“A natural place in the ecosystem” – Ecological benefits of wildfire

Posted at 6:06 PM, Aug 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-25 20:06:52-04

BOZEMAN – Fire isn’t always a bad thing for forests – there are many positives that come out wildfires like the Bacon Rind Fire between Big Sky and West Yellowstone.

Keeping the public safe is always the first priority when deciding to fight a wildfire, but fire officials are also looking at the benefits of the blaze.

“Where we don’t have a lot of values at risk it makes sense to allow those to burn because we have been suppressing fire for so long in this ecosystem,” said West Zone Wildlife Biologist of the Custer Gallatin National Forest, Randy Scarlett. “Fire has a natural place in the ecosystem.”

Some parts of the forest don’t see fire for many years.

“Lower elevations would periodically burn up in this higher elevation forest there was a fire interval maybe a hundred years or longer before they come back,” said Scarlett.

He said that fire acts like a fertilizer for the forest.

“It helps recycle nutrients, basically all the accumulated fuels on the ground and even dead standing fuels,” said Scarlett. “That burns up and actually burns up and actually supplies nutrients for the new trees and new vegetation that comes up.”

The flames can provide a boost for declining species

“It creates planting sits for Whitebark Pine, which is a species that’s in decline around here due to disease and other factors it improves forage for big game and other animals,” Scarlett said.

Aspen pine and other resources and wildlife will benefit greatly in the future from the Bacon Rind Fire

“With a lot of our aspen stands in decline right now, we’re trying to recover those and fire is one of the easiest ways to do that and that’s great habitat for wildlife – it’s one of the most diverse ecosystems,” Scarlett added.

The Bacon Rind Fire is still burning but it has slowed due to recent rainfall, cooler temperatures, and higher relative humidity. It remains no threat to any structures.