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It’s that time of year in Northern Arizona we all love.

The temperature begins to climb, rescuing us from the cold days of our winter — albeit short but still rough for us desert dwellers.

Sedona Red Rock News Managing Editor Trista Steers MacVittieMoisture brought to the area by winter storms gives Sedona and the Verde Valley the green hue for which it is known, and the gentle breeze carries pollen through the air initiating the pollination of the plants we’ll see bloom come spring.

The season brings the sense of starting anew, motivating people to tackle spring projects around the home, whether it be inside or out, in anticipation of the warmer months.

Early spring also signals cleaning season for the U.S. Forest Service, but in a much different way.

The same factors that draw residents out of hibernation make it the perfect time for the Forest Service to do some of its own spring cleaning.

Spring means burning means smoke, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the smoky skies prescribed burning produces.

I’ve written before about the months-long headache it produces, how I can’t run when it’s heavy in the air and how by the time it’s over, I’m not always a happy camper.

I do know, however, it’s not all about me, and I understand and respect why the Forest Service needs to do what it does, even if it makes me uncomfortable.

Overgrown forests become acres of kindling waiting for just one spark once the summer heat and wind dries up any moisture produced during the previous winter. Unmanaged areas can produce catastrophic wildfires, like the Wallow Fire in 2011 that tore through Arizona’s White Mountains, not burning the way nature intended to yield forest rejuvenation.

Fire in forests is a natural part of the ecosystem’s cycle and absolutely necessary for certain plantlife to survive.

By purposely burning predetermined sections, the Forest Service revitalizes those areas by recycling nutrients into the soils to promote new vegetation, while also clearing the undergrowth and taking care of dead trees. It’s overgrown undergrowth that produces out of control wildfires. When the undergrowth is managed properly, and an unplanned fire does ignite, it burns through low and quick leaving far less destruction in its wake.

So, I get it, I get it, but I’m still going to be annoyed when my nose is stuffy and my head is aching.

This year, however, I’ll try to remember why it’s happening and look on the bright side — the smell is comforting. It’s as if I’m sitting right next to the campfire on an extended camping trip I didn’t even have to leave home for.


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