‘We are out of time:’ Destructive wildfires in Colorado will grow worse as season lengthens, scientists warn

  • Wildfire season in Colorado would normally be nearing its end by now.
  • Instead, dry conditions fueled what’s now become the state’s largest wildfire in history.
  • The unusually late and intense fire season in Colorado is part of a larger problem of worsening destruction fueled by climate change.
  • The wildfire season in the West is now 78 days longer than it was in the 1970s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.



a person is sitting in the snow: A firefighter is silhouetted as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado's history, burns outside Drake, Colorado, U.S., October 17, 2020.


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A firefighter is silhouetted as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado’s history, burns outside Drake, Colorado, U.S., October 17, 2020.

Wildfire season in Colorado would normally be nearing its end by now. Instead, dry conditions fueled what’s now become the state’s largest wildfire in history.

The Cameron Peak fire, which ignited in August, is still raging through the state, burning more than 200,000 acres and further straining already an under-resourced emergency response grappling with uncontained blazes throughout the West.

In late October, Colorado would typically experience some snowfall in the mountain regions. But dry weather and little rain, conditions exacerbated by climate change, have triggered explosive fires that have forced thousands of people to evacuate.

Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist who lives in Boulder, watched in shock as blazes and fire tornadoes from the CalWood fire tore out of the Rocky Mountains over the weekend, scorching miles of land in a matter of hours.

“To be that close to a wall of flames, it looks like the end of the world,” said Swain, who has witnessed and studied many Western wildfires but has never seen one spread so quickly.

“It’s completely overwhelming,” he added.

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Fires have burned more than 400,000 acres in Colorado during one of the worst fire seasons ever in the state. To the south, the East Troublesome fire and the Williams Fork fire are still burning, as well as the CalWood fire near Jamestown.

Fighting the Cameron Peak fire alone has cost at least $96.4 million, according to an Oct. 22 National Interagency Fire Center report.

“Climate change is here and now in Colorado,” said Jennifer Balch, director of the Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Warming is setting the stage for a lot of burning across an extended fire season.”



a truck driving down a dirt road: A Loveland Fire Rescue Authority vehicle is seen as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado's history, burns trees outside Drake, Colorado, U.S., October 17, 2020.


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A Loveland Fire Rescue Authority vehicle is seen as Cameron Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado’s history, burns trees outside Drake, Colorado, U.S., October 17, 2020.

The unusually late and rapidly intensifying fire season in Colorado is part of a larger problem of worsening fire destruction in the West.

‘We are out of time’

The 2020 season, fueled by climate change and outdated forest management plans, has taken a major toll on states like California, Washington and Oregon.

Scientists have repeatedly warned that the fires, along with other climate-fueled disasters, will continue to grow larger and more destructive as global temperatures rise and the country

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Half-measures Won’t Save Nature, Scientists Warn

Bending the curve of nature’s rapid decline will require attacking the problem aggressively along several fronts at once, leading scientists warned Thursday.

From preventing the extinction of lions and polar bears to halting the destruction of life-sustaining primary forests, only a multi-pronged plan can stitch together a “safety net” for the natural world, they argued in a peer-reviewed commentary in Science.

“It will not be enough to have, for example, an ambitious goal for reducing species extinctions if goals for ecosystems and genetic diversity are not sufficiently ambitious too,” co-author Piero Visconti, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis said in a statement.

The nature rescue plan from 60 experts worldwide is offered as a blueprint ahead of a biodiversity summit next year in China.

So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly Photo: dpa / Martin Schutt

Originally scheduled for this month, the “COP15” negotiation of nearly 200 nations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity — postponed due to the pandemic — is tasked with setting new goals.

So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly.

The planet is on the cusp of a mass extinction event in which species are disappearing at 100 to 1,000 times the normal “background” rate, most scientists agree.

Last month the WWF's biennial Living Planet Index showed that wild populations of animals, birds, fish and plants have plummeted nearly 70 percent since 1970 Last month the WWF’s biennial Living Planet Index showed that wild populations of animals, birds, fish and plants have plummeted nearly 70 percent since 1970 Photo: AFP / ROMEO GACAD

The UN’s science advisory panel for biodiversity warned in a landmark report last year that one million species face extinction, due mostly to habitat loss and over-exploitation.

Human activity, it concluded, had “severely degraded” three-quarters of ice-free land on the planet.

A score of 2020 targets set by the same UN body a decade ago — including a slowdown in habitat and species loss — have all been badly missed, according to a UN assessment last month.

Indeed environmental decline continues across a wide range of measures.

In 2019, a football pitch of primary, old-growth trees was destroyed every six seconds — about 38,000 square kilometres (14,500 square miles) in all, roughly the same as in previous years, according to satellite data.

Last month the WWF’s biennial Living Planet Index showed that wild populations of animals, birds, fish and plants have plummeted nearly 70 percent since 1970.

“We are utterly failing to protect the diversity of life on Earth,” Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of the international Earth Commission, said at the time.

“We are failing to protect the resilience of our global commons. And we are failing to ensure a stable planet for future generations,” he said.

Next year’s biodiversity summit is widely seen by experts as a make-or-break moment for halting and reversing nature’s destruction.

“All the evidence lines up to tell us that 2030 is a crucial deadline and that we must succeed in defining ambitious

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Boise Cascade Company Announces WARN Act Notice at Elgin Plywood Facility

Boise Cascade Company (“Boise Cascade”, the “Company” or “we”) (NYSE: BCC) today issued a WARN Act notice to its Elgin, Oregon employees. The Company issued the notice in order to ensure that all employees are aware it is possible the mill will have to reduce production levels beginning on or about January 1, 2021. The Elgin facility currently produces approximately 10% of the Company’s dry veneer production, the majority of which is sold as plywood and represents approximately 16% of Boise Cascade’s plywood sales.

While the demand and pricing for plywood has been favorable during 2020 and the Elgin operation was profitable during the second and third quarters, the Company’s ongoing ability to use its waste and storm water has been modified by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ). The new permit constraints create uncertainty around the future operations at the site. Boise Cascade has significantly reduced its purchases of logs for the Elgin operation considering the uncertainty created by the change in environmental constraints and possible curtailment. At the current time, the Company does not expect to have enough logs available to operate throughout the entire winter even if the open concerns with ODEQ are favorably resolved before the end of the year.

The Company will continue to evaluate plywood market conditions, log supply availability, operating costs, environmental permits, and other factors influencing the long-term viability of the Elgin plywood operation as the situation warrants.

About Boise Cascade

Boise Cascade is one of the largest producers of engineered wood products and plywood in North America and a leading U.S. wholesale distributor of building products. For more information, please visit our website at www.bc.com.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains statements that are “forward looking” within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements speak only as of the date of this press release. While they are based on the current expectations and beliefs of management, they are subject to a number of uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual events to differ from the expectations expressed in this release. Factors that could cause actual events to differ materially from forward-looking statements are discussed in greater detail in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and include, but are not limited to, prices for building products, changes in the competitive position of our products, commodity input costs, the effect of general economic conditions, the effect of COVID-19, mortgage rates and availability, housing demand, housing vacancy rates, governmental regulations, unforeseen production disruptions, as well as natural disasters. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this press release. We undertake no obligation to revise them in light of new information. Finally, we undertake no obligation to review or confirm analyst expectations or estimates that might be derived from this release.

View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201016005630/en/

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