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Fire Lines: Comparing Wildfire Risk on State and U.S. Public Lands

New analysis finds wildfire risk on U.S. public lands and state public lands is equivalent

Wildfire is an ever-present reality for many communities in the Western United States. Just as hurricanes threaten the Gulf states and tornadoes the Plains states, wildfire is a natural, if sometimes dangerous, fact of life in the West.

Now, a first-of-its-kind analysis of wildfire data compares the risk of wildfire on U.S. public lands versus state-owned lands. Data show that the percent of U.S. public lands and state-owned lands at a high risk of wildfire are approximately equal, a finding in keeping with consensus among forestry experts that Western wildfires are driven primarily by natural factors and exacerbated by a warming climate.

In recent years, some elected officials have used the presence of wildfire on Western lands to scapegoat U.S. public lands managers and the agencies charged with safeguarding American-owned lands. Their claim—that wildfire is worse on U.S. public lands than state-owned lands—is misleading and not supported by available data.

In Fire Lines the Center for Western Priorities disproves claims that U.S. public lands are more at risk of wildfire than other lands and calls on policymakers to set aside baseless rhetoric to engage in pragmatic conversations, policy development, and resource allocations that protect Western communities from wildfire risks.

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