Originally Posted: September 9, 2020
As I type, the American West is ablaze with more than 100 devastating wildfires. Many of these are record-setting in both size and intensity. Several, including one in my home state of Colorado, have been so intense they’ve created their own thunderstorms.
Science shows that wildfires have been getting more destructive over the last several decades. The question is: Why? Are they getting worse due to climate change? Or is it due to human encroachment on once remote forests?
Or, counterintuitive as it may seem, are federal wildfire suppression policies to blame?
In the U.S., forest fire management policies date back to the 1880s, shortly after Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872. After a roughly 50-year period in which some wildfires were allowed to burn, in 1935, the U.S. Forest Service formally adopted the “10 a.m. policy.” All forest fires were supposed to be put out by the morning after they were first spotted. To enlist Americans in these efforts to suppress forest fires, in 1944, the U.S. Forest Service introduced Smokey Bear, who would go on to become one of the most iconic cartoon animals of all time. READ MORE