Study: Modern Wildfires Aren’t Bigger Than Past

July 31, 2012

A new study is casting doubt on the conventional wisdom that recent forest fires in the West are bigger and more destructive than those in the distant past.

Two researchers from the University of Wyoming at Laramie concluded that many wildfires in the 19th century and earlier were as intense as those in recent decades. The study relied on copious notes written by surveyors from the General Land Office around 1880 in Oregon, Colorado and Arizona.

Landscape ecology professor William Baker tells the Mail Tribune that current land-management practices should be reconsidered.

But Tom Sensenig, the U.S. Forest Service’s ecologist for southwestern Oregon, says the research offers little relevance for today’s forest management. He also says that the Wyoming study’s conclusions are inconsistent with findings of other researchers.

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