June 9, 2012--The forest recovers (Durango Herald)

A decade after the Missionary Ridge wildfire chewed through most of 72,962 acres from Hermosa to Bayfield, the landscape is a patchwork of the beautiful and the beastly. Stands of verdant aspen and Gambel oak contrast with hillsides of blackened sticks that were ponderosa pine and other conifers. Barren hillsides are scarred by gullies torn open by tons of rain-loosened boulders, debris and ash hurtling down steep slopes. Within the fire perimeter, 31 percent of the area burned at high intensity, 30 percent at moderate intensity, 19 percent at low intensity and 20 percent was untouched. “The recovery of the landscape is site-specific,” said Craig Goodell, a U.S. Forest Service fire mitigation and education specialist. “It’s a mosaic, depending on the vegetation and severity of the fire.” Low-elevation ponderosa pine took the hardest punch because the severity of the fire was outside the specie’s natural range of burning, Goodell said. Aspen and Gambel oak, on other hand, which regenerate from the roots, benefit from fire, which stimulates their growth, he said. The path of the fire, visible from the valley floor, was followed by thousands of spectators. Less visible, but no less awesome, were the heat-produced tornadoes that snapped trees and upended vehicles at Vallecito Reservoir and the landslides that sent tons of mud, ash and debris into houses, closed roads and polluted water systems.

To view the full article, visit the Durango Herald. For a copy of the original article contact the WIP at (970) 247-1302 or stop by the office at 841 East Second Avenue in Durango, Colorado.