Impact of forest thinning on wildfires creates divisions

Firefighters and studies credit intensive forest thinning efforts with helping to save communities from wildfires. But environmental advocacy groups say those efforts are actually accelerating their spread.


National News

October 8, 2021 - 2:55 PM

A firefighter works a controlled burn while battling the Caldor fire in Strawberry, California, in August. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will promote more prescribed burns in California. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Firefighters and numerous studies credit intensive forest thinning projects with helping save communities like those recently threatened near Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, but dissent from some environmental advocacy groups is roiling the scientific community.

States in the U.S. West and the federal government each year thin thousands of acres of dense timber and carve broad swaths through the forest near remote communities, all designed to slow the spread of massive wildfires. 

The projects aim to return overgrown forests to the way they were more than a century ago, before land managers began reflexively extinguishing every wildfire as soon as possible.