There have been several stories in the Roundup recently on the extreme danger that our communities face because of unhealthy forest conditions.
Quite honestly, there are too many young trees. These trees are a readily combustible fuel source that can cause a fire to climb into the crowns of larger trees and lead to catastrophic destruction of the forest, and possibly our communities.
We need to do all we can to marshal action to address this problem with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), our state legislators, county and community leaders and the Arizona Corporation Commission.
And we need to be diligent in our use of fire when we are in the forest and understand that one careless act could be disastrous.
Because of past fires and the constant threat of new ones under these unhealthy conditions, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) has developed stocking plans that take into account the impact of fire.
When a fire destroys a forest, it also destroys the streams and lakes in its path. That includes streams below a fire-damaged area.
When ash, mud and debris rush down a stream, it can wipe out entire aquatic populations. That includes the bug life fish depend on, native fish and any trout.
Once healthy stream conditions can rapidly change. Shaded pools can be destroyed and be decades away from being inhabitable for trout. Altered streams are shallow, silt-ladened, and provide no shaded cover for trout, which results in high temperature conditions in the stream.
The Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002 devastated Canyon Creek. Since then, stream improvement work has helped speed up stream recovery and enhanced fish habitat and fishing.
Over this past winter and spring, the impact of that fire still caused major damage on Canyon Creek as it does with all the other streams in its footprint. It remains a major task for AZGFD to ease the impact of wildfire damage and bring streams back to fishable conditions.
Every time there is a wildfire in our forests, the streams, lakes and recreational opportunities that they provide are lost. From a stocking standpoint, it makes no sense to plant trout in streams if the habitat will not support their return.
There must be time or human intervention to create riffles for stream oxygenation and bug production, and deep, shaded pools to provide cover and cooler temperatures.
In the past, AZGFD had plans to restock one of several identified streams, but a wildfire ripped through the watershed. Forest restoration practices that reduce the density of young trees and minimize the possibility of a catastrophic wildfire, not only makes sense to protect the forest and our communities, but allows streams and lakes to remain healthy and productive.
I appreciate the difficult task AZGFD faces trying to manage our waters. In this series, I hope you have gained a better understanding of the complexity of managing native, protected and sport fish, which AZGFD does so well on our behalf.
Our efforts to minimize the spread of invasive species and being careful with fires are some ways that we can help.