We are, thankfully, reaching the end of wildfire season in Montana. But as the smoke clears, we’re faced with a bleak reminder of the destruction that comes every summer.
Just this year, nearly 900,000 acres have burned from more than 2,400 wildland fire incidents in our state. Fires have cost human lives and homes, destroyed forage and timber, polluted our air and water, destroyed wildlife habitat and emitted enormous amounts of carbon. While fire is a naturally occurring event and several factors are contributing to increased fire risk, fuel loading is a major driver of the catastrophic fires we see today. After a summer of flames and smoke, policymakers can—and must—improve policies to reduce the risk of future catastrophic wildfires.
Improving forest health and mitigating wildfire risk will require long-term changes, but forest restoration projects offer a way to address these issues in the short term. As my PERC colleagues found in our recent report Fix America’s Forests, there are ways to accelerate forest restoration—and they don’t require the government to get even more heavy-handed than it already is.