Last year, I watched the Wallow Fire burn firsthand, and I interviewed firefighters, foresters and fire-policy experts as part of my research for an article, A Burning Issue, which appears in this month’s edition of Arizona Highways. Arizona’s wildfire season has already begun, as you’ve seen from news coverage of the multiple fires that firefighters are battling as I write this. We’ll continue to monitor Arizona’s fire season, and I encourage you to do the same. The following excerpt from A Burning Issue reveals a bit of the debate over prescribed burns and other methods of fire management.
What’s your take on Arizona’s fire policy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below this post, or write us a note via Facebook or Twitter.
Timber sales. Owls. Road density. Prescribed burns. Public lands versus wild lands. Risk to firefighters. All of these and more are cogs in the fire-policy wheel, a slowly turning circle that won’t stop spinning anytime soon.
Prescribed burns became part and parcel of forest-health policies decades ago. Nevertheless, they’re a major sticking point in the debate.
“The American fire community accepted the need to reinstate fire a long time ago,” says Dr. Stephen Pyne, a Regents’ professor at Arizona State University and author of several books on national fire policy. “Prescribed burns, slashing and burning — those aren’t new controversies. The problem is making things happen on the ground. The whole point of national fire policy on federal lands over the past 40 years has been to increase the amount of burning. We’re getting it, so what’s the problem? People aren’t getting it the way they want.”
And that’s where identity politics come into play. Pyne contends that the issue has really been between certain categories of the business community and the politicians who represent them — those who want purely wild landscapes and those who want landscapes where people can work and live.
— Kelly Kramer, Managing Editor
To read the complete story, pick up a copy of the June issue of Arizona Highways, on newsstands now, or subscribe at www.arizonahighways.com.