Forest fire smoke emissions far outweigh energy emissions | TSLN.com

Forest fire smoke emissions far outweigh energy emissions

Smoke emissions from all of the fires this summer pose health hazards, including real problems for people with heart and lung disease. Photo by Sarah Swenson

Even with the recent rain and snow across much of Montana, fires are still consuming thousands of acres of Montana's forests, and some won't see containment until the end of the month. Not only are the fires rolling through forests, but smoke emissions from all of the fires pose health hazards, including real problems for people with heart and lung disease. According to a study released Sept. 9, by the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, more than 813,000 acres have burned in Montana, releasing well over 7 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

"What we find hypocritical is that the same people who believe human activity is causing too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the same people who oppose proper forest management," notes Jake Cummins, Executive Vice President, Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF). "If you look at the Wildfire Smoke Emissions report, along with the release of high levels of carbon dioxide are extremely high levels of carbon monoxide (530,00 tons), methane (27,000 tons) and a variety of other compounds that are considered harmful."

Cummins points out the majority of carbon dioxide emissions came from fires in forests. "When you look at the fire update websites to see what's burning in our forested areas, it's basically thick concentrations of trees, heavy underbrush and beetle kill," Cummins explains. "It's ironic that if forests had been logged and managed properly instead of logging being banned or tied up in court, there would be a lot less fires and a lot less pollution."

To put fire emissions in perspective, based on a report to the EPA titled 'Development of Emission Inventory Methods for Wildland Fire' by EC/R Inc. in Feb 2002, the current Ash Creek and Horse Creek fires (as of July 4, were 250,000 acres), these two fires released an estimated 10,500 tons of particulate which is more than 20 times what all four Colstrip Units emit in a full year, or put differently, the Ash Creek and Horse Creek fires in the Colstrip area have emitted more particulate than all four Colstrip Units would emit in 20 years.

“What we find hypocritical is that the same people who believe human activity is causing too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are the same people who oppose proper forest management,”
- Jake Cummins

In comments the Montana Department of Environmental Quality made to the EPA on the Regional Haze Rule, they requested EPA include wildfires as part of the baseline in evaluating haze impacts from industrial sources.

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"The EPA, along with those opposed to power plants, need to realize that these fires are examples of how in Montana, non man-made impacts to haze far outweigh the contribution to haze from industrial sources," Cummins said.

"Of course there will always be fires when we have a dry year, especially in forests, and a fire can be good for an ecosystem in the long run, but by using managed logging and grazing, we can reduce the fires and in turn, reduce the pollutants from these natural causes," Cummins concluded. "Let's put some common-sense forest management in place before we have another summer like 2012."

–MT Farm Bureau

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