Here is an excerpt from a U. S. Forest Service news release about a simulation study of more than 45,000 forest stands which provides a scientific basis for fuel reduction guidelines.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2011 – In the largest ever study of fuel treatment effectiveness, U.S. Forest Service researchers have found that intense thinning treatments that leave between 50 and 100 trees per acre are the most effective in reducing the probability of crown fires in the dry forests of the western United States.
The study, the results of which are published in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research, provides a scientific basis for establishing quantitative guidelines for reducing stand densities and surface fuels. The total number of optimal trees per acre on any given forest will depend on species, terrain and other factors.
“This study proves once again that an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Thinning dense forests reduces the impacts of the catastrophic wildfires we’ve already seen this year and expect to see more and more of in the future. This work helps protect communities, provides jobs and promotes overall better forest health.”
This year, Arizona and New Mexico have already experienced the worst fires in the states’ histories. The importance of thinning was illustrated by the recent Wallow fire in Arizona, which burned more than 538,000 acres. Although 38 structures burned, a system of fuel treatments developed cooperatively by federal, state and local governments, as well as private citizens, successfully reduced fire behavior and allowed firefighters to protect thousands of structures and, in many places, halt the spread of the fire.