The devastation from last year’s wildfires is still unfolding at a scale that has not even begun to be understood.
The socioeconomic impacts (loss of life, property, natural resources, massive impact on health and health care, economic impacts on business and real property, etc.) from last year’s wildfires are continuing to mount as other new impacts are just surfacing. The total annualized losses and costs are in the realm of hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
Here is a plan to devolve catastrophic wildfire, reduce smoke and thereby save human life, wildlife, forests, watersheds, fisheries, property and native-species American wild horses, which are approaching extinction under the BLM’s awful management, according to Dr. Ross MacPhee, curator of vertebrates for the American Museum of Natural History.
Here is what an intelligent forest management plan encompasses: Three synergistic actions.
Correcting unnatural one-hour fuel loading
First and foremost, correcting the core fundamental problem of prodigious one-hour fuel loading in and around forests and wildlands that stems from an ecological imbalance (wildlife management failure; severely depleted herbivores due to overly abundant predators, especially lions).
Prescribed burns generally are not the answer because they cost a lot of money and must be repeated often compared with the free year-round mixed-herbivory method proposed in this mixed herbivory plan, they release even more sequestered carbon compounds into the atmosphere and they can quickly turn into dangerous uncontrolled wildfires. More burning is illogical when a mixed herbivory program can accomplish much of the needed one-hour fuel abatement, especially in remote rugged areas (aka: ‘firesheds’) where aerial fire suppression costs are about $1 million per hour.
It’s important to note that when Native Americans used fire to manage the landscape, there were about 100 million more large-bodied herbivores grazing on the landscape than today. Those now missing native-species herbivores consumed about 273 million tons of annual grass and brush (one-hour fuels), based on an average grazing of 15 pounds per day across various native species herbivores. The best science informs us that when native-species herbivores are depleted, catastrophic wildfire evolves.
Reducing the current prodigious one-hour fuel loading requires the re-establishment and re-wilding of large-bodied native-species herbivores (cervids and wild horses); and applying intelligent application of invasive-species grazing herbivores (cattle, sheep, goats) into suitable areas that do not contain abundant predators or sensitive ecosystems with rare and threatened native flora.
We also know that the key in using any invasive species of herbivore is careful application and management of their deployment. This lesson was learned in Salem, Oregon. Cattle and sheep can present the same problem to some extent or another as well.
Unfortunately, we are having to address all of the intentional misinformation put into narratives by the BLM about native-species American wild horses, which do not harm riparian areas, and are actually used in Europe to re-establish riparian areas.
Logging and thinning forests
Forests must be managed by experienced managers who have a holistic approach to forest management. Overstocked (high-densitiy) forests must be culled so tree densities are optimal (based on species and carrying capacity of the landscape) to preserve water and light resources for the best trees, and this requires ntelligent thinning.
In ecologically sensitive areas containing rare flora and fauna, domestic draft horses have been well proven to be a successful method for both logging and thinning. In less sensitive areas, traditional methods (mechanized) can be employed with proven success.
Fewer access roads are needed when logging and thinning the interior areas of ecologically sensitive forests and wilderness areas using horse logging.
For other non-ecologically sensitive areas, traditional well-designed and maintained two-blade (two track) roads provide access into and around forest areas and also provide needed points of access for wildfire suppression by ground crews.
With the assumption that the foregoing programs and methods are implemented, full wildfire suppression is logical and made far more effective by the implementation of the best practices as outlined above, and therefore must be set as established policy by all agencies.
William E. Simpson II of Yreka, California, is a retired U.S. Merchant Marine officer and the author of more than 200 published works on topics from sailing to forest and wildlife management.