Nature will bounce back from Green Valley Fire
Minnesota DNR officials said Wednesday that plants and wildlife affected by last week’s massive wildfire north of Menahga would recover relatively quickly in the aftermath of the blaze that scorched 7,100 acres of land.
“We’ve already seen some initial green-up just shortly after the fire,” said Area Wildlife Supervisor Rob Naplin of the Park Rapids DNR office.
In fact, certain kinds of trees in the burn path are classified as “fire-dependent” because of the integral role it plays in their life cycle, said Forestry Supervisor Mark Carlstrom. Aspen and jack pine, which are also excellent habitats for wildlife, will benefit now that the fire has cleared other trees that blocked their sunlight, Carlstrom said.
However, Carlstrom said the fire has also put trees in the area at special risk for further damage; this time from insects like the pine bark beetle that target trees already under stress to make tunnels in which to lay their eggs. When those eggs hatch and the beetles grow wings, they go hunting for more damaged timber to tunnel into, and the cycle continues -- even after the pine bark beetles run out of burned timber to use as nests.
“With this fire-killed timber, there’s just a tremendous amount of breeding habitat,” Carlstrom said. “The population of bark beetles is likely to expand...eventually the population gets high enough that they go after healthy trees.”
Carlstrom said the DNR plans to halt the spread of bark beetles in the burn area by cutting down infested trees.
The animals that live among the trees largely escaped harm, Naplin said. It was likely a small percentage of small mammals like rabbits and squirrels were unable to flee the fire, he said, but there was no way of knowing how many had died for sure. High birth rates typical of small mammal species will likely compensate for the loss, Naplin said. Ground nesting species of birds that lost their nests in the fire would be able to build new ones because the fire occurred early enough in the year, he said. Migratory birds would go largely unaffected. Naplin said that so far, he has seen no reports of large animal carcasses in the burn zone.
“Wildlife is temporarily impacted when these occur, but the populations are pretty resilient in order to rebound and recover in a fairly short period of time,” Naplin said.