Five weeks of sheltering in place has been good for the environment, but two local experts—a wildfire scientist and a public policy scholar—both of whom study long-term trends, predict that our region will revert to pre-pandemic pollution levels. It’s possible we could also see a few long-term policy changes intended to put a dent in the damage.
A burning issue
Normally, spring is the season for prescribed burns. Each year in the U.S., between 2 and 6 million acres of forest are set on fire intentionally, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center. This is in order to reduce fuel buildup to prevent larger fires.
But in 2020, the year COVID-19 changed everything, it also changed fire management—for now, at least. In March, the U.S. Forest Service halted prescribed burns in Nevada, California and other Western states.