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2015 Fire Season One for the Record Books? Not So Much

Date
September 1, 2015
Contact
Bryan Bird (505) 699-4719
In This Release
Public Lands

Tuesday, September 1, 2015
2015 Fire Season One for the Record Books? Not So Much

Past Fire Seasons Dwarf Number of Acres Burned This Year
Contact: Bryan Bird (505) 699-4719

Additional Contacts: Matthew Koehler, WildWest Institute, (406) 396-0321


Missoula, MT – With so much media and political attentionfocused on wildfires – and in some cases public lands management and calls togreatly increase logging on national forests by reducing public input andenvironmental analysis – it is helpful to review this year’s wildfire statisticsto see what’s burned and where.

According to the National Interagency Coordinator Center’s’Incident Management Situation Report from Tuesday, September 1, 2015’ (http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/sitreprt.pdf):

  • As of today, atotal of 8,202,557 acres have burned in U.S. wildfires. In 1930 and 1931, over50 million acres burned each year and during the 10 year (hot and dry) periodfrom the late 1920’s to the late 1930’s an AVERAGE of 30 million acres burnedevery year in the U.S. [NOTE: the 2001 National Fire Plan update indicates morethan 140 million acres burned annually in the pre-industrial, conterminousUnited States (https://www.nifc.gov/PIO_bb/Policy/FederalWildlandFireManagementPolicy_2001.pdf)].
  • This year, 63% ofALL wildfire acres burned in the U.S. burned in Alaska, much of it over remotetundra ecosystems. According tofederal records, since 1959 the average temperature in Alaska has jumped 3.3degrees and the average winter temperature has spiked 5 degrees.
  • Less than 8% of ALLwildfires that have burned this year in the U.S. have burned in the northernRockies.
  • National Forestsaccount for ONLY 15% of all wildfire acres burned in U.S. this year.
  • 88% of all BLM(Bureau of Land Management) acres burned in wildfires this year were in Alaska,again much of tundra, not forests.
  • And firefightingcosts to the taxpayer continue to skyrocket. According to the U.S. ForestService, in 1995, fire made up 16 percent of the agency’s annual appropriatedbudget—this year, for the first time, more than 50 percent of the ForestService’s annual budget will be dedicated to wildfire. The agency predicts theshare of the budget devoted to fire in 2025 could exceed 67 percent. (http://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/2015-Rising-Cost-Wildfire-Operations.pdf).

This information is not meant to discount specific experiencescommunities, homeowners or citizens have had with wildfires this year, butserves as important, fact-based information and context regarding what landownerships have burned and where they are located.

Again, this information is especially important in the contextof recent statements (and pending federal legislation) from lawmakers blamingwildfires on a lack of national forest logging or a handful of timber salelawsuits.

If lawmakers are going to use another wildfire season to weakenour nation’s key environmental or public lands laws by increasing logging(including calls by Rep Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for logging within Wilderness Areas)then the public should have facts and statistics available to help put thewildfires in context.

Finally, please keep in mind that right now the U.S.Forest Service has the ability to conduct an unlimited number of ‘fast-track’logging projects on over 45 MILLION acres of National Forest nationally – andon 5 MILLION acres of National Forests in Montana. This public landslogging would all be ‘categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA.’

Other Contact
Missoula, MT - With so much media and political attention focused on wildfires – and in some cases public lands management and calls to greatly increase logging on national forests by reducing public input and environmental analysis – it is helpful to review this year's wildfire statistics to see what's burned and where.
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