Thanks, Wall Street Journal, for Reporting on the Quiet Western Wildfire Season

From ClimateREALISM

By Linnea Lueken

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) describes 2022’s wildfire season as relatively quiet, attributing a decrease in fires to an increase in rainfall, cooler temperatures, and the efforts of firefighting organizations.

The article, “Wildfire Season in U.S. West Ends With Fewer Blazes, Less Damage,” explains that this year has had fewer serious fires than years past.

Jim Carlton, writer at WSJ, writes:

One of the slowest wildfire seasons in years has come to an end in the West thanks to well-timed rain and cooler temperatures, bringing a reprieve to a region hit by numerous destructive blazes over the past several years.

The break is giving firefighters an opportunity to focus on prevention efforts such as thinning forests that could lessen damage from wildfires in the future, according to officials.

While rain and cool weather are certainly contributors to keeping fires down, an element that cannot be understated or ignored is the presence of easily-combustible material. The WSJ piece notes the critical role that tree thinning, if allowed, can play in preventing fires and reducing their severity when they occur.

“[T]he Washburn Fire in July threatened the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, but the trees escaped harm after the blaze slowed to a crawl when it hit areas previously thinned by park crews,” wrote Carlton.

A prior Climate Realism described the problematic situation that arose when the environmental activist group, the Earth Island Institute, sued Yosemite National Park to prevent planned tree thinning in the park. They claimed that dead tree density was “irrelevant” to wildfire prevention. Professional foresters, park managers, and almost any other rational person knows this is wrong.

Wildfire requires an ignition source, oxygen, and fuel. Dry invasive grasses, as discussed in one Climate Realism article, often fuels fires. Dead and dying dead trees and dry underbrush are an even more common source allowing fires spread farther and burn more intensely.

The logging industry once maintained forests across the West; building roads that were used by firefighters to access hard-to-reach parts of the forests before seasonal wildfires could spread to populated areas, thinning out dead and dying trees, and keeping the underbrush under control. After the spotted owl was listed as endangered, however, logging all but totally ended on many federal lands in the western United States, and severely restricted on others. Wildfire trends suggest a strong correlation between the decline in active forest management, in large part through logging, and the closure of thousands of miles of forest roads, and the recent increase in Western wildfires. (see the figure below).

Figure 1: Graph combining data for Federal lands showing acres harvested vs. acres burned, in millions of acres. Data from U.S. Forest Service and the National Interagency Fire Center. Graph by Anthony Watts.

The WSJ article reasonably downplays any connection between climate change, this year’s relatively slow wildfire season, or previous seasons’ bigger wildfire seasons, because there is no evidence linking rising carbon dioxide levels and wildfire activity. Recent years have been far from the most active for wildfires. Historical data show that in the early 20th century, a hundred years of global warming ago, forest fires were much more extensive than in recent years.

Wildfires are common enough to have a season named after them. All it takes is the right combination of conditions. This year, as the WSJ accurately reported, the conditions were not favorable. The hope portrayed in the WSJ story is that this year’s slow season allowed forest managers time to reduce fuel loads significantly in order to prevent large wildfires in the future, even when weather conditions turn favorable once again for extensive wildfires.

Linnea Lueken

Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a Heartland Institute Policy Brief “Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing.”

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Tom Halla
November 27, 2022 6:19 am

Various green NGOs are opposed to any active management of forests, especially if it benefits people. They have the faith that Gaia wants the forests to be left alone.
This rather places American Indians in a limbo, where the greens act as if they never ever tried to manage forests for their own benefit, and were incapable anyway. Never mind pond sediments, or trenches in forests, showing regular mild fires. Gaia did it!

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 27, 2022 7:00 am

These religious fanatics don’t seem to understand that man-made fire prevention is the cause of their problem. Their solution is the cause of their problems, much like an alcoholic drinking to cure a hangover.

Steve Case
Reply to  CO2isLife
November 28, 2022 3:00 am

“… much like an alcoholic drinking to cure a hangover.”

Good one !

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 27, 2022 8:18 am

An unmanaged forest only sequesters CO2 for a brief period before the trees die and decay.

A managed forest that is turned into framing lumber can have the CO2 sequestered for centuries. (My house in a “young” part of the U.S. is 104 years old.)

The Greens pushing for unmanaged forests are too stupid regarding natural processes to support the policy that actually serves their goal of reducing CO2. (Which I disagree with.)

Do these people have an app on their phone that reminds them – breathe in, breathe out?

Joe Crawford
Reply to  pillageidiot
November 27, 2022 10:32 am

“The Greens pushing for unmanaged forests are too stupid regarding natural processes to support the policy that actually serves their goal of reducing CO2.”

This is assuming that their goal is the reduction of CO2. Have you ever considered that more destructive forest fires may be the goal, not the reduction of CO2? Destructive forest fires, along with the promotion of stronger floods, hurricanes, etc. serve to reduce the public’s confidence in the government thus providing the ‘ultra-left’ with more public support for their vision of a one-world socialist government.

Of course they have a minor problem as in how many people you see rushing into Cuba, China, or even Venezuela or Russia :<)

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 27, 2022 8:56 am

Some of the best forestry on this planet is being done on the Menominee Reservation: The profits from it are a major part of the economy for the tribe. The climatistas would rather give the tribe more welfare checks instead.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 27, 2022 2:44 pm

I love their disclaimer on the tree species graphic.
Basically, misused data is your own fault.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 28, 2022 11:37 am

If humans truly left the forests to their own devices, we would not fight any fires at all, and simply write them off as naturally occurring events, except where humans negligently or intentionally set fires or add accelerant to them. Then there would be repeated low grade wildfires that forests are naturally adapted to, even depend upon (the heat from fires is what causes some types of pine cones to open up and regerminate the forests) … and then every few hundred years the forests reach a natural climax stage and completely burn down … starting the process all over again.

But no, humans seem determined to eliminate natural wildfires. For at least one obvious reason – our infrastructure and homes burn too. But that is not a result of climate change, but of human development.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Duane
November 28, 2022 12:21 pm

No one really knows what the progression in these forests would be, as people have been in the area longer than these forests have been.
PaleoIndians have been in California since the end of the last Ice Age, at least. The odds of any people ever leaving anything alone for an extended period of time is, I think, negligible.

November 27, 2022 6:29 am

Meh. The WSJ article is just a CYA for the CAGW narrative, a semblance of sanity has not returned.

Bill Powers
Reply to  SMC
November 27, 2022 7:03 am

This doesn’t matter since they control 98% of the message boards. The Propaganda Ministry will simply go into silent running until the next bad wildfire year and offer up a constant barrage, on every media platform, 24/7 doomsday reporting never mentioning the off years.

It is not about facts or science it is about public perception and they have the public right were they want them.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Bill Powers
November 27, 2022 8:35 am

That’s almost correct BP. There will certainly be no honest coverage about current (non-) events, but you can be sure that the constant barrage of agitprop will continue to list “devastating” wildfires in the CAGW litany along with the other myths of accelerating sea level rise, coral destruction, polar bear population declines due to lower sea ice extent, etc.

Remember that the propaganda doesn’t depend on data or facts. If somehow a counter-narrative manages to get out with actual data, it will be “fact-checked” and “thoroughly debunked”, then shadow banned as disinformation. There will surely be a time period where a rolling average shows an increasing trend. If not for the entire western US, then at least for some locality that happens to have a wildfire.

Also, we should anticipate that the argument will be made that although a side effect of the unprecedented flooding caused 100% by Climate Change ™ is a temporary decline in wildfires, this is bad because (blah blah blah) and it’s all because of fossil fuel burning.

Reply to  Bill Powers
November 27, 2022 1:40 pm

Everything for the message. Nothing outside the message. Nothing against the message.

November 27, 2022 6:45 am

Why does the graph end at 2020 with a record number of acres burnt ?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 27, 2022 7:10 am

Bigger question, why doesn’t it start in the late 1800s, when orders of magnitude more acreage burned than today?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 27, 2022 8:59 am

Tony Heller often shows charts with burn acreages going way back.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 27, 2022 7:15 am

Probably last year of available data

Matt Kiro
Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 27, 2022 7:15 am

Most likely the last year data was available. The Biden regime isn’t exactly timely with reports or data or anything else the government is supposedly tracking.

Reply to  Matt Kiro
November 27, 2022 10:02 am

Especially if that data doesn’t fit the desired narrative.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 27, 2022 10:56 am

In 2021, there were 58,985 wildfires that burned 7,125,643 acres. To date this year 61,390 incidents have burned 7,251,835 acres.

Reply to  forestermike
November 27, 2022 12:42 pm

Thanks Forestermike, obviously the data exists cuz the seasons are over…so bottom line is the WSJ article should have said “Forest acres Burnt by Wildfires average for the last decade remains unchanged”

Reply to  DMacKenzie
November 27, 2022 8:52 pm

Two of my many suspicions:

1. The graph was put together by Anthony Watts. Not the WSJ. Linnea Leuken borrowed it, with attribution. It just needs to be updated — and extended backwards.

2. Wildfire acreage averaged ~2 million acres per year in the postwar decades until 1988. That was the year the Fed fire agency initiated Let It Burn — wildfires deliberately left uncontained and uncontrolled by bureaucratic decision — at Yellowstone National Park.

Despite vocal opposition from citizens, counties and states, the Feds plowed ahead, imbedding LIB into management plans with Orwellian doublespeak like “Wildfires Used For Resource Benefit”.

Our National Forests and Parks, untended and overgrown, set aside and apart from any stewardship or care, have built up enormous fuel loads, via photosynthesis, contiguous across the landscape, without access, also deliberately removed.

Hence over the last 34 years, many small ignitions — of the type formerly successfully extinguished at relatively low cost — have blown up into megafires inflicting $billions in costs and losses.

Add the politics to the biology and you get massive fire years, 5 times greater than the old norm, where 7 million acres is considered mild.

Reply to  forestermike
November 28, 2022 12:36 pm

And this year, for a number of reasons, more fires – especially in Alaska – were left to burn because the only resources being threatened were timber and wildlands. So really, 2022 was a much below average wildland fire season.

November 27, 2022 6:55 am

Proof that rewilding is asking for trouble

Last edited 2 months ago by strativarius
Matt Kiro
November 27, 2022 7:19 am

So acreage burned is roughly equivalent to the acreage that was once harvested. And private logging companies funded all the work to make roads, thin out forests, and probably planting new trees… Now its all tax payer funded fire fighting efforts , millions of tons of water , all most likely inefficiently paid for

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Matt Kiro
November 27, 2022 9:02 am

Meanwhile, everyone is complaining of high lumber prices- while the idiots are trying so hard to lock up the forests. If trees aren’t cut locally for lumber then the lumber will be brought in from great distances- which makes no sense at all. Here in MA- I keep telling the forestry haters “you promote buying food from local farmers but you hate buying wood from local forestry sources”. They don’t respond.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 27, 2022 10:56 am

They can’t respond. MA is just like California, human knowledge and therefore the actions available are already settled.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  doonman
November 27, 2022 11:08 am

Here in MA the climatistas really have religious fervor. They’re fucking crazy. They’re now pushing hard to stop all forestry- first on state land then on private land. They know they can’t tell us to stop on private land- landowner rights and all- so instead, they’re pushing the idea that logging should be much lighter and over much longer rotations- which makes forestry even more uneconomic than it generally is all the time. The crazies came up with this idea and now it’s becoming dogma pushed by the state!

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 27, 2022 1:44 pm

I don’t think your Massachusetts governor unilaterally outlawed small gasoline powered engines as our California governor did. That’s scheduled to take effect in 2024. It will be fun watching fire departments stop fighting fires while they have to charge their electric powered chainsaws.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  doonman
November 28, 2022 4:34 am

I have an electric chainsaw for my yard work- half an acre of forest and lots of trees on the other half. It’s fantastic- way better than a gas saw for this type of work. But, it doesn’t have the power for a logger cutting big trees all day.

Steve Case
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 28, 2022 3:06 am

 “you promote buying food from local farmers but you hate buying wood from local forestry sources”

Great analogy – It’s going in the file

Reply to  Matt Kiro
November 27, 2022 5:49 pm

complete dependence on government for anything and everything (except getting money form elsewhere to fund government’s activities) is part of the goal.

November 27, 2022 7:20 am

So. Editing a post is rewarded by being classified as spam?

Now that we’re registered with an account that should be a thing of the past…..

Rich Davis
Reply to  strativarius
November 27, 2022 8:39 am

You could ask for your money back?

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 27, 2022 9:28 am

What money?

Do tell…:

Rich Davis
Reply to  strativarius
November 27, 2022 11:39 am


Just the other day when eating Thanksgiving dinner with relatives I complained that the turkey was dry and why did they invite me if the food wasn’t going to be perfect. Same sort of injustice. We’re both victims, aren’t we?

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 27, 2022 5:53 pm

It is reasonable to ask that errors be corrected. It the request is bluntly refused, then other options might be considered.

Rich Davis
Reply to  AndyHce
November 28, 2022 3:56 am

Reporting a problem can be a service. Bitching about it as if your servants are doing a piss poor job of fulfilling their duties to you is not the same thing. Particularly when you’re a guest who hasn’t even brought a bottle of wine to the party. The lack of gratitude is galling.

Reply to  strativarius
November 27, 2022 10:05 am

That’s one of the sneaky methods spammers used to get through in the past, so probably why it’s happening. Although I do agree that the registration should put that behind us. At least for established commentors (i.e. perhaps 10 comments?)
It may not be an option available in the WP controls, though.

November 27, 2022 7:21 am

I was at the Heceta Head lighthouse and took a tour of the remaining keeper’s house. There were photos of the early days and the whole hillside behind was bare. It was explained that the indigenous population kept the area burned off so the elk would come in for hunting.
Now you can’t see the road up to the lighthouse from the parking lot because of the trees

Reply to  MikeSexton
November 27, 2022 9:39 am

Yup. By and large many forests of the Pacific Northwest are wildlife “deserts,” in that they are so overgrown that deer and elk can’t forage properly, IMHO.

Ninety or so miles east of Heceta Head the devastating Holiday Farm fire of 2020, largely in an area targeted for thinning and management in the late 1970s but shut down by you-know-whom, has opened up vast swaths of acreage no longer overgrown but filling nicely with grasses and forbs. Locals are anticipating an uptick of deer and elk in the next several decades.

Meanwhile, the you-know-whoms are all in a dither about salvage logging for some reason or another.

Reply to  PVLFG
November 27, 2022 10:42 pm

I got to breathe the smoke from that fire absolutely the worst in my 50 years living in Eugene

November 27, 2022 7:26 am

Another thing is greens are making them take out the roads that were built at taxpayer expense. They cut a trench across them so that they can’t be used anymore

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  MikeSexton
November 27, 2022 9:04 am

Right- that’s a big movement now- forcing the U.S. Forest Service to shut down the roads. Not just cutting a trench but giving up all maintenance- taking downs signs- taking them off maps, etc.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 28, 2022 12:49 pm

My woodlot and home are smack in the heart of one of the largest mismanaged National Forests in northwest Montana – the Kootenai. This forest once produced some of the highest volumes in the system (all the while working WELL below the AAC). But, that was before the spotted owl and the badly named Northwest Forest Plan Revision (1994).

Fast forward to 2017. About August 11 we had a lightning bust which started a few fires. August is typically our worst month, with the hottest and driest weather of the season, with low fuel moisture. Much of the higher elevation KNF is comprised of dead and dying subalpine fir and spruce. You can probably figure out where this is going…

Because of shut down roads, it took more than 2 weeks for resources other than air, to work their way into the fire. Saturday of Labor Day weekend that year, the temps were in the 90;s, RH in the teens, and southwest winds blowing 20-30. The fire double in size, then doubled again, and burned into the small Amish community of West Kootenai. More than 40 structures were burned, including 11 homes.

This is the state of forest management on western forests (mis)managed by the Forest Service.

Russell Cook
November 27, 2022 7:57 am

In case anyone forgets or is unaware of it, from Tony Heller’s collection of vintage newspaper article clippings, we see that there were just short of 22 million acres burned in 1937.

Coeur de Lion
Reply to  Russell Cook
November 27, 2022 8:54 am

Look at the record in the 1930s which is before the NASA cherry picked 1965 start. Horrific

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Russell Cook
November 27, 2022 9:05 am

Tony does a great job of documenting everything he says which is why the climatistas hate him so much.

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 27, 2022 12:46 pm

Yep, here is a great example of that concerning US wildfires from his archives:

Gaslighting Fires | Real Climate Science

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
November 27, 2022 3:27 pm

Every time I see Smokey Bear….he reminds me….only YOU can prevent forest fires….and he never lies.

November 27, 2022 9:02 am

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) describes 2022’s wildfire season as relatively quiet, attributing a decrease in fires to an increase in rainfall, cooler temperatures, and the efforts of firefighting organizations.

Bad WSJ! You’ll spoil the Narrative.

Reply to  insufficientlysensitive
November 27, 2022 12:23 pm

Ah but: “The WSJ article reasonably downplays any connection between climate change, this year’s relatively slow wildfire season, or previous seasons’ bigger wildfire seasons”. But it took a slow wildfire season to get them to say that. IOW, when it’s bad it’s climate change, but when it isn’t bad it isn’t climate change any more. Well. not until it’s bad again.

November 27, 2022 10:10 am

Randall Carlson has investigated the fires of 1871 and 1825 for being caused by a comet or meteorite …..fires described by eyewitnesses as being very fast and very hot ….not your ordinary forest fires……maybe remnants of a larger comet or meteor that hit the ice sheet 13,700 years ago.

Harri Luuppala
November 27, 2022 10:24 am

In California 95% of Wildfires are caused by Humans. Perhaps wildfires should be called Man made Forest fires a.k.a manfires?

November 27, 2022 1:19 pm

You need to put up more windmills and solar panels to avoid these unnatural disasters-
Tossing virgins into volcanoes doesn’t work.

Reply to  observa
November 27, 2022 5:58 pm

Are you certain it doesn’t work or is that just your bias speaking?

Steve Case
November 28, 2022 2:59 am

“…Earth Island Institute, sued Yosemite National Park to prevent planned tree thinning…”

Just about all you need to know about Earth Island Institute.

Pat from Kerbob
November 28, 2022 7:39 pm

2021 we had a bad fire year in BC Canada accompanied by that short heat wave.
Even today you see reports or hear people call it “unprecedented” fire season even though it only takes seconds to determine that while above average it was only 65% of the record year.

Endless narrative control.

Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
November 29, 2022 7:58 am

And the media often states thousands of statistical deaths occurred in the BC heat wave even though all the retirement homes have air conditioning….

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