US allocates $930m for forest thinning in west by fire | Climate Crisis News

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Climate change has contributed to explosive wildfire seasons as better-grown forests combine with hot and dry temperatures.

The United States government has announced that it will spend approximately $930 million to finance forest thinning operations in Western states that are struggling to cope with explosive wildfire seasons.

The money will help fund projects to clear trees and excess underbrush in fire-prone areas of 10 western states, where flames have consumed nearly 300,000 square kilometers (115,000 square miles ) and has burned approximately 80,000 structures over the past decade.

“It doesn’t matter if these forests burn or not,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters. “The crisis is upon us.”

The allocation of such funds represents an increasing emphasis on the need for projects that can reduce the intensity and risks of wildfires.

Although wildfire is a natural and even healthy part of the ecosystem, several factors have combined to create wildfire seasons that have exploded in size and intensity over the past few decades. .

These factors include rising temperatures and droughts that have dried up trees and leaves, partly due to climate change. Insect outbreaks have also killed millions of trees, leaving forest floors full of dry sap that helps fuel large conflagrations.

Experts point to another factor – older approaches to forest management that emphasize suppressing fires as soon as they break out. Decades of fire suppression efforts have left many forests overgrown and overgrown with combustible plant material.

In an effort to address that issue, groups of firefighters and scientists have asked him to put more emphasis on the type of mitigation projects that the $930 million will help finance.

However, these funds represent a small portion of the more than $50bn that the US Forest Service says will be necessary to achieve the goal of reducing wildfire risk over 200,000 sq km (80,000 miles square) of public and private land over the next 10 years. .

There are other issues as well. Frustrated by low wages and the increasing pressure of longer and more intense wildfire seasons, government agencies tasked with dealing with these fires have struggled to recruit and retain staff.

Experts warn that the staff in organizations like the Forestry Service will have to expand to keep up with the demands of fires that are still breaking records.

In California, the five largest fires in state history have occurred since 2018, despite an unusual season in 2022. The largest, the August Complex fire in August 2020, which destroyed an unprecedented 404,700 hectares before it was finally contained.

Vilsack has warned that “draconian” budget cuts proposed by some Republican lawmakers would limit the government’s ability to meet the challenge. A Republican majority took control of the US House of Representatives in January.

“One if is a big one,” Vilsack said. “We have to have a good partner in Congress.”

However, critics say Thursday’s announcement falls short of the country’s overall needs for wildfire mitigation and other natural disaster prevention programs.

“With the amount that needs to be done, we’re just scratching the surface,” said Kimiko Barrett, a researcher at the non-profit organization Headwaters Economics. “Dangers are increasing at a scale and magnitude that we have not seen historically. You see entire neighborhoods destroyed. “

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