Healthy forests policy: wrong cure for this disease

The Bush administration's plan to allow loggers into national forests and "thin" the growth was from the get-go an obvious use of a real problem (forest fires) in order to give away the nation's resources to industry interests. Now here's some evidence that an unaddressed environmental problem -- global warming -- may be to blame instead of overgrowth: The raging Western wildfires of recent years have often been blamed on management practices that promoted dense, overpacked forests. But a new study indicates global warming may be the main culprit. Challenging the conventional wisdom that today's severe wildfires are unnatural and unprecedented, researchers have found that parts of the West experienced destructive blazes during a warm, drought-plagued period in the Middle Ages. The linkage suggests that as the climate warms, damaging wildfires will continue to strike the West. "If we are just at the beginning of dramatic warming … we can simply expect larger, more severe fires," said Grant A. Meyer, a co-author of the study, published in today's journal Nature. --from Bettina Boxall, "West's Wildfires Linked to Global Warming," L.A. Times, Nov. 4, 2004
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