Sunday, August 14, 2022

Another possible dual solution to problems made worse by climate change

Banff Firebreak
Watercolour and crayon
©2021 Charlene Brown

One of the unforeseen results of many decades of successful forest fire prevention in North America has been thousands of square miles of overmature, tightly packed, highly combustible conifers, particularly in National Parks – a perfect storm of wildfire hazards as climate change worsens conditions around the world. 

Beginning about a hundred years ago, firebreaks such as the one in this painting were cut to protect inhabited areas. This firebreak is now pretty well filled in, and can no longer be easily seen, and a multi-year plan to improve and expand it was launched in 2020.

The original break was a clear-cut on the north face of Sulphur Mountain, with no replacement of trees.  I understand the new one will extend over a much larger area on the west slope of the mountain, with some thinned clusters of trees left in place, and additional deciduous plantings, so that’s the way I’ve painted it.  Deciduous trees provide shade for groundcover as well as acting as fuel breaks because they ignite much less readily than conifers.

I first wrote about this situation and the beginning of a solution a year ago, on August 15, 2021. The part about deciduous trees may have been just optimistic whimsy on my part.  I hope not, but I have not been able to find any recent report of progress on the new firebreak. 

I’ll write about another possible ‘dual’ solution to climate-change problems in a blog post about Agroforestry next week.