Death Rides the Forest: Perceptions of Fire, Land Use, and Ecological Restoration of Western Forests

Kauffman, J.B.

Publication Date:

Large wild fires occurring in forests, grasslands, and chaparral in the last few years have aroused much public concern. Many have described these events as “catastrophes” that must be prevented through aggressive increases in forest thinning. Yet the real catastrophes are not the fires themselves but those land uses, in concert with fire-suppression policies that have resulted in dramatic alterations to ecosystem structure and composition. The first step in the restoration of biological diversity (forest health) of western landscapes must be to implement changes in those factors that have caused degradation or are preventing recovery. This includes changes in policies and practices that have resulted in the current state of wildland ecosystems. Restoration entails much more than simple structural modifications achieved though mechanical means. Restoration should be undertaken at landscape scales and must allow for the occurrence of dominant ecosystem processes, such as the natural fire regimes achieved through natural and/or prescribed fires at appropriate temporal and spatial scales.

Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed Article

Conservation Biology