The following comment was posted by Jim Furnish, former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service on this blog over here. I believe Jim’s “2 cents worth” deserves to have its own post for discussion.
According to Jim’s bio at the Oregon State University Press: “Jim Furnish is a consulting forester in the Washington D.C. area following a 34-year career with the USDA Forest Service. He served as the agency’s Deputy Chief and Siuslaw National Forest Supervisor in Corvallis, Oregon. Furnish was a principle Forest Service leader in creating the Roadless Area Conservation Rule (2001), as well as in reforming management of the Siuslaw National Forest from timber production to restoration principles. He has served on the board of directors of several environmental and faith-based non-profit organizations.” More details on Jim’s book, “Toward A Natural Forest: The Forest Service in Transition (A Memoir)” can be found here.
My 2c worth, after almost 40 years with USFS 1965-2002, and a couple more decades observing since… As any on-the-ground firefighter or fire boss will tell you, when a fire gets ripping with high wind, heat, and low humidity and reaches project size, suppression efforts are band aids, at best. And we are seeing it RIGHT NOW. Control will come with – and ONLY with – a change in the weather. It’s an ugly scene and an ugly truth. But the “wet West” of 1945-1980, coinciding with a huge uptick in logging, population, and residential development, kind of lulled us into a false mindset (of which I was also guilty). Now that drier conditions have become entrenched, exacerbated by climate change, we reap the whirlwind. I approve of veg mgmt to try to reduce fire risk and severity, but have seen my share of fires burn right through treated areas. I strongly endorse focusing on WUI first and investing in fire-wise treatments of forest homes and lots. But when too-close homes start to burn and the domino effect kicks in, best to stand back and take your medicine. Sorry to be such a downer, but all the talk of logging impacts on fire behavior (and there ARE impacts) is akin to arguing about how the clothing I wear affects my weight on the scale vs. weighing naked.