Stop Blaming Wildfire Season on Poor Forest Management

Start focusing on the number one problem for Montana’s landscapes: climate change

By Todd Tanner

I noticed that Sen. Steve Daines seems to be blaming the lion’s share of Montana’s incredibly bad 2017 wildfire season on forest mismanagement. Sadly, Daines doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

July and August just gave us the driest, hottest summer we’ve ever seen. We’ve certainly had dry summers before, and hot summers as well, but we’ve never seen anything like this particular smoke-filled, climate change-fueled atrocity.

Just so we’re clear, NASA has stated that last year – 2016 – was the planet’s hottest year on record. It broke the old high-temperature record, which was set back in 2015. The previous record was set in 2014. That’s right. The three hottest years ever recorded have been the last three years. In case there’s any doubt in your mind, human-caused climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and it’s threatening our future.

For those of you who are wondering what climate change has to do with wildfires, a 2016 study published in one of the world’s foremost scientific journals stated that global warming was responsible for almost doubling the amount of land burned by wildfires here in the U.S. over the last 30 years. How is that possible? Well, it turns out that extreme high temperatures do an incredible job of drying out our landscapes, and the only thing our super hot, super dry forests need to burn is a source of ignition. Wet forests, on the other hand, don’t burn – and that’s true regardless of how much fuel is on hand.

So the next time you see the smoke obscuring the mountains, or watch flames popping up on a distant ridge, make sure you think of Daines. Then send him a note and tell him that he needs to get his act together and stop blaming our huge wildfire season on poor forest management. It’s time for all of us – Sen. Daines included – to start focusing on the number one problem for Montana’s landscapes: climate change.

Todd Tanner

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