It looks like we’re in for another doozy of a fire season… and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. The quick ‘n dirty of it is that for the past 100 or so years of forest management in the United States, we have emphasized a complete eradication of forest fires for fairly obvious reasons. Unfortunately, this policy didn’t take into account the fact that relatively small routine fires are a natural part of a healthy and balanced forest ecosystem. So after 100 years of blocking the burn, here we are sitting in a mess of small diameter overgrown and congested wildlands with an aptitude to ignite stronger than a fully stalked tinderbox.
Presently, the federal government employs divisions of Wildland Firefighters a.k.a ‘Hotshots’ to battle the ravaging blazes. It’s difficult and dangerous work that, in the best case scenario, contains and limits the spread of destruction. With hotter and hotter summers and the fuel continuing to pile up, blazes are getting worse. Anyone who’s worked a fire season or has even a remote understanding of forestry will tell you the solution lies within proactive forest management practices that emphasize thinning and restoration. Simply fighting fires as they start is a set up for “a forever war… and you don’t win those,” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University. There’s an quote about ‘an ounce of prevention’ being ‘worth a pound of cure’ by some old guy who probably doesn’t know much. I think his name was Ben Frankin or something, he’s kind of obscure so you probably never heard of him.
Coast Mountain News reports that in a brazen effort to curb the purge, California officials are hoping to allocate $2 Billion for forest thinning and restoration. California manages over 33 million acres of forest. A crew of 12 can thin about a quarter acre of wildland in a day. Governor Gaven Newsom hopes that state and federal crews can be thinning a million acres annually by 2025. The high cost for a state already entrenched in debt is the biggest obstacle that could prevent the policy from coming to fruition. Then again, with the very future of our forests and wildlands at stake, is there really any price to big to pay?