The Forest Service’s boots-on-the-ground ranks have been decimated over the last 15 years. Lots of new people will need to be hired and trained. It will take at least a decade to restore the skill sets needed to do the necessary forest restoration work at the required pace and scale. Fire ecologists I know tell me we have a 30-year window before wildfire takes what we have not treated. If we accept 90 million acres restored as our 30-year target, we need to thin three million acres annually.
We need to build a more diverse audience composed of people who recreate in our national forests and people who would if they didn’t live thousands of miles away in places like Manhattan and Washington, D.C. Somehow, we need to find ways to close the cultural chasms that have distanced urban American from its rural roots – our shared heritage.