Tale of two forests: While U.S. struggles with wildfire, Mexican forests rarely do

By Ron Dungan
Published: Monday, October 23, 2023 - 4:44pm
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2023 - 10:18pm

Arizona and the Western United States have struggled with big wildfires in recent years.

Mexico’s ecosystem is similar to Arizona’s, but a Northern Arizona University researcher says it has not had a problem with large blazes in its ponderosa forests.

Although the regions have similar forests, they have different histories.

The U.S. has managed its timber on a federal level, to turn a profit.

Mexican communities cared for their forests on a local level and took a longer view, said Chris Boyer, a history professor at NAU.

He said that the approach to logging south of the border was to cut some trees but let others remain.

"Yes, they cut down the trees, but they would cut down one, and leave one. Cut down one and leave one. And this, as it turns out, is better for the forest," Boyer said.

"Which is, essentially, what we now recognize as the best way of maintaining forest health, in ponderosa forests and indeed in coniferous forests everywhere," he said.

He told listeners at an Arizona Humanities program that the U.S. has recently adopted new fire management practices that could improve forest health in the long run.

Environment Wildfires