Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cleaning Up the Fire

Hopefully this is my last blog about the Cavity Lake fire. As of now the fire is officially contained. The Forest Service will probably be working all fall picking up equipment and putting out hot spots but the fire is considered out. Last night and today's rain will go a long way is putting out the hot spots but it is amazing at how long these things linger. Winter seems to be the only way to totally get a fire out.

The fire burned approximately 32,000 acres but don't forget that the BWCAW is 1 million acres in size. So there is plenty of room left for canoeing. The cost of the fire was something over $8 million. Think what would have happened if the Forest Service had sold the salavge rights to this area after the blowdown. Someone said they would have gotten $5 million. I don't have any idea if that is at all accurate or not. The point is that the fire would not have burned so hard or far and we would have had a new forest with 7 years of growth. I know, I know that wilderness restrictions do not allow this but there must be someplace that common sense enters is. After all, the Minneapolis Tribune told us the fire was coming.

Here is the ray of sunshine in the fire. Yesterday Sheryl and Bonnie took a day canoe trip through the fire area. They were towed across Sag to Red Rock and then they paddled through Alpine and out Seagull. Along the way they also walked the portage into Jasper Lake.

Sheryl said that she couldn't believe the amount of green that was already sprouting up. This included lots of ferns and grasses. It's not huge trees but it is green. They said that at many campsites the trees were gone but the grasses at tent sites were still green. The fire grates and latrines were in good shape. Canoeists next summer are going to find a much more pleasant experience than they expected. It will be fun to keep track of this area as it grows over the coming years.

Along the portage between Alpine and Seagull, the grass is still growing beside the trail. Before 1999 this was one of the nicest portages in the BWCA. The blowdown took down all the trees and now the fire has burned up the mess. Given the patience of a growing forest, it will once again be a beautiful portage.

So don't write off the Boundary Waters because of this one fire. The canoe country is still there for all of us to enjoy.

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