A new study notes again that the amount of wildfire occurring in the western U.S. remains far below the acreage burning when native Americans were not managing the ecology. The context is not to debunk modern beliefs about how superior native Americans were, but to talk about water.
Most immigration into the west happened because there were fewer wildfires, and that was the result of responsible land management - building water infrastructure and clearing dead trees and brush. But there are limits to how many people can be sustained with existing water. California is at 37 million legal residents and hasn't built major water infrastructure since the 1960s. Desalination plants are met with environmental resistance and lawsuits. That leaves wildfires in the news, because houses in risky areas have been built where there is little natural water.
The authors dutifully invoke climate change as a risk factor but the elephant in that room is energy. With real clean energy like nuclear and natural gas, not solar and wind subsidized token efforts, the 98 percent of water that is not usable can be converted cost effectively.
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- The Toll Of Wildfire On Forest Soils