PORT TOWNSEND — The Natural History Society of the Jefferson Land Trust and Humanities Washington invite the community to an engaging conversation with fire ecology photographer John Marshall. This event will take place at 7 p.m. on October 17 at the Cotton Building (607 Water St., Port Townsend).
Marshall’s topic will be “Fires and Forests in Washington—Past, Present, and Future.” He will focus on the history of fire in our state, including the Olympic Peninsula. He will also highlight the critical role of fire in ecosystems, and the hazards of living in areas potentially affected by wildfires. Not only do these issues pertain to the Olympic Peninsula, but as residents of the Pacific Northwest our communities and economy are affected by wildfires elsewhere in the region and beyond.
Historically, lightning strikes and indigenous people ignited many small fires, resulting in open forests with a rich mosaic of wildlife habitats. As Europeans settled North America, many began to argue for the vigilant prevention of wildfires. For nearly a century, the U.S. Forest Service battled all fires and created the mythical “Smokey Bear” to spread the now-discredited notion that all fire is bad. Consequently forests across the Western states have evolved into living tinderboxes. Fires have become increasingly bigger and hotter, and the costs of fighting them have skyrocketed. “By following a national policy of putting out all fires, we have actually made our fire situation much worse,” Marshall says. “The answer to not having extreme fire events is to have a lot of smaller ones. I want to engage the audience in a discussion on what we might do differently about our current wildfire situation and explain how progressive fire managers view the problems. All forests inevitably burn. The question is: How do we want them to burn?”
John Marshall holds degrees in fishery science and wildlife resources. His career as a photographer began with a National Geographic assignment on the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. In 1994 Marshall began a photographic landscape study to track what happens over the long-term to forests following fires. He currently resides in Wenatchee. His current fire ecology work is funded by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Natural History Society of the Jefferson Land Trust was founded in 2012 to foster active exploration, appreciation, understanding, and conservation of the diverse natural environments of the Olympic Peninsula and beyond.
Humanities Washington aims to spark conversation and critical thinking in communities, using story as a catalyst. The HW Speakers Bureau includes 28 experts and scholars, who provide public presentations on a range of topics. The program is funded by the Washington State Legislature.
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