Save communities by thinning forests or hardening structures?

Moose Fire August 2, 2022 in Montana
The result of aerial ignition on the Moose Fire August 2, 2022 in Idaho. By Mike McMillan for the USFS.

Bloomberg Law has an interesting article by Bobby Magill about efforts to reduce the wildfire threat to homes. It discusses and compares forest thinning vs. hardening structures. Here are excerpts, but read the entire article.

Congress is spending billions to save communities from Western megafires by thinning large swaths of forests even as scientists say climate change-driven drought and heat are too extreme for it to work.

The money would be better spent thinning woods closest to homes and shoring up houses against embers raining down from firestorms, according to academics, former agency officials, and others who study wildfires.

“If our goal is to keep homes and communities from burning, the experts are telling us to focus from the home outwards. First, harden the home so it is less likely to ignite,” said Beverly Law, an emeritus professor of forestry at Oregon State University.

Megafires are sustained by drought and heat, and “no amount of thinning treatment will prevent such fires from occurring,” she said.


No Scientific Consensus
As the federal government focuses on forest thinning, no scientific consensus exists that removing vegetation, especially at a landscape-scale, will save communities in the paths of firestorms amid the West’s historic 23-year drought.

The science is clear that “there isn’t a great connection between home loss and these fuel treatments,” though they sometimes help firefighters gain a foothold on some fires, Cheng said.

Randy Moore, the Forest Service chief, said the agency is confident that as homes are built deeper and deeper into the woods, its research shows that removing “overstocked” trees is the best way to protect them.

“We know where we do nothing, or where we do a little, we’re seeing the evidence out on the landscape,” Moore said, referring to recent megafires. “We feel compelled to do something.”

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

39 thoughts on “Save communities by thinning forests or hardening structures?”

  1. “Wooden fences can spread fire in suburban areas”-
    Yeah, right. Tell that to the people of Paradise and Greenville California, who no longer have homes because of wooden fences, not because of Forest Service malfeasance.

    BTW, ‘Dr.’ Chad Hanson is not a professor of fire ecology, he’s a hack activist who first became concerned about the Sierra after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as a college student 30 years ago. He should hike it again so he can get a glimpse of the destruction his preferred policies have created.
    Thanks for nothing, ‘Dr.’ Chad.

  2. Thinning trees, but also digging ditches to keep the height low. Get the shrubs and tall grass to dirt road type gravel ect…
    Create pathways to make it stop wherever wanted.

  3. Here we go again with the tired old argument “if it is not 100% successful 100% of the time then don’t try it at all.”
    There will always be fires that start under the most severe conditions that no method of protection will be sufficient. If you label those 1% of all fires as proof of failure then no method will meet your definition of successful. Case in point — last year’s Dixie Fire burned right through previous burns of three year old regrowth. It even spread a ways into a one year old burned area.
    Everyone here has personal experience with fires entering areas of landscape scale fuels treatments. 99% of the time the soil, vegetation, and watershed damage is less than in adjacent untreated areas. That is where the fire is stopped. It is not stopped in treated areas every time, but far more than in untreated.

  4. It amazzzzzing with all the whiz bang technology out there, there hasn’t been an Elon Musk in the zoning and timber business. I mean w all the computer systems that don’t “talk” to each other, agencies that can’t put better use to timber management, FIREWISE programs that maybe 40% of the public might belive in , that we don’t have automated robot Sawyers or there on already 45^ slopes reducing the timber issues and robot goats chewing up range and sagebrush.
    Amazing that there is robot lawnmowers but not Sawyers

  5. (This might be way over the top, no offense intended, please axe it if it’s too much)


    That bugaboo as to “consensus”
    I imagine there are a few, like myself, that have slogged through some Hanson, some Baker/Williams.
    Those boys that seem determined to whittle away at, what is otherwise, some pretty strong consensus.
    Now I’ve got a couple more to read, rats.
    Of the three I just mentioned one thing certainly strikes me. Those boys don’t seem to wear boots or cruiser vests. They seem to just come up with mathematical formulas to disparage the field and office/lab, work that others have done. They only collaborate with, and give credit to, a narrow and consistent cohort.
    In short, I’m just going to out and say it, some of those old boys sure do remind me of the scoundrels that churn out nonsense that work for the petroleum industry with the apparent intent of allowing for statements pertaining to “consensus”.

    AS for climate disruption, yes, it’s the real deal and it sure does seem to go that, more and more, the fires are monsters that don’t have much desire in slowing down.
    But why is that any reason to not do every last little damn thing that we can to at least slow it down?
    What, Americans are supposed to throw up their hands and admit failure?
    Given the notion that we might be able to keep a few hundred thousand, a few million acres, half a chance to continue to sequester carbon, what do we have to lose?
    What’s wrong with paying for a timber resource staff in the ranger districts again?
    In mine, the Pecos, four decades ago when I wandered in, there were ten guys on timber staff, this time of year, aside from the Santa Fe Hotshots and the Type II’s.
    What’s so wastefully revolutionary about paying some people to dress funny? Why not fully staff the day to day functions of the agency?

    If western US forests sequester 100 million tons of carbon, annually, isn’t that enough, in and of itself, to make the money worth it? Even if it isn’t 100% effective, what’s the factor of frustration to where it’s not worth it? What percentage of forests “saved” by thinning, versus those areas thinned that still suffered high burn severity, is the benchmark?

    Certainly, shouldn’t we put into any equation the carbon that is released by unthinned areas, over thinned areas, during a fire?
    I’m thinking about the Whitewater/Baldy, what had been the largest fire in NM recorded history, until this year.
    I brought that thing to ground fifteen years before it happened (so, yeah, I’m a believer).
    But even if it had remained in the crown, instead of dropping to the ground, (it went from 100% mortality to 20% after it crossed the Bear Wallow/Quaking Aspen road, into my work) in those fifteen years a great percentage of the carbon in the felled trees was taken into the soil, carbon that would have been released as smoke with all the heavy carbon consequences that entails. Tons and tons of carbon that didn’t go up as tar balls and heavy carbon composites. What’s that worth?

    And this, I live in the forest to live in the forest. I’ve lived in the same tinderbox for four decades.
    I know the risk.
    I was evacuated, this Spring, because of the Calf Canyon Fire.
    As it turns out, I was probably saved by some work I did, thirty some odd years ago, where they brought it to ground.
    But if the wind blew south and east for a bit, came down into Cow Creek Canyon, below me, it’d of been game over.
    It’s my choice, I sure as heck am not going to move into Fanta Se, the Metropolis Redundent, but neither am I going to pretend to be a victim if, or when, the next fire comes. As a man once said “Buy the ticket, take the ride”, it ain’t no one but me that built my shack in the woods.

    But here’s my take on that, I think that all the time that got spent on structures and human needs is why that fire became what it was. They just ignored the backing fire, in the forest, to work the main heads in the populated areas.
    Now, heaven forefend that anyone might construe that I don’t believe that was the right thing to do, given the resources available.
    I just think there needs to be more resources available.
    Resources that are dedicated to both the forest, as the forest, for the forest, like, you know, the Forest Service, and resources dedicated to communities and human needs, like amply paid for, trained and supplied, fire brigades that are dedicated to those communities.
    With the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak Fire, the Mora and the ‘Vegas side, where the greatest damage occurred, are primarily private lands, privately owned forested land is, mostly, where the fire descended upon those communities. And, yes, most of the severe damage occurred in areas that had been historically, heavily, logged over and not, or not thoroughly, restored. Not that that diminishes the notion that the USDAFS screwed the pooch, I just think there needs to be an understanding that there is a recognition that those areas of interface should probably have a standing, localized/regional, force(s) that has everything it needs to deal with the WUI, that can be there in minutes, not days.

    Times have changed, we’re up against it, to call throwing as much money as we can grab in our fists to throw at it “waste” is ludicrous. It’s not like the nation doesn’t have the money, the government might not have it, but the nation sure does.
    If it ain’t damn sure obvious that we’re in an all hands on deck, do everything we can, not just for the human needs of housing, but the environment in general, moment, what in tarnation is?.

  6. I agree both ought to be done. I’ve also been wondering if insurance companies will change premiums based on whether or not a home is firewised or’d think they would. Problem is in communities where one home is firewised and the neighbors isn’t…it’d have to be the whole hood or it may not matter.

  7. In total agreement with Bean, Summerfelt, Fireclimate.
    Those who argue that forest thinning will not ‘stop’ a wildfire are missing the point. We probably all agree that thinning followed by prescribed broadcast burning will not ‘stop’ a fire, but it can make a huge difference on what vegetation survives that fire. That in turn makes a huge difference to a homeowner. What good does it do to prevent a home from igniting, if it becomes inaccessible due to flash floods and debris flows that take out culverts, bridges and roads. The ongoing threat of such may make normal use of the property impossible, inadvisable or very expensive for several years.
    Another factor that favors high severity fire is inattention to insects and disease that change live fuels into dead fuels. Those dead trees fall down, create jackpots, that are the best ladder fuel around. Guaranteed crown fire. Also guarantees longer residence time at that spot, which strongly influences soil damage and recovery.
    Also, not covered is the ‘Grand Misconception’ that politicians, realtors and Smokey Bear love to perpetuate, is that humans can prevent or control wildfires. Wildland residents need to accept that they can have MILD fire or they can have WILD fire. NO fire is NOT an option. Even simple pile burning would be more widely accepted if people would drop the notion that no fire is an option they can choose.

    1. Yep, like they said and what you said.
      The point, as we’ve known for a bit, is to bring fire back into the forest.
      In some cases, in some places, we’ve the option to allow fire to be reintroduced more gracefully.

  8. Wildernest, a large neighborhood in Summit County, Colorado, was almost certainly saved by a large “community protection” fire break. These are now routine in Summit County across USFS lands as well as local open spaces. Additionally, local towns and the county require Fire Wise landscaping and certain home hardscaping measures during the planning process for new homes and developments. They also have a community chipping program that once a year picks up landscaping waste, logs, limbs, etc to encourage home owners to carry out and maintain their firewise landscaping. Seems like the best thing to do is to do both.

  9. After the Kitchen Creek Fire in 1970, I asked each relevant agency to send a representative to make up a “task force” on urban-interface fire hazard reduction and open space management. I acted as putative chairman, but mostly served as staff researcher–we weren’t too organized. My friend and mentor, Jack Reveal, represented the Cleveland, and pushed the idea that forests needed fire, an unpopular idea at that time.

    I picked the brains of Dr. Eamor Nord, Clive Countryman, and others at the Western-Region Fire Lab in Riverside, CA. A great, eye-opening experience and stimulus to question current assumptions (most of which, unfortunately, continue to refuse to give any ground to any questioning of traditional assumptions). We thought fuel management was the solution. In my review of the literature, I came across an article about an “Outback-Aussie” who surrounded his station with thermocouples hooked to the starter of a fire pump connected to a 6,000 gallon (Imperial?) tank that delivered almost 300 gpm at almost 100 psi (or metric equivalent?) to a system of pipes down the ridgepole of the structure with slits cut in the pipe as emitters to minimize wind disturbance and a few other pipes in strategic locations to envelop the structure in water before the embers turned it into just another spot fire. I’ve come full-circle back to the idea, and am (finally!) installing a version of my own.

    A friend of mine went way beyond the Code and built a “hardened” house par excellence. It burned to the ground. He found that the bathroom window had ended up outside the building footprint and theorized that heat and low pressure (a “fire-nado?”) was the Achilles Heel. Another friend had his steel house burned, apparently by a combination of heat and flames in 2″ high grass. Other friends with both wooden and steel structures burned out (water on hot steel is a bad idea). A lot of other “regular” houses were ashed too, despite defensible space (no defenders present, of course–what fool would get in front of a 40 mph flame-front.

    Forest “thinning” is a euphemism for logging. Clear-cutting and clearing both produce flash-fuels almost immediately, and slash left on the forest floor makes mop-up operations an exercise in futility. The even-aged stands that follow are a prescription for unstoppable crown fires and extreme laddering. I have seen virgin forests that have survived many fires–even, apparently, closed-canopy ones, but they were dominated by huge trees with crowns out of reach of laddering fuels. The shade kept any understory down. They were conifer-dominated, but mixed age and type.

    For starters, here are my rough priorities: 1) immediate fire-detection systems (fly tanker sorties under special extreme conditions and reduce flight time for initial attacks for other conditions by more aviation assets, sufficient to increase density/frequency of staging areas as required to result in full initial-attack effectiveness); 2) on-site, automatic, independent ember/fire-suppression systems; 3) rapid-response with overwhelming suppression forces; 4) zero combustibles next to structures; 5) 30-50 feet of no-defense burn-out fuel class; 6) combustible fuel <1/2 inch diameter) separation (trimming up, down, and sideways) and short ground-fire separation to 100 feet, maintaining maximum feasible shade to suppress flash-fuels; 7) other ember barriers; 8) cheap structure "hardening;" 9) expensive structure "hardening."

    Shift futile/unnecessary (made-for-TV drama) suppression funds to financial assistance program for priority work.

    I'll appreciate better reasoning and modification or replacement.

    1. I believe you are referring to the 1970 Laguna Fire that started near Kitchen Creek on the Cleveland National Forest east of San Diego. It burned 175,000 acres.

    2. Thinning is a euphemism for logging? Stop regurgitating meaningless clichés designed to confuse rather than clarify. Thinning is just one of a series of steps that make up a silvicultural system. Thinning by timber harvesting is one of those steps; so are prescribed fire and herbicides. An important note: the objective(s) for a treatment (i.e., timber, habitat, fuels, etc.) are not part of the definition of a treatment type (i.e., thinning, RX fire, etc.). Thinning may be part of a management plan designed to produce timber, but it can also be part of a plan to manage wildlife habitat – or manage fuels. If the complaint is management designed to produce timber is not fuels management, that’s valid. That does not mean forest management cannot manage fuels. Forest management is not synonymous with timber management.

  10. One last thought … to local governments. Stop making the problems worse by allowing more suburbs in the forests or rebuilding the same structures and densities in areas that were burned over and are known to be recurring burn risks. We have to get out of this hole and it would help if you stopped digging.

    1. Nicely put, Bean.
      The key here may be insurance companies. Decades ago in Oregon, where many people were heating with wood in fireplaces and/or wood stoves, the incidence of flue fires was huge. The state fire marshal and insurance companies got together on this, and state codes were developed mandating an inspection and approval of the flue/stovepipe/chimney in a house on the market. If you didn’t have it approved, you couldn’t insure it (or therefore sell it). Once the insurance companies got on board with this, the incidence of flue fires plummeted.

      People in Oregon are notoriously hostile to any kind of state regulation about what they can do or not do with their property. But this worked. A statewide rule that a house can’t be built or sold unless it passes a defensible-space standard could go a long ways toward “community hardening” but the insurance companies have to be brought to the table on this.

      1. Colorado has a sort of unique set of problems when it comes to regulations and firefighting. There is no State fire marshal. The State Division of Fire Prevention and Control acts in an advise and assist mode when it comes to managing most fire regulations and they are third in line to function as incident commanders after fire protection districts and County governments. County governments control the kind of regulations you describe. It is inconceivable to me that anyone could get 64 independent county governments to agree on anything. As a result, insurance companies have adopted a more or less pass-fail insurance system by area and their own assessments. As for fire marshals … there are fire marshals for some individual fire protection districts but they have no enforcement authority unless it is specifically granted and supported by the County. The county sheriff functions as the “fire warden” for the county so there are also 64 sheriffs in the mix.

        To top it all off, the majority of forested land in Colorado is under federal control so the Local Districts, County, or State have no management authority for a majority of the landscape scale problem.

        Colorado is not organized for success nor can it’s present confederation function efficiently in a “top down” scenario to solve or address the WUI fire loss problem.

        That is why I believe it is largely up to the individual in Colorado to work on a local bottom-up house and property solution.

  11. Both are needed: post-fire impacts from flooding and to overall quality of life show clearly that hardening structures without thinning and Rx Fire amount to an expensive and worthless investment. Likewise thinning and Rx fire alone give a false sense of security and allow homeland property owners to too easily point fingers and avoid personal responsibility. It’s a team effort and everyone must be involved.

    1. We are having terrible post-fire flooding from fuel treatments having been done, here in northern NM. That is the worst post-fire flooding I have seen in this area. Three people have died.

      Jack Cohen’s research indicates that what is done out in the forest, away from homes has very little impact on whether homes burn. It’s all about the radius right around structures.

  12. There is actually a fair amount of scientific consensus, though not as tight as in some other issues. Look at some of the op-eds by well known fire scientists, e.g., in AAAS Science Magazine. There are many recent peer reviewed articles that support the many facets of fire policy that covers the myriad actions that help reduce fire risk, to help us live with wildfire. Also, take a look at “A statement of common ground regarding the role of wildfire in forested landscapes of the western United States” at: They include a minority report as well. Balancing the short and long term carbon management is one of the trickier elements, as Dr. Law might argue, but when carbon in peatlands, and carbon and methane in tundra and taiga are included, policy implications become sharper. The below ground carbon storage in vast rangeland and grassland ecosystems, as well as riparian/wetland areas and woodlands, must all be included, along with forests of all types. It will be up to fire and other scientists to demonstrate outcomes and tradeoffs, which are critical. Including environmental justice adds another dimension that has usually not been included, and these are important considerations that must be included going forward. When we become fixed on one policy, e.g., after the 1910 fires and the 10:00 a.m. policy, we become locked into a rigid one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, we need to be flexible enough to adapt along with environments that change in space and time.

  13. New information. We do this every year during structure protection missions. Remove fuel loading and harden home from potential direct flame or ember wash. Should of saved the money and asked a few engine crews. As for local government, the counties that are pushing climate change narrative are the very same approving zero lot line home developments. Home developments located in very dangerous topography, few escape routes, fuel loading of structures within 20 feet and within historic burn paths. Then these very same people inturn blame the climate.

  14. These articles always trot out Chad Hanson to spew his denialist theories. He’s funded by the Earth Island Institute to spew confusion with bogus “science.”

    1. Some reporters feel they are required to lay out two sides of an issue, even if one of them is bullshit. Another example is the one or two people who are frequently quoted who can be depended upon to say retardant and aerial suppression is not effective.

    2. True
      chad hanson is generally regarded as the Alex Jones of the fire ecology field. His fellow ecologists have a low opinion of him.

    3. This. I don’t understand why reporters feel compelled to provide “both sides” when Hanson has been thoroughly discredited and is not a scientist. Examples:

      1. Nice rebuttal from an actual wildfire scientist analyzing Hanson’s pseudoscience in Nov 2021
      2. “Adapting western North American forests to climate change and wildfires: 10 common questions”
      3. “‘Self-serving garbage’: Wildfire experts escalate fight over saving California forests”

        1. These are you references? One is a tweet, the other is a somewhat slanderous article with quotes by the same person (Ktystal A. Kolden) who put out the tweet. I don’t have time to go through the “Adapting western North American forests to climate change and wildfires: 10 common questions” article to figure out what about it proves your points, although I have read it in the past. If you think something in there is a reference, probably should include the page number and a little analysis.

          There has been a lot of slander directed towards Dr. Hanson that have not been specific and scientific refutations of his work. Things like calling him “agenda driven,” and a number of accusations that turned out to be untrue. Talk about agenda-driven, that is the USFS and their associated scientists choosing to go forward with the Santa Fe Mountains Project with an EA that never acknowledges are analyzes the risk of escaped prescribed burns. Right after two devastating escaped prescribed burns. And those who refuse to reconsider the no-longer-working aggressive fuel treatment paradigm. It clearly at least needs to be seriously modified. We need independent science to add some dimension and breadth to the rethinking process. Open minds are required here.

          I have read many intelligent and thoughtful comments about these issues on this blog, but this comment is certainly not one. It’s mud-slinging.

          Sometimes it looks like a scientist food fight out there, and you just threw a big glob.

          1. THere is a lot to be concerned about with Chad, et all.

            Let me give you a very New Mexico related example

            With one of his ofttimes collaborators in
            “Are Wildland Fires Increasing Large Patches of Complex Early Seral Forest Habitat?” Dominick A. DellaSala and Chad T. Hanson,
            They state
            “Whether high-severity fire is increasing and the ultimate causes of presumed increases (e.g., climate change, increase in tree densities) is the subject of much recent debate. For instance, the areal extent and proportion of high-severity fire within large fire complexes have not changed markedly in recent decades in most forested regions of the West [4,7,8,9,10,11], but results are equivocal in the Rocky Mountains and Southwestern US, e.g., see [9,11,12]. In the Sierra Nevada, some studies have reported increasing trends for high-severity fire, e.g., [13,14], whereas subsequent research [15,16] indicated no increases. ”

            Important to note that “subsequent research [15,16] ” is none other than themselves, with no other research cited by others.

            It becomes pretty hard to not develop an idea of an agenda given the dearth of any consensus outside of their own “research”.
            One only needs to track fire history ( of which there is a plethora with a great deal of consensus and repeated conclusions amongst a large and diverse group of researchers, over decades) to understand that, at best, such a conclusion is an honest mistake.

            But I think it extremely important to understand that such research, however sincere, has consequences when manipulated.
            As in a very expensive, high cost, glossy paper pamphlet that was mailed to a great many people in the zip codes of 87505, and surrounding. One might note a strange exclusion of 87552 which borders the Pecos Wilderness area.

            “Fires of all intensities have an ecological role in our forests. Also, a recent study indicates that there has been no increase in high intensity fire in Western forests in the past two decades. (2)”

            In remembering that this pamphlet was distributed to an area that is in full view of the Cerro Grande, Conchas, Pacheco, etc. fire scars.

            As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’ve lived in the area for four decades and a year, all but two of those years I’ve called the Cow Creek drainage home, drastically affected by the Viveash, Tres Lagunas and now the Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak (for which I was evacuated) fires.

            Trying to tell anyone that has been paying attention that the frequency of high intensity fires has not been increasing substantially over the last three decades is really rather absurd. Historical recording makes it all too impossible to dismiss what the reasonable observer can see so easily with their own eyes.

            Mr. Hanson, I’m sure, is very sincere in his beliefs but that doesn’t excuse allowing his research to be used for what must be understood as extremely unethical uses.
            I have never seen an instance where Hanson, DellaSalla, or Baker have criticised or corrected such flagrant misuse of their research. Until they make a habit of doing so I can’t help but consider the notion that there’s something going on other than the pursuit of scientific rigour.

            Sarah, I get it, it sounds like we’ve both been traumatised by what just happened, I assume you’re my neighbor, in the New Mexico sense that if it takes an hour and a bit of travel to visit someone, they’re your neighbor.
            I do think I should mention that the Santa Fe National Forest Land Management Plan has been in the work for about a decade, there has been an EIS performed, and that there have been years of public meetings on the subject. Further, and a bit cryptically, the Santa Fe Mountain Landscape Resiliency Project Decision (which I’m thinking you are eluding to?) was withdrawn by the acting forest supervisor James Duran, so it looks like we’ll be able to have more input into that one.

            I’d like to think that we can both be happy that there’s bound to be about $5 billion in the budget for forest health, in the next few weeks.
            I hope that we can, as Tatanka Yotanka might say, put our heads together to see what kind of life we can make for our children, and all the children of the four legged and winged, and all the places they live in.
            To do so, I think that relying on the most rigorously acquired science is essential.

            1. Hello neighbor,

              I appreciate that you mention at least one specific regarding a study. But what is the problem with authors citing their own peer-reviewed studies?

              So much of the available fire and forest ecology research is sponsored by the USFS, USGS or logging interest groups. There is so much less research by independent scientists who don’t have that kind of government or industry funding, and who are often more objective as there are no real incentives for one outcome or another, or at least not as much incentive.

              As far as the booklet you refer to goes, it was a very short publication about a broad subject, and an effort was made to give as clear an overview of some relevant studies as possible with just a few words. One can never be entirely accurate with just a few words. However, the references were cited within the booklet, so the reader could read the studies his or herself, or just the abstracts.

              Due to financial limitations, the booklet was distributed only as far out from Santa Fe as was possible, but there was nothing intentional regarding the particular zip code you mention.

              I do not want to argue with the commenters here, but look at most of these comments. For the most part there are unsupported negative statements about a scientist with no real justification behind them. In your case you brought up one, which is appreciated, but I don’t really understand the relevance of it.

              BTW, two of the large fires you mention, Cerro Grande and the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon, were caused by prescribed burns gone out of control. That is relevant, and should be seriously considered and be a part of the cost/benefit analysis of any fuel treatment project.

              Acting Supervisor Duran recently stated as a quote in a Santa Fe New Mexican article that no EIS will be completed for the Santa Fe Mountains Project, and essentially the same NEPA process, with the same EA, will be reinitiated. Only those who submitted objections are allowed to resubmit their objections. In other words, NEPA status quo.

  15. I think the reason the feds are working landscape scale forest management is because that is the variable they have some control over.

    Where communities are built and how they are built is a function of local government. For the feds to step in and manage where and how to build would simply not work. After living in a high fire risk area of Colorado for over 40 years and working with our local fire protection district, I offer the following observations.

    Local government is at best ineffective in managing development, community growth, and controlling vegetation in the WUI. Relatively dense developments are permitted in high risk areas. Local adopted building and fire codes tended to favor more profitable less fire resistant construction. Local vegetation management is and was inadequate. Communities were and are still being built to burn.

    Almost no consideration is given to the capabilities and limitations of firefighters when designing, permitting, and building communities. The critical initial attack that can keep small fires small [at least in the area of Colorado I am familiar with] comes from small understaffed, under-resourced, primarily volunteer local fire departments with minimal initial direct firefighting support from County, State, and Federal assets. Why platt the land, design, permit, and build communities that local fire departments cannot adequately protect?

    I favor the “hardening” solutions that have been proposed by Dr. Jack Cohen for well over 2 decades. His research shows focusing on working the problem from the home outward is the way to go. It is also the only way an individual property owner can take near term positive steps to control the problem and to somewhat make up for the long term deficiencies and shortsightedness of federal and local governments.

      1. Jack has been saying that since the 1980s He makes many great points.

        The homes themselves and the vegetation in the defensible space depending on slope the area from 100 t0 300 feet is the area where vegetation should be limited. The public does not want to hear that and the local fire departments hesitate to enforce it.

    1. I agree that we can start from the home out. Cohen at one point stated that hardening of homes was not the ONLY measure we should take. I see it as onion rings protection, wherein each layer acts like a contingency line. Multiple layers help with spotting, whether from the outside toward the house, or vice versa. I see this as especially necessary with human-caused ignitions. Two approaches are not incompatible.

  16. Why not do some of both, depending on Dr. Finney’s fire modeling? Yes, homes should be made more resilient. And, yes, watersheds and landscapes should be made more resilient. Smoke from wildfires outside the WUI continues to affect people well beyond the burn areas and has EJ impacts. There ARE resources at risk beyond homes, even if the homes are often the immediate concern. IF we ever get to a point where we want to let wildfires burn freely in pseudo natural conditions, we have plenty of preparation work to do. There are too many other human influences across watersheds and landscapes to pretend that wildfires will do no harm if they burn extensive areas, even if we hold that as an end goal. And the, there are will be triage and prioritization that needs to occur with numerous concurrent wildfires. Rather, I support an “all of the above” approach in at least the short term. It’s not only above saving communities.


Comments are closed.