A race against megafire to save our forests

Diane Vosick

      By Diane Vosick, Director of Policy and Partnerships
      NAU’s Ecological Restoration Institute

An abundance of scientific research, going back to the 1890s, guides the development of restoration treatments for ponderosa pine and related frequent-fire forests of the western United States.

Last month, I was on a panel that testified before the House Federal Lands Subcommittee discussing ways to accelerate the restoration of forests. The size and severity of fires are increasing. The cost of suppression is skyrocketing. Congress and policymakers are searching for solutions.

Evidence shows that hazardous fuel reduction treatments are ecologically and economically effective.

In this race against catastrophic wildfire to restore our degraded landscapes, we must do so on the scale of hundreds of thousands of acres—the same size of the megafires we are experiencing today. And the Forest Service faces several policy and management challenges: increasing the pace and scale of treatments, funding prevention and implementing treatments outside the wildland-urban interface where fires ignite.

My testimony presented the science that strongly supports the need for action. There is enough evidence to prove that tree-thinning and prescribed burning on a landscape scale reduces fire risk, reinvigorates ecosystem health and provides sustainable human uses of the land. And there’s no better time to act than now as our forests face big changes in climate.