Wildfire Fuels and Fuel Reduction [September 16, 2009]   [open pdf - 217KB]

"Severe wildfires have been burning more area and more houses in recent years. Some assert that climate change is at least partly to blame; others claim that the increasing number of homes in and near the forest (the wildland-urban interface) is a major cause. However, most observers agree that wildfire suppression and historic land management practices have led to unnaturally high accumulations of biomass in many forests, primarily in the intermountain West. While high-intensity conflagrations (wildfires that burn the forest canopy) occur naturally in some ecosystems (called crown-fire or stand-replacement fire ecosystems), abnormally high biomass levels can lead to conflagrations in ecosystems when such crown fires were rare (called frequent-surface-fire ecosystems). Thus, many propose activities to reduce forest biomass fuels. [...]. The issues for Congress include the appropriate level of funding for prescribed burning and thinning for fuel reduction and the appropriate reporting of accomplishments. Current reporting does not identify ecosystems being treated and the effectiveness of the treatments. Similarly, current appropriations and reporting do not distinguish thinning for fuel reduction from thinning for other purposes, such as enhancing timber productivity. More complete reporting could allow Congress to better target its appropriations for fuel reduction to enhance wildfire protection."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R40811
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