Controlled burn plans in works for 3 Utah national forests

SALT LAKE CITY — For decades, the U.S. Forest Service’s practice of putting out wildfires was a huge success. But the policy backfired, setting the stage for the massive destructive wildfires that have flared with increasing regularity across the West.

While putting out fires remains a priority, deliberately setting them is becoming more common, especially in Utah, as a more cost-effective and ecologically sound strategy for fixing forest health, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The pitfalls of fire suppression are evident across Monroe Mountain in central Utah. The plateau’s historically abundant aspen stands are disappearing under thickets of fir and other conifers that have long impeded fresh aspen growth that should be succeeding the aging trees, but aren’t.

In the hopes of restoring the historic role of fire, at least three Utah national forests plan to sharply expand the use of “prescribed fire” to nurse sickly forests back to health.