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#OnPointListens: Talking Wildfires And A Changing Climate In Spokane

Tom Ashbrook is in Spokane, Washington for On Point’s national listening tour talking with locals about this tough wildfire season and our changing climate.

All this year, we’ve had On Point out on the road, listening to Americans working to make sense of this moment in our politics, our country.  We’ve been north, south, east, Midwest… and this time we are way west, in Spokane.  Spokane is in the west’s roaring wildfire zone, and this year the burning has been epic.  In Oregon, Washington, Montana and beyond – fires and smoke all over.  And lots of conversation about why.  This hour On Point:  we’re in Spokane on our national listening tour, talking wildfire. –Tom Ashbrook


Sue Lani Madsen, an architect and goat rancher who writes a weekly column on local and rural issues for the Spokesman-Review. Has served as an EMT/Firefighter for more than 25 years. (@SueLaniMadsen)

Cody Desautel, natural resource director for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. Has 22 years of wildland fire experience, from fighting fires to completing programs in technical fire management.

Peter Goldmark, teaches at Evergreen State College in the Masters of Environmental Studies program. Completed two terms as the elected Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands. (@PGoldmark)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic: Has Climate Change Intensified 2017’s Western Wildfires?— “Fires have not only been increasing in size due to climate change. In the early 20th century, state and federal governments began aggressively fighting wildfires and trying to keep them as small as possible. This has caused denser and more fire-prone forests than the long-term average for the West, which has led to more massive and uncontrollable fires. People have also lengthened the season by starting fires—through errant fireworks, unattended campfires, or arson—earlier in the spring and later in the fall. In a human-free environment, fires could only start after a lightning strike, which only follow from summertime thunderstorms.”

The Associated Press: Forest Service Spends Record $2B Battling Forest Fires — “Wildfires have ravaged the West this summer with 64 large fires burning across 10 states as of Thursday, including 21 fires in Montana and 18 in Oregon. In all, 48,607 wildfires have burned nearly 13,000 square miles. The fires have stretched firefighting resources, destroyed more than 500 homes and triggered health alerts as choking smoke drifted into major Western cities.”

The Seattle Times: Forests West Of The Cascades Will See More Fires, Bigger Fires With Climate Change — “The fires are less frequent than in drier forests, but the burn cycles are not etched in stone. They reflect a climate that scientists forecast to undergo big changes in the decades ahead as global combustion of fossil fuels warms the Earth. In the Pacific Northwest, climate models indicate that average summer temperatures will warm later in this century by 4.7 degrees to 6.5 degrees compared with the last half of the 20th century.”

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Tom Ashbrook and panelists in Spokane, Washington on Friday, September 22, 2017. (Janean Jorgensen/Spokane Public Radio)
Tom Ashbrook and panelists in Spokane, Washington on Friday, September 22, 2017. (Janean Jorgensen/Spokane Public Radio)