The sheer number of forest fires across the western United States has many pointing to climate change as a big reason for their intensity. But another issue is likely contributing to the problem: forest management.
Maureen Kennedy is an assistant professor at the University of Washington in Tacoma and studies fire and forest management.
She talked with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about how competing interests make preventing wildfires such a challenge.
Competing interests in forests: "If you look across the entire state, and you think about all the landowners, you're going to have the Department of Natural Resources here in Washington. And they actually have these trust lands where they have an obligation to generate revenue from the lands. And they've taken, in addition to that, a lot of conservation goals, a lot of water quality goals, [as well as] recreation. All the state parks are part of the Washington State DNR. And then you have the U.S. Forest Service, which is also very much emphasizing a multi-use management where we have recreation, where we have water quality. Where we have, in theory, some timber and economic revenue. And then you have the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management also working under different regulatory structures and different policies."
Could the state's 20 Year Forest Plan work: "Any kind of forest plan that's going to be successful is going to have to really bring in the thoughts and the priorities of all these different land ownerships. You can't just focus on your little piece of land. You have to think about the entire landscape.... So I look at it from a scientific perspective, but really it's sort of a dynamic, human, social, political system. So, maybe? It really depends on the human dimension. And that's difficult to predict."