Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Arizona in flames

Way out of area, but anyone who has birded the sky islands of south-east Arizona can understand the cumulative horror of the extensive wildfires that are active right now.

The Chiricahua's (Portal, South Cave Creek, Paradise) are extensively burned, with a firestorm nuking Rustler Park, but S. Cave Creek partially saved by preventive burns. (Inciweb for Horseshoe Two, Coronado NF). The boundaries of this fire extend over the entire AZ Chiricahua footprint.

The nigh-on half-million acre Wallow fire at the eastern edge of AZ (away from the sky islands but still in valuable montane habitat).

The evolving Monument fire in the Huachucas (inciweb link now active) which appears to have consumed chunks of Ash Canyon and rumor has it burning Mary Jo Ballator's birding B&B. There was a brief fire in Ramsey Cyn recently. Evacuation seems possible for Miller Cyn now. Lack of containment on that fire would see decimation of Miller, Carr and Ramsey Cyns.

The Murphy fire west of I-19 and nw of Nogales that probably burned out Sycamore Cyn and covered the area around Pena Blanca Lake.

So far Madera Cyn and Mt Lemmon don't have fires on them or this might constitute a total loss of habitat. Of course fires are part of the natural process and some fire suppression policies in national forests might have contributed to the severity of this - but the drought is the biggest issue and perhaps these fires won't be totally over until the monsoon season in July, assuming it arrives.

The fires mentioned above cover large areas that I visited in the AZ segment of my AZ-NM-CO birding trip in 2006 (Sycamore, Ramsey, Miller, Carr, Ash, S. Cave Creek Canyons, Rustler Park in three different mountain ranges)

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