Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CATO wonk: "The problem is not climate change and the solution is not to give firefighters more money."

Talk about shutting the barn door after the horses were incinerated by arsonists.
Any fire study that only looks back as far as 1979 ignores huge fires that resulted from major droughts in earlier decades. The 1970s were one of the wettest decades on record, with an average of just 3 million acres a year burned. By comparison, there were 9 million acres of annual fires in the 1950s; 23 million in the 1940s; and 39 million in the 1930s. While there are some problems with data from those early decades, they are valid enough to show that recent changes in droughts and fires are due to cyclical variations in climate, not to human-caused warming. [The Antiplanner]
How firing off those forests didn't contribute to a warming planet remains a mystery.

Global warming has been accelerating since humans began setting fires to clear habitat, as a weapon or just for amusement. The Industrial Revolution and European settlement in the New World took hardwoods for charcoal then humans allowed fast-growing conifers to replace lost forests.

According to the US Department of Interior forests, grasslands, shrublands and other ecosystems in the West sequester nearly 100 million tons (90.9 million metric tons) of carbon each year.

The US Forest Service responded to 52 new wildland fire starts yesterday totaling 23,425 acres. 15,089 of those acres are in the Northwest. The US Army is mobilizing to assist with structure protection. A record 35 Incident Meteorologists have been deployed to support firefighters and to provide vital weather info to responders.

Latest reports place western wildfire damage at a record-breaking 6.9 million acres so far this season, 45% higher than in an average year. Half of the Forest Service budget is ear-marked for wildland fire costs and this year's allotment is up in flames.

Dense Douglas fir, spruce, lodgepole, ponderosa pine stands prevent aspen restoration and hardwood release while opposition to mechanical harvest rages on in the environmental community. No longer natural after a century of fire suppression Montana's forests are building fuel loads in habitats where indigenous cultures cleared for millennia.

Last year the western spruce budworm defoliated 25,000 acres of Douglas fir, Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pine in northwestern Wyoming: more evidence of anthropogenic climate change.

Trees growing on public land are not agriculture any more than wild salmon are aquaculture. One part of a solution to forest management woes is to move the US Forest Service from the US Department of Agriculture into Interior where American Indian nations could more easily assume additional responsibilities for stewardship on public land.

People building in or near these hazards should be denied homeowners insurance but blaming federal land managers for running out of money to protect private property while denying climate disruptions are influenced by human activity is just delusional.

Pre-emptive burns and managed lightning-struck fires are essential to restoring balance in western ecosystems just like letting bison crop invasive grasses is to the Greater Missouri Basin.

So, the question remains: should rewilding efforts seek to restore sustainable wild lands to Pleistocene Era conditions or let the Anthropocene lay waste desertifying precious resources changing the landscape forever leaving survivors to cleave out habitable zones forsaking native species?

If enviros succeed in driving from office the only Democrats who can preserve public lands and leave Republicans to their devices we are truly fucked.

Update, 20 August, 1550 MDT:

No comments: