NPR News has a Q&A with Scott Stephens, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in wildfires and forest management, entitled “What’s Needed To Manage Wildfires.” Stephens’ Fire Science Laboratory has a large collection of forest restoration and fuels management research.
KURTZLEBEN: With climate change essentially ensuring that conditions will continue to get more suitable for big fires, do you have any hope in the state and federal governments’ ability to manage future fire seasons?
STEPHENS: This is a great question. And I actually have a lot of hope. You know, I really do believe that we could do some work now in the next 10 to 20 years, which is actually probably the most important period now, to do our restoration thinning, do the work that actually says we’re going to go into a forest and we’re going to actually identify what we want to leave for restoration and we’re going to take the excess of that. We’re going to do the prescribed burning to get the fire back into these systems. And then again, managed wildfire. I know that it’s such a big issue for this state. Look at what’s going on. So many people losing homes, smoking out communities, huge cities for months at a time, huge impacts to water quality. Lake Oroville just had a huge fire in the middle fork of the Feather River, the largest tributary to Lake Oroville, which is the largest lake in the state water project.
These are enormous issues. On top of that, giant sequoia areas in southern Sierra Nevada last year – severe fires killed, we think, 10% of the giant sequoia old growth trees in the state. So it’s not as if we’re wondering what’s going to happen. It’s happening right now. So that just tells me that we have to get on the system to get this work in earnest. My estimate is we need to do 10 times more restoration thinning and prescribed burning to start to change the rudder of the ship.