Skip to Main Content
Native Burning in Western North America: Implications for Hardwood Forest ManagementAuthor(s): Charles E. Kay
Source: In: Yaussy, Daniel A., comp. 2000. Proceedings: workshop on fire, people, and the central hardwoods landscape; 2000 March 12-14; Richmond, KY. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-274. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 19-27.
Publication Series: Other
Station: Northeastern Research Station
PDF: View PDF (435.99 KB)
DescriptionIt is now widely acknowledged that frequent low-intensity fires once structured many western forests. What is not generally recognized, however, is that most of those fires were purposefully set by native people, not started by lightning. Data from the Rocky Mountains attest to the widespread use of fire by native people, as does the ecology of aspen, the only common deciduous hardwood in the West. Fire history studies all show that aspen once burned at frequent intervals, yet aspen will readily burn only when the trees are leafless and the understory dry ? conditions which occur only early in the spring before leaf-out and understory regrowth, or late in the fall after leaf-drop and the understory has been killed by frost. During both these periods, though, there are few lightning strikes and virtually no lightning started fires in the Rocky Mountains. Thus if aspen burned frequently in the past, as all evidence indicates it once did, then those fires must have been started by native people, who used fire to modify plant communities for human benefit. Similarly, astern deciduous forests will readily burn only when leafless, but during that time there are few lightning strikes ? one of many indications that aboriginal burning was also common in the eastern U.S.
- Check the Northern Research Station web site to request a printed copy of this publication.
- Our on-line publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat.
- During the capture process some typographical errors may occur.
- Please contact Sharon Hobrla, email@example.com if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationKay, Charles E. 2000. Native Burning in Western North America: Implications for Hardwood Forest Management. In: Yaussy, Daniel A., comp. 2000. Proceedings: workshop on fire, people, and the central hardwoods landscape; 2000 March 12-14; Richmond, KY. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-274. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Research Station: 19-27.
Keywordsnative burning, prescribed fire, prescribed burning, oak, mixed-oak, oakhickory, barrens, ridgetop-pine, soil microbes, rare plants
- Ethnoecology of Fire: An Experimental Approach in the Ohio Valley
- Fire and birds in the southwestern United States
- Response of birds to fire in the American southwest
XML: View XML