Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Government Policy on Forest Fires: Burn Baby, Burn

In the hot, dry and windy western states, forest fires are a hugely destructive and deadly problem. The federal government outright owns 650 million acres of the US landmass or about 30%, including most of the western states.

These lands are controlled and managed by various federal agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the US Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Bureau of Reclamation or the Tennessee Valley Authority.

If a forest fire breakout in western states, the federal government steps in to manage the situation. Apparently, the government is doing an awful when it comes to putting out forest fires.

In Colorado wildfires, ‘worst in state history’, why won’t the Forest Service use the biggest firefighting tool available?
AP labels the 2012 Colorado wildfires worst in state history....

This year the U.S. Forest Aervice will spend north of a billion dollars fighting forest fires across America. Billions of dollars worth of trees owned by the American people will go up in flames. And a $50 million dollar airplane that could put those fires out faster sits on the ground in Arizona because the U.S. Forest Service refuses to hire Evergreen Aviation. Now you may be saying, “There must be a good reason”. That’s what I thought, but then I remembered that government is capable of multibillion dollar stupidity on a daily basis. The Forest Service offers no explanation whatsoever.

And Evergreen Aviation points out that their 747 supertanker fire fighting plane has been hired by Mexico and Israel to fight fires and earned high marks. It drops ten times as much water as the biggest forest service tanker in use…and does it at half the cost per gallon. It’s big enough and fast enough to cover fires anywhere in America…and the forest service refuses to use it…and it’s your forests that are going up in flames.
While it's hard to believe that readily available firefighting equipment is rejected by the federal government and its crazy bureaucrats, it's shockingly true.

Paul Driessen, who lives in Colorado, is an environmental researcher who writes extensively on various environmental issues. An ardent environmentalist himself, Driessen wrote a book exposing how most environmentalists and government policy decisions harm humanity and the environment, Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death. He also recently chirped in on the Colorado wildfires.

Western wildfires – horrific, devastating … and unnecessary
Millions of Americans watched their evening news in horrified fascination.

The Colorado Springs wildfire had doubled in size overnight, to 24 square miles – half the size of San Francisco – as 50-mph gusts carried fiery branches from exploding treetops across fire breaks, down Waldo Canyon and into fresh stands of drought-dried timber. Flames crested the ridge above the beautiful Air Force Academy campus, 346 houses burned, hundreds more faced immolation, and 32,000 people were evacuated, through smoke and ash that turned daytime into a choking night sky.

130 miles north, another monster fire west of Fort Collins consumed 136 square miles of forest and torched 259 homes. By July 4, this year’s Colorado forest fires had devoured 170,000 acres – 265 square miles, nearly five times the size of Washington, DC. Across eleven western states, nearly 2,000,000 acres have already burned this year; imagine all of Delaware and Rhode Island ablaze.

People died. Many homes are now nothing but ashes, chimneys and memories. In the forests, the infernos exterminated wildlife habitats, roasted eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, boiled away trout and trout streams, left surviving birds and mammals to starve for lack of food, and incinerated every living organism in the thin soils, presaging massive erosion that will clog streambeds during downpours and snowmelts. Many areas will not recover their foliage or biodiversity for decades.

Put aside the insanity of letting horse-blindered environmentalists, bureaucrats and judges obstruct even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber or remove trees killed by beetles, after decades of Smoky the Bear management. Forget for a moment that these policies turn forests into closely bunched matchsticks, waiting for lightning bolts, sparks, untended campfires or arsonists to start conflagrations.

Ignore the guideline that say fires in these areas can be extinguished if they are of human origin (if making that distinction is even possible in the midst of an inferno) – but must be allowed to burn if they are “natural” (caused by lightning, for example), even amid droughts, in the hope that they won’t become raging infernos that threaten homes. Disregard the crazy jurisdictional disputes that prevent aircraft from dropping water on a fire, because the crew cannot tell whether the blaze is on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service land.

Pay no mind to the fact that these fires emit prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide – along with large quantities of mercury, particulates and other pollutants. (Many rock formations contain mercury; trees absorb it through their roots, and release it into the atmosphere when they burn.)
Driessen's scathing critique of the governments' insane attitudes about forest fires absolutely raises the issue of whether the government should even be the custodian of America's forests given its determination to make bad decisions with dire and deadly consequences.

The government is incapable of competently managing anything which is precisely why public lands need to be privatized to the maximum extent possible, and starting with the federal government deeding its massive real holdings to the states where the people in those states can make the decisions.

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