(H)ealthy, resilient forests actually need fire to thrive.
That concept has been the centerpiece of U.S. forest fire policy for almost two decades now. The 1995 Wildland Fire Policy, which governs firefighting on public lands and wilderness areas, states: “Wildland fire, as a critical natural process, must be reintroduced into the ecosystem.” The policy (which does not, by the way, in any way prohibit fighting fires that threaten life or property) grew out of the modern views of ecologists, who today see that flames are as much a part of a forest as the trees. Firefighting, in the view of many of these ecologists, should focus on protecting homes, watersheds, and critical infrastructure. But blazes in more remote woodlands should be allowed to run their course — a policy that wastes less money on fighting fires that won’t hurt anyone, while making forests healthier overall.
Yet not everyone sees it that way.
Posts tagged colorado.
Images of the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs show how devastating a wildfire can be. Why are more homes being built in these kinds of areas?
What a great exploration of how our communities are built. Click through and press “listen” if you can. The answers are surprising, especially if you’re new to urban planning, disaster management, and land use development.
perfect-weather asked: Thanks for the posts about the Black Forest Fire, but can you clarify what makes it the "worst" or "largest"? Obviously it's been hugely destructive, but past Colorado fires have burned tens of thousands more acres and killed more people, so I was just curious. Thanks!
Good question. Two points. First, disasters are typically measured by economic impact, not lives or environmental damage.
So, the Black Forest Fire(good wiki entry) is the “worst in state history” due to the number of homes destroyed, which is now close to 500.
Agreed. There were many other fires in Colorado that were geographically larger, destroyed more volumes of trees and habitat, killed more animals, and killed more people.
Natural disasters that kill a lot of people are categorized as “deadliest” (here’s a list). Damage to ecosystems are categorized as “environmental disasters” (this later category is, if memory serves, unofficial and possibly arbitrary since disasters are measured by relative [shorter term] economic impact).
Second point is there are known, but little discussed, problems in the field of journalism. Among them: Using proper definitions; filtering bias; incorporating appropriate perspective; and time.
Time is especially problematic in disaster reporting because the information flow is fast paced and constantly shifting. Thus, as you pointed out, early reports include incorrect terms that (usually) disappear as the story develops.
In the case of Black Forest Fire, early reports may have (I did not check) stated it was one of the “largest” fires rather than just “worst.” Recent reports have clarified it as the “worst.”
Does that help?
Click through for the Denver Post’s coverage of the Black Forest Fire, the worst in the state’s history. The cause of the fire is unknown, but the severity is traced to persistent drought, massive tree deaths by bark beetles, dry soils, and budget cuts.
Wildfires have begun several months early this year due to drought (and mismanagement) in Idaho, California, Colorado, and Minnesota. There may be others, but that is all I could find in a short time frame.
An agency that watches for wildfire conditions (see below) predicts 2013 will be a killer season. On a personal level, news about wildfires and floods hit me hardest. It’s when good people come together to help their neighbors in such visual, visceral, and gut striking way.
First responders, like firemen, who are usually unpaid volunteers, put their lives on the line for us. They are great people. These types of disasters are at once heartening, because they impact regular people so hard, and frustrating, because our government is partially responsible for mismanaging land and not providing adequate equipment. I fear that 2013 will be the year of tears - let’s hope that I’m wrong.
BOISE, Idaho—Two small but unseasonably early fires burning in northern California’s wine country and another wind-whipped blaze farther south likely are a harbinger of a nasty summer fire season across the West.
Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said Wednesday in their first 2013 summer fire outlook that a dry winter and expected warming trend mean the potential for significant fire activity will be above normal on the West Coast, in the Southwest and portions of Idaho and Montana.
“We’re looking at a combination of a low-moisture winter and a warming and drying pattern in the West that will increase the fire potential,” said Ed Delgado, predictive services manager.
If that sounds familiar to the region’s residents, it should.
In 2012, record-setting fires raged in New Mexico and Oregon, while destructive Colorado blazes torched hundreds of homes amid one of the state’s worst seasons in years.
Just like last year, Colorado experienced some of its first 2013 wildfires in March.
Outside the West, however, much of the U.S. is expected to experience normal fire conditions, with below-normal danger in the South where significant, long-duration rains saturated the landscape since Jan. 1, Delgado said.
In California, wine-producing counties Napa and Sonoma experienced early-season blazes Wednesday, as warm temperatures, low humidity and gusting winds through already-dry foothills areas east and north ofSan Francisco led to warnings of extreme wildfire conditions.
Both were more than half-contained, according to crews.
And a fast-moving fire east of Los Angeles grew Wednesday afternoon to at least 1,500 acres near Banning in the San Bernardino Mountains, where winds from the east were blowing at nearly 30 mph. Some evacuations were ordered.
Evacuations were ordered for residences on two streets but the number of people was not immediately known. A KCAL-TV helicopter showed at least one structure engulfed by flames.
U.S. Drought Monitor - April 2013
Brutal wildfire year lies ahead for the west and south west.
Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009. This landmark legislation affected millions of acres of federal land across the United States and created new conservation designations for over 1.2 million acres of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These included 4 national conservation areas, 1 national monument, 30 wilderness areas, 29 wild and scenic river segments, and 2 national scenic trails on BLM land. The Omnibus also legislatively authorized the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, codifying the role of this system of legislatively and presidentially protected lands within the Bureau’s multiple use mission.
Throughout the day, My Public Lands will feature National Conservation Lands created or expanded by this legislation. For more on the National Conservation Lands, visit http://www.blm.gov/nlcs
Photos by Bob Wick, BLM
Minions! I’m headed to Denver next week for the National Adaptation Forum. What should I do/see/drink/photograph in Denver?
I’ll be in town from April 2 - 6 for this climate adaptation meeting and have a pretty loose schedule. I’m interested in anything local - museums, parks, views, bars, anything neat or unusual (but not dangerous). Click here to send any ideas, suggestions, or solutions my lovely minions?
Phoenix Arizona’s pyramid of complexities looks shakier than most because it stands squarely in the crosshairs of climate change. The area, like much of the rest of the American Southwest, is already hot and dry; it’s getting ever hotter and drier, and is increasingly battered by powerful storms. Sandy and Katrina previewed how coastal cities can expect to fare as seas rise and storms strengthen.
Doom read of the day: “Superheated American City Dealing with 110 Degrees for 33 Days — Phoenix Confronts Apocalyptic Climate Change”
Phoenix pulls back the curtain on the future of inland empires. If you want a taste of the brutal new climate to come, the place to look is where that climate is already harsh, and growing more so — the aptly named Valley of the Sun.
Gas drillers were caught lying to public officials. About 66% of the signatures were falsified. Company blames a PR firm, which, it seems, specializes in fudging petitions.
The drillers used the petition to lobby a local government in Colorado to pass fracking laws. Shit is fracked up and bullshit.
Pro-fracking petition with fake signatures embarrasses gas association
A full two-thirds of those denied signing or endorsing a petition opposing a ban on fracking in Fort Collins. Not only was the petition a big fat lie, it was a laughably amateur effort to deceive the city’s lawmakers. From the Coloradoan:By the end of last week, the association was acknowledging that “mistakes were made.” A subsequent internal audit “identified numerous areas for improvement.” Now association officials are trying to retract the petition. And they are failing.
Cali Rastrelli’s name is signed at the bottom of a petition submitted to the council. At the top, the petition says in bold letters, “Vote NO on the Fort Collins fracking ban.”
“Big Bill Pizza” is written in the blank where the signer could enter their business or organization.
“I haven’t signed any petition in the last month,” said Rastrelli, a Colorado State University student who lives in student housing. “I didn’t put my name on this.”
More at Grist
“Every day in Colorado, voters are bombarded with information about the presidential candidates — some of it useful, much of it frivolous. Too often, the endless chatter from the cable news talking heads is focused on the latest campaign misstep or candidate gaffe.
It’s hard to believe, but despite all the noise on our television screens, the biggest challenge of our generation — climate change — has not received the attention it deserves from most reporters. But during the first presidential debate, on October 3 at the University of Denver, moderator Jim Lehrer has the chance to lead the presidential candidates in a thoughtful discussion about this issue on the national stage.
This past summer, the climate crisis fell right into America’s front yards — in some cases literally. With trees crashing through their windows, water flooding under their doorsteps and droughts destroying their crops, Americans have been hurting from the effects of weather extremes that climate scientists predicted would happen as a result of global warming. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that July to August ranked as the 3rd hottest summer on record in the continental United States.
Here in Colorado, we’ve suffered unprecedented wildfires that have destroyed homes and businesses — causing tens of millions of dollars in damages and the loss of lives. At the same time, warmer temperatures have led to less snow and earlier snowmelt, which can have a devastating impact on the state’s tourism economy.
As renowned climate scientist James Hansen recently put it, “It is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.”
Climate change is happening and the effects will only get worse if we do not take action soon for our children and grandchildren. Given this, it’s only natural to assume that the issue will be a topic of national conversation. Unfortunately, the news media has largely failed to give climate change the coverage it deserves.
According to a recent study of major media outlets, only 8.7 percent of television segments reported on the record-breaking July heat waves in the context of climate change. You were far more likely to hear about the latest celebrity trends than how President Obama and Governor Romney plan to address the problem.
That’s why the upcoming Colorado debate, focused on domestic issues, is so important. Having Lehrer moderate this debate gives us a unique opportunity — his show, the PBS “NewsHour,” has often provided substantive coverage of important issues ignored by other news outlets. He’s well positioned to lead a meaningful discussion between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
Climate change is not a partisan political issue. In fact, according to a recent Washington Post poll, 73 percent of registered voters say the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming, including more than 70 percent of Independents. If the public had the chance to hear from both candidates, they could make up their own minds. But first the question needs to be asked.
There is no doubt that there are vast differences between President Obama and Governor Romney. Colorado voters – as well as the millions of voters across the country who will be tuning in for this all-important first debate – deserve to hear how these two candidates would tackle the climate crisis. And we hope Lehrer gives the American electorate that opportunity.
Pete Maysmith is executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. Gene Karpinski is president of the League of Conservation Voters.”
The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) checked out dried-out farms from drought conditions in Colorado July 22nd, 2012. A drought was officially declared for 63% of the US. And just hours ago Obama signing-off on $30 million
new handouts to private companies in financial assistance to drought stricken farmers.
Photos via USDA flikr photostream