Friday, September 14, 2018

Wildland fire danger returns to West River, NE Wyoming


Just a hundred and fifty years ago bison and cervids would be clearing the grasses that drive prairie fires.

But, after a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators and GOP retrenchment the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding grasslands remain at risk to more blazes like the Legion Lake Fire yet poor ranching practices continue to add fuels to an already dangerous West River drought bringing with it moderate fire danger today to all reporting stations on the Black Hills.

Want to slow planet warming and flatten the Keeling Curve?

The Rocky Mountain Complex and the Black Hills have been home to a much larger aspen community in the fairly recent past. Ponderosa pine sucks millions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt. Clear the second growth ponderosa pine, conduct fuel treatments, restore aspen and other native hardwoods, build wildlife corridors and approximate Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids.

Today and tomorrow are perfect days for West River emergency managers to be burning road ditches adding to buffers for later in the developing wildfire season but that won't happen because South Dakota has no effective leadership or commitment to environmental protection, it’s cheaper to bill the feds after a wildfire than it is to conduct fuel treatments and more expeditious to litigate forgiveness than to ask for permission.

If you live in the wildland-urban interface government can't always protect you from your own stupidity. Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency it should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural firefighters.

Adapt or die.


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