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What is driving the wildfires that are ravaging California, Oregon and Washington? President Trump and state officials have offered sharply different views.
Trump asserts that Western states haven’t done enough logging and brush clearance, allowing fuels to build up in forests. “When trees fall down after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become very dry. They become really like a matchstick … you know, there’s no more water pouring through and they become very, very — they just explode,” Trump stated in California on Sept. 14.
In sum, management policies have created tinderboxes in Western forests, and climate change has made it much more likely that those tinderboxes will erupt into destructive fires. A third factor is that development has expanded into once-wild areas, putting more people and property in harm’s way.
Addressing just part of this problem will produce incomplete solutions. Rather, I believe a multipronged strategy is what’s needed. One element is improving forest management to make these lands less primed to burn. The other is reducing carbon emissions and reining in global temperatures – the only way to moderate climate conditions that make fires larger and more likely.