Dear Editor,

As a mother of three and a nurse who supports families with at-risk newborns, I see firsthand the toll that smoke from Canadian wildfires is having on Michigan communities.

Air pollution from wildfires poses severe health risks, particularly for populations in our state with health vulnerabilities. In Michigan, the prevalence of asthma is higher than the national average, affecting approximately 10% of adults and 9% of children. These rates, coupled with the fine particulate matter and pollutants found in forest fire smoke, exacerbate respiratory conditions.

Forest fires aren’t just a Canadian problem –numerous wildfires burned this year across the Midwest including several dozen in the Upper Peninsula. Although fire is a natural part of ecosystems, with hotter and drier weather conditions, it demands a new approach to forest management.

To protect Michigan communities, we need leaders in Congress and the U.S. Forest Service to prioritize climate-smart forest management of our national forests. There needs to be a focus on improving forest resilience, reducing severe fire risk, and promoting healthy ecosystems. By improving the resilience of national forests, we can mitigate the intensity and severity of wildfires, safeguarding public health.

We need a comprehensive and coordinated effort to do this. I don’t want my children or children under my care breathing in unnecessary smoke from fires year after year. And with the right leadership in Washington, D.C., on this issue, they won’t have to.

— Suzanne Steinrueck
South Haven, MI