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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

It’s the fuel loads

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

The summer of 2020 will certainly be one to remember. In addition to the pandemic, we are now in the middle of fire season. 

Many believe this is one of the worst fire seasons in several years, but looking back over past records, it doesn’t even come close, especially in our region. This doesn’t discount the fact fires this year are bad.

California has been hit the hardest. The state has most likely done the best job of encouraging fires and then blaming the fires on the wrong reasons. Some might blame La Niña and El Niño or climate change, but it doesn’t matter, fires are still going to control the summers in California. 

Climate change and weather patterns are also being seen in other countries, such Canada, as well as in different parts of the U.S., where we are not seeing fires this summer. What’s going on?

While these events influence wildfires, they are not the cause. Look at the forests in states like Texas and those in the southeastern U.S. They are not burning up this year. I do realize drought is a big factor, but one can manage for a drought.

Those who use the forests to graze and those who recreate should know the big culprit and reason we have so many wildfires in the West is because of the buildup of the fuel loads. Those big fuel loads are in the federal forests of the West. 

These large fires in the western forests of the U.S. are doing just that, cleaning up the excessive fuel loads in the forests. They are also taking dwellings, businesses and other private buildings, not to mention wildlife habitat. These private buildings and habitats are the victims of these excessive fuel loads.

One of the biggest culprits in our region is the pine bark beetle, an insect that only shows up when the forest is full of trees that are stressed and thirsty for water. This is caused by an overpopulated forest. For the most part, the pine bark beetle will not survive in a healthy forest.

The big question is, how do we make our forests healthy and keep them that way? Well, we have some good tools to do just that. First, we must decide what we want the forests to look like and what it takes to make them healthy, despite climate change and unfavorable weather patterns. We need to list and recognize which tools will work in the selected forest. 

As many realize, I’m no expert on managing forests, but those tools are out there to use. One has to stop managing for politics and manage for health and proper habitat for those using the forests. Grazing, prescribed burns, thinning trees and logging are a few practices we need to use.

I think those who say we shouldn’t use those tools must like the alternative – burnt up forests like we have in the region and across the West. What we are seeing now cannot be an option. Besides humans, many animals also use the forests and they count on us to manage them. 

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