New Research Suggests Thinning Treatments Can Reduce Severe Fire Risk For Years

Forest fuels monitoring
Field crews collect fuels data in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon.

Prescribed fire is an important tool for land managers seeking to reduce fuels, protect communities, and restore historic conditions in fire-prone forest types. However, due to liability issues, agency capacity, and smoke restrictions, the application of prescribed fire lags behind treatment of forests through thinning. A recent study published in Forest Ecology and Management investigated the effects of forest thinning and pile burning on fuel loading and modeled fire behavior in eastern Oregon in the absence of prescribed fire. Researchers found that thinning reduced crown fire potential immediately following treatment. After an initial increase in fine fuels 1-2 years post-thinning, both fuel loading and modeled fire behavior decreased for several years. The results suggest that thinning and pile burning can reduce severe fire risk in some eastern Oregon forests, however, prescribed fire is likely necessary to extend the life of treatments once forest and understory regeneration begin to build back fuel loads.

The full article can be accessed via science direct here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112721007647

When you review the full article, you’ll notice a familiar name as one of the co-authors. As watershed council staff, we wear a lot of hats on any given day. Education and Restoration Manager Mike Vernon has worn ALL of the council hats from time to time, and still makes time to find more hats. We appreciate that Mike continues to hone his technical skills in collaboration with partners throughout the northwest!

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