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Letter from Ed: Forest Fires Rage Across the West Coast and Canada in 2018
Record forest fires in the West point to worsening fuel levels in national forests, and the Trump administration acts to take more preventative measures.

By Edward C. Brindley
Date Posted: 9/4/2018

Turn on the news just about any night and you will hear about the devastating wildfires that are raging across the western states and most of Canada. Many readers will remember the forest fires that raged across Western Canada and the Northwest down into Northern California in 2017. Record wildfires ravaged massive amounts of acres last year for what unfortunately turned out to be just a forerunner of 2018. Pardon the pun, but last year was literally a warmup for 2018.

Facing a worsening forest health crisis, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently announced a new strategy for managing wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics. A new report, entitled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based Investment Strategy, outlines the plan to work more closely with the states.

Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said, “We are committed to working more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.”

Urgent challenges include catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The Forest Service indicates that the conditions driving these circumstances are not improving. Longer fire seasons and the increasing size and severity of wildfires are expanding the risk to communities, firefighters, and natural resources.

Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen, stated, “This year Congress has given us new opportunities to stand with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include wildfire risks.” The government plans to use all the tools at its disposal to reduce hazardous fuel levels, including prescribed fire, mechanical treatments and unplanned fires in the right places. Federal agencies plan to use technology and forecasting tools to target the right areas to have the biggest impact possible to improve overall forest health.

Although national figures suggest that we are facing record high volumes of acres under fire this season, bad wildfires are nothing new. Over the past 10 years through August 21 of each year, there has been an average of 45,573 forest fires involving an average of 4,933,621 acres. Through August 21 of each year, we have experienced as many as almost seven and a half million acres burned and as few as a little over two million acres.

The National Interagency Fire Center has stated, “Currently, more than two million acres have burned in 111 large fires in 13 states. Extreme fire behavior caused the South Sugarloaf and Sheep Creek fires in Nevada to burn thousands of acres yesterday. Evacuation orders are in effect for residents who live near 23 large fires in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.” As of August 21, over six million acres have burned in the West.

We have record fuel levels in the Northwestern United States from Northern California through Oregon and the Northern Rockies. While the weather pattern calls for cooler weather to come into the early fall months, the current pattern is expected to continue for the immediate future. By October we will lose much of our heat; more lightening events are likely to contribute to continue fire levels into the fall months.

The Eastern United States has seen relatively wet conditions throughout much of the summer months. Fire levels across the East are expected to experience below normal levels.

The new tone taken by the Trump administration suggests that they want to do more to prevent horrific wildfires. Some environmental groups claim this is just another excuse to log more land. But more moderate environmental groups recognize that active management may be required to mitigate the risks, especially as more people live in proximity to these large western fires.

Turn on the news just about any night and you will hear about the devastating wildfires that are raging across the western states and most of Canada. Many readers will remember the forest fires that raged across Western Canada and the Northwest down into Northern California in 2017. Record wildfires ravaged massive amounts of acres last year for what unfortunately turned out to be just a forerunner of 2018. Pardon the pun, but last year was literally a warmup for 2018.

Facing a worsening forest health crisis, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) recently announced a new strategy for managing wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics. A new report, entitled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based Investment Strategy, outlines the plan to work more closely with the states.

Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, said, “We are committed to working more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.”

Urgent challenges include catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The Forest Service indicates that the conditions driving these circumstances are not improving. Longer fire seasons and the increasing size and severity of wildfires are expanding the risk to communities, firefighters, and natural resources.

Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen, stated, “This year Congress has given us new opportunities to stand with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include wildfire risks.” The government plans to use all the tools at its disposal to reduce hazardous fuel levels, including prescribed fire, mechanical treatments and unplanned fires in the right places. Federal agencies plan to use technology and forecasting tools to target the right areas to have the biggest impact possible to improve overall forest health.

Although national figures suggest that we are facing record high volumes of acres under fire this season, bad wildfires are nothing new. Over the past 10 years through August 21 of each year, there has been an average of 45,573 forest fires involving an average of 4,933,621 acres. Through August 21 of each year, we have experienced as many as almost seven and a half million acres burned and as few as a little over two million acres.

The National Interagency Fire Center has stated, “Currently, more than two million acres have burned in 111 large fires in 13 states. Extreme fire behavior caused the South Sugarloaf and Sheep Creek fires in Nevada to burn thousands of acres yesterday. Evacuation orders are in effect for residents who live near 23 large fires in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.” As of August 21, over six million acres have burned in the West.

We have record fuel levels in the Northwestern United States from Northern California through Oregon and the Northern Rockies. While the weather pattern calls for cooler weather to come into the early fall months, the current pattern is expected to continue for the immediate future. By October we will lose much of our heat; more lightening events are likely to contribute to continue fire levels into the fall months.

The Eastern United States has seen relatively wet conditions throughout much of the summer months. Fire levels across the East are expected to experience below normal levels.

The new tone taken by the Trump administration suggests that they want to do more to prevent horrific wildfires. Some environmental groups claim this is just another excuse to log more land. But more moderate environmental groups recognize that active management may be required to mitigate the risks, especially as more people live in proximity to these large western fires.








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