« Return to this article

Know the West

Let it burn


Within the “Fall board meeting” note in the Oct. 12 edition, you mention “150 HCN fans” who “sparked a lively discussion on how climate change, fire suppression and exurban development have encouraged repeated megafires in our region.”

The premise behind the statement, i.e., that Western wildfires are getting larger and more intense, is not supported by the preponderance of scientific information, particularly science not done by Forest Service Research and Development and other scientists working for agencies that have an organizational and/or budgetary stake in fire suppression and fire risk reduction.

The fire-suppression paradigm makes sense on its face, and many Westerners, the vast majority of media and some environmental groups have bought it completely. But science does not support the paradigm. In fact, the preponderance of relevant studies find that Western fires are not getting larger or more intense; mixed-severity fire, including occasional large areas of high-intensity fire, are not only natural but an essential Western habitat. Most vegetation in the West evolved with fire, and certain plants and animals require intense burns or a diverse fire mosaic that includes all burn intensities.

Here in the Klamath Mountains, some locals have long known that large fires do not conform to the Forest Service one-size-fits-all simplifications. Since 1987, activists with the Klamath Forest Alliance have walked and studied most of the really large fires that burned in the Klamath Mountains, documenting the ineffectiveness of fire suppression in the backcountry as well as the unnecessary watershed damage that firefighting often causes.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California