Many thanks to Jim Furnish for posting this piece and generating much good discussion and observations. But there are many different claims within it, and so I think each is worthy of its own post and focused discussion. I’m hoping that posting them individually will lead to a more in-depth discussion.
But I’d like to start with framing the problem. I think later we’ll be able to reflect back and see how specific observations or research may be relevant or not based on each person’s framing of the issue.
I’ve written before about some people arguing that the issue is burning houses. At the time, (10 years ago) I said
In this case, the difference in framing is as simple as it’s not about the structures- it’s about the fact that people don’t want fire running through their communities. It is about all kinds of community infrastructure, stop signs and power poles, landscaping, fences, gardens, trees and benches in parks, people and pets and livestock having safe exits from encroaching fires. It is about firefighter safety and about conditions for different suppression tactics. That’s why fire breaks of some kinds around communities (not just structures) will always be popular in the real world.
If we don’t agree on framing, then we are unlikely to agree on what science is relevant, and then the discussion devolves to “science-slinging.” But if we talk about our different framings it might help us understand each other. Each person can frame the issue their own way.. there is no right or wrong. Policy actors strive to get their framings incorporated into policy, but that is a factor of political power, not morality or “science.”
My framing would be “how best can we work together protect our communities, watersheds, wildlife and so on from negative impacts of wildfires?” What have we learned from suppression experts, fuels experts, wildfire scientists, social scientists, communities’ and practitioners’ and Indigenous experiences and knowledge that can be used to do better?
At the same time, others can have different framings and end up with similar policy options. That’s always encouraging when it happens. Here’s an example.
There’s a new group called Megafire Action with a mission to “end the megafire crisis within a decade.” That sounds very different from my framing.
Here are their
GOALS FOR 2023
Enact policy to treat millions of acres of hazardous fuels in high risk areas
Pathway to achieve 50M acres treated by 2032
Address structural barriers to progress
Fix Forest Service workforce problems
Streamline burdensome regulations
Support sustainable forest product markets
Double the federal investment in wildfire science innovation
Harness the full potential of the scientific community
I’d go along generally with those options.. but the policy devil is always in the details.
What is your framing of the “wildfire management” issue?