The Role of Sound Forest Management in Reducing Wildfire Risk

There are many here on the NCFP blog that don’t believe that there is any scientific basis for Sound Forest Management in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. For those with an open mind and a desire to do what is right for our National Forests and the environment, here are two articles that will provide some food for thought. I have added some bolding and italics for emphasis and some “Notes:” for clarification.

 

1) The Arizona Daily Star reports that:

– “the Southwest Fire Science Consortium, which held a three-day meeting in Tucson this week to address forest resiliency in the face of climate change and megafires.

More than 100 scientists, land managers and firefighters from government, academic and nongovernmental agencies gathered to brainstorm strategies for making forests resilient as big, hot fires threaten their very existence.

“More fire, not less” is one answer, the researchers said.”.

– “Treating and burning the landscape regularly, and using natural fire to accomplish those same ends will allow those changes to occur gradually.

The alternatives, said fire ecologist Don Falk, are more megafires and more abrupt changes.” Note: The use of “treating” includes logging to reduce excessive stand density and other fuel reduction efforts.

– “Falk, in his keynote address to the group, showed a photo of an entire watershed burned to ash in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico during the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. No mature trees survived, no seed source remains and the soil is washing away. That change, he said, “is essentially irreversible.”” Note: This doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to ameliorate the losses.

Note: In regard to these findings above, there is nothing here that hasn’t been known to foresters for over a half century but maybe this reaffirmation will help some to understand the need for sound forest management and the consequences of excluding sound forest management.”

 

2) The News Herald in North Carolina in an article entitled “Prescribed burns reduce wildfire threat” gives us quick overview of what all goes into preparing for and carrying out a prescribed burn. The article doesn’t give enough detail regarding the weather planning and restrictions imposed before executing control burns by the states. To my best knowledge, states have to approve all burn plans before they can be carried out so there is a strong checks and balances system in-place to minimize adverse weather risk, ignorance and carelessness in fire plans. Here are some quotes:

– “Some plant communities and animal species rely on periodic fire for their existence. The prescribed burns also reduce the amount of potential wildfire fuel and protect a parks’ resources and neighboring areas if lightning, arson or carelessness sparks a wildfire.”

– ““The point of this fire was to reduce the threat of wildfire. We’re burning it on our terms so a wildfire can’t burn on its terms,” Walker said Tuesday. “Our goal is to reduce small fuels by consuming them with fire. There will also be some benefits by reducing hardwood competition and making a more park-life appearance with general aesthetic quality.”

Before the fire can be lit, the rangers create a strict burn plan that factors in temperature, humidity, wind and more.

“We have certain weather parameters that the burning plan dictates. You don’t want the ground too wet or too dry because it takes a lot of effort to put the fire out,” Walker told. “We are really fortunate that a lot of the land that we have to patrol on a prescribed burn is bordered by the lake.”

Personnel began a test burn to make sure the winds were going to cooperate. The N.C. Forest Service and park rangers were ready to pull the plug if weather was going to be an issue. A burn line was constructed from the parking lot to the lake, and fire personnel proceeded to burn 61 acres of the Fox Den Loop.”

– “N.C. State Parks’ mission is to help promote natural forests. Historically, this area and statewide has burned more frequently,” said Bischoff. “Prior to settlement, several hundred years ago, this area had wildfires that burned very frequent in this area. Fire in general usually has a lot of negative connotation, but fortunately the community for the most part has been really supportive.”

– “The N.C. Forest Service also stated there is a program to fund burns on private lands”

3 Comments

  1. This is an interesting way to start your post:

    There are many here on the NCFP blog that don’t believe that there is any scientific basis for Sound Forest Management in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. For those with an open mind and a desire to do what is right for our National Forests and the environment,

    You are painting your mythical opposition in to quite a corner. These people “don’t believe there is _any_ … basis for _sound_ forest management” (what fools they must be. who could be against sound forest management?) Then you throw in “catastrophic” fire, even though science tells us that a full range of fire effects are a natural part of the forest system. And to top it off, these “many people” also lack an “open mind” and refuse to “do what is right” (These people must be wrong, so YOU must be right.)

    This Las Conchas Fire story is an anecdote, not a study based on a sufficiently large sample size to draw conclusions for policy making. Also, it sounds like this fire burned during severe weather conditions, so it’s likely the type of event that fuel reduction has little or no influence on.

    – “Falk, in his keynote address to the group, showed a photo of an entire watershed burned to ash in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico during the Las Conchas Fire in 2011. No mature trees survived, no seed source remains and the soil is washing away. That change, he said, “is essentially irreversible.”” Note: This doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to ameliorate the losses.

    Note: In regard to these findings above, there is nothing here that hasn’t been known to foresters for over a half century but maybe this reaffirmation will help some to understand the need for sound forest management and the consequences of excluding sound forest management.”

    • 2nd Law

      I am awed that you know my mind well enough to figure out what I was really thinking when I thought I was thinking something else. You’re pure genius.

      A) To substantiate your claims that I have constructed a “mythical opposition” can you disprove that:
      1) There are many here on the NCFP blog that don’t believe that there is any scientific basis for Sound Forest Management in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
      2) The first article linked to supported the second article and that there is a very large body of evidence including countless similar seminars to support the statement that “this fire was to reduce the threat of wildfire. We’re burning it on our terms so a wildfire can’t burn on its terms”. You are probably correct that there have been no catastrophic scale scientifically sound research designs that evaluate the ability of fuel reduction to reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire. It’s kind of hard to get funding for such studies. DUH! 🙂 BUT their are a century of post fire analysis, smaller scale burn studies, as well as the laws of combustion to support the fact that sound forest management reduces the probability of and extent of catastrophic fires. I find it ludicrous that you find that your sample size of one fire and your supposition (see “B”) is sufficient to dismiss the value of a very large body of scientific evidence on the role of forest management in reducing the odds and size of catastrophic fires. I find it ludicrous that you deduce that the analysis of fire scientists and professionals is anecdotal and therefore of no value when your words reveal that you have no comprehension of the subject. See “B” for examples of your lack of comprehension.

      B) As to your supposition that “Also, it sounds like this fire burned during severe weather conditions, so it’s likely the type of event that fuel reduction has little or no influence on”. What you don’t realize is three fold:
      1) No forester in their right mind would claim that sound forest management can eliminate catastrophic fires. Our only claim, as I stated above in A-2, is that “sound forest management reduces the probability of and extent of catastrophic fires”. Obviously, if dry lightning strikes and the winds are running at 30MPH or more then the odds are greater of catastrophic fire than if the winds had only been at 10MPH. But when the 30MPH winds slow down, the odds of containing that fire and reducing the acres burned will be much greater if the forest has been well managed than if no management had allowed density and ladder fuels to build up.
      2) A catastrophic fire will create it’s own severe weather. So just because “it sounds like this fire burned during severe weather conditions” doesn’t mean it started out in severe weather. This is important as we will see in B-3 immediately following.
      3) Sound forest management raises the threshold wind speed necessary to start a catastrophic fire as opposed a forest where the lack of management had allowed density and ladder fuels to build up. So the un-managed forest may break out into a catastrophic fire without any wind at all while the well managed forest generally require a significant wind to turn catastrophic.

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