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As the seasonal fires die out, there is now time to ask: “Why?”
Why did another round of fires scar the southwest, causing untold loss and destruction of invaluable habitat?
The answer is simple yet disturbing: our public lands have not been well managed.
The U.S. Forest Service and other public land managers have allowed forested lands to accumulate dangerous fuel loads. Trees have been allowed to grow close together, leaving a “stems per acre” count which leaves these lands ripe for the annual fire season and when one happens, they explode into flames, propagating the fire near and far.
To summarize, the U.S. Forest Service and other public lands managers have not been and continue not to be good neighbors. In fact, they have become dangerous neighbors.
There are many reasons this has happened. Many years of “no-burn” policy has allowed fuel build-ups that are not easily mitigated. Environmentalists have slowed or stopped logging in many areas. U.S. Forest Service funding may not be adequate. Institutional goals may lack focus.
None of these are sufficient reason for the fiery tragedies which recur annually in the forests of the western United States.
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