The Environmental Defense Fund's Jamie Workman says that suppressing natural forest fires has resulted in a surplus of trees that deprive humans and animals of water and habitat space. His solution: Get out the chain saw.
A century-old government war on wildfires in the western US has resulted in the growth of several billion excess trees that are negatively impacting ecosystems in several ways, according to Jamie Workman of the Environmental Defense Fund. For example, he says that the denser canopies prevent 20 to 30 percent of precipitation from reaching the ground, and the extra water sucked up by the roots doesn’t make it to nearby creeks. Consequently, in the Sierra Nevada forest alone, the surplus of trees can be blamed “for the loss of…17 million acre-feet of water per year. That’s more than enough water to meet the needs of every Californian for a year.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Workman offers a simple solution: Have private and local public entities in the areas affected pay people to cut down small, fire-prone trees. This approach, which would be anchored by nearby cities, “would pay for itself while…increasing water runoff to streams and rivers, raising revenues and boosting meaningful job growth in rural areas.” Not doing more to reduce the number of trees “threatens to strangle the very forests and streams environmentalism seeks to protect.”