According to a worrisome article in the January issue of Bay Nature, the region’s future is increasingly fire-prone, thanks to climate change, population trends, and a legacy of strict fire suppression. Yet while the first two are beyond the scope of a single city or agency to manage, reducing fuel loads in forests and shrublands more actively, through prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, may help mitigate future catastrophes. At a gathering organized by the Bay Area Open Space Council last November, attendees seemed receptive to the idea. East Bay Regional Park District general manager Bob Doyle implored others to use the recent North Bay fires as motivation to re-examine their fuels and forest-management practices. Cyndy Shafer of California State Parks said that while 3,100 acres had burned at Santa Rosa’s Trione-Annadel State Park, fire severity was generally low or moderate, thanks in part to forest-thinning measures taken in previous years. And Lisa Micheli of Santa Rosa’s Pepperwood Preserve discussed the non-profit’s work to develop and share fuels-management best practices. “In the wake of the fires,” said Pepperwood spokesperson Tom Greco, “we have an opportunity to reexamine some of the ways we manage our landscapes, and look at what we can do to reduce future risks of catastrophic fire.”  NS

Despite some unnerving trends, Bay Area landowners and open-space authorities may be able to reduce the potential for another calamitous wildfire by modifying their land-management practices.

According to a worrisome article in the January issue of Bay Nature, the region’s future is increasingly fire-prone, thanks to climate change, population trends, and a legacy of strict fire suppression. Yet while the first two are beyond the scope of a single city or agency to manage, reducing fuel loads in forests and shrublands more actively, through prescribed burns and mechanical thinning, may help mitigate future catastrophes. At a gathering organized by the Bay Area Open Space Council last November, attendees seemed receptive to the idea. East Bay Regional Park District general manager Bob Doyle implored others to use the recent North Bay fires as motivation to re-examine their fuels and forest-management practices. Cyndy Shafer of California State Parks said that while 3,100 acres had burned at Santa Rosa’s Trione-Annadel State Park, fire severity was generally low or moderate, thanks in part to forest-thinning measures taken in previous years. And Lisa Micheli of Santa Rosa’s Pepperwood Preserve discussed the non-profit’s work to develop and share fuels-management best practices. “In the wake of the fires,” said Pepperwood spokesperson Tom Greco, “we have an opportunity to reexamine some of the ways we manage our landscapes, and look at what we can do to reduce future risks of catastrophic fire.”  NS

About the author

Nate Seltenrich is a freelance science and environmental journalist who covers infrastructure, restoration, and related topics for Estuary. He also contributes to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma and Marin magazines, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and other local and national publications, on subjects ranging from public lands and renewable energy to the human health impacts of climate change. He lives in Petaluma with his wife, two boys, and four ducks. www.nate-reports.com

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