As firefighters battle blazes in New Mexico and Colorado that have forced evacuations and destroyed hundreds of structures, the U.S. Forest Service chief is renewing his call to restore forests to a more natural state, where fire was a part of the landscape.
Experts say a combination of decades of vigorous fire suppression and the waning of the timber industry over environmental concerns has left many forests a tangled, overgrown mess, subject to the kind of super-fires that are now regularly consuming hundreds of homes and millions of acres.
The Forest Service is on a mission to set the clock back to zero and the urgency couldnt be greater. The plan calls for accelerating restoration programs everything from prescribed fire and mechanical thinning by 20 percent each year in key areas that are facing the greatest danger of a catastrophic fire.
This years target: 4 million acres. The budget: About $1 billion.