Build in a Fire Plain, Get What You Deserve

Photo Source Robert Couse-Baker | CC BY 2.0

My girlfriend and I are trying to figure out a place to live, build a cabin. Somewhere in our native country probably, in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the land we know best, beloved to us. We live in one of the fastest-depopulating counties in New York State, and thank god for that.

First step in cabin-building: understand the land, know its history, and try to predict where it’s headed in the age of climate change. Don’t build in a deluge-prone valley. Many naifs before us have done so, not expecting two-hundred-year floods could flourish in our lifetime. Witness the hurricane-rains that swept through the Catskills in recent years, wiping out homes, storefronts, villages.

Second, related to the cognizance of floods: read the average hydrology, walk the streams, look for the springs, know where the water flows, and where it likely won’t.   We will need good water in the future, when it becomes scarce. We don’t want too much water but just enough for sustenance now and in the long term for subsistence.

Third: recognize that some ecosystems are fire-dependent, and will always be so. The deciduous forests of the northeast, humid, rain-tossed, do not fall under this rubric.

Fourth: consider that there are stupid popular places to set up shop that are incentivized by being alluring but also cheap, because no one – not the buyer, not the seller, not anyone in the deal – is thinking about the long term.

In arid…

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