The Mail Tribune’s front page Sept. 30 asked, “What is being done” for what was the worst air in the nation this summer in our valley. The repeated solution is more logging, thinning, prescribed burning and salvage logging. And then Sen. Ron Wyden asked for funding for residents to seek refuge from the smoke, saying “… we’re going to have clean air refugees and that’s just going to be a public health crisis.”
However, prescribed burning is somehow still on the table. If prescribed burning becomes a method for “forest management,” the new normal will be smoke nine months out of the year. A pregnant woman could have her baby exposed to smoke the entire pregnancy. The problem burning in the Rogue Valley is that the smoke stays in the valley, trapped between the mountain ranges. I have seen a small prescribed burn cover the whole valley for days.
According to an article by Jim Robbins, “Forest fire research questions the wisdom of prescribed burns,” “Scientists are at loggerheads over whether there is an ecological advantage to thinning forests and using prescribed fire to reduce fuel for subsequent fires — or whether those methods actually diminish ecological processes and biodiversity.”
In the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, published with Mark Williams and William L. Baker, after extensive study, Baker says, “Our research shows that reducing fuels isn’t going to reduce severity much. Even if you reduce fuels, you are still going to have severe fires because of extreme weather.”
According to Haines et al. (Southern Journal of Applied Forestry, p. 24, 149-153), “The efficiency of prescribed fire in reducing wildfire is frequently mentioned as matter of fact, but the basic premise is seldom questioned. However, the uncertainly of the preventive advantages brought by prescribed burning has been identified by fire managers as an obstacle, albeit minor, to expansion of its use.”
Dennis C. Odion, Ph.D., says in the MT that “Current proposals to greatly expand logging followed by prescribed burning would create many days of insidious smoke, especially from prolonged pile burning of slash, biomass that ironically is not consumed in wildfire. This produces respirable particles that can be trapped under winter inversions.”
This summer, many said they would move if the smoke got worse. Tourists stayed away during the smoke. With the event of prescribed burning, these economic problems will become exponentially worse.
I am not a scientist, but a human who breathes on this Earth. It looks like in the panic to “do something,” we will be going up in smoke. It’s as if there has been a crime and trees are the criminals.
As solutions are being sought to end the smoke, the oxymoron of prescribed burning is accepted as routine practice. Also, prescribed burning can get out of control and cause the very fire it’s said to prevent. The underlying cause of the changing climate is too much carbon in the air, and prescribed burning adds more. Logic says that prescribed burning should be taken out of the equation. Period.
Kathie Lambie lives in Medford.