The proposal raised a firestorm of protest. Foresters didn't like it because it flouted the Smokey the Bear tradition and environmentalists didn't like it because they regarded it as yet another attempt by people to manipulate nature.
"Believe you me," Templeton says, "both groups were adamantly opposed. The only thing they could agree on was that what we were trying to do was bad."
After two years of infighting, the first burn was held in spring 1994. That burn encompassed two of the three glades with reintroduced lizards. In 1999, the burn management area was expanded to include all of Stegall Mountain and the third lizard population, as well as several adjacent mountains and the interlaying valleys.
The transformative power of fire "We did the burn and to tell the truth, I wasn't really very optimistic about it," Templeton says. "I thought it was more really to reduce the fuel load, but I was stunned by what it did. Just one burn totally changed the environment. All of us were just shocked at how beneficial it was.
"The fire mainly got rid of the woody understory and thick mats of leaf litter, but it didn't destroy the canopy trees. In fact, with the woody understory gone, the canopy trees grew better, so the forestry people were happy.
"The woody understory was mostly exotics, little shrubby trees that came from elsewhere. Once they were gone, the nutrients were released into the soil, and the soil was exposed to more sunlight, the endemics came back. All these endemic herbaceous plants came out of the forest floor and with them came a very abundant insect community. So the environmentalists were happy, too."
Even the hunters were happy, he says, because the grasshopper populations exploded as Templeton proved by counting grasshoppers and wild turkeys populations boomed, fattened on grasshoppers.
"And we were happy," Templeton says, "because the lizards started to mo
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis