This Year’s Fire Season Demonstrates the Need to Develop More Resilient Forests

By Tony Kryzanowski
The Logging and Sawmill Journal
August 29, 2023
Category: Opinion / EdiTOADial
Region: Canada, United States

The summer of 2023 will go down as the year of smoke in North America, and while it would be easy to panic and predict the end of days, history teaches that this could easily be a one-off year, followed by a cool and rainy summer. …But there is no denying that 2023 will go down as the worst year for forest fires in recorded Canadian history. What was particularly noteworthy was how widespread it was, with nearly every province within the boreal forest scrambling to fight fires. It truly was a national event—and not a good one. It would be easy to blame Climate Change for this dire situation, and there is no doubt that it is causing more extreme weather patterns like long periods of drought. This contributed to the size of the fires that burned in 2023.

But we can do a better job of forest management to potentially minimize the size and spread of wildfires by creating more resilient forests. We’ve known about these forest management practices for decades, but have resisted making the change because it is more economical and easier to plant monocultures of same-age trees. Now we see the consequences, particularly in areas that naturally regenerate as mixedwood forests or conifer stands that regenerate with mixed species and ages. …We know these practices work to mitigate forest fires because thousands of years of forest management by Nature proves it. Fire is nothing new in the fire-origin boreal forest—in fact, it’s natural. What is new are changes to the natural forest succession that we have adopted in current reforestation practices, including fire suppression on a massive scale, and now we are starting to realize the consequences of this interference. It’s time for change if we don’t want gaps in the forest resource available to harvest in future

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