Nationwide, the latest research claims 84% of wildfires are human-caused . . .
Wildfires can start when lightning strikes or when someone fails to put out a campfire. New research shows that people start a lot more fires than lightning does — so much so that people are drastically altering wildfire in America.
Fire ecologist Melissa Forder says about 60 percent of fires in national parks are caused by humans: “intentionally set fires, buildings burning and spreading into the forest, smoking, equipment malfunctions and campfires.”
But the average for all forests is even higher. The latest research shows that nationwide, humans cause more than 8 in 10 — 84 percent.
Yet another factor to consider in sage grouse preservation efforts . . .
If increasingly destructive wildfires in the Great Basin can’t be stopped, the sage grouse population will be cut in half over the next three decades, scientists say.
A report released Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey comes just ahead of a court-ordered Sept. 30 deadline faced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether sage grouse need protection under the Endangered Species Act. Experts say such a listing could damage Western states’ economies.
“The sagebrush steppe and sagebrush ecosystem are in trouble,” said Matt Brooks, a fire ecologist with the USGS and one of the report’s authors.
With enough wind, the Marston Fire could make a run toward the North Fork . . .
The Marston Fire burning north of Dickey Lake near Fortine gained an estimated 800 acres Friday, pushing northeast toward Whale and Trail Creeks in the North Fork of the Flathead River.
The growing fire on the Kootenai National Forest has led to closures of roads and trails on portions of the northern Glacier View Ranger District of Flathead National Forest.
Information officer Tom Rhodes said the fire was estimated at 5,500 acres and had advanced to about 2.5 miles southwest of Whale Lake by Friday night. Rhodes said it remains about 15 miles from any residential structures near the North Fork, but critical fire conditions today could push it farther along into the drainages as strong winds are forecast to pick up this afternoon and continue into the evening.
The barren landscape along Lake McDonald, remnants of the 2003 Roberts Fire, which burned 57,570 acres in one summer, is perhaps the most visible example of fire’s powerful force and lasting effect. The fire was one of six massive blazes that burned more than 136,000 acres of land in Glacier that year, more than 13 percent of the preserve’s 1 million acres.
“The 2003 season is the pinnacle,” said Dennis Divoky, fire ecologist for the park.
But the fires of 2003 are only one chapter in the park’s long history shaped by fire and ash.
Fire crews are working a small (1/4 – 1/2 acres at last report) wildfire 2.4 miles west of Mt. Hefty, near Frozen Lake Road and close to the border. The Forest Service had crews and equipment on site by yesterday afternoon, with helicopters staging from Wurtz airstrip.