Forest fire research questions the wisdom of prescribed burns
Written byJIM ROBBINS, New York Times
Scientists are at loggerheads over whether there is an ecological advantage to thinning forests and using prescribed fire to reduce fuel for subsequent fires — or whether those methods actually diminish ecological processes and biodiversity.
The United States Forest Service, which manages nearly 200 million acres of public land, believes limited thinning and burning will prevent catastrophic wildfires. The agency contracts with logging companies to cut down large and small trees across sweeping landscapes, and uses prescribed fire. Besides protecting homes, experts say, these methods also recreate the natural state of the forest.
The approach, developed primarily as a result of tree ring studies, seeks to reconstruct the forests of the West before the 20th century, when the large-scale suppression of wildfire first occurred. Some ecologists and environmentalists, however, are challenging the Forest Service’s model, saying it is based on incomplete science and is causing ecological damage.VIEW ORIGINAL ARTICLE