Heath Powers, a project manager at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's "tree torture" lab, climbs through a maze of wiring outside a tree chamber. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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William Armstrong, fire manager for the Santa Fe National Forest service, says lush forests can be a "plague." David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Craig Allen, left, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of ecology from Spain, survey a plateau ravaged during last year's Las Conchas fire in New Mexico. The megafire burned over 150,000 acres of forest. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Jorge Castro, a visiting professor of Ecology from Spain, sips water in the shade of a burnt tree in New Mexico's Bandelier Wilderness area. Last year's Las Conchas fire devastated the area burning over 150,000 acres of forest. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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A Smokey the Bear fire prevention sign sits in Valles Caldera along Highway 4, which was one of the front lines in fighting the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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1909. Facing nearly due west from ridge northeast of Como Lake. Light selection cut in open ponderosa pine. Ground cover is comprised of perennial grasses and forbs, including basalmroot. A few low-growing bitterbrush plants can be seen in the vicinity of horses and in distance on left. A group of willows can be seen behind horsemen at left center. Photo 87357/U.S. Forest Service hide caption

itoggle caption Photo 87357/U.S. Forest Service