Official warns of ‘explosive’ fire threat on public lands

Official warns of ‘explosive’ fire threat onpublic lands

7 March 2006

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SLO County must better manage public wild lands to extinguish the risks, Forest Service chief says

San Luis Obispo County and other communities across the nation face a growing threat of wildfire that will require changes in the way natural resources are managed.

That was the message U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth delivered Monday to area firefighters and Cal Poly students. He described the chaparral vegetation that covers much of the Los Padres National Forest and other parts of San Luis Obispo County as “the most explosive fire type in the world.”

Controlling that threat will require better management of wild lands that includes more thinning of vegetation around communities and greater use of prescribed burning to reduce wildfire fuel loadings, Bosworth said. He called on Americans to start a national debate about the future of public lands management.

Bosworth attributed the wildfire threat to the combination of a growing population moving into rural areas, the accumulation of fuels in forests and global warming that is raising temperatures, particularly in the West.

“That means tough times ahead,” he said, “no matter how good our fire operations are.”

The Forest Service and California Department of Forestry are adept at firefighting and put out all but one or two percent of fires. Those fires they can’t put out are increasingly becoming highly destructive “megafires,” Bosworth said.

He has identified fire and fuels management as one of four key challenges facing the Forest Service. The others are invasive species, loss of open space and unmanaged recreation.

Bosworth, a native of the Southern California community of Altadena, became head of the Forest Service in April 2001. His agency employs 30,000 people and has a budget of $5 billion.

His Cal Poly talk titled “The Future of Managing Fire in America’s Wildlands” was part of a fire ecology and management course.

Before Bosworth’s lecture, some Cal Poly employees handed out fliers saying the Bush administration is exploiting the fear of wildfires in order to eliminate environmental protections and increase commercial logging.

David Sneed,


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