In Montana's Gallatin National Forest this past summer, rays of sunshine filtered through pine trees, diffusing in the smoky haze produced by ravenous flames. While such scenes make for alluring photographs and dramatic headlines, a new study says that wildfires in national forests account for less than 15 percent of acreage burned this year to date.
a study from the Washington-based Pacific Biodiversity Institute,
almost 50 percent of burned land is state, tribal or private, with
an additional 35 percent under the Bureau of Land Management. Most
of these fires have scorched deserts, grasslands, shrublands or
sparsely forested areas, not the dense national forests that have
been the center of recent political debate.
staffer Don Smurthwaite is not surprised by the findings. Grassland
and shrubland fires burn fast and furious, destroying large areas
quickly, he says. But they are often controlled before the media
can cover them. "There are more glamorous fires in national
forests," he says.
The Pacific Biodiversity
Institute study recommends the redirection of federal funding for
wildfire management, which traditionally focuses on national
forests, to tribal, state and local governments.
For a copy of the report, contact the Pacific
Biodiversity Institute at 509/996-2490, or download the report at