Why you can’t just blame climate change for making British Columbia on fire – .

0
49
Why you can’t just blame climate change for making British Columbia on fire – .


Environmentalists point out that while climate change makes fires more likely, it is poor forest management that is making them more destructive.

Content of the article

With more than 300 active fires and thousands on evacuation orders, British Columbia is currently on the fast track to the most destructive wildfire season in its history.

Publicity

Content of the article

Although fires have become a worldwide emblem of the destructive effects of climate change, many forestry experts in the province point out that while climate change makes fires more likely, it is poor forest management that is helping to make them more destructive.

“Even if we could turn back the clock on climate change, we would still have serious wildfires and burn people’s homes,” said Jesse Zeman, director of fish and wildlife restoration at the BC Wildlife Federation.

“Climate change is only making things worse. “

Starting in 2017, British Columbia began to experience fire seasons that were far off the charts of anything recorded in the history of the province. In 2017, the province saw 1.2 million hectares burned by forest fires, 40% more than the previous record of 855,968 hectares burned in 1958.

Publicity

Content of the article

The following year, that record was broken again when forest fires swept through 1.35 million hectares, an area 40% larger than Cape Breton Island.

After two calm years (the 14,000 hectares burned in 2020 was the lowest in 10 years), the rapid start of the 2021 season has placed him in the race to break records again.

Climate change has made British Columbia much more likely to be assaulted by the record-breaking heat dome that sparked the 2021 fire season. Lytton, British Columbia, in particular, was razed to the ground within hours of being burned down. posted the highest temperature in Canadian history.

A fire engine drives a bus down Main Street past damaged structures during a media tour in Lytton, British Columbia on Friday, July 9, 2021. Photo: The Canadian Press / Darryl Dyck

Warming temperatures made forests drier and produced mild winters that allowed the mountain pine beetle to turn entire forests into highly flammable stands of dead trees. Climate change has also contributed to increasing the severity of thunderstorms, with British Columbia hit 10 times more lightning strikes this summer than usual.

Publicity

Content of the article

But all of these factors converge on the forests of British Columbia where what wildfire experts call “fuel load” accumulate: accumulated debris, dead wood, and untreated clearcut areas that can. dramatically increase the speed and intensity of a forest fire.

“We are learning that by protecting our forests, we are just building a bigger bomb,” Zeman said.

View of a resort town as a forest fire burns on a hill in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada on July 20, 2021. Photo de Sarah Mahony via Reuters

In the aftermath of the disastrous 2017 fire season, the Department of Forestry and Conservation at the University of British Columbia sent an open letter to B.C. Premier John Horgan, stressing the need to more prescribed burns to reduce the fuel load in the province’s forests.

“In the area of ​​fuels and forest practices, which is the most important component needed to reduce the severity of forest fires and threats to communities, there has been little action,” it read.

Publicity

Content of the article

Long before Europeans arrived in what is now British Columbia, many Aboriginal groups practiced prescribed burning. He encouraged the growth of edible plants such as camas while producing forests that were easier to navigate.

The capital of British Columbia, Victoria, is located on its present site in large part because the founders of the Hudson’s Bay Company believed that the region’s green, open fields looked like a “perfect Eden.” What they don’t seem to have realized is that the pastoral landscape of southern Vancouver Island has been shaped by millennia of controlled burning by Lekwungen.

The sun, appearing orange due to the haze of smoke from forest fires in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, rises behind the skyline of New York, New York, United States, on July 21, 2021.
The sun, appearing orange due to the haze of smoke from forest fires in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, rises behind the skyline of New York, New York, United States, on July 21, 2021. Photo by REUTERS / Bjoern Kils / New York Media Boast

One of the first settlers on Vancouver Island, Walter Grant, soon complained that “the Indians have an abominable habit of burning wood.” Grant then pushed the colonial government to ban controlled burns as a condition of treaty negotiations. Indigenous stewardship of fire in British Columbia, like everywhere else in Canada, would effectively be banned by the end of the 19th century.

Publicity

Content of the article

Last month, a UBC journal selected a stand of old growth forest outside of Williams Lake, B.C., and used tree ring data to closely track what fires looked like in the area. region before the beginning of the 20th century. What the researchers found was that before the Europeans arrived, fires burned in the area about every 10 to 30 years and were generally of medium severity. Today’s modern fire suppression ensures that the same type of forest will typically go 70 to 180 years without a burn, ensuring a much bigger fire when it does.

“In the absence of low to moderate severity fires, contemporary forests are dense with closed canopies that are vulnerable to high severity fires,” the researchers wrote.

Publicity

Content of the article

Chilliwack forest fire ecologist Robert Gray has been one of the strongest advocates for the increase in prescribed burns in British Columbia’s forests. While the British Columbia Ministry of Forests typically only allocates 5,000 hectares for controlled burning each year, Gray said the number must number in the tens of thousands.

Gray told the National Post that although the fires were started “stupendously” in the pre-contact era, they typically did not exceed 50 hectares, roughly the size of a mid-sized urban park. With forests regularly set on fire, they were rarely able to accumulate the fuel needed to turn them into the apocalyptic firestorms that now plague B.C. seasonally – and black the skies of eastern cities with smoke from the forest fires.

“Fire has inoculated the landscape against the big fires,” Gray told the National Post.

Just last week, the case for prescribed burns was reinforced when wildfires broke out in the Sycan Marsh Reservation in Oregon, where environmentalists have spent years using low-intensity fires to bolster the fire. beetle stands.

As Pete Caligiuri, one of the reserve’s researchers, told NPR “in general, what firefighters were reporting in the field was that when the fire spread to these areas.” which had been lightened… it had much less impact ”.

• E-mail : [email protected] | Twitter:

Publicity



LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here