This thesis examines the Schultz Fire as a case study to explain the complex history of fire suppression management in America’s forests, and to gain further understanding of how management practices have affected the increase in fire severity levels and how forests respond to such a disturbance. The thesis objectives were: (1) to analyze the causes of the fire severity of the Schultz Fire, especially: topography, fuels, or weather; (2); to examine the possible correlation between fire severity and tree density; (3) to investigate whether post-fire species richness was related to fire severity two years after the Schultz Fire; (4) to investigate whether post-fire plant species richness, plant cover, and tree regeneration was related to fire severity two years after the Schultz Fire; and (5) to interlink and convey how these factors relate to the history of fire management and policy and public perception.
The history of fire related policy and management has significantly changed the dynamics of America's national parks and forests. Understanding the larger context of this history, both of national fire management and of the effects of language and perception on policy and public reaction, is part of understanding the Schultz Fire as a whole.
Based on modeling, high winds combined with the presence of high surface fuel load were the main causes of the Schultz Fire's high fire severity levels. As fire severity increased there was a statistically significant increase in species richness. Severity level had little variation on percentage of cover by plants. No statistically significant relationship between tree density and fire severity levels was found.
These findings underline the need for fuel treatments in southwest Ponderosa Pine forests, and effective cooperation between communities, managers, and ecologists. The Schultz
Fire serves as an example in understanding the intricacies of how history affects the present and future of fire management. How fire has been managed and portrayed in the past has left an indelible mark on how fire is presently viewed. Without a clear understanding of the history of fire management and the role of fire in the ecology, future policies towards fire will be unable to account for and manage for the diversity of ecosystems and fires effects on those ecosystems across the United States.