The video below, paid for by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, advocates active management of forests as one of the methods of preventing catastrophic wildfires. Most land managers and members of the public will agree with that very general statement, with exceptions for certain parks and wilderness areas.
— U.S. Forest Service (@forestservice) February 24, 2019
The video defines active management as thinning to reduce fuels, prescribed fires, and “managing natural fires when they start”. It begins with Doug Grafe, Fire Protection Chief of the Oregon Department of Forestry stating,”It’s the public perception that catastrophic stand replacement fires are bad. And they are.”
The interviewer enthusiastically said, “Yes they are”.
Chief Grafe continued, “And they’re not natural.”
At the end of the video the narrator says “fire is complex”.
Agreed. It is too complex to throughly explain in a 96-second film which is apparently intended to shape public opinion about how to manage forests.
Not all stand replacement fires, in which most or all overstory trees are killed, are catastrophic, unnatural, or bad. Fires in lodgepole pine, for example, are either creeping and slow moving or rapidly spreading, intense, stand replacing crown fires occurring at 50 to 300-year intervals.
In addition to prescribed fire, thinning, and fuel management, “active forest management” in recent years has been a dog whistle for increasing logging, used by lobbyists and others that make their living from the timber industry. The president used the term along with “health treatments” in a Presidential Order signed on the Friday before Christmas in which he directed a 37 percent increase in timber harvesting.
The moral of this story is, active forest management in most landscapes has many benefits, but beware of how it is defined.