Fire Experts Weigh In On Management Practices

To fight increasingly devastating wildfires, government officials and landowners must develop new strategies that proactively address the biggest risk factors.

November 10, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


torroid / Flickr

After another devastating fire season, three new scientific papers outline a plan for "how land managers and policymakers can move from passive to proactive wildfire and forest management," writes Kylie Mohr.

As climate change intensifies wildfires across the West, officials can reduce some of the impacts through a variety of strategies.

These include thinning dense forests that haven’t recently burned, removing some flammable shrubs and bushes, allowing wildfires to burn when conditions are appropriate, and ramping up Indigenous fire stewardship practices, including prescribed burns. If forests are managed well, they’ll still burn — but the fires won’t be so devastating.

The papers, which present facts and misconceptions about a laundry list of management practices, could help landowners and government agencies develop more effective fire management plans. The challenges, writes Mohr, are many: "getting vast numbers of private landowners to work together and understand what they need to do, dealing with federal and state regulatory barriers, permitting red tape, an insufficient federal workforce, a lack of funding, the risks stemming from liability and insurance policies, and a deeply ingrained fire suppression mentality."

Wildfires have grown more severe as climate change worsens 'fire weather' conditions and sprawl puts more communities at risk. Experts suggest that smarter urban growth policies such as infill development and formalized guidance for development in fire-prone areas can mitigate the risk and reduce the damage caused by wildfire. 

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