Changing our landscapes

One of the things that attracted me to moving to the Western U.S. was the wide open spaces and the forests.  I am a backpacker, so I feel it viscerally when I hear reports about the possibility of the great western forests being converted to fire tolerant shrubs as the result of the changing climate. That’s one trend documented in a recent USGS study.

Already forests weakened by heat and drought are less resilient in the face of wildfire and pests. When forests can no longer bounce back after a fire, they may be changed forever.

The Rim Fire burning right now on the edges of Yosemite National Park and near the giant sequoias is another wake up call. Who wants the job of telling tourists how magnificent these jewels used to be?

It makes me wonder what impacts will be severe enough, devastating enough, to get our attention as a society, so that we will take action? Do we really have to wait until the forests of the West as we know them are no more?

   – Barry Vesser

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