by Sarah Yang
Scott Stephens, assistant professor of fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Natural Resources, will testify Friday at the first congressional hearing on the 2003 Southern California wildfires, which burned more than 739,000 acres of land and killed 26 people. He will discuss resource management strategies to prevent future wildfires.
The hearing, called by the U.S. House of Representatives Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, comes two days after President Bush signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act into law. Stephens says the legislation would have had little impact on the recent wildfires because approximately 90 percent of the burned area was chapparal and shrublands, not forests, and most of the land that burned was privately owned. Complicating the reduction of fire hazards in Southern California forests is the lack of biomass utilization facilities in this region. He warns that more attention needs to be paid to reducing shrubland fire hazards in areas that border urban developments.
Stephens is part of the newly expanded UC Berkeley Fire Program, one of the biggest university-based fire research programs in the country. Managed by the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, the program brings together faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists with internationally recognized expertise in such fields as ecology, biodiversity, atmospheric sciences, soils and resource policy. Details about the program, and the text of Stephens' testimony, are available online at http://nature.berkeley.edu/forestry/fire.