Western forests are pretty healthy, though our relationships with them may not be.  Humans crave the spotlight in environmental narratives. We shape the land and fix the bad contours. Of late, wildfire is the cause célèbre in the American West melodrama. The first act consists of fixing blame, and that weathered adage “100 years of fire suppression” is the clear villain. Maybe we should revisit this storyline. If history is told by the victors, we may be off script, misdirecting the climax. We frequently hear that last century’s fire suppression created a modern era of dense fire-prone forests.  Forest management created this problem and timber tinkering is required to cure the unhealthy patient.  George Hoxie, in 1910, focused on an often-overlooked decision point in forest stewardship history. He argued that “practical forestry” should make greater use of fire; let “fire be the servant and not the master” was his maxim. Some argue today that Native peoples employed a similar philosophy. Hoxie’s assault on contemporaneous “government theories” of fire suppression were passed over; a fateful choice was made. Intentional burning in the woods and on the range prior to this time resulted in frequent escaped fires. The oft-cited decline in forest fires of the 20th century may be partially explained by prior widespread burning by lumbermen, ranchers, and some Indigenous peoples.  While human-caused fire appears to have a taken a relative hiatus after 1910, that’s not the entire story. The 20th century, as fire goes, may be summed up as burning…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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