An intensive two week field course – visiting sites of spectacular wildfires as well as forest restoration areas – helped 20 University of Washington students learn firsthand about the challenges of managing dry, fire-prone forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Traveling with Jerry Franklin, UW professor of environmental and forest science, the students explored forests of central and southern Oregon to consider how PNW forests have been dramatically altered by human activities in the last 150 years, and ways to possibly restore their resiliency to such things as wildfires.
For example, they visited the site of the 2003 B&B wildfire, so called because two different fires – the Bear Butte and the Booth – merged and together blazed across 90,770 acres in 34 days at a firefighting cost of $38 million. The class also got to explore dry forest restoration projects and a prescribed burn, as well as projects in moist forests harvested to create habitat for critters that depend on food-rich, sunny environments while retaining a few elements for animals that prefer older forests. They wrapped up with a visit to long-term ecological research sites, including a 200-year log decomposition study, and talked to the scientists who designed and maintained them.
At each stop, students met with a diverse spectrum of practitioners, stakeholders and policy makers, including silviculturists, scientists, tree sitters, a county commissioner and environmental advocates.