"Fire suppression has caused a change in forest structure, and that change is interacting with changes in climate, to drive mortality," says Stevens. But the story gets a bit more complicated still, because it's rarely thirst itself that kills the trees.
Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley
Temperatures are rising and forest fires, already larger and more frequent than the historical norm, are projected to increase dramatically with anthropogenic warming. But a study released last week found an influence on past fire activity even greater than climate: human beings. The way humans have used land in the Sierra has had more effect on fire behavior than climate change.
Current U.S. forest fire policy emphasizes short-term outcomes versus long-term goals. This perspective drives managers to focus on the protection of high-valued resources, whether ecosystem-based or developed infrastructure, at the expense of forest resilience. Given these current and future challenges posed by wildland fire and because the U.S. Forest Service spent >50% of its budget on fire suppression in 2015, a review and reexamination of existing policy is warranted. One of the most difficult challenges to revising forest fire policy is that agency organizations and decision making processes are not structured in ways to ensure that fire management is thoroughly considered in management decisions.