Researchers, government officials, students and others gathered Thursday to dive deep into the complexities of forest management and fire science at an annual symposium held in Bend.
The three-day event includes presentations and discussions along with field trips scheduled on Saturday in the Deschutes National Forest and other parts of Central Oregon.
About 70 people attended morning presentations Thursday at Willie Hall on the Bend campus of Central Oregon Community College.
Tim Ingalsbee, a co-director with the Association for Fire Ecology, an organization that promotes fire science in land management, said the event brings together many different perspectives and provides an opportunity for everyone to “learn from each other.”
Researchers presented various outcomes for the forest landscape of Central Oregon in the 21st century based on management styles, wildfire potential, population increases and climate change.
Eric White, a social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, discussed how different forest management philosophies affect the overall landscape. He presented a study that surveyed small and large landowners, both public and private.
One of the differences shown in the study was how federal land managers approached wildfires compared with industrial private forestland owners.
White said the large private landowners practice full wildfire suppression and don’t want any burning to occur on their land. Federal forest management tries to suppress fire as needed while protecting structures and homes.
Some of the management techniques used on federal land include thinning, prescribed burns and mastication, which is a technique that grinds up small trees and shrubs that are left on the forest floor. The intention is to make the landscape more resilient to fire with large trees and open space.
“That (resilient landscape) increases markedly on Forest Service land and state land, and a little bit of a decline on corporate land in 50 years,” said White.
Ana Barros, a postdoctoral scholar with the OSU College of Forestry, presented wildfire scenarios in Central Oregon in the 21st century based on climate change and increased global temperatures.
Management and “treatment” of forest areas with prescribed burns, mastication and thinning are expected to play an important role based on simulated changes to the climate.
Barros said in the scenarios some fires didn’t occur in Central Oregon because of current management techniques while others were less severe because of the techniques.
“It seems like managing can help and somehow curb that upward trend that you get under climate change,” said Barros.
The Central Oregon Fire Science Symposium continues today from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at COCC. A $25 fee is required for one-day registration.
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