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The Los Angeles Times yesterday examined the effects of the Cedar fire in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, which saw nearly all of its 26,000 acres scorched by the 2003 blaze.

The Times looks at the park’s rebirth three years later. Wildlife is rebounding, though trees have sustained a delayed die-off.

The story stuffs one of the rebirth’s most interesting aspects – the possibility of human intervention:

The future of Cuyamaca Rancho is being written now, and portends rolling hills with open vistas in place of today’s black-spiked slopes as dead trees inevitably topple. Oaks and chaparral are expected to dominate, and what relatively few pines grow will be confined to isolated patches, mostly at high elevations.

Unless human beings intervene.

Park officials are considering an option they’d rather not invoke: planting pine seedlings instead of letting nature take its course. “The thing that distinguished this fire was that it burned over such large areas with such intensity,” (Colorado Desert District Superintendent Michael) Wells said.

“Typically, you see a kind of mosaic where areas that are not badly burned then help reseed the burned areas. We don’t have many of those unburned sources after this fire,” Wells said.

“We might look at places like West Mesa to plant a small area and hope that will serve as a colonizing source for the rest of that area of the park.”

Humans, after all, contributed to the unnatural state of the forest by suppressing wildfires, which allowed the growth of a tall understory of vegetation that helped incinerate even the tall, mature trees that typically survive wildfires, said Shane Coles, a retired longtime ranger at the park.

ROB DAVIS

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