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USDA

Some ecologists are calling for allowing more forest fires to burn because they are "essential to improving the long-term health of the forests," according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The U.S. Forest Service reports more than 73,000 wildfires burn about 7 million acres of federal, tribal, state, and private land each year. Historically, however, scientists believe that 20 to 30 million acres burned each year in what is now the U.S. prior to colonization. Many kinds of plants and animals thrive in newly-burned forests, and by rushing to put them out, they could be endangered.

However, forest fires threaten nearby communities. Ecologists and forest managers are seeking a balance between fears about public safety and the ecological benefits of wildfires.

The costs: The NYT reports that federal and state firefighting costs have neared two billion dollars. The National Interagency Fire Center reports there were 15 firefighter fatalities in 2016 due to forest fires. Some scientists suggest money should be "redirected from firefighting into projects like fireproofing homes."

Go deeper

17 mins ago - Podcasts

Podcast: After the Biden inaugural

Joe Biden was sworn in today as America's 46th president in an inauguration unlike any other in modern history.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into the speech, the atmosphere and what it all tells us about the incoming administration, with Axios political reporters Hans Nichols and Alexi McCammond.

Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Representatives from all branches of the military escort the 46th president to the White House.