Letter To The Editor: Wildfire Restrictions

Los Alamos

A recent journal article is very relevant to the discussion on fire-related restrictions:

Benefield and Chen, 2022. Examining the influence of outdoor recreation on anthropogenic wildfire regime of the southern Rocky Mountains, Natural Hazards. (Copy provided to me by the lead author along with some discussion and clarification).

Their detailed analysis of fire records show that man-made forest fires occur predominantly near regions of overnight camping, presumably from campfires, and near trails used by motor vehicles. A fair conclusion is that restricting recreation activities like non-motorized day use of trails is unlikely to significantly reduce wildfire danger. In fact, some other studies have shown that people in forest lands participating in outdoor recreation serve to monitor and catch wildfires earlier and prevent them from growing out of control.

I would gladly accept the loss of recreation access if it reduced the fire danger and our communal risk. I am not so glad when the restrictions merely provide the appearance of taking action but have no real benefit, in spite of good intentions. In the long run, we could seek an intelligent way to manage our ever more prevalent wildfire danger without unnecessarily sacrificing all of the very activities we have protected open space for.


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