Study challenges views about Western forest fires
RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Scientists studying government surveys from before the Civil War are challenging the current wisdom that today's western wildfires are burning hotter and more often than in the past.
Researchers at the University of Wyoming who studied historical fire patterns across millions of acres say their findings show the fuel reduction programs run by the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies may be creating artificial conditions that make dry forests less resilient.
The scientists combed through 13,000 firsthand descriptions of forests and retraced steps in three states where government land surveyors traveled in the mid-1800s to map the nation's wild lands.
They say they found evidence that forests were much denser and more diverse than previously believed, and saw a substantial amount of intense fires.