Fireproofing The Forests

Logging doesn't work. Neither, in the long run, does fire fighting. Now, as flames envelop Western forests, the debate over a radical form of tree surgery is heating up

On the outskirts of Flagstaff, Ariz., Wally Covington drives his pickup truck through a forest choked with nearly impenetrable thickets of ponderosa pines. At last he arrives at the spot where, 10 years ago, he and his colleagues took chain saws to hundreds of trees no bigger than telephone poles, carted off the trunks and branches, and then set fires to clear away the understory. Today the result of these Bunyanesque labors is a marvel to behold, a sun-dappled woodland arched over by the branches of 300-year-old trees and, in the spaces between them, a profusion of grasses and wildflowers.


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