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- Climate forecasts indicate that the South’s spring and fall wildfire seasons will be extended.
- Prescribed fires, currently conducted on roughly a 3 to 5 year rotation across much of the South, would need to become more frequent if conditions become drier.
- Major wildfire events, such as the 2007 Okefenokee wildfires, 2008 Evans Road Fire in eastern North Carolina, and recent west Texas fire seasons, are also likely to occur more often. Such events currently occur once every 50 years; however they could be more frequent in a warmer/drier climate.
- Land use change will have the most immediate effects on fuels and wildland fire management by constraining prescribed burning and increasing suppression complexity and cost.
- Air quality issues will likely increase restrictions on prescribed burning over large areas, not just in the wildland-urban interface.
- Potential health and safety concerns, in addition to air quality restrictions, will add to the regulatory constraints on use of prescribed burning.
- Alternatives to prescribed burning are generally not costeffective and do not provide the ecological benefits of fire to adapted ecosystems; nor do they provide adequate protection for structures and human communities.
- Restrictions on use of prescribed burning to manage fuels will exacerbate potential climate change effects, particularly in the Coastal Plain and on the western Appalachian Mountains, where models predict an increase in wildfire potential.
- Fuels buildups combined with more intense wildfires under a warmer, drier climate could severely degrade fire-dependent communities that often support one or more threatened, endangered, or sensitive species.
- In addition to increasing the severity of wildfire events, the drier conditions and increased variability in precipitation that are associated with climate change could hamper successful forest regeneration and cause shifts in vegetation types over time.