The hockey star is known for saying you have to “skate to where the puck will be.” That seems to be what the Forest Service is trying to do by putting thinning treatments where fire risk is high, but research again suggests that the hockey analogy doesn’t work in forests. Maybe it’s because the “field of play” is so much larger and the entity delivering the puck isn’t on your team (and doesn’t play by any rules). This article plays off of the recent executive order to treat 8.45 million acres of land and cut 4.4 million board feet of timber, “which is about 80 percent more than was cut on U.S. Forest Service lands in 2017.”
“The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program received a lot of financial investment and resources over the past 15 years,” Barnett told the Missoulian. “We treat quite a lot of landscapes each year. And less than 10 percent of that had even (been) burned by a subsequent fire. So that raises more broad general questions over the efficacy of fuel treatments to change regional fire patterns.”
“Even if federal land management agencies were able to increase their treatments and meet the President’s goal of treating 8.45 million acres, it would still equate to less than 2 percent of all federal lands,” Pohl said. “It is unlikely these locations will be among the hundreds of millions of acres that burn during the effective lifespan of a fuel reduction treatment, typically 10-20 years.”
And if the goal is protecting homes rather than changing regional fire patterns,
“Research shows that home loss is primarily determined by two factors: the vegetation in the immediate area around the home, and the way the home is designed and constructed,”
You could read this to say that if they treated 2% a year for 10-20 years, there would be a higher encounter rate than historically that might be a better justification, but it doesn’t sound like that is the way they are interpreting it. The map does suggest that southern California and a couple of other places might be looked at differently, and considered a priority for funding.
The author went off script a bit to say that logging is a good strategy to “improve forest health,” but maybe that’s the semantic problem of “logging” vs “thinning.” I’m also wondering if an order to produce board feet doesn’t tend to favor logging (of bigger trees) over thinning?