Professor: Fires in West will worsen

WASHINGTON — A Montana expert testified Thursday that climate change will increase and intensify wildfires, while members of Congress and U.S. Forest Service officials grappled with how to pay for the increased costs of fire suppression

Story: Professor: Fires in West will worsen. By Noelle Straub. Casper Star-Tribune Washington bureau.

This should be obvious, but it isn’t.

Some people will want to argue that we can’t say because global warming isn’t real. Regardless, the critical fact is this: conifers, especially pine, are already dead and are dying at unprecedented rates in the northern Rockies, B.C. and Alberta.

They are burning, and they are going to burn every summer that is not unusually wet. Thinning them is too late now, and often useless anyway, even if there was enough money.

This means that almost every summer is going to be awful smoky in Montana and other places that are downwind of large forest areas.

My advice to anyone with property in these areas is to unload it now before potential buyers figure this out. Move to a cleaner place like a city far from the forests.

This will not go down well, and one of those who will have to adjust to this new reality is Plum Creek Timber, which is trying to become mostly a real estate company that will sell land in “the fire plain.” Timber Giant Takes a Hit: Plum Creek’s Risky Businesses. By Myers Reece, Flathead Beacon (republished in New West).



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  1. Mike Avatar

    Interesting comments, Ralp. I was out in Montana this summer and was saddened when I realized I had to leave. It was simply incredibly unhealthy. My favorite camping areas were nothing but smoke. Driving from Livingston to East Glacier was even worse. Not good when you can’t even see Sinopah. I tried to drive down to West Glacier – even worse.

    It’s been getting worse every year, unfortunately. Every season I hope for moisture, and it never really comes.

    I think I am going to make spring trips from now on, say late May through June.

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    I flew over a large portion of the Frank Church Wilderness today and was quite surprised at how much of it has burned in the last 10 years. There were large areas where there were toothpicks sticking up into the air and even more that had just burned this year.

    It’s as if the central Idaho wilderness is changing from forested mountain tops to brush and grass (cheat grass has crept into the Big Creek drainage after the 2000 fires). How much of this has to do with fire suppression over the years I don’t know but I was surprised how much it has changed since my last flights over the area 10 years ago.

    I flew from Cascade to lower Big Creek last week then from Big Creek to Sulphur Creek (where it is still forested but the fires burned to the north and south this year) then back to Cascade. I would guess that 1/3 to half of the forested area has burned in the last 10 years.

  3. JB Avatar

    This issue really depresses me. How do you avoid fire suppression with so many new developments? I know, I know, you’ll say “let ’em burn,” but I’m trying to be realistic. Development + fire suppression + climate change / drought = one big cluster f$#K for the West.


  4. be Avatar

    you don’t have to watch it all burn ~ just let it for 2 or 3 years in areas of new development ~ grandfather protective management in areas already developed and make it policy not to protect new developments.

    watch how many new developments are able to get financing ~ insurance…

  5. montucky Avatar

    Perhaps we must make the new developments pay their share of fire suppression costs, since it is those properties that drive up the costs of fire suppression. For example, the Chippy Creek fire, which burned 99,000 acres but threatened only around 100 structures cost $152 per acre to suppress while the Jocko Lake fire burned 35,000 acres but threatened 3,100 structures (and very expensive ones at that), cost $1002 per acre. There were no structures lost, so the insurance companies weren’t directly involved, but the taxpayer paid a premium for those few who built in forested areas.

  6. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    here is a link to a news story concerning the latest report by the UN concerning global warming. There is also a little bit of an example of Bush doing the old political two step. I am so sick of that pile of dog feces.

  7. Dante Avatar

    So Jeffy, what about the head of the National Weather Service center who is a die hard scientist with 30 + years experience. He states that global warming is a scam thought up just to fund millions and maybe even billions of dollars to programs that have no bearing or proof that they will even turn the tide to so called global warming.

  8. Dante Avatar


    Here is the link for you to review:

    Which one can always conclude that not all scientists agree!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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