A new report by four forest ecologists has found that it is climate rather than beetles which causes the risks of forest fire. The report suggests that the risk is best addressed by creating defensible spaces around homes instead of logging in the backcountry.
The report questions the proposed rules that would allow for limited logging in roadless portions of national forests for purposes that include protecting communities and municipal watersheds from fires and the spread of insects and disease in trees.
Report authors said that forests being attacked by beetles in Colorado and other states are naturally dense, and large and severe fires in those forests are the norm. They said drought and warm temperatures are such major factors in creating high fire risk that beetle outbreaks do little to add to that risk.
The report authors say that using fire-resistant building materials and clearing brush around homes are more cost-effective protections from wildfire than backcountry logging, which also can cause negative environmental impacts.
Dominik Kulakowski, a professor of geography and biology at Clark University in Massachusetts, has studied the relationship between beetle outbreaks and forest fires in Colorado for more than a decade.
He said new research is showing that dry needles of beetle-killed trees don’t increase fire risk, because they fall from trees quickly enough to reduce the total volume of fire-carrying fuels in the forest canopy.
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