Over time, our forests became overgrown and incredibly prone to deadly crown fires — largely because of the fire suppression strategy, over-logging and grazing, then the lack of logging and sustainable grazing.
Leora Schuck, who wrote a column for the Pinetop-Lakeside News, a newspaper my family purchased and later consolidated with the Independent, described the former landscape of the forest in the mid-1900s like this: “One could see vistas through the tree trunks for hundreds of yards. It may be that sheep kept the small stuff grazed off, or that fires from lightning cleared the ground. … Ah yes, those were the days.”
The series will then discuss the firefighting crisis, building codes and “Fire wise” initiatives and how the Forest Service’s fire management approach has evolved over the years.
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We’ll outline the timber industry — its successes, like Forest Energy, the wood pellet plant in Show Low — and the challenges with thinning projects and the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.
It will detail the success of the Payson Ranger District’s thinning efforts and how the White Mountain Stewardship saved Alpine from the Wallow Fire.
We’ll also discuss the area’s largest wildfires, starting with the deadly 1990 Dude fire, and what lessons were learned from them.
The series will conclude with a solutions overview.
As the publisher of these newspapers, I’m proud of the work we’ve done and will do in this series.
I believe we have the responsibility to educate our readers on the critical issues related to wildfires.
I don’t want to see our beautiful forests go up in flames.