Monday, February 8, 2016

Significant Link Between Wildfire and Watersheds that Cannot be Ignored

Catastrophic wildfire affects forests by baking the ground below, causing it to become a hard-packed layer
that will not absorb moisture. Photo: American Forest Foundation
Forests act as a natural water filter and storage system. They keep water clear, regulate streamflow and reduce flooding. When damaged by catastrophic fire, forests lose their ability to absorb and filter rainfall. The consequences can be runoff that fouls streams and rivers with mud, soil and debris, contaminating the water supply.

A recent report examines the wildfire risk across the West in the context of the need to protect important public water supply watersheds. The report’s authors argue that solutions require a shared, public-private approach.  

AFF researchers examined land in 11 Western states for wildfire risk. They found more than a third of the 145 million acres deemed at high risk for wildfire fall on private and family-owned lands, not public land.
When they narrowed their focus to the 34 million acres of high fire risk lands in important water supply watersheds, the researchers found 40 percent of these lands were either private or family-owned. 
The relationship between wildfire risk and watersheds is significant. Our forests, whether public or private-owned, are intimately linked with clean water.  

Forested watershed burned.  Photo: Chris Stewart, US Forest Service.
Read more here. 

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