Losing the Forest for the Trees: How to Confront the Wildfire Crisis
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If you were to walk through the forests of the American West in the 19th century, you would see a landscape vastly different from the one that exists today. You would likely see scattered trees mixed with open meadows, mosaics of young growth interspersed with mature tree stands and fire scars from frequent, low-intensity wildfires, many of them set by Native Americans.
In much of the West, that is no longer the case. A century of fire suppression has created dense forests that fuel severe wildfires that are far more destructive than historical fire regimes. Today’s wildfires inflict significant damage on ecosystems, watersheds and nearby communities—and in some cases threaten the future of our nation’s forests.
There is growing recognition that forest restoration—including the use of controlled burns and selective thinning—can reduce wildfire damage while promoting more resilient forests. The U.S. Forest Service recently announced a 10-year plan to ramp up forest restoration on 50 million acres of federal, state and private lands. But several policy obstacles and practical barriers stand in the way of meeting that goal. This talk will explore those challenges and how to overcome them to confront today’s growing wildfire crisis.
About the Speaker
Shawn Regan is the vice president of research at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), a nonprofit institute based in Bozeman, Montana, that explores innovative conservation solutions through markets and incentives. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Outside, Los Angeles Times, High Country News, National Review, Reason and Grist and his research has been published in journals such as "Science, Natural Resources Journal" and "Utah Law Review."
Regan holds a MS in Applied Economics from Montana State University and is a former backcountry ranger for the National Park Service.