Friday, September 25, 2015

Editorial - Forest management, wildfires and climate change

Capital Press is out with a powerful editorial on managing federal lands. Saying many politicians blame the huge fire seasons on either climate change or drought, they identify the real problem: poor management.

For those who blame it all on the drought, the editorial writers say:

For the years 2005 to 2014, an average of 6 million acres has burned annually in the U.S., mainly the West. Most of those 10 years predate the four-year drought in California or the droughts in any of the other Western states.

For those who are concerned about climate change, they should support management to minimize the number and size of wildfires. Why? Because wildfires "release massive amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which are linked to climate change." The writers cite a Park Service study showing wildfire accounts for up to 7 percent of California's carbon emissions.

So what is the management problem? This is where they really shine:

The poor management of federal land, which has allowed forests to become overgrown and bulging with fuel for fires, is the primary cause of the increasing number of large wildfires.

The writers also raise the issue of access, and therefore non-use, and specifically identify all the road closures going on across the West:

 Closing these massive areas to access assures that they will never be properly managed for multiple use or thinned to reduce wildfire fuel. They will become de facto wilderness areas — and stockpiles of fuel for wildfires. 

And they make no bones about the solution:

In the wake of this year’s catastrophic fires, even the most hard-headed politicians seem to agree that the forests need to be “better-managed.” We will translate: They need to be logged, either through thinning or through commercial timber sales. And more livestock grazing is needed to reduce the amount of vegetation that piles up as fuel for the next wildfire.

This is a statement of the obvious. The only answer to reducing the size and intensity of wildfires is to reduce the amount of fuel in the forests.

How refreshing.  Every Westerner owes a big "Thank You" to Capital Press.

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