America’s intense focus on western wildfires has recently centered on one question: Does it matter if they are being caused by climate change? While Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has drawn attention for his comments suggesting that it doesn’t much matter, others have also made a similar case. After all, if we have broad agreement on the major actions needed in our forests, do we need to agree on the root cause?
While this line of thinking is not ill-intentioned for our forests, it could be nothing less than a death sentence for them. It is absolutely essential that every single action we take in our forests is informed by our best projection of future climate change. Instead of restoring forests to some former condition, we actually need to “pre-store” them to thrive in a different and often harsher future climate than they face today. That shift in mindset will make all of the difference.