Read the entire article here. A little intro snip is below:
On July 12, lightning sparked a forest fire in western Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex — a place where wildfires are common this time of year. Usually, if they’re small and don’t threaten to get out of control, the U.S. Forest Service will let them burn. Small fires are good for the forest ecosystem, burning off dead timber and creating habitat for many woodland species; because of that, all U.S. agencies adopted a policy in 1995 to reintroduce fire on federal land.
So what happened last month was unusual: the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and an additional 35 million acres of federally designated wilderness land nationwide, ordered a full-on attack of the fire by smokejumpers, bucket-bearing helicopters, and four lumbering slurry bombers that each dumped more than 2,000 gallons of red chemical fire retardant on an ecosystem that is otherwise treated as pristine.
This has been happening all across the West this summer, as the Forest Service throws its already-thin firefighting resources at blazes that in previous years would have been allowed to spread naturally and burn out on their own. The stated reason is cost: the Forest Service is so worried that the hot, dry conditions will cause one or more of those small fires to burn out of control — consuming not just acres of forest, but also the agency’s strapped budget — that it’s willing to pour money and resources into fighting blazes that threaten little and are usually considered healthy for the forests.
Here is a link to today’s article in the Denver Post, and below is an excerpt.
The commission also may make “compensatory recommendations” after hearing from victims of the fire, who were expected to testify in Conifer on Monday night.
“Realistically, we’re talking about many months, if not over years” before victims see special compensation from the state, said commission chairwoman state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango .
Mike Babler, fire programs manager for the Colorado chapter of the Nature Conservancy , said wildfires are becoming more frequent and more intense.
Babler said prescribed burns, which the state put an indefinite ban on after the Lower North Fork fire, are still important for fire management. But he listed a variety of other strategies, including defensive techniques such as cleaning up pine needles and other fuel around homes.
Another major factor has been the collapse of the timber industry, Babler said. With a depressed construction industry and foreign competition, mills have been shuttered, leaving forests thicker with fuel.
He also pointed to the growth of those living in the “urban wilderness interface,” where development creeps into forests. Two million people in Colorado now live in these areas, and studies say that could double in 20 years, he said.
In California on Monday, more than 825,000 rural residents received bills from the state of up to $150 for fire protection costs.
The controversial new fees are expected to raise $84 million to help balance the state budget.
Sharon’s questions: Does someone have a link to the California policy? Also, it’s still not clear to me why the taxpayers of Colorado (say, the person working at the 7-11) should be compensating these folks. Is it for something their insurance does not cover? Does the policy of “no prescribed burns” really make any practical sense? Is there really such a policy in the State (I haven’t been following this)? Finally, I wonder if the studies of the doubling of populations in the WUI takes into account the economy, and the distribution of wealth. If we can’t predict that, what can we predict? Sensitivity analysis might be useful.
Here’s a copy of the lawsuit filed yesterday by an assortment of timber industry, off-road/ATV and grazing interests against the new NFMA planning rules.