It is common knowledge that Utah’s air quality is degraded by a number of sources, and is severely exacerbated by wildfires. While many wildfires can be reduced by removing burnable material (biomass) from the forest floor, removal is often carried out by prescribed burns, which further degrade air quality.
A recently published scientific study concludes that prescribed burning activities are more detrimental for air quality and health, and that the biomass can be used as biofuel, wood chips and mulch with co-benefits of improved air quality, reduction in health impacts and improved visibility. The study can be found in the prestigious Journal of Air & Waste Management Association: "Impacts of Prescribed Fires and Benefits from their Reduction for Air Quality, Health and Visibility in the Pacific Northwest of the United States."
Because there is little economic incentive for commercial removal of forest floor biomass, the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands could and should implement its own removal program, much like the state of Oregon is preparing for. The U.S. Forest Service should also implement such a program; in doing so, seasonal employees would benefit by their annual term of employment being extended.
Robin V. Davis, Salt Lake City