Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Wildfires: Environmentalism-driven policy endangers forests — and lives
Last year, the U.S. Forest Service abruptly canceled its contract for six of Aero Union’s air tankers. This left the Forest Service short of tankers just as last year’s fire season was getting under way. Only a few weeks later, fires swept through Texas burning 100,000 acres and leaving four dead. The administration apparently learned nothing from the tragedy. In the intervening year, it did little to address its tanker shortage, and Colorado paid the price for it. The administration says it canceled the contract due to aircraft safety concerns. That doesn’t explain why it dithered in replacing the aircraft. But something else may: Obama’s allegiance to his green allies. Environmentalists have long opposed the use of slurry, the fire retardant dropped from air tankers, due to its potential for polluting streams. After an accidental drop of slurry into Oregon’s Fall River in 2002 and a subsequent environmentalist lawsuit, the Forest Service issued new rules barring drops of retardants within 300 feet of waterways except when fire threatens human life and property. Make no mistake: The rule inhibits firefighters’ ability to control blazes. Think about a football defensive line that isn’t allowed to do anything until the opposing team reaches the 5-yard line and you get the idea. Now the agency is implementing even more stringent regulations prohibiting drops within 600 feet of waterways. Little wonder it was in no hurry to line up replacement tankers. Hampering fire control efforts is only one way federal policy driven by greens contributes to wildfires. One of the main culprits for the Colorado fires is believed to be pine beetles. The beetles carry a blue stain fungus that pulls moisture from trees. In sufficient numbers, these insects can cause whole forests to die of dehydration, creating a tinderbox. What forests are most susceptible to beetle infestations? According to the Forest Service, they are forests with “large-diameter trees and dense stands.” Environmentalists have blocked logging operations that could thin these stands at every turn. In 2003, the General Accounting Office estimated that 190 million acres of federal land were at high risk of wildfire due to “excess fuels buildup in forests.”...more