With fires burning larger each and every year, its easy to chalk it up to “Climate change” or “Global Warming”. What if its not only an indicator of a changing climate, but a serious contributor? Last year in Washington State we had approximately 1 million acres burn in a variety of intensities that included scrub brush, grass and more notably forests.
It’s been reported that the smoke from those fires were the second leading contributor to carbon pollution in the state behind the transportation sector. It’s also been said that only 1/3 of the carbon is released in a fire that is stored in the trees. If that’s the case, forest fires will be far and away the largest contributor to carbon pollution in our state as well as other western forests that burn.
So what’s the solution? Actually we already have much of it figured out. We just aren’t doing a very good job telling the story. In Northeast Washington we’ve been collaborating with conservation groups and forest companies to thin the forest. We call it restoration work. This is where we removed the small and medium sized trees in order to leave a healthy forest. What is a healthy forest? It’s a forest where the trees have the room to grow to their potential. They have the nutrients, water, sunlight, and space to be healthy. Pretty simple.
The other thing this space does is provide less fuel for the fires. That’s why we also call these activity fuels reduction projects. When lightning strikes in the heart of the summer and it starts a fire, it allows fire fighters the opportunity to safely manage the wildfire. And if the fire stays on the forest floor it actually has a cleaning affect that’s beneficial for the forest.
The by product of this activity is lumber. That’s right. Two by fours and two by six’s. They can make all kinds of products from small projects on your deck to entire homes, and in the case of glulam beams and cross laminated timber; entire buildings. All the while helping solve the carbon pollution issue. Doesn’t it make sense to help make our forests healthy while making products that we can all use?
Managing our forest responsibly reduces fires, thus reducing our carbon footprint at the macro level.