Dr. Christopher Topik works for The Nature Conservancy as Director of its Restoring America’s Forests Program. Previous to his post with The Nature Conservancy he served 15 years as staff for the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, and 16 years for the U.S. Forest Service.
“The Nature Conservancy joins President Obama and Governor Hickenlooper in offering condolences to those who have lost loved ones in wildfires this year. We also express our sympathies to people who have lost their homes, and to those who have been evacuated from them, as well. There is no adequate comfort we can offer to those who experience megafires first hand.
We also can not extend enough gratitude for the dangerous job our firefighters are undertaking right now. The Nature Conservancy is pitching in with our own fire crew helping monitor and manage the Little Sands fire in Colorado.
The Nature Conservancy is very active in many local, collaborative groups that work together to find the right combination of forest treatments and community protection actions that will make us safer and make our wildlands more resilient to fires and disturbances. We are also a member of the national Fire Adapted Communities coalition, which provides tools for neighborhoods to reduce the damage of wildfires in their communities.
Beyond the emotional toll, the costs of megafires are huge. Mobilizing thousands of people, equipment, and support of emergency response to fight a single megafire represents just the tip of the iceberg. Several studies have shown the longer term damage to health, businesses, jobs, tourism, and infrastructure far outstrip the immediate costs of subduing the megafire.
We need to do a better job of managing the risk of today’s atypical megafires, because research suggests we will be seeing more of them. We already have programs at the local level, specifically Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration, that have been successful in achieving this more safely and cheaper. This is truly a case where an ounce of prevention could prevent pound of painful cure.”
Tim Sullivan is director of The Nature Conservancy of Colorado. He is a certified wildland firefighter and has been involved in the emergency response to the Flagstaff fire in Boulder.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for all of us in Colorado as we witness – from afar and, in some cases, up close - one of the most active and devastating fire seasons in state history. Our thoughts are with all of those affected by these fires. The Nature Conservancy is grateful for the hard work of the firefighters working around the clock. We share everyone’s concern for the safety of firefighters and the people directly impacted by the fires.
We are grateful for the President’s visit. By declaring the fires a national disaster, people and communities will have even more support to aid in recovery efforts.
We appreciate the President’s continued support of forest health issues. We’ve seen success with the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act with more than 4,000 acres treated and nearly 300 jobs created. It’s a step in the right direction, but these megafires show that we need to do much more and move faster. We look to local, state and national agencies to continue making forest health a priority.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
North America Forest Communications Lead