Thursday, June 07, 2018

The truth about forest fires and Smokey

It seems I have confused or bewildered some people with my comments about Smokey Bear.

The problem is that through Smokey Bear people came to see forest fires as only bad.

And it's simply not true. In fact, this bit of ignorance almost destroyed forests.

Small, frequent forest fires help clean up forest debris. As long as the debris is cleaned out regularly, the fires stay small, fast, and relatively "cool". The bark of healthy trees would get scorched, some dead branches would burn away, and the loose branches and dry underbrush would burn. But the fires wouldn't get hot enough, or stay burning long enough, to burn through the bark of healthy trees to seriously injure or kill them. The fires would keep infestations of tree pests under control, as well, plus many other benefits. Forests evolved under pressure from frequent fires, and recover quickly from the natural renewal process which naturally frequent fires represent.

Then the Forest Circus came along, with Smokey Bear as their anti-fire spokescritter. By focusing on human-caused fires, they convinced people that all forest fires were bad. ("Only YOU can prevent forest fires!")

Well, the truth is human-caused fires serve the same purpose as lightning-caused fires. Not only that, but the Forest Circus actively fought all fires, since "Forest fires are bad, Mmkay?".

So forest fires were artificially reduced in number, but nature finds a way. This allowed flammable debris to build up on the forest floor. Fewer in number meant greater in intensity. When the inevitable fire started, whether caused by humans or something else, the fire raged. It burned hotter and longer due to more fuel available. It burned through the bark of healthy trees, killing them and often adding them to the fuel. The forest fire fighters then airdrop chemicals on the fire and bulldoze firebreaks.

This is all quite a bit worse for the forest than what would have happened if they had just minded their business and let forest fires occur naturally as needed.

Also, pests were able to attack trees unchecked, so more chemicals were used to try to save trees.

The "solutions" are worse than the original problem.

Now, because bureaucrats are so wise, they set prescribed burns, and sometimes let forest fires (which are more deadly due to bureaucratic policies) burn, in the name of healthy forests. Too little, too late.

If they had simply stayed out of it to begin with, it would have just been a lot better.

As always, the solution involves property rights, not government policy or "laws".

This is why Smokey Bear is a government propagandist, not a friend of nature.

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1 comment:

  1. Kent, thanks for this! Town-bred folk like me haven't understood it. But it makes perfect sense; both lightning and forests have been around far longer than hom. sap., yet forests are abundant. Nature must have done something right.