I am so thankful for the rain to help clear up smoke and put a damper on a lot wildfires. A few decades ago, a decision to manage the forest more minimalistic and allow nature to manage itself, has led to a really tumultuous period in our history. With a less hands on approach to managing our forests combined with global warming causing drier summers, more wildfires were to be expected. In essence we got what we planned for and then some.
We see the same thing with reintroducing wolves into areas they once roamed. And if you combine them with Grazing permits for cattle or sheep ranching in an open range grazing environment one should expect wolves to eat cattle and sheep and deer and elk.
Wildfires and wolves are more interconnected than we would think. Less intensive harvest of trees and less grazing permits has allowed the forests to grow an underbrush. Reintroducing wolves creates tension between the farming community and the natural resource community which has led to less grazing permits on public lands to allow the forests to act more naturally and wolves are a part of helping a forest to act more naturally as an apex predator. These two decisions are really an urban versus rural debate.
In addition to the choices we have made as a society, we have also allowed people to move into these or closer to these wild areas. Now we have added a human life and a political issue to this policy. The clash between let nature be nature and managing nature will be really intense for years to come. Ironically with Covid19 more urban folks are moving to rural areas and working from home. They will have a new perspective on living in “wild” areas that many of them were in favor of when they lived in the urban core.
I am not advocating either way that the policies to let nature or reintroduce wolves are bad or good. I am saying that the current outcomes are what we should expect from those decisions. Allowing a forest to act more wildly is a good decision for a lot of natural processes. All that “tinder” and dying material feeds into a lot of biological processes. It could very well be that a wild forest will be healthier as it develops a cycle of fire and rebuilding itself. Mount St. Helens is an excellent example of nature rebuilding itself.
The question now becomes will we (America) say, “enough is enough” and stop this experiment after a few decades of a policy change. Will the potential good that comes after this tumultuous period be allowed to play out? Or could it better to go back to a more managed forest solution?
As always, the answer is somewhere between, there are a few hard and fast rules in life, but this isn’t one of them. While I do not like wildfires and the harm they cause, I have to acknowledge that this is the expected outcome. What we (America) decide going forward will have an expected outcome as well.