Some initial observations of the positive effect that wild horses have on the fire regime
First let me say that after 7-days on the fire line, I am pretty beat... in order to make morning briefing at Camp Creek (aka D.P. 43) at 8:00, I have to wake up at 5 AM to get at least get some of my chores done, and then after attending to my writing when I get home, I hit the pillow about 11:00. So I have some token idea from this recent experience of what the firefighters are dealing with as to fatigue. And in this triple digit heat, firefighters wearing a full Nomex fire suit with a layer of cotton clothing is not helping.
Obviously our local 52 adult wild horses have very little spotty but good effect on fuel loading as ODF firefighter Jake K. said. This is because their work is spread-out over grass and brush fuels across about 2-thousand acres where they range. Nevertheless, their evolved signature mutualisms with forbs, plants and trees can be observed and are undeniable.
Over the past week of this disaster, I have been focusing on the fantastic work being done by the fire fighters while they are here, but I intend to spend much more time focused upon and recording the benefits of wild horses grazing in and around the local wilderness forests. The proof of their cost effective efficacy in reducing fine fuels in the landscape and thereby reducing wildfire severity, damage and suppression costs is obvious, even if at small scale with just ca. 52 wild horses. Currently we have just 7% of the estimated number of wild horses needed as a minimum in this immediate area in the provision of a substitute natural herbivory for depleted deer populations.
The best science tells us that overall effectiveness (including reducing initial and secondary costs of catastrophic wildfire) of wildfire grazing at scale is not linear, but scales in a somewhat logarithmic manner.
Wild Horse Fire Brigade would cost effectively devolve catastrophic wildfires to normal wildfires as seen in the wilderness area landscape in decades preceding the depletion of cervids in CA and OR, which previously provided a similar benefit to forest wilderness areas. It will takes many decades of very careful management to bring back our deer herds and that work can only begin after mountain lion populations are brought into check. In the meantime, we must protect their forest habitat until that day arrives, and given wild horses have co-evolved with all cervids on the north American continent, they are without any doubt the best tool for this critical and urgent job.
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