Book Review: Fire Management On The Public Lands

Fire Management On The Public Lands, by the Department Of the Interior Bureau Of Land Management

This book is probably the most enjoyable book I have read from the government’s collection of materials on fire management. Admittedly, this is not a high threshold to meet, given the general poor quality of most of these materials, but even though this book is certainly not perfect, it is at least a book that can offer the reader some pleasure in noting the various trade-offs that are involved when it comes to engaging in fire management on the public lands. The authors manage to discuss the rainfall in various parts of the United States, and also comment on the difficulties presented by the goal of government to restore a natural fire regime while being aware of the immense material and political costs of such a restrained attitude towards fire prevention. When the book states that the costs would be immense for the fire situation to move from active management and prevention to a more natural fire regime, it is impossible for the people of the West (and not only there) to fail to note that this cost will largely be paid for by those who live in the dry lands that periodically, as they did in 2020, erupt in massive flames across huge areas.

This book is a large one at more than 300 pages, but it is divided into a great many smaller sections that discuss the fire management situation in the West. The first part of the book describes the proposal of the authors to engage in a particular fire management strategy, as happens every few years in government. After that there is a description of the environment of the West and how it relates to fires and how they are to be managed, which takes up a substantial portion of the book. After that there is a discussion of the environmental impacts of the fire management program. This leads, quite naturally, to a discussion of the mitigating measures included in the proposed program. The book then ends with several brief sections, including adverse effects that cannot be avoided, short-term as opposed to long-term productivity of forest management strategies, irreversible and irretrievable commitments, alternatives to the proposed actions here, and consultation and coordination with others.

It is perhaps unsurprising that a book that deals with the fire management on the public lands would focus so much on the Western United States as well as Alaska. This is a natural result of political choices that left a huge part of the Western United States as public land to an extreme degree when compared to the Eastern United States. Now, this book does not examine this particular assumption, but rather looks at the problem of fire management from the point of view of huge chunks of land being under the responsibility of a government that appears to like having the property under its control but appears to be resentful of the responsibilities that come from that land when one looks at the needs and interests of the rural Americans of the West who live around that federal land. It is impossible to discuss the behavior of the government when it comes to fire management without reflecting on the disparate impact that politics has had on the land ownership of the West and on the responsibilities to protect the well-being of people that comes from that massive federal land ownership. The fact that the government has frequently tried to avoid or express annoyance at these responsibilities indicates that the people who work for the government have frequently failed to recognize the political consequences of their behavior. This book, to its credit, at least recognizes these political repercussions, if briefly.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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