Forests in western North America are shaped by fire and -- for the past century or more -- by the absence of it. After more than a century of fire exclusion and under a rapidly changing climate, fire behavior has changed, and damage from wildfire is increasing. With more than a century of forest and fire science to build on, scientists, managers, and communities are refining management options for reducing risks to communities and ecosystems.
Wildfire is not only inevitable, it is an essential component of our environment. Restoring the once abundant influence of low- to moderate-severity fire increases the likelihood of conserving or restoring ecological processes and functions. In addition, as demonstrated by Indigenous fire practices around the globe and fuel reduction projects across the West, we can learn to live with fire and influence the way wildfires burn.
What -- if anything -- we can do to mitigate a worsening wildfire problem is hotly debated. However, strong evidence provides guidance for why and how to adapt western North American forests to climate change and future wildfires. A team of leading fire and forest scientists have summarized the consensus in the field on 10 common questions about fuel reduction in seasonally dry, fire-prone forests.