Three elements control wildfire behavior (spread and intensity): weather, fuel, and topography. The only one we can manage is fuel. Proven, science-based forest management tools like logging, thinning, and controlled burns reduce excessive vegetation that fuel catastrophic wildfires.
Forest management alone does not prevent forest fires. But timber harvesting, thinning and controlled burns can be used to reduce the fuels that make fires burn hotter and faster. Other activities, including creating fuel breaks and improving the National Forest Systems roads, will give firefighters better and safer opportunities to contain fires before they grow out of control.
In addition to the loss of natural resources and wildlife habitat, recent wildfire seasons have resulted in tragic losses of lives and the destruction of thousands of homes. It is estimated that more than 40 million homes are within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), where homes and forests intermix. It is essential for our public lands managers to increase forest management activities within the WUI to protect our communities.
It is also important to protect vulnerable people from harmful, toxic wildfire smoke, which can worsen those with chronic heart and lung disease and result in increased deaths from respiratory diseases if we don’t act to curb large-scale wildfires though active forest management.
Post-fire recovery and reforestation on federal lands can also reduce risks in the future. A study from the Journal of Forest and Ecology Management suggests evidence of a correlation between timber harvesting in recently burned forest stands and a reduction of woody fuel during subsequent decades. This decrease in fuel loading can lessen the impact and frequency of catastrophic wildfires for up to 40 years in some cases.
Public lands managers understand that many of our forests are in poor health and recognize the need for proactive and science-based forest management. Unfortunately, too often, efforts to increase the pace and scale of forest management activities are thwarted by anti-forestry obstructionists and the real or perceived threat of litigation.
AFRC and its members work side-by-side with our partners and land management agencies to develop and implement projects that help improve the health of our forests and communities. We also advocate in Washington D.C. for sensible reforms that address barriers to active forest management.