[MCN] Severe Wildfires Not Increasing in Western Dry Forests, Study Finds
lance at wildrockies.org
Wed Sep 9 17:11:48 EDT 2015
Baker says and I'm sure believes that fire
severity is not increasing. It might be worth
noting that he has consistently reported the
opposite of what the majority of fire/forest
scientists are finding. This doesn't necessarily
make him wrong, or at least not entirely wrong.
It just means his findings differ markedly from
what the majority of authoritative researchers
find when they look at the same issue, and the
consistency of his minority findings does raise
the possibility that his research is faulty.
He sure seems correct though, in stressing that
fire is not increasing only because of fuel
buildup from past suppression of fire. That's a
popular idea, and of course there must be fuel
for fire to happen. But there's plenty of reason
to accept that drought, heat, and wind are
combining as the leading force in the start and
spread of forest fire, savannah fire, and grass
fire in a changing climate. In that context, it
matters a bit less what's going on with the fires
of today than what's coming down the road at
And fire itself may, like the beetle, be of less
importance to the future of forests than the
combination of heat with drought. This trend has
been described by Overpeck as the problem of "hot
drought." And Anderegg has found good evidence
that drought alone is capable of killing, for
instance, aspen across wide areas of its range.
Prior to their assessments, found that hot
drought killed pinyon pine at "massive" scale,
without the help of fire or beetles.
>Despite the 'hot' political rhetoric this year -
>and in previous years - from Sen Daines, Sen
>Tester, Rep Zinke, Gov Bullock, the Rocky
>Mountain Elk Foundation's CEO David Allen, the
>timber industry, most of the media and a handful
>of pro-logging 'collaborators' at the Montana
>Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited
>and The Nature Conservancy....severe wildfires
>are NOT increasing in western dry forests,
>according to new reach by Dr. Willian Baker at
>the University of Wyoming.
>If you value public lands management guided by
>science and the best, emerging new research -
>rather than political winds - please give this
>study a read and help counter wildfire hysteria,
>and hold those who spread it accountable. Thanks.
>- Matthew Koehler
>Severe Wildfires Not Increasing in Western Dry Forests, Study Finds
>LARAMIE, Wyo., Sept. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --
>Severe wildfires are often thought to be
>increasing, but new research published today in
>the international science journal PLOS ONE shows
>that severe fires from 1984-2012 burned at rates
>that were less frequent than historical rates in
>dry forests (low-elevation pine and dry
>mixed-conifer forests) of the western USA
>overall, and fire severity did not increase
>during this period.
>The study by Dr. William Baker of the University
>of Wyoming compared records of recent severe
>fires across 63 million acres of dry forests,
>about 20% of total conifer forest area in the
>western USA, with data on severe fires before
>A.D. 1900 from multiple sources.
>"Infrequent severe fires are major ecosystem
>renewal events that maintain biological
>diversity, provide essential habitat for
>wildlife, and diversify forest landscapes so
>they are more resilient to future disturbances,"
>said Dr. Baker. "Recent severe fires have not
>increased because of mis-management of dry
>forests or unusual fuel buildup, since these
>fires overall are occurring at lower rates than
>they did before 1900. These data suggest that
>federal forest restoration and wildfire programs
>can be redirected to restore and manage severe
>fires at historical rates, rather than suppress
>Key findings from the new study:
>* Rates of severe fires in dry forests from
>1984-2012 were within the pre-1900 range, or
>were less frequent, overall across the western
>USA and in 42 of 43 smaller analysis regions.
>* It would take more than 875 years, at
>1984-2012 rates, for severe fires to burn across
>all dry forests, which is longer than the range
>of 217-849 years across pre-1900 forests. These
>forests have ample time to regenerate after
>severe fires and reach old age before the next
>* Severe fires are not becoming more frequent in
>most areas, as a significant upward trend in
>area burned severely was found in only 3 of 23
>dry pine analysis regions and 1 of 20 dry
>mixed-conifer regions in parts of the Southwest
>and Rocky Mountains from 1984-2012. Also, the
>fraction of total fire area that burned severely
>did not increase overall or in any region.
>* Although not yet occurring in most areas,
>increases in severe fire projected by 2046-2065
>could be absorbed in most regions without
>exceeding pre-1900 rates, but it would be wise
>to redirect housing and infrastructure into
>safer settings and reduce fuels near them.
>Pre-1900 rates of severe fires were calculated
>from land-survey records across 4 million acres
>of dry forests in Arizona, California, Colorado,
>and Oregon, and analysis of government Forest
>Inventory and Analysis records and early aerial
>photography. These reconstructions are
>corroborated by paleo-charcoal records at seven
>sites in Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, and Oregon.
>Dr. William L. Baker is an Emeritus Professor in
>the Program in Ecology/Department of Geography
>at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming.
>He is the author of over 120 peer-reviewed
>scientific publications, and also contributed to
>the new book, The Ecological Importance of
>Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix, which
>features the work of 27 scientists from around
>His new study, titled "Are high-severity fires
>burning at much higher rates recently than
>historically in dry-forest landscapes of the
>western USA?", was published today in the
>international scientific journal PLOS ONE, and
>is freely available at:
>Contact person: Dr. William Baker, 970-403-3862, Email
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Behind complexity, there is always simplicity to
be revealed. Inside simplicity, there is always
complexity to be discovered."
" energy consumption in 1960 was about half what
it is now . Surely we had a civilized country
then, with roads, electricity, entertainment, and
so on. . Have we, by doubling our energy
consumption, doubled our happiness?"
Kimon Valaskakis, Peter S. Sindell, J. Graham
Smith, and Iris Fitzpatrick-Martin. The Conserver
Society. 1970. Harper & Row.
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