October 20, 2011 / Modified oct 20, 2011 11:50 p.m.

After The Flames, A Slow Healing

As Arizona forests rebound from recent wildfires, restoration experts plan for future flames.

Just four months ago, massive wildfires were raging through Arizona's forests. But today, the Chiricahua and White Mountains are slowly beginning to recover. There are plenty of signs of new flora. Grasses and flowers have been the first to return, followed by small bushes. They're growing profusely in meadows and hillsides, amidst burned and dead trees. The colors are a study in contrast: new life springing forth in a blackened landscape.

Wildfires often release lots of nutrients into the soil. Summer rains - and sometimes re-seeding efforts from forest restoration crews - do the rest. But the recovery will be slow. In fact the burned forest will never be the same. That could be a good thing, if it means a less dense forest structure and less fuels for a future fire to work with.

Reporter Mark Duggan visited the burn areas of the Wallow and Horseshoe Two fires recently. He spoke with Bill Edwards, District Ranger for the Coronado National Forest, about the recovery of the Chiricahuas.

He also met with Wally Covington, director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University. Covington is at the forefront of post-wildfire restoration work, and believes that by learning from past fire behavior, we can better prepare for future wildfires. He also wants to put more focus on the fire's long-term impacts on the ecosystem.

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