North America, Ozark Mountains, Midwest discussed on In Defense of Plants Podcast


When it hits the next cornfield. Exactly. Exactly. Right? So, you know, yeah, if everybody's using fire to burn their to heat their home or to do whatever there's going to be a lot of escaping whatever. So there was still some scariness, let's say around there was a lot of fire out. They're still being used for 1830 to 1850 in my part of the Midwest. A lot of it was escaped. But they were starting to use it. Okay, I'm going to burn off my crops so that I can plow it more easily or I can get my planting in. I'm going to burn off my hay field to increase some productivity and release some nutrients to the soil. I'm going to burn out my cattle pasture or my wood lot just so that I can get more grass in the understory. I'm going to put in a firebreak here around my house. You know, I'm sick of these, you know, snakes. These damn snakes. Yeah. So it changed, and eventually they got good at it. They were still burning into the 19th century. You know, up into the smoky mountain. People were burning a lot. There was a real culture of fire, but it was, you know, if in my little lot here, I want to use fire as a tool, and they learn how to use it. And sort of responsibly. It's really interesting to me. There was a paper that came out about ten years ago. And it was using modus satellite technology, which I don't understand. I don't know anything about it. But they basically yeah, yeah. Some satellite in the computer space world algorithms. They're right. You know, satellites flying over and every time they spotted a fire in North America, they'd be able to pinpoint it and market it down. And so it was like a ten year dot map of every landscape sort of ish fire across North America. And you see these incredibly clear patterns, places that bright up today that are still being burned regularly. And it's very much a cultural thing. And the Ozark mountains, those mountains are being burned constantly. Then they were for a service went back and interviewed every fire escape fire that they could find and every land manager they could finally say, what caused this fire? What's that fire? And it was cultural. All culture. It's like I just learned how to burn my back 40 acres for my grandfather and I've been doing it forever. Or the number one source was arson and feud. I had a feud with this guy. And so I was faster on fire. I swear to God. This was the number one source of fire in the forest service region. Our beef. Yeah. That's not a joke. That is literally I couldn't believe it when I read. It was like 70% for a given year of fires like that. And then when you look at the other place that tend to let up would be like the northern great plains with the weight wheat fields, and that was very much an agricultural. Burn off the stubble, easier to plant and to plow in the future. And, you know, I'm not worried about it escaping because it's an agricultural landscape or in the Flint hills of Kansas. It's like I'm going to burn my cattle pasture because I, you know, I want to do this that in this. And to some extent in the southeast, you know, there's still some kind of a history or a cultural legacy of fire. So it's interesting to me. A lot of people like us who live in cities, you know, we don't have that perspective. What are you talking about? But a lot of the rural folk like if you're a hunter, if you're a fisherman, you know, you got a little acreage, like there's way more of a culture and they have a better relationship with these types of things. That's interesting. You brought that up because I'm thinking now back to my childhood and my uncle, they lived in New Jersey and he would go over and burn his lawn. And I remember being like, what are you doing? And it was one of those things. He's like, ah, the grass is just healthier that way and I just put out of mine. Oh, yeah, okay, whatever. But it's so interesting to hear that perspective over time because yeah, if you grew up again in the northeast like I did, you don't think about this as a regular thing because no one's going out and doing it or if there's a fire set and it gets away, that's a big deal. I mean, that is like local news channels are coming out for that kind of stuff. So it rings true when you hear the cultural elements that kind of drive or don't drive it. But backing up a little bit to like what motivated this search because this is a huge can of worms to try to open. And really get a good grasp on. So what a made you pursue it and B, how did you even start to define the scope of sort of how far you want to kind of look and how far back you want to go with fire history? Yeah, so the last study I was involved in, I have to say was originated by my colleague, Bill mcclane, who was just a cool guy. Like a really old school sort of meat and potatoes. He's almost like a historian. He just loves to lock himself in some weird archival room for days and days with no clear goal of reaping the benefits of this work. Just saying, I'm curious and I want to know more about the settlement and the Native Americans fire and I'm just going to see what's out there. So he actually had been for 20 years probably a retired botanist and going through these archival materials. Like I said, going back as far as he could get 1600s, it was as many written records and accounts as he could find to just sort of create a bibliography of as much information about fire. And a part of the world where we basically did not know very much about what was happening firewall. Like you said, you mentioned earlier, we had these sort of weird anecdotes, but it was less of a, as settlement happened by Europeans further east to west. We actually have a really good record of Native American fire use when you get out to the west because by then people were writing down these anthropogenic account Native Americans, ethnic historians were writing down everything they heard and they wanted to hear how we're using fire and what they were doing and they were a real interest in documenting these tribes what they were doing. But when it came to our part of the country, that hadn't that culture wasn't.

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