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Thoughts on Fire


Founder's Blog – 7 August 2022

I'd like to talk about some burnt trees.

To preface, we were in Utah, going to look at some land we're considering purchasing for our first acre, since that's been a goal this year for Western Lands Preservation (WLP).

We drove through a canyon on the way to this property, and a little ways in we came across the remains of a fire.  Everything was burned down:  The ground was charred, trees were nothing but blackened trunks, and the only leaves were those that suffocated on the tops of trees.  It had rained hard some days ago, and the dirt, no longer held together by live plant roots, had settled into huge mud flows.  It looked like some Land of Mordor set from Lord of the Rings, minus the Mount Doom.

Afterward we learned the area had burned about a month ago after a generator exploded.  It's unfortunate that the fire was man-made.  Over 4,000 acres burned - about 6 square miles.

But the interesting thing was that not everything was black and charred.  New oak was growing at the base of the old trees.  Only a month had passed and greenery had already started to reappear.

I've seen burnt land for sale because it's useless to the owner.  What does a person want with burned land?  But I see only opportunity for new growth.  Fires puts tons of nutrients back into the soil.  And it was probably only a surface fire, because not everything had burned (remember the leaves on the tops of trees?), which means the forest may rebound faster.  In a decade or two I imagine the place will look gorgeous.  Don't always look at how grim things are now - remember to see the ways things could grow back.

New growth at the base of a burnt tree.

Sometime in the future, I'd like to purchase some burned land and steward its regrowth.  There's a lot of potential to create an absolutely beautiful landscape over the long run.  The property we were looking at that day wasn't part of this burned area, though.

Stay tuned, and I'll let you know where our search for land ends up taking us!

– Steven Whitney

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