Most wildfires in montane (mountainous) forests and shrublands of the western United States are ecologically beneficial and needed for the proper function and maintenance of fire-dependent biota. Unfortunately, many decision-makers view fire as “catastrophic” and believe it to be increasing beyond historical bounds. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a deficit of wildfire acresin most western montane forests as compared to historical times due primarily to fire suppression. Although historical data using comparable tracking metrics are lacking on a subset of the very large fires (“mega-fires”), there has been no significant upward trend in these fires detected in the past 15 years, although longer timelines are needed for meaningful conclusions.
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