Politics Top senators press Biden to do more on forest management to counter wildfires
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Sens. Joe Manchin and John Barrasso, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, are calling on President Joe Biden to expand forest management ahead of what is expected to be another severe wildfire season.
Biden’s proposal in his fiscal year 2022 budget for “robust funding” for forest thinning and reforestation, two tactics to help prevent and reduce the severity of wildfires, isn’t enough to address the gap in forest management, the West Virginia Democrat and the Wyoming Republican wrote in amade public Tuesday.
China's wandering elephants becoming international stars
BEIJING (AP) — Already famous at home, China’s wandering elephants are now becoming international stars. Major global media are chronicling the herd's more than yearlong, 500 kilometer (300 mile) trek from their home in a wildlife reserve in mountainous southwest Yunnan province to the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kunming. Twitter and YouTube are full of clips of their various antics, particularly those of two calves, who slipped into an irrigation ditch and had to be helped out by older members of the group.
“We need to increase the pace, scope, and scale of this work, not incrementally, but by orders of magnitude,” the senators wrote to Biden. “Moreover, our federal land management agencies need new direction and resources to undertake innovative approaches and bring new technologies to our forest management paradigm and our forest products sector.”
The senators are calling on Biden to direct the Agriculture and Interior departments to issue a public report outlining how the agencies can improve their efforts and what challenges they face.
Former President Donald Trump claimed states in the West such as California were suffering from more extreme wildfires because their governments weren’t properly managing their forests, and he dismissed claims that climate change was also playing a role in making the fires more intense.
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Experts, however, that both climate change and poor forest management have compounded to spark the intense blazes much of the West experienced last year and this year.
Manchin and Barrasso point to a massive gap between the federal government’s work to manage forests through thinning of trees, prescribed burning, or reforestation and what is needed to prevent severe wildfires.
As an example, the senators say the U.S. Forest Service has conducted commercial thinning on only 0.2% of the 63 million acres considered to be at high risk for severe wildfires. The Forest Service is also falling short on reforestation, currently only planning to reforest one-third of the 4 million acres it says need tree planting, the senators say.
The senators also say a lack of adequate forest management is a climate change threat. Wildfires themselves emit carbon dioxide, with the deadly fires in California last year spewing out 25% more emissions than the state’s fossil fuel industry. And as wildfires destroy forests, those regions become sources of emissions, rather than carbon sinks, the senators write.
China's wandering elephants on the move again
BEIJING (AP) — China’s famed wandering elephants are on the move again, heading southwest while a male who broke from the herd is still keeping his distance. The group left a wildlife reserve in the southwest of Yunnan province more than a year ago and has trekked 500 kilometers (300 miles) north to the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kunming. As of Saturday, they were spotted in Shijie township in the city of Yuxi, more than 8 kilometers (5 miles) southwest of the Kunming suburb they had arrived at last week, according to state media reports. The lone male was 16 kilometers (10 miles) away, still on the outskirts of Kunming.
“We can prevent further carbon emissions and increase carbon absorption if we proactively manage for healthy and resilient forests, especially through significantly increasing the use of practices such as reforestation, hazardous fuels reduction, thinning treatments, and prescribed fire,” they said.
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Amid clamor to increase prescribed burns, obstacles await .
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In the 1950s, when University of California forestry professor Harold Biswell experimented with prescribed burns in the state's pine forests, many people thought he was nuts. “Harry the Torch,” “Burn-Em-Up Biswell” and “Doctor Burnwell” were some of his nicknames from critics, who included federal and state foresters and timber groups. Six decades after Biswell preached an unpopular message to those who advocated full-on fire suppression, he is seen not as crazy but someone whose ideas could save the U.S. West’s forests and ease wildfire dangers.