Letters From the West

Reducing fire threat through clearing around homes and thinning forests

The Chief of the Forest Service Tom Tidwell made clear when he was in Boise last month that longer fire seasons and hotter summers, which last year brought yet another season of record low fuel moisture, are expected to continue.

But Tidwell said as overwhelming as these climatic changes have been, he’s confident we can preserve the ecological values forest provide, including sequestering millions of tons of carbon dioxide. His prescription is for private landowners to clear fuel from their homes and build with fire-resistant materials.

All forest landowners can reduce the fuel build-up in their forests with fire and mechanical thinning and logging. His scientists also are plotting new species mixes to adjust to the changing conditions on the ground.

This won’t be done without support from all sides of the forest and fire debate. That’s why Tidwell is pinning his hopes on collaboration to restore the resilience he thinks is critical to the future of our forests and the communities and nations that depend on them.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

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