West Braces for Active Fire Season as Scientists View Most Fires as Ecologically Beneficial

Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientist; Geos Institute
541.482.4459 x302; 541.621.7223 (cell)
dominick@geosinstitute.org; www.geosinstitute.org

Ashland, Oregon, USA; May 7, 2014

Fire scientists released a new synthesis on the ecological benefits of large wildfires, including those that kill most vegetation in fire-adapted forests, grasslands, and shrublands of the western U.S.

Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist of Geos Institute, stated “Contrary to popular belief, most large wildfires are not catastrophes of nature as many plant and wildlife species depend on them to restore habitat in short supply and to replenish soil nutrients. We can co-exist with wildfires by thinning vegetation nearest homes and in fire-prone tree plantations, and allowing large fires to burn unimpeded in the backcountry under safe conditions as they are ecologically beneficial.”

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, California, southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, southern Alaska, and Oregon could experience large fires this year given dry conditions. However, dry fire-adapted regions generally have experienced substantially less fires compared to historical times due to ongoing fire suppression. Suppression costs in some years have approached $5 billion with limited effects on slowing large fires that are mostly driven by weather events. The Forest Service already has signaled that it is likely to run out of wildfire suppression funds long before the end of the fire season.

Fireside Chat presents the latest science on wildfire’s ecosystem benefits, including 9 key findings, impacts of climate change, post-fire logging, and fire suppression, and ways to help homeowners prepare for fires. It includes links to fire videos and fire researchers. Its main purpose is to serve as an information tool for the press, decision makers, and land managers interested in the ecosystem benefits of large fires that have been under-appreciated. Related to the release of Fireside Chat is an article on the ecological benefits of large wildfires posted on “Counter Punch.”

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