Lynn Bennett: the Truth about Wildfires in the West’s National Forests.

Jim Petersen’s interview with Lynn Bennett, U.S. Forest Service, retired, Salmon, Idaho, is well worth reading.

A Moral Responsibility to Tell the Truth

Jim Petersen talks with Lynn Bennett about the difference between fire resistance and resiliency, and the truth about Wildfires in the West’s national forests.

7 thoughts on “Lynn Bennett: the Truth about Wildfires in the West’s National Forests.”

  1. I worked with Wendell Hann while in Region 2 on fire-adaptive management in dry mixed conifer and lodgepole types, he was the best “educator” on fire dynamics I ever witnessed! And, this post by Lynn Bennett is spot on, in so many levels! Why are we closing access (roads) and then wearing that “accomplishment” as a badge of honor? I know some of the reasons, some are valid but we are getting too carried away.

    As for Forest Supervisors and Directors in the business, you ain’t that important! You leave, recruit and fill is started immediately; I know, I have been both! Leadership means listening to your folks, looking at where and what you are doing and do your best to do no harm. Our “managed fire” is doing way more harm faster than we can make excuses.

    I’ve worked in forests from the Mississippi River to Pacific and can see (and experienced) the exact circumstances and outcomes Lynn speaks. Our forests are at a tipping point and we better crank up a chainsaw or two, fuel up the dozers and put some inspired boots on the ground if we are going to save them!

  2. A lot of the “managed fire” emphasis came about when FRCC (Fire Regime Condition Class) was being used early on. This created an impression (that still exists to some degree) that the important thing was for something to burn so it would match the desired FRCC.

    And yes, the Forest Service has used resistance and resilience interchangeably – and they are not the same. It is still a tough row to hoe to get people to understand the difference.

    • A. when I first heard those two terms “resistance” and “resilience” I did not find them particularly helpful with all due respect to my colleagues who coined them. I think it’s easier to talk specifics, like “if there are more tree species on a site, chances are some will have the adaptive capacity to respond to changes in climate” or “decreasing ladder fuels will change fire behavior and possibly wildfires will be able to run through the stand with less damage.” We seem to be in world in which many conceptualize and strategize, but when it comes to accomplishing changes on the ground.. not so much. Are we over-thinking and over-abstracting the whole “adaptation to climate”thing?

      • Personally, I don’t think that climate is as big of a factor as human-caused fires. The sizes of wildfires will probably go up, with fire able to blaze through the post-fire landscapes we will be seeing more and more of. That also means that the relative damages will be less, due to less fire intensity. It is important for us to save seed sources (and superior genetics, adapted to more frequent fires) within these large and intense firestorms.

          • No, I am not advocating for ‘free range’ wildfires. I just think that during severe drought, with increasing human impacts, sometimes it doesn’t matter what kind of vegetation currently exists. The accumulated fuels from fire suppression will burn, eventually.

            I think the Caldor Fire did it for me. Even with all the management that had gone on there, it all burned anyway. It’s more about how well existing stands survive these human-caused wildfires.


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