Impact of “defensible space” on wildlife and ecosystems

I have serious concerns about the suggestion that we embrace Firewise’s “defensible space” concept

Derek Churchill, one of our state’s foremost authorities on wildfire in forest ecosystems, makes many excellent points about wildfire risk in our region (“Understanding wildfire risk in Western Washington,” June 13). As Derek points out, the probability of wildfire in Western Washington, while increasing, is still very low. And I deeply appreciate that he urged us to reduce our carbon footprint if we want to address the impact of longer and drier summers and the concomitant risk to our western forests.

However, I have serious concerns about the suggestion that we embrace Firewise’s “defensible space” concept in Western Washington. Firewise’s focus is only on protecting human property and safety and fails to consider the impact of “defensible space” on wildlife habitat and other ecosystem functions. While we all value our safety, those of us who have chosen to live in or next to forests not only enjoy the beauty and quiet of such an ecosystem but have also, thoughtfully or not, assumed certain risks.

Clearing a 50- to 150-foot buffer in the forests around our houses, as Firewise suggests, would have a profound impact on these ecosystems. The area of a circle with a 150-foot radius around a point is a little more than 1.6 acres. If we multiply that figure by the number of homes in the woods on Vashon, large amounts of forestland would be transformed into non-forest. And if we apply this calculation to Western Washington as a whole, … well, you get the idea.

Implementing Firewise’s “defensible space” in Western Washington represents an extreme response to a low-probability event. It would be particularly harmful to do so now – at a time when wildlife species are facing unprecedented habitat loss and degradation, stresses that are only exacerbated by a warming planet.

—Jim Evans




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@vashonbeachcomber.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.vashonbeachcomber.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Letters to the Editor

Truth, Honor, Dignity, Compassion, Courage, Love

Too few people are trying, for one reason or another, to understand what those six words mean.

Newspapers are community

The Beachcomber may not be the best deal, but it is the “deal” that we have on the island.

Time is running out to flatten “human curve”

The pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented reduction in pollution, congestion and other maladies.

If you have the means, stimulate Vashon

Please consider donating some or all of your stimulus money to VashonBePrepared to help our own.

Vashon nonprofits shine on Voice of Vashon

“We aim to be the nonprofit that supports all other island nonprofits.”

Making the best out of circumstances

The faculty at Chautauqua have done a great job during these tumultuous days.

Renew car tabs online

Customers are encouraged to renew their license tabs online.

Unity Rally canceled

The Indivisible Vashon leadership team has decided to cancel the August 8, 2020, Unity Rally.

Support full-day ECEAP

I am witness to significant improvement in children participating in the program.

Support Ace Hardware, but stay away if you’re ill

We are here to support you; please support us.

Thank you, Vashon, for driving less

As my dad used to say, “Life could be like this.”

Make payments with community in mind

A suggestion for how to use federal COVID-19 payments.