‘Thin it or watch it burn’: How Washington is chewing up trees and spitting out resilient landscapes

  • Source: Crosscut
  • Published: 10/10/2019 12:00 AM

The trees are really dense along a stretch of bumpy, narrow road outside Cle Elum in Kittitas County. After years of keeping fire off the landscape, the forest has grown close together. That means there’s more fuel when a wildfire does burn through this area. “The density of this, it’s just a wall. It’s a giant wall,” said Kyle Smith, forest manager with The Nature Conservancy of Washington. Forest managers are using a tool to help bring this area back to how it was 100 years ago. The tool is about the size of a tractor, with a spinning rod of metal teeth. “If you can imagine like mowing [a] lawn ... with a sweet riding lawn mower but out in the forest, it’s something like that,” said Connor Craig, who owns Wildfire Fuel Protection. The bumper of his company rig — parked nearby — reads, “Thin it or watch it burn.” Craig isn’t just hacking down these trees. Forest managers have a plan.


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