With regard to wildfire, the public is being very cleverly deceived by the mass media. One important truth is being used to hide another.
The mass media always explain the proliferation of megafires as a product of climate change. There is truth to this; since 1800, the Earth’s temperature has increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. This is significant, and a global problem. The ice caps are melting. Every year, the forests are a tiny bit drier.
What the media are hiding from the public, however, is the fact that in the past 30 years, since we stopped logging federal lands, the fuel load in the forests has increased immensely. It is this massive build-up of fuel-dead trees, limbs, and brush that is the primary reason these fires cannot be controlled.
There is a great irony here. Ostensibly, the media are concerned about climate change, and rightly so. However, they seem not to realize that forest fires release enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. In 2019, the Carr fire alone released as much greenhouse gas as all of the energy production for California. In 2020, the August Complex was four times as big as the Carr fire. California is releasing so far, more greenhouse gases through forest fires than through energy production. This should be alarming to environmentalists but seems to pass unnoticed.
Simple principles lie at the root of this problem. The drier the fuel, the more easily it ignites. Climate change makes this worse. However, the size of fire is controlled by the amount of fuel. Without massive amounts of fuel, you cannot have massive fires.
What is the solution? We need to manage our forests better.
In the past, logging practices were rapacious. Huge clear-cuts gouged the face of the land. This resulted in an over-reaction the other way, to almost no timber harvest at all on public lands. This, in turn, led to the even greater devastation of the forest that we are seeing now due to uncontrollable wildfires.
There is a better way, scientific forest management. We have the knowledge and technology to have beautiful, productive forests for many generations to come. We should harvest dead and drying trees and thin the forests.
At the same time, we should remove most of the coarse woody debris from the forest floor and use it in cogeneration plants. Once the reduction of fuels has been accomplished, prescribed fire can be used to maintain levels, without igniting large wildfires. Large, burned areas should be harvested immediately and replanted, to prevent erosion and subsequent fires. We should be creating parks and open forests, not vast devastated areas.
There are social and political obstacles to be overcome to reach this goal. The media needs to start telling the whole truth. The Forest Service needs to embrace the scientific forest management. Large nonprofit “environmental” agencies should not be allowed to use the legal process to tie these measures up in court. A great many professional foresters and fire scientists are trying to get this message out, but their viewpoint has been hidden from the general public.