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Re: Thoughts on past & current Forest Service Fire Policies.

September 6 2017 at 2:38 PM
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splattski  (Login splattski)

Response to Thoughts on past & current Forest Service Fire Policies.

Interesting and timely topic, Ray.
A few comments- and I realize I'm no expert. I'm just commenting based on various things I have read.

Wilderness areas
You mention wilderness fires several times. I think that fires within wilderness areas, while being allowed to burn, are only contributing a small portion of the smoke I see outside my window.

Full suppression of fires for those many years left a lot of burnable understory. It seems to me that whenever man gets mixed up in nature, we bungle it. Letting it burn might be a way of letting nature fix the mess left by total suppression, but it will be centuries before nature can repair the harm man has already done.

Old-growth forests were more resistant to fires. Not resistant, just more so. They had less burnable understory. Many species of trees develop thick, fire-resistant bark. And some old-growth trees have branches that only start 20 feet or more off the ground.
Of course, those trees also had very high commercial value, so today's forests aren't like that so much.
Much of the second-and third-cut forests we now have aren't worth a lot commercially. And in Idaho, much of the forest isn't economic to harvest due to the steepness and remoteness of the land.

Some estimates say that as much as 90% of wildfires today are caused by man. Increased access to the backcountry today will likely increase that percentage.

Global warming/climate change
A 1-degree change in daily temperature can make a HUGE difference in forest condition. For example, the normal temperature/elevation equation is that for each 1000' of elevation, the temperature is 3° lower. So based on that, a 1° increase will mean the snow level is 300' higher. Less snow will be stored. Less precip will fall as snow. Many,many acres fewer will be covered. And the result is that everything is much drier in August.

Currently, the Forest Service must rob money from other accounts to pay for fire suppression. Including fire prevention efforts. Congress must find a better way to fund fire fighting efforts.

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