All Along the Watchtower

Hurricane Irene may be front and center today, but wildfires commanded U.S. headlines earlier this summer. Via yesterday’s Guardian, here’s a spot-on observation from the lookout tower:

There is a saying among some of my colleagues in the wildfire community: that during the 20th century, despite our phenomenal success in suppressing fires on public land, we were not so much putting out fires as putting them off. Not any longer. Especially amid the effects of climate change, the days of putting off fires are over. But if I’ve learned anything in my decade of quiet mountain-watching, it is that fire is as much a creative as a destructive force, and from amid the blackened stumps the forest will renew itself once more. What kind of forest we will have is uncertain. Will we follow the prescription of the ranchers and loggers and their minions in Congress, and turn loose the cows and the chainsaws, repeating the mistakes that brought us here in the first place? Or will we learn some humility, recognise that we live in a fire-adapted ecosystem, and allow the land to follow its own, sometimes fiery course to recovery?

7 Responses to “All Along the Watchtower”

  1. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Ooh! Quick! An old story in the Grauniad! Compulsory evacuation.

  2. Fred says:

    Blaming CO2 increases (aka “climate change”) for wildfires is highly questionable.  Some have asserted that wildfires will increase due to land management policies now prevalent – putting out little fires means that underbrush accumulates leading to bigger fires that cannot be stopped.
    Historically, 1988, with its CO2 ppm below the magic 350 number, had Yellowstone’s largest recorded fire, the Big Country Fire in Texas that burned 360,000 acres, and major wildfires in California. 
    Anyone ever hear of the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871?  In October of that year it raged across enormous areas of Wisconsin and Michigan, killing between 1,200 and 1,400 people.
    Asserting that “climate change” is responsible for current wildfires is just as crazy as the previous post in which some warmist commentators feel it is justified to blame “global warming” for Hurricane Irene.  It is amazing that apparently scientifically trained individuals would support such an argument when readily available records show that during the 20th century, during periods when CO2 levels were below 350 ppm, five category three hurricanes hit New York.
    I realize that the recent releases of Lindzen’s and Spencer’s research undercutting the notion of positive feedback from CO2 warming were serious blows to your position.  The positive results a few days ago from CERN for Svensmark’s cosmic ray research was also a bitter pill for you guys to swallow after years of denigrating his research. 
    To now look to Hurricane Irene and wildfire occurrences to buttress your theory is pathetic.  Next, you will probably run a story about how computer “models,” despite highly questionable assumptions and zero successful out-of-sample testing should be all the support that is necessary to implement “global warming” inspired energy policies that will destroy our economy and reduce us to 19th century levels of energy consumption.  
    If you had any real evidence that increased CO2 could cause harmful warming you would present it instead of nonsensical stories about how a category 1 hurricane and wildfires constitute proof.  IMHO unless you are receiving government grant money to study “global warming” or you have a university position that depends on your producing research studies that “support” or elaborate on AGW theory, its time to start looking at substantial environmental issues like chemical pollution and supplying clean drinking water to those in underdeveloped countries. 

  3. Barry Woods says:

    Didn’t a similar thing happen in Australia.. environmentalists prevented land management, ie burn offs..  consequently down the line massive wildfires..

    Can’t remember whether or not it was all blamed on global warming 😉

    Good intentions can cause an awful lot of harm, if you have the ‘naive’ world view of some environmentaists..

    (please not I said some, not all)

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    “the wildfire community” ?

    What are these people on ? 

  5. Stu says:

    “the wildfire community” ?
    What are these people on ?”

    Hehe. Anyway (in response to Barry) as someone who’s spent some years in the bush regen industry, the main picture I got was that we would love to use fire more in management of public lands, but there is quite a bit of resistance from property owners, who are jittery about this kind of thing. Perhaps after the big fires in Melbourne a few years ago, attitudes are now beginning to change (I now live in Turkey and have changed jobs). We can manage the land with more frequent burning off and perhaps prevent some of these bigger fires which are atleast exacerbated in part by fuel buildup on the ground. Most Australians understand that fire is an essential element for healthy forests, it’s just that when it comes to property, there is this zero tolerance attitude to fire… until it’s too late. 

  6. Michelle says:

    ‘Minions” indeed! This entire post so much gibberish as far as I am concerned.
    Sun and oceans drive our climate, not mankind or our activities.

  7. Michelle says:

    And wildfires have always been a contributing factor in the environment.
    Most arguments are anthropocentric and not anthropogenic. Like authors and filmmakers who make me wild by giving human motives and emotions to animals.
    Man does interfere in the environment by total fire suppression policies that give rise to the potential for immense fires. Which are often started by people, either accidentally or willfully, in many instances.

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