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As wildfires across the West continue to rage, President Trump has continued to push the message that the cause of the fires is solely due to poor forest management. It’s not a new message for Republicans, but science unequivocally points to the ways in which climate change is supercharging wildfires.
Ezra Romero, an environmental reporter for Capital Public Radio, explained that climate scientists “all say we need to do more in the offseason exponentially [to manage forests], but [they] are clear, if we don’t get the climate crisis under control we’re going to be in this cyclical cycle of having fire on the landscape at this size and scale.”
Why This Matters: As a nation, we’ve suppressed natural wildfires for a century. But the U.S. Forest Service ultimately lacks adequate resources to manage all federally-owned forests and even if we could suddenly clear brush and carry out prescribed burns, the effects of climate change would still exacerbate fires. For instance, since 2010, the state of California has lost an estimated 129 million trees in part due to climate change which are now highly flammable. If we don’t address our greenhouse gas emissions, forest management won’t be enough to prevent the loss of life and property.
Managing Fires:As NPR wrote, California and Oregon in particular are far behind stated goals of treating millions of acres lands through restoration projects, selective thinning of trees and brush, and prescribed burning.
“The treatments they’ve been implementing for years haven’t really been at the scale that they need to be to offset a wind driven climate change exacerbated event,” says Andrew Sánchez Meador, director of the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University.
Experts like Sanchez Meador say state and federal agencies have also faced local opposition toward doing more prescribed burning to manage forests in the off-seasons when they don’t expect to have to endure more smoke.
Running Out of Funding: Forest management isn’t as simple as it sounds and it can be very expensive, which is why agencies tasked with this goal need more funding. As the New York Times explained, “the country’s top fire science budget has been slashed – cuts that began in the last year of the Obama administration and have only accelerated under President Trump, who has twice tried unsuccessfully to eliminate it altogether. States, which are struggling under the coronavirus-induced economic crisis, have run short of funds for the scientific work.”
If you’ve ever noticed that there’s something off about the timing and duration of fall foliage where you live–you’re not imagining things! As with many ecological processes, human activity is shifting the arrival of our seasons through what’s described as “season creep.“ As the Washington Post wrote this past weekend: “Human activities transform not just […]
Back in January, President Trump said the U.S. would join the World Economic Forum’s “Trillion Trees” Initiative — but in the 9 months since then we have heard little of it. Today, the President signed an Executive Order saying that “given the expansive footprint of our Federal forests and woodlands, this order initiates the formation […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer A new study published in Nature Communications, found that the Amazon rainforest is nearing the tipping point of switching from rainforest to savannah much faster than previously thought. New forecasts show that the Amazon may not have enough rain to sustain itself by 2021. Logging, wildfires, and drought have […]
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