Western professors, students publish report on environmental effects of wildfire mitigation

Students work in the field, surrounded by pinon-juniper trees
Professors Pat Magee and Jonathan Coop led the study, assisted by several students.

A $200,000 grant from the Join Fire Science Program—an interagency research program—funded the study, “Integrating Fuels Treatments and Ecological Values in Piñon-Juniper Woodlands: Fuels, Vegetation and Avifauna.”

The researchers set out research the effects of fuel fire reduction program on area ecology, particularly on bird species. Most frequently, these programs involve thinning out trees as a way to reduce fuel levels in the event of a forest fire. 

The researchers came away with three major findings:

1. The programs reduce the “occupancy” of birds that at some point in their lifecycle depend entirely on the forest.
2. The programs correlate with higher levels of invasive plant species.
3. The programs often result in more tree removal than necessary.

The study states that overall, the reduction programs negatively affect the ecology of piñon-juniper forests.

Read more about the report in the Gunnison Country Times and on Firescience.gov.   

Monday, March 6, 2017 - 8:30am