The colossal wildfires blazing through Canadian provinces and territories have spewed smoke all the way to the East Coast of the United States. Critics are pointing fingers at environmentalists who have opposed prudent forest management, holding them responsible for this environmental crisis.
The fires have impacted over a dozen states in the U.S., leading to air quality alerts for regions inhabited by more than 100 million people. Some experts have compared inhaling the smokey air in New York City for a full day to puffing through 22 cigarettes. In fact, the pervasive haze over The Bronx led to the postponement of Tuesday's Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox.
Over 400 wildfires are reportedly scorching across Canada. Detractors argue that poor forest management, exacerbated by misconceived environmentalist ideologies, has caused this destructive spectacle.
Miranda Devine of The New York Post likens the situation in Canada to that in Australia, attributing the uncontrolled forest fires to green ideology and chronic government underfunding. She asserts that forests turned into overgrown tinderboxes due to the lack of regular removal of dead wood and undergrowth through low-intensity controlled or "prescribed" burns.
Jim Steele, an ecologist and former director of San Francisco State University's Sierra Nevada field campus, cautions against attributing these fires solely to climate change. He accuses the media of pushing a catastrophe narrative instead of educating the public about the science behind the fires.
“I do not feel the media is educating us about the science that affects fires,” he said. They’re just trying to push a catastrophe narrative that’s been going on way too long.”
The Globe and Mail editorial board warned in July 2021 about the unnatural state of Canada's forests, filled with deadfall, akin to kindling. The increase in widespread wildfires, they argue, is the outcome of decades of decisions around fire suppression, logging, and replanting, further exacerbated by climate heating. They emphasize that forest fires cannot be completely prevented, but effective tools can mitigate and contain the damage.
Mark Heathcott, who oversaw controlled burns for Parks Canada for 23 years, sounded a warning bell as far back as 2016. He noted that while many acknowledged the importance of controlled burns, few actually implemented them.
“A lot of lip service is paid to it but very few agencies do it. People don’t understand the benefit of fire,” he said.
According to Heathcott, controlled burns require meticulous planning and optimal environmental conditions. He stressed the need for calculated forest fire management to prevent the uncontrollable spread of fire across landscapes.
“These things aren’t slapdash plans,” Heathcott said. “Nobody ever wants to relinquish control of fire and have it burning willy-nilly on the landscape.”