As state, local and federal leaders continue to take stock after this year's horrendous wildfire season, the calls for more active management of our state and federal forests are getting louder and louder.
The Ellensburg (Wash.) Daily Record recently published testimony in front of a U.S. Senate committee from Kittitas County Commissioner Gary Berndt. The commissioner spoke about the fires that regularly plague his community and how the only long-term answer is healthier, less crowded forests.
...The solution for the long term will also have to involve strategic timber harvest and stand thinning. Recently the Nature Conservancy purchased nearly 50,000 acres of timberland in our county and they acknowledge that forest management will be critical to achieving their goals including reducing the threat from fire.
Incident management teams are much more successful and cost effective when there are options to guide fire into managed areas with access and reduced fuels.
I believe that there is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create solutions which will help prevent and drastically lessen the impact and numbers of fires we are enduring. A first step must be to establish a funding mechanism that does not “raid” funds for management activities to pay for suppression costs. Sen. Cantwell has discussed this and without the funds to carry on routine management activities, nothing will change.
I see communities across the West continue to be at peril from catastrophic fire impacts. I have managed fires where families have lost everything; I have worked my entire career to minimize the damage to forests watersheds and local economies. The solution is to better improve immediate response and management, but the real solution is to develop a plan of action that will create a fire resistant healthy forest environment.