Let us start with this simple aspect. Forest fires are a normal thing. Often caused by lightning or other natural causes, they are God’s way of clearing forests. In those natural forest clearances, the wildlife that exists in them are threatened or their habitat is destroyed. What has changed is mankind’s intervention in the natural process. The question is, what other factors may be causing the change in the intensity of recent forest fires?
We also came armed with a thought. If you believe that global warming is making life more challenging for forest management, then you should support proper forest clearance. Otherwise we will be left with even more intense fires.
For this column, other than reading everything available, we went to two sources: our national Forest Service and the Union of Concerned Scientists to get different perspectives.
Speaking with Chris French, the Acting Deputy Chief of Forest Service (FS), we received a primer on what is really going on with forest fires today.
When asked what he believes is the primary cause of the intense forest fires, Mr. French’s immediate response was “Forests are overstocked. There are more trees than 100 years ago.” He went on to say that part of the problem was the Forest Service’s good work in the recent past stopping forest fires. This meant, however, that their focus was largely directed away from forest maintenance, which caused the elements that fuel a fire like underbrush, dead trees or more density to occur.
The changes French would like to see would be more active forest clearance and clearance of the underbrush. He also wants to do more controlled fires when the risks are minimized. If you are wondering why they are not doing that now it is because of budget restraints.
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