Have western USA fire suppression and megafire active management approaches become a contemporary Sisyphus?
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Dominick A. DellaSala; Bryant C. Baker; Chad T. Hanson; Luke Ruediger; William L. Baker
Publication Year: 2022

Cataloging Information

  • active management
  • federal agencies
  • fire suppression
  • fire-mediated biodiversity
  • megafires
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: March 14, 2022
FRAMES Record Number: 65446


Fire suppression policies and 'active management' in response to wildfires are being carried out by land managers globally, including millions of hectares of mixed conifer and dry ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests of the western USA that periodically burn in mixed severity fires. Federal managers pour billions of dollars into command-and-control fire suppression and the MegaFire (landscape scale) Active Management Approach (MFAMA) in an attempt to contain wildfires increasingly influenced by top down climate forcings. Wildfire suppression activities aimed at stopping or slowing fires include expansive dozerlines, chemical retardants and igniters, backburns, and cutting trees (live and dead), including within roadless and wilderness areas. MFAMA involves logging of large, fire-resistant live trees and snags; mastication of beneficial shrubs; degradation of wildlife habitat, including endangered species habitat; aquatic impacts from an expansive road system; and logging-related carbon emissions. Such impacts are routinely dismissed with minimal environmental review and defiance of the precautionary principle in environmental planning. Placing restrictive bounds on these activities, deemed increasingly ineffective in a change climate, is urgently needed to overcome their contributions to the global biodiversity and climate crises. We urge land managers and decision makers to address the root cause of recent fire increases by reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors, reforming industrial forestry and fire suppression practices, protecting carbon stores in large trees and recently burned forests, working with wildfire for ecosystem benefits using minimum suppression tactics when fire is not threatening towns, and surgical application of thinning and prescribed fire nearest homes.

Online Link(s):
DellaSala, Dominick A.; Baker, Bryant C.; Hanson, Chad T.; Ruediger, Luke; Baker, William L. 2022. Have western USA fire suppression and megafire active management approaches become a contemporary Sisyphus? Biological Conservation 268:109499.