Thursday, May 30, 2019

Forest Service may follow lead of states in Southeast and do more controlled burns to stave off wildfires

Federal spending on fire suppression vs. prescribed fires 
(Climate Central map)
Wildfires have been increasing in frequency and intensity in recent years, partly because of climate change and partly because many forest managers have tried too hard to suppress fires. In the Southeast, managers are trying to stave off or mitigate wildfires by setting controlled fires, Maya Miller and Samantha Max report for Southerly, in partnership with The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and research group Climate Central.

"In 2018, Georgia, Florida and Alabama prescribed burns to more than 4 million acres of land, while the remaining 47 states and territories burned about 2 million acres combined, according to data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and analyzed by Climate Central, Miller and Max report. "Experts warn this data may undercount prescribed burning, but a country-wide survey by the National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils similarly found that, in 2017, the Southeast was responsible for two-thirds of the nation’s prescribed burns."

The federal government may follow their lead. "Staff at the U.S. Forest Service, which treated only about 1% of the nearly 200 million acres of land it manages with prescribed burns in 2018, are alarmed by their own agency’s lack of burning. For the first time in history, they’re considering restructuring the agency to facilitate more prescribed fires," Miller and Max report. However, federal funding to research controlled burns has declined for the past five years.

Even if the Forest Service wants to use prescribed burns, some steps will need to be taken first. Some forests haven't burned in so long that logging and other forest thinning tactics will need to be employed before they can set a relatively safe, productive fire, Miller and Max report.

No comments: