The next issue of the Montana Business Quarterly will feature research by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research into the amount of carbon dioxide released by Montana’s fire seasons between 2003 and 2015.

"On average, during those years, about 300,000 acres burned in Montana and, on average, the amount of CO2 emitted from those fires is estimated to be, approximately, 5.7 million tons," Barkey said.

To put 5.7 million tons of CO2 into perspective Barkey compares it to the output of the Colstrip coal power plant.

"If you look at emissions from coal, you had in Colstrip for example, about 17 million tons, so, just on average, wildfires, which occur just during a certain time of the year, come up to a total which is about a third of what coal emits," Barkey said

Even though fire season only lasts a few months, Barkey says the amount of CO2 released during bad fire years like 2003 and 2007 was on par with Colstrip for a whole year. The numbers for 2017’s fire season have not yet been factored, but the number of acres burned is up over a million.

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