Protecting clean water is an urgent issue in the West, especially given the region’s years-long drought. Record wildfire seasons are putting more strain on this already scarce resource.
A recent report from the American Forest Foundation (AFF): Western Water Threatened by Wildfire: It’s Not Just a Public Lands Issue, highlights the important role states can play in empowering landowners to protect the headwaters that supply millions of Westerners with clean water.
Healthy forests are key to a healthy water supply. Healthy forests act as a natural water filter and storage system. When wildfires burn at catastrophic levels, they can destroy this. While only 31% of the West is forested, 65% of the public water supply comes from these forests.
Nearly 40% of the lands in important watersheds that are at a high risk of wildfire, are private and family owned. This is more than 13.5 million acres.
Western private and family landowners are motivated to act. Yet, relatively few have taken action to reduce their risk. Three out of four cite the high cost of implementing management actions as a barrier.