I’ve talked to dozens of people since we published our special report and video, State of Fire. They agree with the premise of the report: Wildfire risk in Oregon and the broader American West is growing, and to address it, we need to change the game plan.
The trend is worrisome. Fire season is lasting longer, more people are living in or near the forest, and the condition of our dry forests is getting worse.
What are the solutions? My conversations lead me to three, although I’m sure these just scratch the surface.
Whether we’re talking about wet forests or dry forests, we need to ensure that state and federal firefighting capacity is tip-top. That means adequate funds and state-of-the-art technology. Good on all fronts there.
We need to double-down on public education. Eight in 10 wildfires are human-caused. Given the worsening trend in the number, frequency and size of fires, are we doing all we can? Keep Oregon Green has a small staff and does a great job stretching limited resources. As a society, should we be doing more?
Lastly, we need to continue to support efforts to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration on our dry, overcrowded and fire-prone national forests. And to do this, we can’t keep robbing the forest management budgets to pay for fire suppression. Several proposals are in Congress right now that could keep forest management budgets whole. It will take leadership and political will to make it happen.
One thing is for certain: If we don’t actively manage these dry forests, Mother Nature will. And when she does, we may not like the outcome.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason van Mourik, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs.
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