Published by Kerry on 16 Dec 2009 at 10:30 am
Ronald Myers is using WiserEarth as a low-cost way to retain a network of professionals across Latin America and share information about fire management. He shares some of his thoughts about managing his group Caras del Fuego (Faces of Fire) and the importance of fire in our world.
In 1986, The Nature Conservancy hired Ronald to start its fire management program which went global in 2000. He came on WiserEarth initially to promote his Latin American & Caribbean Fire Learning Network and its activities, and to post documents and reports. Unfortunately, due to the global economic situation, The Nature Conservancy decided to eliminate its international fire management work while still maintaining its fire work in the USA. In August 2009, Ronald left TNC but, lucky for us, returned to WiserEarth when he noticed that TNC’s US-based regional fire networks were forming groups.
Ronald formed the WiserEarth group Caras del Fuego, or Faces of Fire, to maintain connections among colleagues he had worked with over the past 10 years, and to continue the interchange of ideas about fire management in Latin America. Three other colleagues (from Mexico, Guatemala, and Bolivia) are helping administer the group. “With 20 members we are really just getting started and trying to get people to join and participate,” he says.
The goal of the group is to share information about social and ecological issues related to fire in Latin American ecosystems. Ronald notes, “There are many misconceptions about fire that we have been trying to dispel.”
A few fire facts:
- Appropriately managed fire plays a positive and necessary role in maintaining a variety of ecosystems and their biodiversity
- Rural people use fire for a variety of legitimate reasons to maintain their livelihoods.
- Inappropriately managed fire, ie. fire that is not allowed to burn at all, may ultimately cause larger and more harmful fires due to buildup of ‘fuel’ – i.e. woody debris on the ground.
Ronald says, “Balancing the positive and negative effects of fire requires understanding ecology, the cultural and socio-economic reasons that people use fire, and the various fire management technologies that have been developed, but not necessarily widely used in Latin America.”
Ronald recommends actively recruiting members and providing them information on how to join and use WiserEarth. He notes, “It is important to include only relevant content, and to update content at frequent intervals.”
“The challenge,” Ronald says, “has been to keep our longstanding network going in spite of the funding cuts and program cancellations that we faced. WiserEarth has provided us a means to maintain some of our momentum. The group now has a Twitter account http://twitter.com/CarasdelFuego and we are considering becoming a non-profit organization so we can pursue funding opportunities for specific programs and activities.” Ronald believes the key to a successful group is “active recruitment, and including relevant content that is updated at frequent intervals.”
“Since our group is in Spanish,” Ronald notes, “a handicap has been not having WiserEarth in Spanish. Participants are confused about how to use and post things on the site. We are looking forward to WiserEarth in Spanish.”
Want to get involved? Ronald says,“We welcome participation from anyone interested in the group’s basic theme: the positive and negative roles of fire in bio-cultural diversity. An important new aspect of the theme is the role that burning may play in climate change and climate change mitigation. Although deforestation, and burning associated with it, cause significant carbon inputs to the atmosphere, not all burning results in a net input of carbon to the atmosphere, e.g. as a tropical savanna or pine forest regrows after burning it is recapturing the carbon that was released. In some instances, more carbon can be stored than is lost. Devastating, carbon-releasing wildfires can also be avoided, if appropriate burning is undertaken.”
|Ronald Myers‘ roots: As a youth, Ronald loved nature and spent a lot of time outdoors. As a forestry undergraduate in Montana in the 1960s, he fought fires during the summer, while learning more about new management approaches. Fire was newly seen to have positive ecological impacts, such as opening seed pods and clearing excess fuel buildup, rather than just destructive ones. In the Peace Corps in Honduras, he taught forestry courses, including fire management. Honduras has extensive pine forests. “[Honduras] exposed me even more to the importance of fire in maintaining certain ecosystems and habitats,” Ronald said. He then worked with the National Park Service in Everglades National Park. “Everglades, at that time, was developing the first prescribed fire program in the NPS. This program was way ahead of its time,” he said. “Fire maintains or influences virtually all terrestrial ecosystems in Florida.” He pursued graduate degrees in Florida and Costa Rica, and his book, Ecosystems of Florida, has become a primary reference for environmental professionals throughout the state. He began work for the Nature Conservancy in 1986 and concluded this year. Ronald has found working in Latin America (Honduras, Costa Rica, Cuba and other regions) to be very rewarding. “We’re full of ecologists in the US who now have a good handle on these systems,” he says. “But in Latin America, it’s pioneer work. Changing minds and perceptions is the first step in having a significant impact on both fire management policy and appropriate conservation actions on the ground.”|
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