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34959Re: [John Muir Trail] RE: Re: Small fires in the wilderness

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  • Mike Mosack
    Sep 9, 2013
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      I believe his intent was to describe what he calls an Indian Campfire and not the more common style campfires associated with repeated sites being used almost constantly in public/popular campsites. A small fire in a well positioned and remote hole – while it does have an impact – is vastly minimal to that of a standard campfire ring used over and over and is routinely burning for hours at a time and is well described by gkahn21 below. A small fire for a short time in an isolated area is, to me, not on the same level. I agree with virtually everything else described however.
      Sent: Monday, September 09, 2013 9:41 PM
      Subject: Re: [John Muir Trail] RE: Re: Small fires in the wilderness

      Finally, someone who stuck to the topic! Well said gkahn21!
      From: gkahn21 <no_reply@yahoogroups.com>
      To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Monday, September 9, 2013 2:50 PM
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] RE: Re: Small fires in the wilderness
      I don't think you can frame this conversation in the context of small campfires. You can either allow campfires or ban them. A regulation to allow only 'small' campfires would be impossible to enforce as everyone's definition of 'small' would vary widely. In the larger sense, while what 'you' may do is very low impact, you are not the only one out there. In other words, you can’t only include the lowest impact users, you have to include high impacts users as well.
      Second, while fire is a natural process in wilderness, campfires are not. Campfires are localized typically in a small oval made up of rocks with many repeated fires in them. This is far different than natural fires. Some of the impacts of campfires are: "Fire site proliferation; overbuilt fire sites and associated seating arrangements; fuel wood depletion; sterilized soils; charred rocks and tree roots; ash and charcoal buildup; semimelted plastic, glass and metal trash; chemical contamination of soils; unburned food, which attracts wildlife; tree damage and felling; and vegetation trampling associated with firewood collection" Source: Reid, S. E., & Marion, J. L. (2005). A comparison of campfire impacts and policies in seven protected areas. Environmental Management, 36(1), 48-58. (with the quoted text referencing many other papers)

      As for a discussion as to should they be allowed, I would concentrate on necessity and impacts. Since the advent of portable gas stoves in the 1960’s, the vast majority of backpackers now do not use a campfire for cooking their food and mainly have campfires for ambiance and experiential purposes. Obviously the desire to have campfires is still strong, but for different reasons than in the past. As for impacts, campfires have many direct and indirect impacts, as noted above.

      People love having fires in the backcountry but they create many impacts. Obviously we allow activities in wilderness that create impacts, like backpacking on the JMT that we love so we can’t just ban everything that isn’t necessary, but that has to be balanced out by the impacts they create.
      --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, <johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
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