Author: Avery Ellfeldt

Wildfire risk maps haven’t kept up with wildfire risks

Source(s): Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

Many states haven’t been able to keep their wildfire risk maps up to date, even as global warming increases the danger, because of funding constraints

For years, Colorado’s wildfire risk map was so inaccurate that state officials all but ignored it.

It was long outdated, especially in the state’s western half. There, but unmarked on the map, was more than 3 million acres of forest where mountain pine beetles had killed lodgepole, limber and ponderosa pines — transforming the forest floor into a tinderbox of dead kindling.

“We were supposed to use” the map, said Carolina Manriquez, a lead forester with the state’s forest service. “But we weren’t using it because it didn’t reflect what we knew to be.”

Fast forward to last July. After an infusion of $480,000 in state funds, Colorado unveiled a new map that included a host of updates, such as the pine beetle damage and a greater emphasis on many now-densely populated mountain towns.

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