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The effect of fire on the forest soils in the Pine Barren region of NJ

It was early in 2010, a few months after Five Star released the hardcover edition of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Murder. I was speaking at the Jones Creek Branch of the East Baton Rouge Public Library. There was a nice turnout. I spoke for a while, answered some questions and signed some books. There was a hurricane in the forecast. We wanted to get back to our hotel in New Orleans before the rains came (in truth, we were hoping the rains would hold off for a day and we’d be able to fly home the next morning). Anyway, we wanted to get on the road, but the visit had been publicized as lasting two hours, and everyone at the library had been so very hospitable and even though the crowd was now gone, I was determined to stay until the publicized end time. With ten minutes left before our departure, I heard a man enter the library. “Where’s the man who’s here to talk about the Pine Barrens?” You see, the library had announced that I would be there speaking about my mystery set in the NJ Pine Barrens. He didn’t much care about the mystery. What got his attention was the Pine Barrens. And that’s how I met Dr. Paul Yoder Burns. He was a nattily dressed gentleman in his 80s, an emeritus professor at the Louisiana State University School of Renewable Natural Resources. It had been 60 years, but in 1950, as a PhD candidate in forestry at Yale, Paul Yoder Burns had done his doctoral dissertation on the effect of fire on the forest soils in the Pine Barren region of NJ. Today, we recognize that fire is beneficial to the health of the forest, but this was not the conventional wisdom in 1950. Dr. Burns was one of the first to study the effect of fire on the life of the forest. I gave him a copy of It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Murder. And that day, in the Jones Creek Library, he gave me a bound copy of his dissertation, published by Yale in 1952.

paulyoderburns

 

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3 thoughts on “The effect of fire on the forest soils in the Pine Barren region of NJ

  1. That was the beginning of an ongoing controversy, at least in the Pacific Southwest (So Cal) about how to manage the land to prevent wildfire and mitigate the effects should wildfire erupt. There are many who believe that controlled burns are most effective — others believe that it’s better to let the brush and forests live without interference. We are learning more every year, and this past year we actually had a fire which glazed the soil to the extent that nothing could grow back in its normal cycle!

    Liked by 1 person

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