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Fire as integral to life as water

In response to “Conservation partners target 300,000 acres in Southwest Colorado” published in The Durango Herald (Dec. 24):

The obvious: Fire is a natural component of ecosystems whereas logging (the mechanical removal of trees) is not. The idea that logging is conservation of wildlife and forests misses the nuance that fire – including high severity fire – is a crucial component of ecosystems. The perspective of “way too thick” forests commonly attributed to wildfire suppression is more likely a result of historic logging followed by a naturally wetter period with fewer large fires, which coincided with fire suppression policies. While these fire-free periods naturally occurred in forests, widespread clear cuts and landscape scars from logging have not. Thus, we need to stop subsidizing the logging industry and avoid simplifying and fragmenting habitats with roads, soil disturbance, and heavy equipment. Instead, let’s protect intact ecosystems and allow second growth forests to grow into old growth maintained by the natural variety of ecosystem processes. Rot fungi, dead trees, fallen trees and burned areas are all critical parts of healthy ecosystems.

Simultaneously, we need to prioritize fire mitigation where fire poses direct threat to human structures to protect human life and property. We also need to harden our infrastructure in fire prone areas. Extreme winds can fan flames that no fuel treatment is resistant to, bringing fire to developed areas. Using non-flammable building materials can prevent structure loss when fires inevitably occur. As we mourn the loss of hundreds of homes after powerlines started grass fires on Colorado’s Front Range, let’s remember that fire is as integral to life as water.

Michael J Remke

Farmington