Posted by Kevin Matthews on July 02, 2002 at 00:09:03:
Dear PBS NewsHour,
Thank you for the coverage Monday (2002.0701) on the background of recent superfires in the western U.S. I look forward to seeing part two on Tuesday.
In your coverage so far, one enormous historical factor seems to have gone mostly unmentioned. Generations of clearcut logging across the west have fundamentally altered the forests in ways that dramatically increase the potential for very intense fires.
Intact mature forests dominated by old growth trees have a natural structure of widely spaced large trees and reduced forest floor vegetation. In contrast, forests regrowing after clearcutting are typically made up of many closely spaced trees of similar small size and age, presenting acre after acre of standing tinder. The suggested silvacultural practices of thinning and maintenance burns may be considered to be only approximately restoring the naturally fire-resistant structural pattern of mature forest, yet without the same degree of moisture retention (or biodiversity).
When the comprehensive effects of repeated harvest cycles on fire susceptibility are fully considered, the long term impact of repeated clearcutting may turn out to be a larger factor than fire suppression per se in creating the conditions for dangerous and destructive superfires.
Citizens Nature Project