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Montana Rains Could Lead to More Forest Fires

Rainbow of Fire
Photo courtesy of camper_view/Flickr

Montana and much of the American west is set to experience what many believe will be a record-breaking heat wave. So far, much of Montana has had a pretty wet spring and early summer, but MSU Extension Forestry Professor Peter Kolb says the extra water may actually make Montana’s Fire season even worse.

“All of this early summer rain is creating a bumper crop of forbs, brush, and grass,” said Kolb. “If we now transition into super hot, and super dry all of that material will be an abundance of dry cured fuel that will actually make the wildfire season much worse.”

The National Forest Service is set to significantly reduce the amount of money it spends on removing brush and dead trees. Typically it spends nearly 600 million dollars on these projects, but those funds are now needed to fight raging fires in Colorado and Arizona. Kolb says these trends indicate the need for a new management system.

“The reality is that even 600,000,000 for wildfire hazard reduction is a drop in the bucket based on what we have out there,” said Kolb. “The real solution is to manage these forests and these landscapes in a way that they pay for themselves or in a way that they can actually generate income.”

Kolb believes that unless Montana gets regular rains through the summer, this could be one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory.

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