Experts see “fuel treatment” as key to easing future fire season - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Experts see “fuel treatment” as key to easing future fire seasons

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(inciweb.org photo) (inciweb.org photo)

MISSOULA - While the political debate grows over whether environmental appeals are limiting logging and leading to more ferocious fire seasons, fire experts say issues of funding and what people want to save from fire should also be part of the discussion.

With more than a million acres burning in Montana this year, many are wondering whether the volatile 2017 fire season is an indicator of summers to come. 

And while some see the solution as more aggressive logging and thinning operations, using legislative solutions to eliminate “red tape”, or legal challenges by environmental groups, those on the front lines say the issue is much more complicated. 

At a panel discussion in Missoula last week, speakers said equal attention should be given to questions such as a lack of Forest Service funding, with less manpower to manage forest projects and convincing more people to take “fire wise” measures around their properties.

“There’s really strong evidence for the effectiveness of fuel treatments in modifying the way fire behaves," said University of Montana Fire Ecologist Phil Higuera. "And that gives firefighters a really important safety margin to protect resources we value. Finally I would close by saying that, while science is a great tool to help understand how fire behaves and how it impacts systems, much of our conservation is going to involve figuring out what we value as humans and making trade-offs among those values.”

We’ll have more comments from that forum sponsored by Treesource last week, as we go On Special Assignment tonight analyzing the red tape and debate over fighting bigger wildfires.

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