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How do forest management plans help prevent forest fires?

Erin Tallman

Each year, an average of about 7,500 wildfires burn approximately 1.5 million acres on

National Forests and Grasslands. Over the last ten years, over half (54%) of these

wildfires have been caused by people and the rest have been caused by lightning. In

the state of Oregon, many forests contain trees over 200 years old, meaning there are

dying and dead trees that create fire risks.

A forest management plan ensures forest health, protects against wildfires, and

improves wildlife habitat. Forest management plans are the responsibility of the owner

of the land. Often, large forests are government run and thus the management plans

are enforced by either the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service

(USDA). To prevent wildfires, most government management plans focus on resilient

landscapes. This involves thinning forests and using controlled fires to prevent the

buildup of flammable vegetation in crowded forests. However, some forest management

plans focus on wildlife conservation and refrain from actions that will change the forest.

The primary objective in fighting wildfires is to prevent damage to people, property, and

assets. The secondary objective is environmental protection. As a part of forest

management plans, fire fighting strategies can include water via hoses, buckets, and

airplanes/helicopters, fire retardants, clearing potential fuel from area that is in the path

of the fire, digging firelines (bare strips of land to rob fires of fuel), and possible

containing fires within these firelines. Conservation-focused forest management plans

will refrain from using fire retardants that are chemical based, any machinery, and

firelines due to the impact these things will have on the ecosystem. Many forest

management plans also include ensuring that local communities are fire adapted. This

includes community wildfire protection plans, defensible spaces around structures, and

building structures out of low-flammability materials.

My proposal for a wildfire prevention strategy to be included in forest management

plans is to clear spaces in the middle of large forests of all wildlife. A clear patch of land

through the center of a forest would prevent fires from spreading from one half of the

forest to the other, thus making fires easier to control.

The problem with this is the fact that it involves clearing a large amount of trees. Many

forest management plans prioritize improving the forests habitat and this strategy would

likely have a negative impact on the wildlife. Also, some wildfires can jump large

distances, making this completely useless.