Environmental Stewardship

Canadian Wildfires Flood Eastern Seaboard with Smoke and Haze

Poor forest management leads to longer and stronger forest fires.

Anyone living in the northern half of the East Coast has been met with an ominous fog and haze during the last few days. The air is heavy, the visibility lacking, and those suffering from allergies or asthma are suffering even more. Who is to blame?

“The Canadians because their forest is on fire,” said ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director Joe Trotter. “From New York down into southern Virginia we are dealing with smoke from almost 1,000 miles away.”

We Didn’t Start the Fire

There are a lot of people suffering from the fire less than 1,000 miles away. The FAA has delayed and canceled flights. Major League Baseball canceled games in New York and Philadelphia. And the air quality index in northern states rivaled that of Beijing. It leaves most wondering how things got so out of control?

Forest fires are nothing new. Whether caused by lightning strikes or careless campers, you can’t make it through a summer without seeing a few forest fire stories on the evening news. What you don’t usually hear, however, is that there are more fires on the east coast than on the west coast. That’s because those fighting fires on the east coast rely on a different brand of forest management.

“On the east coast we embrace more of a modern forestry approach by making sure that the forests are healthy by taking out the mature trees,” Trotter explained. “That was developed in the early 1900s on the East Coast with the idea that you harvest the mature trees, plant new ones that are less likely to burn, and clean up any dead wood or other combustibles on the forest grounds.”

Forest Management Gone Wrong

Canada has adopted more of a west coast approach by allowing mature trees to go unharvested and fallen trees to remain where they fall. That approach, unfortunately, tends to produce stronger and longer forest fires.

“Forest fires are a fickle thing. There start for all sorts of reasons such as somebody camping, somebody tossing a cigarette out of the car, or even a lightning strike. So it’s incumbent upon us as the dominant species to act as good stewards of the land. But we’re not doing it and the result are these huge natural disasters.

“These fires put people in danger. They destroy economic activity and create massive problems because the problems remained unaddressed. We need to act – especially in places like Canada and on the west coast where it’s necessary to be proactive. If you’re reacting to it after the fact then you’re needlessly sending people in harm’s way,” Trotter concluded.

For more on proper forest management, watch ALEC’s Forestry, Wildfires, and The Good Neighbor Authority Webinar, and check out our model Resolution Urging Removal of Governmental Barriers to Active Forest Management.

In Depth: Environmental Stewardship

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