Prescribed Fire & Smoke Management
For a millennium, surface fires burned thousands of acres of ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests in the southern Blue Mountains every year. Today, the nature of fire has changed. In 2015, 110,000 acres burned, much of it a high severity fire that killed thousands of acres of old growth pine and destroyed more than 40 homes. The behavior of fires like the Canyon Creek Complex is driven by dense forests and the build-up of surface fuels over more than 100 years since fire was excluded from the landscape.
Thinning forests captures the economic value of timber, reduces forest drought stress, and paves the way for the Forest Service to reintroduce fire that removes surface fuel. The Blue Mountains Forest Partners has played a key role in dramatically increasing the pace and scale of mechanical thinning on the Malheur National Forest. In the past four years, the Forest Service has authorized mechanical thinning of between 25-75% of 14 individual planning areas that total more than 422,600 acres on the Malheur National Forest. But we are lagging far behind when it comes to prescribed fire to treat surface fuels. Without removing these fuels, fires will continue to threaten lives and property.
The BMFP is working to address a number of barriers to increased use of prescribed fire, including government regulations that limit smoke emissions from prescribed fire. Increasing the flexibility of smoke management rules will allow forest manages to prevent tragedies like the Canyon Creek complex through careful use of fire.
Blue Mountains Forest Partners advocate for new smoke management policies:
Scientific literature informing our discussions is available below: