A New Message for Smokey
Forest fires across most of North America are as natural as sunshine and rain, and have been burning regularly since the end of the last ice age. This includes the biggest, hottest blazes that kill all or most trees in a vast area. Not only are large fires natural, they create excellent habitat for many plants and animals. For these species, years without large fires are bad fire years. Contrary to the story told by the media, politicians, the timber industry, and the US Forest Service that large fires are common and destructive, they actually are rare, and restorative to our forests.
Media stories describe the forest after a large, intense fire as “nuked” or a “moonscape” in need of “restoration,” but nothing could be further from the truth. In most North American forests, shrubs and trees will re-sprout from their roots or trunks, and many have seeds that germinate only after intense fire. Flowers bloom, mushrooms boom, insects buzz, squirrels and mice feast on seeds, woodpeckers and flycatchers abound, a symphony of birdsong echoes. Even creatures synonymous with old-growth forests, like the iconic Spotted Owl, hunt in heavily burned forests. So who would ever consider logging this ecological treasure trove?
This movie will bring to life the post-fire wonderland of plants and animals that thrive after large, intense forest fires. Through interviews with leading scientists studying biological diversity after fire, we explore the controversy surrounding the common practice of salvage logging of burned forests, and consider a new message for Smoky Bear—that forest fires are the creative seeds of new life. “A New Message For Smokey” is co-produced by WildLens and the Wild Nature Institute.