Fire : The Debate That Keeps Getting Hotter

A current problem that the Bitterroot Valley faces is the potential for large wildfires to occur. This comes from one main factor, how logging and clear cutting have been used in the area to create one large bonfire waiting to happen. To elaborate on this factor, Montana has had a history of its forests being clear cut and has been farmed for resources at a rate that isn’t sustainable. The Forestry service in the past has been removing the larger trees which are the ones most resistant to fire because of their height and flames rarely reaching the treetops which is where most of the fuel is, and has been leaving all of the cut branches and treetops. All this combines to create a giant pile on kindling on the ground and since there is very few larger tree which cannot be touched by the fire, the whole forest seems to instantaneously go up into flames. This problem may be historical in nature depending on how far you want to go back. If you went to a time before humans, this problem wouldn’t be as prevalent because you would still have the trees that simply grew over the top of the fires and wouldn’t burn, thus, creating an environment in which fires simply do not have a great amount of fuel.

I think the Bitterroot valley could be used as almost a perfect example of what happens when humans get carried away with how much of the worlds resources that we really need. If humans were to plan out how their actions would effect the ecosystem they’re working in, this perfect storm could have possibly been avoided. We simply cannot go and clearcut whole forests, but rather we have to harvest resources carefully or disasters will be sure to continue.

5 thoughts on “Fire : The Debate That Keeps Getting Hotter”

  1. Jacob how are you, I agree a lot with what your saying about wild fires in Montana and how logging and excess amounts of trees being scattered around. Though they’re not trying to do it on purpose but people do leave things laying around and as you said excess trees are one of them but possibly so is oil or other flammable materials. Anything that powers saw or machinery takes oil or some fuel of some sort. It makes sense on why wild fires are more prevalent now given the fact we use so much machinery and intern oil to help make the world we live in better. But in a round about way we could be making things a lot worse. IM not sure what the solution would be but there is one. Possibly less oil powered machines and more hand used tools, I know its cliche and could never really works as efficiently but its a better option the leaving excess materials everywhere and causing more damage to the world we live in.

  2. Hello Jacob,
    I too found interest in the Bitterroot Valley’s history on logging and how that correlated with the increase in uncontrollable fires occurring in the valley and surrounding areas. Logging is a very controversial topic for the reasons you stated like the introduction of non fire-resistant species of trees and the impacts this has on the community. I began to think about how this conversation of controversy might shift if the logged trees were being replaced with the native, more fire-resistant species. This would prevent the widespread and uncontrollable fires we are seeing today. As you stated, there are many things humans could do and/or plan to do differently to avoid their negative effects on the environment. Though this is partially true in the fact that we must think about the consequences we have, there are many other factors like years of technological advance aiding in the understanding of our ecosystem that has come with time. Therefore, this “perfect storm” that has happened possibly could not have been avoided but may just serve as a tool from which we can learn.

  3. I love the title, it’s very eye catching and made me want to read your article. I agree that fires will probably become more and more of a problem in the future as temperatures rise. Clear cutting makes this worse and also looks bad. It will take a long time for our forests to grow back and some may never. I agree that the problem is historical in nature, clear cutting isn’t a new method, it’s simply the quickest and easiest way to cut down trees. Tree tagging and tree farms are a much more environmentally friendly way to get wood.

  4. Jacob,
    I also appreciated your title and since I have studied the wildfire issue in the past it interested me. The growing problem of larger and less controllable fires is no doubt the fault of humans and our greedy usage of the lands resources. However, if one is to notice by reading such accounts as Mr. Diamond’s here that we did not become aware of the dangers of doing things so recklessly before we jumped into them 100 plus years prior. The larger problem today is the education – or lack thereof – within the general population whose responsibility it is to make the changes regarding these discoveries or trial by error realizations that have occurred. In other words, the point made is true and its reality is sad but sadder still is the overall apathy towards educated decisions that plagues the majority of our voter population thus blocking these very necessary changes from taking place.

  5. Hi Jacob!

    First off, this is a fantastic post! I have always found the thought process behind fires interesting. Especially when you get into the “If you don’t want your house to burn down, don’t build your house in the woods debate.” Over the summer I was able to visit the Lubrecht experimental forest outside of Missoula. If you’re really interested in fires I suggest visiting them. Although it is a University of Montana program we have an MSU extension specialist there named Peter Kolb. He is super informed, has wrote several papers and is very generous with his time. I’m sure you could find his email on the MSU faculty site. One of the things we discussed is how much of the forest services budget goes to fighting wildfires each year. I almost wonder if they simply “trim” the tree’s down and leave them there due to budget constraints. Or if they plan to go back and do a controlled burn later, regardless it seems counter-productive to even risk it.

    Thank you for sharing!

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