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FORESTS, FIRE, and REGROWTH By Karen L. Monsen


evastating fires in 2020 produced a Hamlet moment: what are forests to be or not to be. History sets the stage, but scientists, collaborative groups, and public support will determine the future for America’s Forests. FIRE HISTORY Throughout time, fire has been part of human survival. Fire coexists with healthy forests and sometimes plants depend on fire to propagate. For around 12,000 years, indigenous people have used fire to clear areas for planting and encourage new growth. Approximately 7% of the world’s population or between 200 and 500 million people use fire today for agriculture.


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On federal lands comprising of 640 million acres or about 28% of our nation, the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture (with timber and grazing influences) manages American forests and sets fire policy with lesser control going to the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Following the 1910 fires that burned five million acres in Montana, Idaho, and Washington and killed 78 people, U.S. fire policy shifted to aggressive suppression to protect timber resources. In 1944, Smokey the Bear became the face for fire suppression. The Nature Conservancy (TNC, www.nature.org)

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ViewOn Magazine January / February 2021  

ViewOn Magazine January / February 2021