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Government Fiddles, Our Nationís Forests Burn ^ | July 25, 2013 | H. Sterling Burnett

Posted on 07/25/2013 8:42:44 AM PDT by Kaslin

This year it’s the sight of thousands of firefighters, police, political dignitaries and others gathered for a memorial service for 19 firefighters killed in a single deadly incident. Last year it was images of more than 34,000 people being forced to flee their homes before walls of flame from 12 separate fires, once again in Colorado. Year after year it seems the news is flooded with tragically horrific stories of wildfires during the spring and summer seasons that burn millions of acres, destroying property and costing lives. And year after year politicians like Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pontificate about climate change as the cause of wildfires – shame on them!

Wildfires are an entirely natural phenomenon. However, the size, intensity and harm caused annually by the past two decade s’ forest fires have been greatly enhanced by human activities and inactivity – federal mismanagement of our national forests are to blame. The success of the Smokey the Bear program over multiple decades of suppressing wildfires resulted in overgrown forests. The simple fact is, when forests aren’t allowed to burn periodically, fuel -- trees and brush – builds up which results in more fires burning at hotter temperatures. By-contrast, Pre-Columbian forests were intensively managed by Native Americans in the East and Northwest who used fire and timber harvesting to manage wildlife populations, provide building materials, and allow farming. The great herds of migrating Buffalo and the regular burning of the plains, both natural and set by Native Americans, provided new grass for the bison and suppressed most tree growth on the Great Plains and plateaus of the Mountain West.

In fairness, fire suppression is not the sole cause for the current state of affairs. Too many trees, too much brush, and bureaucratic regulations and lawsuits filed by environmental extremists also are to blame. Since President Reagan, administration after administration has overseen a rapid decline of logging in the national forests along with thousands of miles of logging road closures (making it difficult to reach fires with equipment and enough manpower). Over the past two decades, timber harvests in the 155 national forests have plunged 80 percent from 12 billion board feet per year in the 1980s to less than 2.4 billion board feet per year. The result is unnaturally dense underbrush and tree growth – prime for fueling more intense wildfires at a rapid rate. Historically, large ponderosa pines in the Western national forests grew in stands of 20 to 55 trees per acre; today they grow in densities of 300 to 900 trees per acre. National forests in California have an estimated 10 to 20 times more trees than is "natural" — making them dangerously overcrowded.

Twenty years ago, a wildfire exceeding 100,000 acres was deemed to be catastrophic. Today, such large-scale fires are the rule rather than the exception. In 1998 there were more than 81,000 wildfires, burning some 1.3 million acres nationwide [?]. But in 2007, nearly 86,000 fires burned well over nine million acres. By 2011, more than 74,000 fires left 8.7 million acres in cinders – below 2007’s amount but still well above the average. Today, the U.S. Forest Service estimates that more than 190 million acres of public land are at risk of catastrophic fires, including 60 percent our national forests.

Overcrowding exacerbates the devastation by changing the nature of the fires themselves. Forests lacking active management, including logging, facemore high-intensity/high temperature fires that destroy the trees, saplings, seeds and microbes in the soil itself. Overcrowded conditions are aggravated by years of drought, insect infestations and disease, adding to the severity of fires.

Decades worth of excessive fuel, and thus the fire hazard, can be reduced in four ways. First is to use mechanical thinning of vegetation and logging. Second, implement managed “controlled” burns which, the Los Alamos fires of 2000 taught us, are inherently risky unless there has been some logging of the site before the fires are set. Failing to choose one of these options leaves only the “Burn Baby Burn” option that we are currently witnessing.

[Is this the third option?]There is, fourth, more radical response to the problem of forest mismanagement – end federal ownership or control over all but the most sensitive, environmentally unique public lands. Many, and perhaps most, of the problems detailed above could be remedied by applying ownership principles to the management of national forests. There is no compelling reason to keep properties that are not environmentally unique or significant in the public domain, rather than sell them to private parties (individuals, companies or nonprofit organizations).

Surely as an experiment, the United States can safely and perhaps profitably sell some of the hundreds of millions of acres of federal land. For example, portions of national forests could be sold for market value. If there is one private owner of land abutting the property, it could first be offered to that owner for continuity of management. If that landowner is not interested or the forest abuts state lands or multiple private properties, it could be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Forest product companies, sportsmen's clubs and environmental groups would likely buy certain forested lands. Undoubtedly the range of interests bidding on the forests would be limited only by location, access and the imagination of the bidders. Some of these lands will likely be developed. And while they will no longer be public forests, many and perhaps most will be managed in ways that protect their natural character because forest companies have an incentive to manage their forests in sustainable ways, which enhances both their environmental and economic value. Unlike the federal government, private companies do not have the general treasury to bail out money-losing operations and therefore do not build uneconomical roads in ecologically fragile areas to cut down uneconomical trees. Furthermore, privatizing public lands would have the additional benefit of improving the tax base in rural areas and reducing the strain on the federal budget.

Private property owners have flexibility in managing their lands, whereas federal forest management is too often hampered by rigidity. For example, when a wildfire struck near Storrie, California, in August 2000, more than 55,000 acres burned, mostly in the Plumas National Forest (28,000 acres) and Lassen National Forest (27,000 acres). Also burned were about 3,200 acres of private forestland managed by W.M. Beaty and Associates. However, the responses of Beaty and the Forest Service couldn't have been more different. By 2001, Beaty foresters had:

· Reduced the chance of a future catastrophic wildfire by removing smaller dead trees and woody material - generating enough clean biomass fuel to fuel 3,600 homes for a year.

· Harvested larger dead trees suitable for lumber processing - amounting to 64.5 million board feet, enough to build 4,300 homes.

· Spent millions of dollars to reforest the burned land, planting nearly one million seedlings of seven different tree species.

By contrast:

· The Forest Service removed dead trees and other fuels from only 1,206 acres and replanted 230 acres in the Lassen National Forest.

· In the Plumas National Forest, the Forest Service was prevented from removing dead trees and reforestation occurred on only 181 acres.

This comparative result is common.

Our forests, those who live near them, those who fight the fires, and the public who use the forests and pay the bills, deserve a forest policy that places public safety, economic well-being and fiscal responsibility above the flawed ideal of “letting nature take its course.” It’s time for the Government to stop fiddling as our forests burn, and tend to the public good. It must increase and expedite logging with vital reforestation programs, especially in forests where more standing timber is dead or dying than growing.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government

1 posted on 07/25/2013 8:42:44 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Let’s face - all of our Federal Govt. bureaucracies have turned into nothing more than a jobs program - those who want to do a better job are thwarted at every turn.

2 posted on 07/25/2013 8:52:40 AM PDT by Sioux-san
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To: Kaslin

Little secret here is they are suppose to burn. That is how God intended them to replenish themselves. Man stepped in and started building houses in canyons and forests without much foresight.

Here in Texas they build in these canyons, but whether it be enviro wackos or people just wanting to keep the brush, they don’t thin it out and voila along comes a fire. Same thing in Colorado. You cannot beat nature.

3 posted on 07/25/2013 8:55:12 AM PDT by Resolute Conservative
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To: Sioux-san; Kaslin

The one line that sums it all up is government management of the forests. That’s all you need to know. Government couldn’t manage a 2-car funeral.

4 posted on 07/25/2013 9:06:19 AM PDT by Pining_4_TX (All those who were appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48)
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To: Pining_4_TX
When is the last time Boise-Cascade or Georgia-Pacific had a major fire in one of the forests which they own?
5 posted on 07/25/2013 9:37:47 AM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
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To: Kaslin

The beautiful trees in the Black Hills of South Dakota are being decimated by the pine bark beetle whose spread was hastened by government policies that prohibited thinning of the forests. Now vast areas are being clear cut and the logs being burned to contain the beetle. Too bad government management of the forests didn’t allow limited logging allowing the pines to be turned into useful lumber and the forests thinned to contain the spread of the infestation.

6 posted on 07/25/2013 9:50:21 AM PDT by The Great RJ (construction)
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To: Pining_4_TX

“Government couldn’t manage a 2-car funeral.”

Agreed but it leaves me to ask, could government manage a ONE car funeral? I am not at all certain the answer is yes.

7 posted on 07/25/2013 10:16:00 AM PDT by RipSawyer (I was born on Earth, what planet is this?)
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To: Sioux-san

I most cases, it is not the fault of the US Forest Service.
They try to manage the forest. They put up the sections for sale in a public bid process. The preservationist groups(not environmentalists) file an injunction in federal court to stop the sale. The longer the sale is held up, in the case of the beetle killed pine, the less value there is in harvesting it for the sawmill. Eventually, it is worthless. This is the goal many times. They know they can not stop the sales forever, because they have no surrogate like the spotted owl as cause to hold up the sale. Therefore, they know if they can delay it long enough, in the case of the dead timber(ponderosa or lodge pole pine)the mills will not want it.

They would rather all of it burn down. If your house happens to be in the way, tough sh*t. That is natures way.

8 posted on 07/25/2013 10:16:09 AM PDT by woodbutcher1963
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To: Vigilanteman

Never, because as soon as there are lightning strikes on their property, they get the helicopter up, spot the fire, drop off the fire fighters and put it out.

Meanwhile, the forest service is deciding whether they should put it out OR just let it burn.

9 posted on 07/25/2013 10:22:03 AM PDT by woodbutcher1963
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To: The Great RJ

South Dakota trees, like those in Colorado, suffer from DDT deficiency

10 posted on 07/25/2013 11:31:28 AM PDT by Balding_Eagle (When America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: woodbutcher1963

My brother works for the USForest Service, and he would agree with you.

11 posted on 07/25/2013 2:53:40 PM PDT by Sioux-san
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To: Kaslin
Really really good book on the subject, photos taken a century apart all over the sierras.

12 posted on 07/25/2013 3:24:09 PM PDT by Slicksadick (Go out on a limb........Its where the fruit is.)
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To: Kaslin

Our fine Muslim friends promised to torch Aerica’s forrests.

Perhaps they meant it?

Nah - Obama’s sez dem Muslims be gud boyz.

13 posted on 07/25/2013 8:09:36 PM PDT by GladesGuru (Islam is antithetical to, and Islam is irreconcilable with, America. Therefore - Islam Delenda Est)
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