Forests and Fire: The Climate Conundrum

         For many Rogue and Applegate Valley residents, smoke has been the bane of the 2018 summer. To many Southern Oregonians, wildfire risk has been equally or more threatening. While there has been an abundance of opinion in the local media about the topic, there has been little serious discussion of the climate connection.
         Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN) holds their meetings the last Tuesday of every month at the Medford Public Library. These meetings are free and open to the public. SOCAN explores the climate connection at the October 30, 6pm meeting, “Forests and Fire: The Climate Conundrum.”
         Speakers at this meeting are Dr. Alan Journet, SOCAN’s Co-Facilitator, and Joseph Vaile, KS Wild Executive Director.  Joseph will offer insights from the recent KS Wild report, “Your Climate Refuge: Hotter, Drier, no Less Wild.” In a discussion of that report, Vaile noted "We recently looked at all the research on how to best adapt our forests to climate change. We know what we likely need to stay focused on to help prepare for the changes that we are already experiencing."
         The 70 to 80-year human life span imposes on us a limited sense of history; the result are blinders, concealing what happened before. Long-time residents tend to think that the over-arching trend is one of increasing fire risk, even though this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Prior to fire suppression in the early to mid-1900s, the fire return interval was shorter than today, while fires burned more acres and more biomass. At our October meeting, we explore the evidence suggesting that climate change is a powerful driving force behind the increasing fire risk, and discuss how global warming is threatening our forests and critical species inhabiting these forests.
         We explore what the evidence tells us about carbon storage in our forests and how effective they can be at mitigating climate change by storing carbon versus how destructive they can be if the carbon flux is ignored.

Photo 2013 Myrtle Creek Fire submitted.

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