Bruce Byers writes in the Washington Post:
The July 3 news article “Climate change, development and budget cuts fuel upward trend in wildfires” did not fully explore the main cause of this trend. We are feeling the effects of wildfire-suppression policies going back a hundred years.
Forest management decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and other federal and state agencies created the unnaturally dense and uniform forests that now cover the western United States. These decisions caused the “fire deficit” in western forests noted by fire expert Stephen J. Pyne, quoted in the article. Although climate change is undoubtedly a contributing factor, more and more acres will be burning for decades to come with or without it until we allow or help our forests to come back to their natural equilibrium with fire.
Sending brave young people to their deaths in this unnatural war against natural wildfires — a war that can’t be won — is dumb. We should employ them instead in a program of mechanical thinning, harvesting wood products and controlled burning to restore the natural forest landscape we disrupted by our ecologically misguided fire-suppression policies.
Bruce A. Byers, Falls Church
The writer is a conservation and natural resources management consultant.