found in the western states have evolved with wildfire, and although there may be some exceptions, their populations will recover. Fire allows many seeds to germinate and the growing vegetation will provide a source of habitat and food to numerous animals. The Black-backed Woodpecker, which has been a candidate for the endangered species list, actually thrives in burnt conifer forests, where it gobbles the plentiful wood-boring beetles. Other insects come in and, along with the new growth, provide good sources of food for wildlife. The snags, large dead trees, provide shelter to birds, especially cavity nesters. The snags also help to anchor the soil, shade young conifers from intense sunlight, and provide habitat for many insect-eating bats, birds, and small mammals.
It is essential now to move forward in a way that avoids misconceptions about fire and creates the best possibility for recovery. Several misguided proposals to increase logging are already being discussed.
What does the science say?