Homes Built on the Fringes of Forests


In the Bitterroot Valley of Western Montana, a house under construction in a setting that is increasingly desired by homeowners and frustrating to firefighters.

So many things are changing yet so many stay the same. We noted earlier that the Southwest is the fastest growing part of the US even though there is no water; the same drought and heat is causing massive increases in the number and size of forest fires, yet more and more people are building as close to the woods as possible. According to the New York Times: "It's like ocean frontage," said Larry Swanson, an economist at the University of Montana in Missoula who studies public lands. "You would not have these high private property values without the public lands nearby, and the public lands are a huge part of the package that is driving the growth trends."

A new generation of Americans is moving to places perched on the edge of vast, undeveloped government lands in the West and living out a dangerous experiment, many of them ignorant of the risk.

Their migration — more than 8.6 million new homes in the West within 30 miles of a national forest since 1982, according to research at the University of Wisconsin — has coincided with profound environmental changes that have worsened the fire hazard, including years of drought, record-setting heat and forest management policies that have allowed brush and dead trees to build up.

"It's like a tsunami, this big wave of development that's rolling toward the public lands," said Volker C. Radeloff, a professor of forest ecology and management at the University of Wisconsin. "And the number of fires keeps going up."

Read together with our post on development in drought areas and you wonder if it is time that we realized that land use planning is too important to our future to be left to the local level, it is time for national policies . ::New York Times

Tags: Drought | Montana

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