Chad Hanson is featured prominently in a Greenwire article today, “Federal fire policy may be based on faulty science.”
“A growing amount of research by Hanson and other scientists suggests forests with a lot of dead trees are at no more risk of catastrophic wildfire — and possibly less — than woods cleared of them.
“The reason: Live trees with oil-rich needles still attached burn faster than dead trees, Hanson said. And though other factors are only an educated guess, he said, researchers believe keeping loggers out of such woods may have a long-term benefit by letting dead trees fall to the forest floor, where they soak up water and slow the spread of fire.”
Until those large 1000-hour-plus fuels dry out and burn, and burn hot, and burn amongst a sea of brush and, given a seed source, young trees. That’s a recipe for a very high intensity fire. Of course, Hanson might say that’s fine, as long as no commercial harvesting had spoiled the pristine snag forest. I would guess that Hanson has never seen — let alone mopped up — a punky, downed, 40-inch ponderosa pine burning merrily and throwing embers across a fire line.
The Greenwire article even brings up Dan Donato’s controversial 2006 Science paper. Overall, an unbalanced article, but it may help with Hanson’s fundraising efforts.
In any case, federal fire policy is not based on ecology alone, even if, as Andy has pointed out, the agency has rearranged the order of the triple bottom line on its web site: “Deliver Economic, Social, and Environmental Benefits.”