As Earth warms, we will have to learn to live with more destructive wildfires. There’s much we don’t yet understand, and so scientists and land managers are working to figure out what to do both before and after the fires.
Not all wildfires are fueled mainly by natural vegetation, but for those that are, prescribed burns are one important tool. Easier said than done, as these three excellent articles make clear:
- “A Trailblazing Plan to Fight California Wildfires” (Nicola Twilley, The New Yorker) focuses on the Sierra Nevada’s Tahoe National Forest.
- “The Forest Service Is About to Set a Giant Forest Fire – On Purpose” (Maddie Stone, The Atlantic) looks at a pair of burns in Utah, one of them recorded in this video from the U.S. Forest Service.
- “California’s Wildfire Policy Totally Backfired. Native Communities Know How to Fix It” (Delilah Friedler, Mother Jones) reminds us that indigenous people have long known how to use fire to manage their landscapes.
Once a wildfire is out, it now seems, natural vegetation isn’t always regenerating the way it used to. See these two pieces:
- “Some Forests Aren’t Growing Back after Wildfires, Research Finds” (Emily Chung, CBC News), and
- “Does a Fire-Ravaged Forest Need Human Help to Recover?” (Ed Struzik, Yale Environment 360).
The short answer to the question in this last title may well now be yes. But there’s a longer answer: It’s still unsettled.
This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. To flag works you think warrant attention, send an e-mail to her any time. Let us hear from you.