Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
As fire issues grow, forest management more important
The trend toward larger, hotter wildfires in this part of the country is rapidly becoming the new normal. In the four decades between 1960 and 1999, wildfires in the United
States scorched more than 7 million acres in a single year just once.
Since 2000? Eight times, with 2012 at 8.8 million acres and still
climbing. The annual number of wildfires exceeding 25,000 acres in 11
Western states has quintupled since the 1970s, according to a Climate
Central report released last month. The fire season across the West, according to the Climate Central
analysis, is 2½ months longer than it was 40 years ago. This year’s
Yakima and Wenatchee Complex fires didn’t even begin until the second
week of September, and in extending the statewide burn ban last week,
Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said Washington had "not
seen wildfire conditions this bad in October in a lifetime." But it almost certainly will again. Soon. And for years to come. Eighteen years ago, U.S. Forest Service officials proposed setting
aside large blocks of forest as spotted owl habitat, in which there
would be little management. When they bounced the idea off Agee, then the service’s forest fire
consultant, he told them in no uncertain terms: No. Bad idea. Minus active land management — thinning operations and prescribed
burns — those de facto reserves, Agee warned, would simply fuel
increasingly larger wildfires. "If you could treat about a third of the forest area, that would have a
major impact on the rate of spread of these large wildfires, and they
would also have less debilitating effects on the vegetation," Agee said.
"But the rate we’re treating is maybe 1 to 2 percent per year at most,
out of the context of being effective at all."...more