Fire Ecology

Defending Bedrock Environmental Laws and Policies

Fire is a natural force that has shaped the biodiversity of dry forests across the West for millennia. Fire is only catastrophic when it destroys homes or results in loss of life. Unfortunately, fire has been used as an excuse for opening up millions of acres of public lands to unabated logging based on the false premise that logging can prevent future fires and is needed to “restore” forests that have burned. We have chosen to work on fire as a key- stone ecological process because there is much public concern about whether it will increase during a warming climate and whether it is a significant source of CO2 emissions.

For over a decade, Geos Institute has been playing a leadership role in bringing cutting-edge science on the ecological importance of fire featured in top tier science journals, news media reports, and in efforts by partners to defend landmark environmental laws and policies. We continue to develop scientifically sound alternatives that advocate for let-burn policies under safe conditions in the backcountry and fuels reduction near homes and in flammable tree plantations.

Ecosystem Benefits of Wildfire vs. Post-Fire Logging Impacts

fire factsheet thumbMost wildfires in montane (mountainous) forests and shrublands of the western United States are ecologically beneficial and needed for the proper function and maintenance of fire-dependent biota. Unfortunately, many decision-makers view fire as “catastrophic” and believe it to be increasing beyond historical bounds. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a deficit of wildfire acresin most western montane forests as compared to historical times due primarily to fire suppression. Although historical data using comparable tracking metrics are lacking on a subset of the very large fires (“mega-fires”), there has been no significant upward trend in these fires detected in the past 15 years, although longer timelines are needed for meaningful conclusions.

Read the entire fact sheet.

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