In conclusion, although deliberate setting of fire might seem counter productive to the problem of wildfires, it is still the most effective technique. Indeed, one of the contributing reasons for the Southwest’s wildfires today is the over-enthusiastic policy by the U.S. Forest Service to suppress fires (which has been implemented for the last 70 years). Researchers and experts believe that this suppression, along with erratic grazing and the reluctance to implement preventative prescribed burning has all added up to create today’s problem. Hence, Forest Management personnel should “thin the forests, using prescribed burns when possible. They need to reduce the grazing that has brought a more flammable undergrowth with its hotter, more destructive fires. Sometimes they will want to prune the forests with selective logging of small-diameter trees.” (The Arizona Daily, 1996) This solution brings its own set of problems, including adding to global temperature and pollution levels, increased costs for state and federal Forest Management authorities, etc. For example, according to a congressional report,
“The Forest Service would have to spend $3.5 billion, roughly its annual budget, to deal with health and wildfire concerns on just 10 percent of the national forest lands in the West. Salvage logging, prescribed burning and other forest fire prevention operations would probably cost an average of about $250 per acre over about 1.4 million of the 14 million acres of national forests in the region.” (The Arizona Daily Star, 1994)
But, on balance, this cost is worth bearing, considering that it is channeled toward the best course of action under prevailing circumstances.
David Sanders, Comeback trail: Summerhaven, before & after, Arizona Daily Star, The (Tucson, AZ) – Saturday, June 19, 2004
Barrett, S.W. 1999. Why burn wilderness? Fire Management Notes 59(4):18-21. This article discusses why fire should be returned to forest ecosystems, at least in wilderness areas.
Weise et al. 1996. Rx fire research for Southwestern forests. Fire Management Notes 56(2):23-25. This article discusses returning fire specifically to Southwest forest ecosystems.
Fire Scarred Trees, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, November, 2007
Arizona is burning – again. Talking fire, The Arizona Daily Star – Thursday, May 23, 1996
California’s coastal chaparral, Editorial, Copyright 1996, The Arizona Daily Star, p. 16A
Forest fire prevention cost put in billions, The Arizona Daily Star – Wednesday, October 5, 1994, Page: 2A