Friday, October 31, 2003


Area called ripe for a disaster The oil industry had the Exxon Valdez. Nuclear power had Three Mile Island. Wednesday, with flames menacing one of Southern California's most beloved mountain resorts, Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino Mountains risked becoming forestry's equivalent -- a disaster so overwhelming it could change U.S. environmental policy for decades to come. The area, filled with overgrown, diseased and dying trees, has gained a reputation in recent years as one of the worst examples of forest mismanagement in the West. If much of Lake Arrowhead or nearby Big Bear Lake ends up burning, fire experts said it could prompt rapid changes, including congressional orders for much more logging to thin out the nation's overgrown forests, a loss of public confidence in environmental groups that have resisted such logging, and billions more taxpayer dollars spent on fire protection...Gallegly proposes waiving law to battle fires Ten years ago, Rep. Elton Gallegly stood beside two California Air National Guard planes grounded by bureaucratic red tape and watched helplessly as the hills of Malibu burned in the distance. A similar scene played out in eerie fashion late last week. Once again, as wildfires raged across Southern California, two C-130 military planes that could have been used to put out the flames or at least keep them from burning out of control sat on the ground. In both cases, part of the problem was an arcane federal law that prohibits the use of military equipment to fight wildfires until all available commercial aircraft have been deployed. Gallegly and Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., are pushing for Congress to allow military firefighting equipment to be used as soon as possible to fight wildfires. They are sponsoring legislation that would waive a Depression-era provision in the Economy Act of 1932. The law, adopted to protect civilian jobs, requires that all commercial or private resources under government contract must be exhausted before military equipment can be used to fight wildfires...Column: Behind the Inferno In California, where overzealous environmentalism often trumps common sense, our forests are suffering from rampant disease and destruction. In just a matter of days, over 600,000 acres of Southern California's forests have been reduced to mere ashes due in part to overgrown forests that have been infected by the largest bark-beetle infestation in the last 50 years. Due to decades of mismanagement, the thinning of these forests remains largely unpracticed within our state, leaving forests that historically contained just 30 to 40 trees per acre, now filled with 300 to 400 trees per acre. As the events of this week have demonstrated, the gross mismanagement of our state's forests has literally created a perfect storm for wildfires... Our current forest policies have allowed 190 million acres of federal land to remain at a dangerously high risk of catastrophic wildfire, insect infestation, and disease. As a result, last year alone, American taxpayers spent over $1.6 billion fighting record-setting blazes due to overgrown forests. Furthermore, lengthy bureaucratic processes have added to this smoldering danger, as they have kept the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from being able to fully manage our forests. Just recently, the USFS testified that while treatment of an important project was held up in a three-year, 800-step decision-making process, a record-setting wildfire eviscerated large swaths of landscape and caused enormous damage to the natural environment as well as to a number of communities. Despite the plea from the National Volunteer Fire Council to "reduce the threats from catastrophic wildfire, insect infestations and disease," federal land managers can only treat about 2.5 million acres out of 190 million each year due to these often unnecessary bureaucratic processes...Editorial: The Senate answers the fire call C hased by the terrifying fires in Southern California, the Senate hurried Thursday to approve legislation to reduce the threat of wildfire. Lawmakers agreed on a fire policy the day after a firefighter died and a congressman was among thousands of Californians who lost their homes. Yes, this bill was a long time coming. The West first called in this fire emergency more than four years ago. Since then, we have lost 24 million acres of forests -- and the lives of dozens of firefighters -- to catastrophic wildfires. Yet Congress is at last answering the fire call. The Senate legislation shaped this week is the right approach to thinning sick, brittle forests and reducing the threat of unstoppable fires like those raging in Southern California...Lizard defenders file suit over species' status Environmentalists in an ongoing battle with the government over the status of a desert lizard are taking the fight to court. On Thursday a coalition of environmental groups announced they filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration and Interior Secretary Gale Norton that accuses the government of illegally denying the flat-tailed horned lizard protection as a threatened species. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson...BLM director apologizes to employees for criticisms in Reno The head of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management apologized to her 10,000 employees nationally for her criticism a week ago of agency bureaucrats. ''I apologize for any embarrassment you and your families may have experienced because of things I said,'' Kathleen Clarke wrote in a letter and e-mail this week addressed to ''All BLM Employees.'' In an Oct. 20 speech at an oil and gas industry confernece in Reno, Clarke said she was demanding more accountability of her field managers to try to rein in an agency that lacked discipline under the Clinton administration...U.S. may ease beef ban The United States may let Canadian cattle and some fresh beef into the country early next year for the first time since a case of mad cow disease was found in May. Bill Hawks, an Agriculture Department undersecretary, said U.S. officials are proposing to allow in from Canada cattle that are 30 months old or younger. Meat allowed in would be from animals that age. The department is taking comments on the proposal until January...January trial set for suit against meatpacker federal trial is set to begin early next year in an eight-year legal battle between a meatpacking powerhouse and a group of cattlemen who accuse it of cornering the beef market. About 31,000 farmers and 4,000 feedlots from across the country sued IBP Inc., saying the company conspired to fix prices paid on the open market. A jury trial has been scheduled for Jan. 12, 2004, in Birmingham, Ala...Cowgirl boot camp No doubt about it: I'm a city slicker. What I wrangle is words on a computer screen; all I lasso is latte at my local Starbucks in Washington, D.C. I couldn't hoist a bale of hay if my life depended on it, and my red-lacquered nails are more at home in Paris than on the range. I've hardly ridden since I was spooked by a fall in my teens. Yet in my heart, I'm a cowgirl. Strong. Self-reliant. Free. Or I'd like to be. So would the 17 city and suburban women here with me at The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort's first Cowgirl Boot Camp. We've been drawn to this 10,000-acre spread northeast of Santa Barbara by the promise of riding the range and learning to rope and fly-fish...Ranchers credit meaty diets for high beef prices A lanky Texan like Paul Genho never had much interest in celebrity doctors and their slim-down trends. Until now. Thanks to the toppled food pyramid approach advised by diet gurus such as Dr. Atkins and Dr. Agatson, red meat sales are up again, and the fattier the meat the better. "Beef is hot, beef is back," said Genho, manager of the 825,000-acre King Ranch, one of the country's top beef producers. "People are sick of chicken." Breed bulls are going for $40,000 and per-pound prices recently trading over a dollar a pound of live weight...

NOTE: Click on the highlighted areas in orange to go to the article, study, report, etc.

Copters Halted as Fire Began Helicopter pilots with the San Diego Sheriff's Department wanted to conduct aerial water drops on the Cedar fire shortly after it was ignited Saturday but were prohibited from doing so by the U.S. Forest Service, sheriff's officials said Thursday. One sheriff's helicopter was flying back to an air base to pick up a "Bambi bucket" capable of dropping 100 gallons of water when the pilot was ordered to stay away from the fire, said Chris Saunders, a Sheriff's Department spokesman. Another sheriff's pilot said in an interview with The Times that he believed the fire could have been extinguished if an air assault was launched when the pilots volunteered to help and the fire was still relatively small. But an official with the U.S. Forest Service, which had initial jurisdiction over the blaze, said the Sheriff's Department's request to make water drops was denied out of concerns for the pilots' safety and the belief that the drops would have done little good. "We found out a long time ago that helicopters with little buckets are not effective in fighting brush fires like this," said Rich Hawkins, fire chief with the U.S. Forest Service. "No little helicopter with its little bucket would have done much good."...U.S. Rejected Davis on Aid to Clear Trees The Bush administration took six months to evaluate Gov. Gray Davis' emergency request last spring for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California. The request was finally denied Oct. 24, only hours before wildfires roared out of control in what has become the largest fire disaster in California history. Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), a leader in the effort to get federal assistance for fire prevention, questioned Thursday why the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not rule sooner. "FEMA's decision was wrong," Bono said. "The timing couldn't have been worse.... We knew this disaster was going to happen with certainty. It was only a matter of when, and we were trying to beat the clock with removing the dead trees." If Davis had received the denial earlier, Bono said, he would have had time to wage an appeal. FEMA spokesman Chad Kolton said the agency denied Davis' request for an emergency declaration because California was already receiving more than $40 million from the departments of Agriculture and Interior to deal with a bark beetle infestation that has damaged thousands of acres of forest in the San Bernardino Mountains...Could Russian 'waterbomber' save California? Congressmen say feds resisting massive jet that will douse wildfires A massive Russian jet capable of releasing more than 10,000 gallons of water in a single dump could help solve California's wildfire crisis, but the federal government continues to resist it, asserts two U.S. congressmen. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Casey Weldon, R-Penn., said at a news conference yesterday the Russian government repeatedly has offered the Ilyushin-76 'Waterbomber' - reportedly capable of dousing a fire the size of 10 football fields -to the U.S. Forest Service for its use but has been rebuffed each time. Rohrabacher spokesman Aaron Lewis told WorldNetDaily the federal government's response amid wildfires that have killed 18, consumed more than 718,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,400 homes is the same as it has been for the past decade...Forest Service proposes aerial spraying for weeds A proposal to weed out noxious and invasive plants infiltrating the Helena National Forest includes aerial and ground spraying of herbicides, as well as enlisting the aid of goats, sheep and insects. Only about 2 percent of the 975,000 acres that make up the Helena National Forest currently are infested with noxious weeds, including Dalmatian toadflax, common toadflax, knapweed, leafy spurge, ox-eye daisy and sulfur cinquefoil. However, forest officials are concerned that with a 14 percent estimated annual rate of spread, it won't be long before weed infestations go beyond the 22,668 acres they currently cover onto another 319,700 susceptible acres...Native Fish in Arizona River in Peril Native fish in the Gila River basin are on the brink of extinction and little is being done to help save them, according to a study by a team of biologists. Written by scientists from federal agencies, Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and the Nature Conservancy, the 20-page report said that Arizona's native fish population is under siege. "Arizona is on a path to have all of its native fish go extinct unless state and federal agencies start doing -- rather than just talking about -- their jobs," said Leon Fager, a longtime endangered-species biologist for the U.S. Forest Service. The study of a dozen threatened or endangered warm-water fish in the Gila River basin found that half of the species no longer exist in wild populations...Agencies call off wolf investigation Federal officials have halted an investigation into the possible death of a wolf on the national forest west of Augusta after a forensic lab determined the wolf's collar mostly likely was pulled off by another wolf. On Aug. 9, federal researchers discovered that the wolf's collar was emitting a mortality signal - a radio signal that is broadcast if the animal wearing the collar does not move for a certain period of time. Wilderness rangers later recovered the collar but found no wolf body in the area near the Prairie Reef Lookout Station on the Lewis and Clark National Forest...Forest tightens rules for off-roaders The Ashley National Forest has banned ATVs from straying off designated roads and trails in the last part of northern Utah forest that was open to "cross-country travel." Ashley Supervisor George Weldon issued an order earlier this month that bans motorized cross-country travel in the Vernal Ranger District, which includes the eastern part of the forest north of Vernal and south of Flaming Gorge. The restrictions -- which the forest may try to make permanent when it revises its master plan next year -- are needed "to halt the unacceptable impacts to natural resources on the forest," Weldon said...Senate Votes for a Measure to Thin Trees Prodded by the wildfires raging across California, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of President Bush's plan to allow the thinning of trees on as much as 20 million acres of federal land. The vote, 80 to 14, came after a day of intense debate on the measure, which the administration contends would reduce the risk of catastrophic forest fires. The bill, a bipartisan compromise, now goes into conference with the House, which has already passed similar legislation. The White House has said it supports both bills...San Francisco Endorses European Chemical Reforms San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on Oct. 28 to adopt a resolution supporting a proposed European Union law to control hazardous chemicals. "San Francisco recently became the first city in the nation to adopt the Precautionary Principle as a guidepost for city policy," according to San Francisco Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. "Now by supporting REACH we can take another step forward in protecting our communities from toxics chemicals." The European initiative, called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), would shift the burden of proving the health and environmental safety onto companies that manufacture, use and import most major industrial chemicals...Conservationists call for basin-wide analysis of impacts to Columbia and Snake River salmon The federal government must examine federal dam operations and freshwater habitat in one comprehensive evaluation when determining how it will protect Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act, conservation organizations and fishing businesses asserted in a legal brief filed today in federal district court in Oregon. The brief asks the judge to clarify his earlier decision that the federal government had improperly defined the so-called "action" and "action area" for its plan -- i.e., the activities that would be undertaken to protect salmon from the effects of the federal dam system and the area affected by these efforts...Editorial: Designation will stifle ag, growth If we're not careful, we could be preserving ourselves into extinction. We're talking about a proposal to list the California tiger salamander as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This slimy 8-inch-long critter is perilously close to threatening agriculture and development in the Central Valley. Estimates place the critters on 1.1 million acres, which we think hardly makes them threatened. Let's face it, that's an area that's almost 1 1/3 times the size of Rhode Island, home to over 1 million people. As we all are well aware, ag is big business in Stanislaus County - in fact, it's a $1.37 billion industry. If the designation goes through, as much as one-third of the county's land, must of which is used for farming, could be affected...NPRC takes methane fears to BLM A conservation group protesting a decision by the Bureau of Land Management to allow coalbed methane drilling in southeastern Montana showed up unexpectedly at the state office Wednesday to meet with the director even though the meeting had been canceled the day before. As BLM staffers scrambled to find chairs for more than 20 members of the Northern Plains Resource Council, State Director Marty Ott welcomed the group in a conference room. He listened for about an hour as NPRC members politely vented their frustration with the process and aired concerns about coalbed methane development. "We feel it's the law (that) you need to take public comment," said Mark Fix, a Tongue River rancher and chair of NPRC's coalbed methane task force. Ray Muggli, another Tongue River rancher, said producers along the river drainage are being made the scapegoats for development. "Coalbed methane will never be taken care of in our lifetime," he said. "Soil is not a renewable resource." Damage from coalbed methane water "will be permanent in the valley" and will destroy production on clay soils, he said. Drilling for methane gas requires pumping to the surface large quantities of groundwater, releasing the gas held in coal seams. In Montana, the groundwater from methane drilling tends to run high in sodium, which can damage plants and soils... Environmentalists: BLM catering to oil The Bureau of Land Management has abandoned its role as a multi-use agency overseeing public lands and is catering to one of the richest businesses in the world, environmentalists said at a rally Wednesday. Members of Western Colorado Congress, a grass-roots environmental organization, rallied outside a day-long workshop involving the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and federal agencies at the Adam's Mark Hotel. The controversial workshop, focused on streamlining the application for permit to drill (APD) process, gained attention when environmental groups learned its invitation was sent out on BLM letterhead. The partnership between the oil and gas lobbying association and a federal agency bothered some constituents. "Landowners did not receive invitations," said Peggy Utesch. "Ranchers who hold grazing permits for federal lands weren't invited to share their concerns about increased gas drilling on federal lands...Utah to claim 20 roads The state has thrown down a glove in its fight over dirt roads. But environmentalists won't likely pick a fight. At least not this time. Gov. Mike Leavitt Wednesday unveiled a list of 20 roads crisscrossing federal land on which the state intends to seek ownership. "These roads are indisputably roads," Leavitt said. "Every single road being submitted existed before 1976, can be traveled by car or truck and is not in a national park, wilderness area, wilderness study area or fish and wildlife refuge." Leavitt's catalogue of roads is the first volley in what is expected to be a litany of future fights over tens of thousands of dirt roads across federal lands - so-called "R.S. 2477" roads, in reference to an old mining statute that allowed states and counties to claim rights of way across federal lands. The law was repealed in 1976, but any road in place prior to that time would still qualify as a local right of way under the old law...Bush Administration Attacks Clean Water Safeguards, Sets Dangerous Precedent With Proposed Oregon Rule, Groups Say The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed "Oregon Rule," which would pave the way for federal dams to evade their Clean Water Act obligations, is a trial balloon for a broad national policy that would have devastating consequences for river ecosystems across the country, conservationists warned today. The proposed Oregon Rule would allow federal agencies to petition the EPA to weaken water quality standards that are needed to maintain river conditions that support healthy and thriving fish populations. Right now, many federal dams impair water quality to the point that fish populations are decreased and sliding toward extinction. If a federal dam operator petitions EPA, the Oregon Rule would require EPA to initiate a process to change standards to suit the dam -- even if lower standards would prevent restoration of healthy fish populations...Stuff of dreams goes up in smoke at movie ranch Some 50 years of film and television history went up in smoke this weekend when fire ripped across the 7,000-acre Big Sky Movie Ranch north of Simi Valley. Only ashen timbers, charred metal and thousands of memories remain of old sets scattered around the hillsides that have been home to countless productions, from "Gunsmoke" to "Fear Factor." For ranch managers and filming coordinators Don and Debra Early, who live on the property, the loss is deeply personal. While the main house they lived in was spared, the fire destroyed fences, barns and perhaps as many as 40 of their cattle, which remain missing. The Earlys still were tallying the damage Thursday, but they expect it to exceed $1 million...FDA says food from cloned animals safe to eat Milk and meat from cloned animals are safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration has tentatively concluded, a finding that could eventually clear the way for such products to reach supermarket shelves and for cloning to be widely used to breed livestock. The agency's conclusions are being released today in advance of a public meeting on the issue Tuesday in Rockville, Md. Agency officials said that after receiving public comments, they hope by late next spring to outline their views on how, if at all, cloning would be regulated, including whether food from cloned animals should be labeled. But if the preliminary conclusion stands, labeling would not be needed and there would be little regulation, said Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine...Brain disease reversed in mice By using genetic trickery, a group of British scientists has reversed a type of fatal brain disease, a finding that has implications for a family of deadly neurological disorders in people, cattle and deer. Researchers using laboratory mice say they were able to halt and actually reverse the disease process caused by an infectious agent known as a prion, according to their paper published Thursday in the journal Science. Prions are rogue proteins that attack the brain and are believed to be the cause of a family of diseases that includes Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer. People also can be infected with the human version of mad cow disease, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease...

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Healthy Forests

Below are excerpts from Senator Harkin's speech on the Senate floor yesterday, and my comments.

Mr. HARKIN. I am somewhat amazed when we come out with legislation and it deals with sensitive environmental issues and we are told certain environmental groups have concerns and we will hear about the environmental issues so that somehow, if you are a member of an environmental organization, you are opposed to progress, you are opposed to jobs, you are opposed to doing things that might make life better for some people in certain areas. It is almost as if "environmentalist" is a bad word. I don't think it is. I think being pro-environment and being an environmentalist is a positive attribute.

When the enviro's introduce wolves in Iowa, put corn farmers out of business, deny Iowa citizens access to public property, and divert water from families in Des Moines to supply an endangered species, perhaps your outlook will change.

I compliment those in our country, many of whom work for nonprofit organizations. I have a number of letters from them that I will have printed in the RECORD. They toil endlessly, tirelessly, sometimes for no pay, sometimes for little pay, to ensure that future generations of Americans have a good, healthy environment, that those who like to hunt have areas in which we can hunt, where we have healthy wildlife areas.

No pay or little pay? Senator, please have your staff show you the Washington Post series on the Nature Conservancy. Those who are receiving no pay are folks who have been put out of work by the enviro's, and their friends in the Congress and the courts. Nonprofits? The nonprofits in the west are those formerly profitable businesses who couldn't survive under this nations' environmental and regulatory policies. Hunting? You've got to be kidding.

This is not a method of slowing down the bill or taking an undue amount of time, but it is ensuring that we do look at the bill carefully; that the public is generally aware of what is in the bill; that those who perhaps do not spend a lot of time looking at these things - and I am the first to admit this is not an area of my expertise, but as the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, charged with the responsibility of legislation that impinges upon our national forests that comes under our jurisdiction, I make sure I have good staff who understand the impact of forest legislation. And I have taken the time to study it myself to the extent I have had the time to do so.

Senator, you and Senator Bingaman put a hold on this bill and wanted to hold additional hearings and generally do whatever you could, at the behest of the environmental community, to delay this bill. You know, and I know, if not for the devastating fires in California, you would have kept this bill from coming to a vote. You didn't have to tell us this is not your area of expertise, your comments make that quite evident. We appreciate your attempt to "study it myself", but you really should make fast and frequent tracks back to your office and do some more homework.

I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of forest legislation as much as my friend from Oregon, for example, who has spent his adult life working on this, or the Senator from Idaho and others who I know have put a great deal of time in this. But that does not lessen my concern about certain aspects of the bill and its impact on our environment. So we will have a discussion and we will have amendments. Preventing damage and injury to communities is of paramount concern to all of us, especially now with the tragic wildfires in California that show clearly the dangers these communities face. Of course, our hearts and our thoughts go out to all those families in those communities that are affected by these wildfires.

Senator you are the former chairman and current ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, "charged with the responsibility of legislation that impinges upon our national forests that comes under our jurisdiction". So why don't you know the in and outs? Why would you put a hold on a bill you don't understand? And why are you on the floor of the Senate discussing a bill you don't know the "ins and outs" of? We don't want your hearts and thoughts, we want to bring science based management to our public lands. Can you understand that?

The way the bill is right now, we could spend a lot of money going out and cleaning out the brush. And, by the way, I will have something to say about that. We are not talking about brush. We are talking about trees. It could be miles, tens of hundreds of miles, away from any community. So again I question whether that is where we want to put our resources.

Senator, I understand that in Iowa a farmer can live in a community and drive to his farm each day. That is generally not the way ranching in the west is done. There are ranch families living out there, Senator. I know, I know, your hearts and thoughts go out to them too.

Another problem I have with this legislation is the lack of protection for roadless areas, those areas of our national forests that have wisely been left free from most logging and roadbuilding to ensure their protection. In fact, this bill does not restrict roadbuilding at all - at all. So you could have permanent roads built anywhere under this bill.

Now we are finally getting to the crux of the matter. At least 20 people dead, more than 2,600 homes destroyed, three-quarters of a million acres burned, but that is not what's important. What's important is we not overturn the Clinton roadless program. Roads preclude wilderness designation. So let's do the enviro's bidding, protect the Clinton era policies, and to hell with the people and resources of the west. Thank you Senator Harkin.

That's enough fun, so let's turn to a professional. Senator Larry Craig took the floor right after Senator Harkin spoke. The following are excerpts from his speech:

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, before the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee sits down, I would be more than happy to include the protection of all the old growth in the Federal forests of Iowa in this bill, if it existed. Or maybe we could put a prohibition against wildfires in Iowa on public lands in this bill. And that is something we could accomplish because those two issues - the old growth, which I am sure the State of Iowa wished it had, and wildfires, which I know they would not want - do not exist in Iowa because no Federal forest lands exist there. In my State of Idaho, in the great State of Oregon, and in the Great Basin, West, as much as 60 and 70 percent of our lands within our State borders are public lands and are subject to this legislation...

Let me give a point the Senator from Iowa just made. He said you could log in 1,000-acre increments across the landscape. Not true. Nowhere in the bill does it exist. Let's go back to California today where fires are burning. Let's go to Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino forest where there is a complex of dead and dying trees of about 400,000 acres. You could log 1,000 acres there, and then if you chose to do another 1,000 acres near it, you get into the cumulative effect beyond the categorical exclusion and you have to do a NEPA process. That is what this legislation says. That is what the Senator from Iowa did not suggest. He cannot suggest something that does not exist.

Yes, it is true you do 1,000-acre logging increments, but when you get to a cumulative effect beyond the categorical exclusion, NEPA takes over. Therefore, you do the full public process that he admires and I admire because we believe the public ought to have a right to participate, but not ad nauseam through lawsuit after lawsuit for the purpose of delaying activity on the ground when there is bug kill and fuel loading and the public is at risk and the resources are at risk. That is what this debate must be about.

He implied that you could road on forever because this bill does not prohibit roading. You can't road today unless you go through a full NEPA process. It is not to suggest if you prohibit roading here or you do not prohibit it, therefore, roading will exist. That is not true. It does not exist today in current law. So do not imply that it does...

...It is like living near a fire that is ready to burn. All one has to do is drop a match, because the fuel loading that has gone on in these forested landscapes over the last 30 years is dramatic. Why? Because we put fire out. We got awfully good at eliminating fire and we did not replace the natural ecosystem's activities of fire with manmade activity. It is quite simple.

Along came the environmental movement in the 1960s. Along came the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Act in the mid-1970s, and we began progressively to slow our activities on the public lands that were offsetting nature's activities in some instances and the fuel load began to build.

In the mid 1980s, a group of forest scientists from all over the United States met in Sun Valley, ID, to explore the health of our national forests. They concluded that our forests in the Great Basin West were sick, dead, and dying, and that if we did not develop some form of activity to emulate fire, to thin and clean, we would someday in the near future begin to experience dramatic wildfires that would change the character of the landscape of the West. They were right. We did not listen. We could not listen. Why? Because there was a louder voice out there saying: Do nothing, do nothing, stay away; the only way to treat the public lands is to withdraw man from the lands, unless he or she tramples lightly upon them. We did just that, and all of our policies have driven us in that direction. During the Clinton years, we reduced logging on public lands by nearly 80 percent. We did not change any laws, just reused the regulations, headed in another direction with a different philosophy.

Aside from that, there is another interesting statistic. Instead of the average of 1 and a half million to 2 million acres a year in wildfires on our forested public land, we began to see 3, then 3 and a half, 2, then 4, then 5, then 6, and last year 7 million acres, and that graph is going straight up as more of these lands burn because the fuel load that builds on them is so great that all of our forested public lands have become like a kindling box, ready to burn with the touch of a match...

Flushing Out Eco-Terrorism

An epidemic of eco-terror is rapidly spreading across America, and it is time for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether these criminal activities are being illegally bankrolled by tax-exempt money.

In August, fires set by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) gutted a warehouse at an auto dealership and destroyed 20 Hummers and damaged 20 others at a California auto dealership, resulting in $2.5 million in losses.. Vehicles were spray-painted with slogans like “Fat, Lazy Americans.” In September, ELF "activists" torched six homes under construction and burned down an apartment complex in San Diego County.

All told, in August and September alone, ELF’s acts of eco-terrorism have cost individuals and businesses some $54 million, the most damage ever inflicted by eco-terrorism in a two-month period. The FBI has now declared ELF the nation’s most threatening homegrown terrorist organization.

A related group, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), targets laboratories that conduct vital scientific research on animals. Walter Low, a researcher at a University of Minnesota laboratory, noted that a recent ALF attack on his facility “has set back two years research conducted there on Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.”...

Up In Smoke

...The post-mortem on the fires should lead to the most brutal review of the federal Endangered Species Act in its 30 year history. Nowhere more so than in southern California has more time and money has been invested in the idea that government bureaucrats (working with environmental activists, using the money scalped from landowners) can build a better nature than local governments and the market would otherwise deliver. The stubborn fact is California has never had fires of this magnitude. Now that the federal government is running a huge portion of land use, disaster strikes.

The core problem is that species protection prohibits many ordinary fire precautions. You cannot clear coastal sage scrub, no matter how dense, if a gnatcatcher nests within it--unless the federal government provides a written permission slip which is extraordinarily difficult to obtain. The same prohibition lurks behind every species designation, and can even apply to land on which no endangered species has ever been seen but about which allegations of "potential occupation" have been made.

The land that has passed into "conserved" status is at even greater risk of fire than private land that is home to a protected species because absolutely no one cares for its fire management policy. The scrum of planners, consultants, and G-11s that put together the plans should be monitoring these areas closely. Instead, they regulate and move on to savage the property rights of the next region.

THE MOST PRESSING QUESTION for the federal government after the fires are put out will be the number of acres of land burned which had already been set aside for species conservation purposes. Whatever that number is, it will be a challenge to the drafters of the plans to provide evidence that they had anticipated the conserved acres being charred. Of course they didn't, but that won't protect the guilty from intoning about the natural benefits of fire. In their acquisitiveness, the planners have focused only on locking up land against development, not in protecting it from devastating fire. The nakedness of their error is found in the very plans they developed, which lack comprehensive fire management programs and the means to carry them out...

Senate's Economic Horror Story? The Senate considers carbon dioxide caps on U.S. industry

With Halloween fast approaching, the Senate appears to be all tricks and no treats. Topping the list is the Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) proposal to cap carbon dioxide emissions. The “Climate Stewardship Act,” which was open for debate in the Senate on Thursday, October 29, seeks to address concerns about global warming. The problem is, the science behind global warming theory is far from complete, and the scientific community continues to identify uncertainties and problems with existing theories about global warming. On the other hand, the costs of measures such as the Lieberman-McCain proposal and the Kyoto Protocol are not inconsequential; passing such proposals is sure to be a trick, not a treat, for all consumers.

The Lieberman-McCain bill is an attempt to push the United States closer to implementing the Kyoto Protocol, a global warming treaty that seeks to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases primarily by reducing the use of fossil fuels. The Climate Stewardship Act takes a similar approach, seeking to cap emissions at 2000 levels from 2010 to 2015 (Phase I) and capping emissions at 1990 levels beginning in 2016 (Phase II). Perhaps the biggest trick in the legislation will be a proposal to eliminate Phase II and its more severe cutbacks in energy emissions. But with the administrative and enforcement mechanisms already established in Phase I, how likely is it that environmentalists and future Congresses will resist the urge to pass future legislation to implement Phase II?...

Worried Warriors?

"Have you got a minute for Greenpeace?" ask the enthusiastic young people who often waylay pedestrians on Washington, D.C.'s Farragut Square. Knowing a bit about the organization, I normally answer, "Not even a second." But the rainbow warriors might soon be facing several years to think about their actions.

A nonprofit watchdog organization, Public Interest Watch, after investigating Greenpeace's finances, recently filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that Greenpeace has "illegally solicit[ed] millions of dollars in tax-deductible contributions." As those young activists might say, "Uncool!"

Greenpeace has changed a great deal since its founding in the early 1970s. It began as a group dedicated to ensuring conservation by confronting people with the facts while maintaining a neutral position politically. It has now become a different beast entirely. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore left the movement after 15 years "to switch from confrontation to consensus… to stop fighting and start talking with the people in charge." However, he notes, "this would bring me into open and direct conflict with the movement I had helped bring into the world. I now find that many environmental groups have drifted into self-serving cliques with narrow vision and rigid ideology… The once politically centrist, science-based vision of environmentalism has been largely replaced with extremist rhetoric."

Moore is not alone. Greenpeace began as several different organizations, most of which consolidated into Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International. However, one of the original bodies, Greenpeace Foundation, Inc., based in Hawaii, refused to do so. Like Moore, Greenpeace Foundation is openly critical of Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International, whom they accuse of deceptive fundraising tactics, anti-Americanism, and failure to do much for wildlife preservation (especially in the case of dolphins)...
Beef Checkoff News

Stay Granted In Beef Checkoff

U.S. cattle producers must continue to pay the $1.00-per-head beef checkoff on each animal sold until the U.S. Justice Department can seek a Supreme Court review of a case challenging the program's constitutionality, according to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the beef-promotion program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on Wednesday approved a request that will allow the Beef Checkoff Program to continue pending Supreme Court review.

"The government's motion to stay the mandate of this court is granted pending the filing of a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court," the decision said. "The issuance of the mandate in this case shall be stayed to and including Jan. 27, 2004. If within that time there is filed with the Clerk of this court a certificate of notification by the Clerk of the Supreme Court that a petition for writ of certiorari has been filed, this stay shall continue until final disposition of the case by that court."...

Below is the Cattlemen's Beef & Promotion Board's compliance memo:

October 30, 2003
To: QSBC Execs/ Compliance Managers
From: Steve Barratt, Director, Collections Compliance, CBB
Subject: Checkoff Collections Cease

Please confirm with your collecting points that collections of the Federal beef checkoff assessment shall continue as usual.
The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of USDA, requested a stay of Judge Kornmann's decision from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, MN while they work on an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the stay until January 27, 2004. If a petition for writ of certiorari has been filed with the Clerk of the Supreme Court during this period, this stay shall continue until final disposition of the case by The U.S. Supreme Court. This means that the mandatory collection of beef checkoff assessments will continue as usual unless the Court and USDA direct us to stop.
Please keep in mind that we will continue to pursue non-compliance cases not precluded by the terms of the ruling. Thus, anyone who fails to remit assessments collected can still be subjected to sanctions set forth by USDA.
If you have any questions don't hesitate to call (303) 850-3453 or email me at

Blogger shut down for maintenance a little after midnight, mtn time, so I didn't get all the news posted last night. Will try to catch up today.

...GAO ANALYSIS. At the request of Congressman Scott McInnis, and Senators Larry Craig and Gordon Smith, the General Accounting Office (GAO) prepared a comprehensive report, entitled Information on Forest Service Decisions Involving Fuels Reduction Activities, providing a quantitative assessment of the impact of Forest Service appeals on forest management activities. The analysis was requested in order to gain a stronger understanding about the extent of the impact of administrative appeals on efforts to reduce the breadth and destructive incidence of catastrophic wildfire and massive pest and pathogen outbreaks. The report quantifies the number of administrative appeals filed against Forest Service hazardous fuels reduction projects, and provides other important details about the outcome of those appeals, the nature of the projects that were appealed, and the identity of organizations that most often file administrative appeals against forest healthy projects. The GAO analyzed the number of hazardous fuels reduction projects that were appealed and/or litigated during FY 2001 and FY 2002.


1. 59% of Thinning Projects Appealed. In FY 2001 and FY 2002, opponents of forest thinning appealed 59% of all hazardous fuels reduction projects eligible for appeal under the Forest Service’s appeals statute. Of the 305 projects eligible for administrative appeal, 180 projects were challenged. Together, these projects covered nearly 1 million acres of at risk federal forestland. Each was delayed for at least 120 days, and sometimes months more. This 120-day delay is in addition to the years-long environmental analysis process that proceeds the appeals phase.

Environmental groups that loudly oppose legislative attempts at bringing the Forest Service’s appeals process more in line with that of the Bureau of Land Management have repeatedly downplayed the number of administrative appeals filed against forest management projects. With nearly 1 million acres worth of hazardous fuels reduction projects tied up in appeals during this two-year period, the GAO analysis crystallizes the fact that administrative appeals constitute a significant impediment to getting a handle on America ’s forest health and wildfire crisis.

2. Community Protection Projects Targeted by Greens. Even thinning projects proposed near communities are appealed more often than not. 52% of thinning projects proposed near communities in the so-called Wildland Urban Interface (84 of 163) were appealed during this 2-year period.

Environmental groups commonly argue that if the Forest Service would focus thinning projects on treating forestlands near communities, there would be less conflict and fewer administrative appeals. The GAO’s finding about the large number of administrative appeals filed against projects focused on protecting communities from the horrors of catastrophic wildfire casts the credibility of that assertion into plain doubt. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of environmental organizations as a whole show a pattern of obstruction, even towards projects focused on protecting homes and communities.

3. Environmental Appeals OVERWHELMINGLY Without Merit. Of the 180 wildfire mitigation projects appealed during the studied period, the reviewing officer “reversed” the decisions of a subordinate officer on only 19 occasions (10%).

This finding affirms the suspicion of many – namely, that administrative appeals are often frivolous objections by organizations with a philosophical bent against active forest management. Unfortunately, when the threat of wildfire is imminent or a large-scale insect outbreak is underway, a months-long delay during the consideration of an administrative appeal is just as damaging to the Forest Service as a defeat on the merits.

4. Environmental Groups are Chief Appellants of Forest Thinning. The overwhelming majority of administrative appeals analyzed by the GAO were filed by environmental advocacy organizations. Nationally, there were ONLY 7 organizations that filed more than 20 administrative appeals in this two year period: the Alliance for Wild Rockies, Ecology Center , Forest Conservation Council, Lands Council, National Forest Protection Alliance, Oregon Natural Resources Council, and the Sierra Club. Of the 432 appeals filed against the 180 projects, private individuals filed only 48 appeals, or 11% of the overall total.

5. ‘Analysis Paralysis’. The widespread filing of administrative appeals by environmental organizations has forced the Forest Service into an excessively cautious posture during the analysis and documentation phase preceding the administrative appeals process. The Chief of the Forest Service has dubbed this phenomenon “analysis paralysis.” The GAO’s findings show a clear pattern of the Forest Service taking time-consuming additional steps to “bullet-proof” analysis and documentation in those Regions where the agency has experienced the greatest number of administrative appeals. In Montana and Idaho, for example, where environmental groups and others appealed 90% of all projects eligible for appeal in this two-year span, the Forest Service went to the additional length of completing an Environmental Impact Statement (the most rigorous documentation process) for wildfire mitigation projects nearly 4-times as often as the next closest Region. In the South, by contrast, where 38% of projects eligible for appeal were actually appealed, the Forest Service completed ZERO Environmental Impact Statements on fire-prevention projects during this time-frame.

The threat of administrative appeals has forced the agency to be overly-focused on insulating its analysis and documentation from legal assault. Instead of conducting analysis sufficient to ensure that hazardous fuels reduction projects are implemented in an environmentally sensitive manner, the Forest Service’s environmental analysis increasingly take on the appearance of a legal brief, as the agency seeks to protect its decisions from hostile legal attacks and slick environmental lawyering. With 190 million acres of federal forestland at risk to catastrophic wildfire, this “bullet-proofing” phenomenon helps explain why the federal government treats just over 2 million acres a year.

[1] Congressional Research Service

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


Smokey Bear meets al-Qaida, eco-terrorists

I wonder how many Southern California homeowners sent $25 last month to one of the "environmental" organizations that just burned them out of their homes?

Southern California fires – outgoing Gov. Gray Davis has called them the worst disaster in the state's history – are the direct result of the efforts of America's environmental organizations. As this column is written, there have been 16 deaths and 1,600 homes destroyed, and the fires are still raging.

You and I will be expected to "shut up and pay the bill" for this flaming display of environmental ignorance and arrogance in action...

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of shutting my mouth and opening my wallet every time an "environmentalist" climbs on his soapbox to explain why its "wrong" to cut down dead trees, thin the forest and remove underbrush. I'm tired of enriching lawyers on both sides of the debate, while communities, families and schools go begging. I think it's an outrage that the environmentalists' policies have resulted in the most destructive wildfires in our nation's history. And I think it's time to end their reign of eco-terror...

Washington fiddles while California burns

A couple of bills are languishing in Congress that could have limited the effects of the wildfires that have devastated much of Southern California and saved countless homes and lives.

For more than a week, two giant C-130J aircraft, outfitted with state-of-the-art Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, sat on ground in California while the fires multiplied and began to burn out of control. In addition, there were two of these planes in Colorado, two in Wyoming and two in North Carolina that could have been called into service.

These planes carry between 2,750 and 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, which can cover an area 60 feet wide by a quarter-mile long. After discharging a load, they can be refilled in 15 to 20 minutes.

We, the federal taxpayers, purchased these systems in 1973, specifically to fight forest fires. So why were all those planes kept on the ground all this time? It's due to a depression-era bill that benefits a few at the expense of the many...

Flames In Calif. Fan New Life Into A Bill That Would Allow Logging On U.S. Land California is burning, and Congress is feeling the heat -- and moving quickly to pass a controversial forestry bill to allow more logging on federal land. The bill looked dead last week, when Senate Democrats blocked a vote on the House version of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. But since then, with Southern California fires raging, leading Republicans and Democrats have reached a compromise that late Wednesday looked likely to pass...California fires show limits of firefighting Fighting wildfires is more than a matter of pointing hoses at the flames and hoping for the best. Just like military generals, fire chiefs study the battlefield, predict the enemy's moves, and deploy troops to vulnerable flanks. It helps that fires tend to follow well-known rules. Still, models based on decades of research are often unable to predict a fire's path when weather conditions get in the way. Fire strategy and high-tech devices haven't been able to stop blazes from wreaking havoc in southern California, pointing to the limits of fighting and forecasting wildfires, especially in a region where gusts of dry winds change direction and speed up with no warning. Case in point: San Diego's mammoth Cedar Fire grew at amazing speeds, allegedly caused by hunter shooting a signal flare into the air east of the city. Whipped by the region's perennial Santa Ana winds, the fire moved too fast to allow firefighters to forecast its path and surround it. "You've got a fire that went from 1,000 acres to 115,000 in 12 hours," says Bob Wolf, president of the California Department of Forestry firefighters' union. "I've been a firefighter for 22 years and I've never seen anything like it."...Forest Service boss urges more prescribed burns The head of the U.S. Forest Service said Tuesday that residents of the fire-prone West must reintroduce prescribed burns into their vocabulary to avoid the sort of catastrophic blazes now sweeping Southern California. That applies to homeowners in the lower chaparral regions where fires are consuming homes in Los Angeles, San Diego and Ventura counties, as well as in the forested upper elevations where firestorms threaten drought- and beetle-infested pine forests in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. "We need to get fire back into these fire-dependent ecosystems," Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said in an interview Tuesday before touring the Southern California fires...More drilling rigs than ever punching through Colo. soil More drilling rigs are searching for natural gas in Colorado and Wyoming than at any time in more than 17 years, a reflection of higher natural gas prices and the nation's increasing demand for domestic fuel. And drilling companies are scrambling to get more equipment into the field to meet the demand, even as the price climbs to rent a towering drilling rig and crew to operate it. Across the nation, about 1,115 rigs were operating as of Oct. 17, according to Hughes Christensen's count...Wildfires force evacuations north, south of Denver A fast-moving wildfire forced the evacuation of thousands of upscale homes in rolling grasslands south of Denver on Wednesday as fierce winds fanned a handful of devastating blazes along the eastern slopes of the Rockies. The 100-acre fire chewed through hills of scattered pine and sent smoke pouring over Denver̢۪s far southern suburbs. Evacuation calls, which relied on the 911 system to reach 3,000 homes and businesses, went out less than three hours after the fire was reported. Authorities said 21 busloads of students were evacuated from an elementary school eight miles north of Castle Rock...In Montana, the next Arctic Refuge debate Modern conservationists call this wild country "the American Serengeti." But unlike the African Serengeti, Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, a 100-mile stretch of glacier-sculpted peaks and valleys held by the US Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has only temporary protection against oil and gas drilling. That could change. In a debate starkly reminiscent of the battle over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Montana Front lands are the latest to join America's heated debate over energy production and wildlife. At issue: would an initial development of 11 wells, producing a moderate amount of natural gas, leave a footprint acceptably small to justify drilling in one of the world's most striking and largely unspoiled landscapes? The Bush administration has targeted the Rocky Mountain Front, along with the ANWR, for oil and gas exploration. Last fall, the BLM issued new policies aimed at reducing barriers to oil and gas leasing on its lands and launched an environmental impact study along the Front, to be completed by year's end. Energy firms want to extract gas through existing and new leases on BLM and US Forest lands. If approved, drilling could begin by 2005. In addition, the US Forest Service will reconsider a drilling moratorium it issued six years ago on the Lewis and Clark National Forest, a portion of the Front, when it expires in 2006...Delay in Aerial Water Drops Is Criticized As fire continued to destroy large portions of San Diego County, the dispute between some local officials and the administration of Gov. Gray Davis intensified Tuesday over why aerial tankers and water-laden helicopters were not available in the first two days of the blaze. County supervisors fumed that Davis was too slow in authorizing the use of state "air assets" to douse the fire and too timid in seeking federal assistance. Several had pleaded with the governor's staff last weekend to redirect state resources to San Diego and demand help from the federal government and military. A spokesman for Davis said the supervisors were distorting what he characterized as the governor's long-standing support of fire prevention and fire suppression in Southern California...Until Court Rules, U.S. Wildlife Unit Won't Allow Killing of Endangered Species in Land Exchanges Pending a final court decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stopped issuing controversial permits that allow landowners to kill endangered species or destroy their habitat in exchange for setting aside land elsewhere. U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan issued a one-page court order Sept. 30 granting a motion by Spirit of the Sage Council and other environmental groups challenging the permits. But he gave no details on exactly what the groups had won, instead saying a final memorandum would follow...
Economics don't pan out for grazing buyout

By Crosby Allen
Fremont County, Wyo., commissioner

In case you have not yet seen this bill, here is a little insight on HR 3324, the "Voluntary Grazing Buyout Act."

This act would cause the appropriation of your tax dollars, by the federal government, to buy grazing permits from ranchers. These grazing areas would then be placed in non-grazing status and would no longer be used for grazing of any livestock.

The appropriation would be for $100 million, which would take approximately 571,000 animal unit months (AUMs) of grazing off BLM and national forestland.

If one rancher in the western states has a permit for 300 cow/calf pairs, for four months of summer grazing, this would equate to about 1,200 AUMs. Using this example, this taxpayer-funded buyout would remove about 475 ranchers from the ranges in the western states in one year.

Without public land grazing, these ranches will not be able to support the same number of cattle that they can with the public land grazing. The ranches that sell their grazing permits will be forced to do the following: 1) cease cattle production; 2) drastically reduce the number of cattle they are currently running; or, 3) subdivide their privately owned ranchlands to replace the income lost from their annual cattle sales (unless they are already wealthy).

Here's what this means to you. You are going to pay the cost of your own community's economic funeral.

As an example, let's say we have a typical rancher who runs 300 head of mother cows. Using central Wyoming as the location for the operation, the rancher would run about four months on BLM-managed land. While the cattle were summering on the BLM, the rancher would be irrigating and haying his base property (privately owned) in preparation for keeping the cattle on the private property for the remaining eight months of the year.

At first the cattle would graze the pasture when they come home; then, when the pasture snows under or runs out, the hay would be fed to the animals until the next grazing season, when the cattle would be turned back out on the BLM managed land and the annual cycle would begin anew.

Now, let's say this same rancher takes the buyout and sells his BLM grazing permit. He would sell his 1,200 AUMs (300 pair x 4 months) for $175 per AUM, which would equal $210,000.

Most of this amount would most likely go to pay off his bills and maybe buy a new pickup, which would be a short-term injection into the local economy. However, the long-term effect will be devastating to the local economy.

You see, while the public ground under the BLM grazing permit supported 1200 AUMs, the base property (privately owned by the rancher) would have to support about 2400 AUMs which would require at least 100 head of mother cows be sold, as the remaining operation would not longer be able to support 300 pairs without the public grazing permit.

When the rancher was fully stocked at 300 pair, he would sell about 285 calves weighing 475 lbs each at a price of $425 totaling $121,125. Now that he has sold his grazing permit, he can only run about 200 pair (actually less than that, but for simplification of math we'll use 200). Now, after the buyout, he will sell about 190 calves at 475 lbs each at a price of $425 totaling $80,750. This is a difference of $40,375.

Now let's use University of Wyoming figures that estimate that one dollar will turn over in a community six times before it falls out of local circulation. When we multiply the $40,375 by six, we see that $242,250, approximately one-quarter of a million dollars, is lost from the local economy each and every year thereafter.

This example illustrates the negative economic impact to a local economy from just one rancher selling his grazing permit back to the government. The total effect from HR 3324, the "Voluntary Grazing Buyout Act," would be over $115 million that would come out of local western economies in just one year, and these economies would suffer this loss directly every year after that.

In other words, the feds will use $100 million (of your tax dollars) to cause your local western economies to suffer an approximate loss of $115 million this year and every year after.

If you know someone who works at a bank, sells gasoline or diesel, sells clothing, sells ranch and cattle supplies or equipment, works in or owns a restaurant or a grocery store, is or works for a veterinarian, drives a cattle truck or works at the livestock auction barn, then you know someone who is going to take a direct economic hit from this "buyout."

You, as a citizen making your living in one of the western states, your family and your friends, will suffer the indirect economic hit resulting from the lack of this economic activity occurring from the grazing of livestock on public lands.

This buyout is an agenda being driven by people who want all cattle off all public land. Guess what, Phase Two of their agenda is to drive all cattle off all private land.

I hope this sheds some light on this simple but critically important issue. If you feel it's important, maybe you ought to share your thoughts with your friends, neighbors, and elected officials. This example uses conservative, average numbers and is simplified for the purposes of illustration. An exact accounting and use of actual costs of production and actual market values would show the actual negative economic impact to local economies to be significantly higher.

First, Do No Household Harm

The Senate is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would impose mandatory restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases, affecting practically every business and consumer in the country.
While supporters claim that the climate-change legislation, S.139, introduced by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), has been toned down in response to concerns about its negative economic effects, a new study by Charles River Associates finds that the impact would still be dramatic -- a cost of between $350 and $1,300 per family per year through 2020.
At a minimum, the study found, "refined petroleum product prices would rise by 12 percent to 16 percent" even under the milder, amended McCain-Lieberman bill. Under the most optimistic assumptions, "the associated consumer costs are estimated to be $350 per household in 2010, rising to $530 per household by 2020."
Coming on top of separate new research that shows clearly that the 20th Century is not the warmest period on record, the Charles River study should discourage Senators concerned about the uncertain U.S. economic recovery from approving McCain-Lieberman -- which would raise energy costs, reduce consumer spending, and kill jobs...

Another Setback for Kyoto

Coming on the heels of Russia's apparent decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the Wall Street Journal reports that the European Union's efforts to implement the agreement on their own may be stalling.

The EU is having trouble keeping its promises to cut so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, by 8 percent from 1990 levels by the end of the decade.

--Based on current trends, the European Environment Agency predicts emissions will fall only 4.7 percent by the time the targets become binding between 2008 and 2012.
--Furthermore, the European Parliament is delaying consideration of a bill to regulate the trading of credits for greenhouse gas emissions reductions -- risking a 2005 deadline for implementation.
--Use of pollution credits would allow the EU to cut its Kyoto bill by about 20 percent from an estimated 3.4 billion euros.

Furthermore, EU diplomats say some governments are backing away from promises to give aid to poorer countries.

--The EU, along with several industrialized nations, promised two years ago to contribute $523 million to developing countries beginning in 2005 to help them combat greenhouse gas emissions.
--But EU environment ministers meeting Monday in Luxembourg failed to agree on the share each country will contribute, with Spain, Greece and Portugal arguing that they are poorer than their Northern European counterparts.
--The southern European countries want their combined contribution reduced by about 20 million (Euro) a year -- but countries are supposed to pay in proportion to their pollution, not their gross domestic product.

Source: Victoria Knight (Dow Jones Newswires), "EU Effort to Fight Global Warming Hits Money Snag," Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2003.

George W. AlGore?

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) recently sued over the Bush administration's adoption of the thoroughly debunked National Assessment in the 2002 report to the U.N. The basis for the suit is the Federal Data Quality Act (FDQA), a new law intended to prevent the circulation of flawed data by government agencies. Thus far, the Bush administration has evaded every private-sector attempt to employ the FDQA. In its efforts to defend the indefensible National Assessment, the administration continues to fight against judicial enforcement of the FDQA, threatening to emasculate the law in the process.

The National Assessment is fatally flawed. It employs computer models that are proven to project climate less capably than a table of random numbers. Though the models also carry disclaimers admitting their futility at producing regional and even national results, the Assessment nonetheless purports that they detail dire calamities broken down with specificity even to the state level.

CEI's suit challenging the Assessment's junk science places "global-warming" alarmism before the courts. In response, the administration is not just protecting the National Assessment: The word is out on K Street that the White House will actively seek to eviscerate the FDQA and its troublesome requirement that data disseminated by the government be objective and have utility for its intended purpose. According to the Bush administration, regulators cannot be held to FDQA's requirements. By implication, their position is that the sole regulatory reform achieved by the Republican Congress contains nothing but toothless exhortations of regulators to do the right thing...

NOTE: Click on the highlighted areas in orange to go to the article, study, report, etc.

Forest Service retirees chide firefighting litigation Calling it "ridiculous" and "irresponsible," the National Association of Forest Service Retirees on Tuesday lambasted a lawsuit filed against the agency by current employees who want an evaluation of the environmental and social effects of wildland firefighting. "It is so outrageous, it boggles my mind," said Richard Pfilf, executive director of the 250-member retirees' group. Retirees lodged their objection in a news release out of Alexandria, Va., saying they are "alarmed by the total lack of responsibility demonstrated" by the lawsuit. In an interview, Pfilf said the lawsuit would attempt to stop the use of chemical retardants while the EIS was prepared, a process that could take years. "Forest Service retirees wonder how anyone can be so irresponsible as to demand stopping the use of retardant to prepare an EIS when Santa Ana winds are now pushing an inferno through Southern California communities," he said. In his news release, Pfilf went further: "FSEEE mischievously contrived this lawsuit as a way to interfere with and subvert proven, effective methods of fighting forest fires. "Claiming possible detriment to fish, should retardant accidentally fall into a water body, and citing a number of deaths of firefighters over the years, the suit fails to mention or equate stream habitat saved by fire suppression and the human lives saved by the use of retardant."...Groups file lawsuit over Kootenai forest timber sale Environmentalists filed another lawsuit against the Kootenai National Forest on Tuesday, hoping to stop a 12.5 million-board-foot timber sale they believe would pollute an already degraded stream. At almost the same time, not knowing a lawsuit had been filed, the Forest Service awarded a contract for the Garver timber sale to Riley Creek Lumber Co. - which bid $1.3 million over the advertised price of $230,000. Filed by Alliance for the Wild Rockies and The Lands Council, the complaint seeks to stop the Garver sale on grounds it violates the Clean Water Act and destroys habitat for species that depend on old-growth trees...House Conferees Backpedal on Protection of Public Lands Conferees from the House and Senate voted last night to reject attempts to protect national parks and monuments, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas from a Bush Administration rule that could turn cow paths and jeep tracks into thousands of miles of bulldozed highways. The joint House-Senate FY 2004 Interior Appropriations Conference approved a conference report that fails to include a bipartisan House provision aimed at limiting a controversial Bush administration regulation. This House provision would have limited the Bush administration from moving forward with efforts to allow BLM to recognize rights-of-way across public lands where there are now little more than footpaths. The Interior Department funding bill now goes back to both houses for final passage...Environmental group plans to sue agency The Blue Mountain Biodiversity Project plans to sue the U.S. Forest Service to stop a large-scale thinning and logging project in the Metolius Basin, according to the environmental group's executive director. Karen Coulter said Monday that her group would file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court because the federal agency denied the organization's appeal of the project. That denial was issued Oct. 17. Coulter said the lawsuit would seek to prohibit the Forest Service from allowing large and old-growth trees to be logged and to prevent the agency from allowing activities that could harm soil productivity...Congress feels heat on logging proposals The wind-whipped wildfires scorching Southern California are providing momentum for legislation moving through Congress to speed thinning of dense forests and brush on public lands throughout California and the West. The fast-moving blazes that have already consumed more than 400,000 acres, destroyed 1,100 homes and claimed at least 13 lives are being cited as exhibit A by advocates of President Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" as well as by those supporting a compromise proposal being pushed by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein to thin at least 20 million acres of land at high risk of a catastrophic fire. On Friday, even before the wildfires raged out of control, House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, urged the Senate to "wake up and smell the smoke" and rally behind a House-passed bill that encompasses much of Bush's original proposal to limit administrative appeals and court challenges for logging and brush-clearing projects. But critics say they fear the hysteria over deadly wildfires in California will help gain approval for a bill that could increase logging in old-growth forest areas and curtail the rights of citizens to challenge Forest Service decisions...Environmentalists suspicious over Bush's Healthy Forest plan "They're working on public fear that a big, catastrophic fire is going to come eat my home," said Deb Robison, a Sierra Club organizer in Boulder, Colo. "The problem is, this won't really protect people's homes." Environmentalists sense a logging giveaway. They accuse the administration of eliminating the threat of forest fires by cutting down forests. And they contend that the fuel-reduction approach is going largely to the wrong places. Rather than thin the woods close to developed areas, they say, Bush is opening too much of the backcountry. Logging there will bring more roads into more wilderness, they say, and bring more fire-starting human activity into the backcountry...Column:Greens' blues over Bush off key A prime example just arrived in the mail from actor Robert Redford on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Redford's fund-raising letter accuses Bush of "waging a sweeping attack on our environmental laws," of "cynical new policies ... (that) will enrich giant corporations even as they increase pollution and destroy some of our most treasured wild lands" and of "allow(ing) 17,000 of the nation's worst polluters to spew more toxic chemicals into our air and harm the health of millions of Americans." When the administration recently announced possible removal of Endangered Species Act protection for Oregon coastal coho salmon because of the species' return to Oregon rivers in record numbers, the National Wildlife Federation accused Bush of "abrogating responsibility" while the Native Fish Society called it "a political fix." The Greens' hatred for Bush's environmental programs is no mystery. To them, Clinton-Gore -- with Bruce Babbitt at Interior -- ranks as the all-time dream-team of environmental politics. So close was the partnership between Clinton-Gore and the vast network of eco-activist organizations that no appreciable differences in their agendas are detectable. Now, viewed from the far left end of the environmental spectrum, each of Bush's programs to balance environmental protection with concern for the lives and livelihoods of people is regarded, and portrayed to the public, as a radical departure from the glory days of Clinton-Gore...Plan to save endangered toad hailed as 'astute compromise' The endangered Houston toad is making more friends among the pines and sandy soil east of Austin. They include weekend farmers and other residents of Bastrop County who have helped compile a conservation plan to save the palm-size amphibian from extinction. A two-volume, 300-page Lost Pines habitat conservation plan compiled by a 15-member citizens' work group is under review by the county attorney's office. By April, it is expected to be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency is responsible under the federal Endangered Species Act for ensuring the survival of the 3.5-inch-long amphibian...Guinn urges panel to finish sage grouse plan Gov. Kenny Guinn urged a state panel Tuesday to complete a conservation plan to protect sage grouse in Nevada before a possible listing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. Guinn appointed the committee made up of representatives of various interest groups and government agencies in 2000 and charged them with developing a conservation strategy to protect the birds and their sagebrush habitat...Rare sighting: Ranchers and farmers join efforts to save a bird Ken Morgan knows it isn't often that significant conservation deals begin with dozens of cups of coffee sipped around kitchen tables in farm country. But with the possibility of yet another species being added to the federal protected list, biologist Morgan asked a smattering of farmers to consider an unusual proposition: Identify, and then acknowledge that endangered mountain plovers nest on their land. In a surprising move of cooperation, the overall-clad agrarians agreed, even if it meant environmentalists could someday use the information against them to justify increased regulation of their land as plover habitat. In this litigious era when the fate of more and more species is being decided in courtrooms, the idea of farmers and ranchers willingly divulging the location of rare animals on the back 40 might seem counterintuitive...Park Service will study 'parasite' bird The National Park Service at Grand Canyon plans to study the possibility of trapping a species of bird that causes problems because it lays eggs in the nests of other birds -- namely the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. Grand Canyon Deputy Superintendent Kate Cannon recently wrote a letter to the Center for Biological Diversity to let it know that the Park Service would conduct a environmental analysis of capturing and removing brown-headed cowbirds. The analysis also will examine other alternatives. The Center wrote the Grand Canyon superintendent in August, critical of the park for ignoring recommendations of a 1996 report that suggested the cowbird was causing problems for the endangered species...Authorities kill 3rd male wolf For the third time, a male wolf joining the Green River pack in Wyoming has had to be killed because of depredations on livestock in the area. The pack, which roams southwest of Grand Teton National Park, has had a consistent alpha female but a revolving door when it comes to male leadership. Federal Wildlife Services, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has had to shoot three males that have joined the pack successively -- each entering the picture when another is removed...Man sought after assault on ranger One man has been arrested and the search for another continued this morning in connection with shooting at a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger in the Red Hills area west of Jamestown yesterday. John James Heller, 20, booked on suspicion of drug possession, remained in custody this morning in lieu of $10,000 bail...Column: Horse (Non) Sense Wild horses is an oxymoron. Wild equines did evolve in the Western Hemisphere, but they also started going extinct here millions of years ago. The last native, truly wild horses vanished from North America in advance of mammoths, camels, and even lumbering giant ground sloths. The two species of so-called wild horse and donkey at large on our prairies, plains, and deserts today were never originally on this continent but are the result of Spaniards' and prospectors' losing their livestock -- or cutting it loose to get rid of it. These feral horses and donkeys are about as wild as stray cats and park pigeons. Like many feral animals, they are whizzes at exploiting newfound habitats. As anyone who has ever followed a parade can testify, they are blessed with "straight-through" digestive systems that let them flourish on a high-fiber, low-nutrient diet. They can reproduce at an annual rate of 15 percent, potentially doubling their population every five years. And predators have never represented a threat: In the early 1800s, when it was seemingly possible to walk (rather briskly, to be sure) on the backs of wolves and grizzly bears from the Mississippi to the Pacific, feral horses were estimated to number 2 million...BLM boosts bonds for oil, gas wells Under the proposed rules, oil and gas companies will have to pay $20,000 in bonds for wells they drill in a particular lease areas. This is double the current rate of $10,000. Bonds for statewide leases, or for wells drilled in federal lands within a particular state, would jump three times to $75,000 from the current rate of $25,000. Bonds for nationwide leases, however, would remain unchanged at $150,000...Column: SUWA on the Defense: Rich Enviro Group Things must be heating up in southern Utah. A rich, Salt Lake City-based environmental group has charged into the middle of recent events involving Kane County’s push for equal treatment of road signage in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). On Saturday, all Garfield and Kane County post office box holders received an arrogant letter from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), informing them that their elected county officials “took actions that lack common sense and may not be in your best interest.” It looks like SUWA is attempting to instill fear into the hearts of private property owners, a large segment of those who received the mailing, by suggesting that the Federal R.S. 2477 law might someday encroach upon them by building a road across their land. SUWA, an environmental organization that has fought legal application of R.S. 2477 for years, deliberately ignores the fact that R.S. 2477 relates to rights-of-way “over public lands”, not over private lands...Park Service Studying Hacienda Casino Purchase The National Park Service has sought for decades to purchase the Hacienda casino, located within what is now the Lake Mead National Recreation Area along U.S. Highway 93 west of Boulder City and long considered an aberration at the entrance to one of the most-visited parks in the nation. After decades of waiting, the Park Service may now have its chance. The owners of the Hacienda Hotel & Casino have recently approached Lake Mead officials about possibly selling the property, an action that has triggered a government-funded appraisal and hazardous materials review of the site that is expected by March, National Park Service spokeswoman Roxanne Dey said...Saving suckers with a shock Endangered suckers still lingering in the A Canal are in for a shock. An electric shock. Fishery biologists with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last week began to "salvage" suckers trapped in the receding waters of the A Canal, which was shut off for the season on Oct. 15. The operation involves sending an electric current through a pool of water, which harmlessly stuns the fish and sends them floating to the top. The fish are then gathered up and carted by pickup to Upper Klamath Lake so they don't dry up with the canal, stay trapped in isolated pools or become lunch for a gull, said Rich Piaskowski, a fishery biologist with the Bureau...Make Way for Buffalo This forlorn farm town — Rawson, population 6 — is a fine place to contemplate the boldest idea in America today: rescuing the rural Great Plains by returning much of it to a vast "Buffalo Commons." The result would be the world's largest nature park, drawing tourists from all over the world to see parts of 10 states alive again with buffalo, elk, grizzlies and wolves. Restoring a large chunk of the plains — which cover nearly one-fifth of the lower 48 states — to their original state may also be the best way to revive local economies and keep hamlets like Rawson from becoming ghost towns. It sounds cruel to say so, but towns like Rawson are a reminder that the oversettlement of the Great Plains has turned out to be a 150-year-long mistake, one of the longest-running and most costly errors in American history. Families struggled for generations to survive droughts and blizzards, then finally gave up and moved on. You can buy a home out here for $3,000, and you can sometimes rent one for nothing at all if you promise to mow the lawn and keep up the house. The rural parts of the Great Plains are emptying, and in some cases reverting to wilderness...PETA plans shareholder campaign against restaurant company An animal-rights group that has pressured fast-food companies is turning its attention to Brinker International Inc., owner of casual-dining chains including Chili's. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Tuesday it has bought 110 shares of Brinker to pressure the company on the raising and slaughter of animals used to fill the restaurants' menus. PETA said owning the shares would give it the right to speak at shareholder meetings and offer resolutions calling for tougher standards for animal care...R-CALF cautiously optimistic on COOL rules The mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) rules released Monday by USDA were met with cautious optimism by the cattle association that helped write the law in the 2002 Farm Bill. Leo McDonnell, President of R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) said the group's preliminary analysis of the rules reveals significant improvements over the voluntary guidelines released by USDA last November, but there are still some issues that need to be addressed. "For the most part, the process is working as USDA has clarified and corrected a number of deficiencies contained in its first draft," he said. McDonnell said the improvements indicate USDA has listened to industry concerns and has taken steps to address these concerns in a meaningful way...50% Chance Of Australian/US FTA The chances of finishing an Australian-U.S. free trade agreement were described as "better than 50 percent" Sunday by Australian Trade Minister Mark Vaile. Vaile also defended AWB Ltd. -- the former Australian Wheat Board -- against charges it may have been involved in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq under an Oil For Food contract for Australian wheat with unusually high prices, as was first reported on DTN. Told by an interviewer on the Australian television program Sunday Sunrise that if the FTA is not signed by Christmas, the consensus is the deal won't be done, Vaile said, "[I] still think it's probably better than 50 percent, but it's very hard to tell. It's a very comprehensive and complex negotiation. We have been given a short time frame to do it in by comparison to other negotiations. It's a matter now of matching the political will with the energy from our negotiating teams and focusing on finding answers to some of the more sensitive issues."...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Washington Post Editorial

This is the kind of crap our elected officials read in D.C. It's enough to make you sick.

Fire Damage

Wednesday, October 29, 2003; Page A24

WITH TERRIFYING intensity, fires are burning across Southern California and Mexico this week, proving once again that natural disasters can be no less devastating than the man-made kind. They have already killed more than a dozen people, destroyed more than 1,500 homes and burned half a million acres. A staggering 50,000 more homes are thought to be under threat, as the fires, fanned by desert winds, move into the Los Angeles and San Diego suburbs. It's a genuine national tragedy -- and one that shouldn't be misused for political purposes.
Unfortunately, that is a distinct possibility. The fires happen to have arrived just as the Senate is wrestling with a bill, already passed by the House, which is supposedly designed to help prevent catastrophic fires. In theory, the bill would address the environmental imbalance that has developed over the past several decades from the Forest Service's misguided policy of preventing all forest fires, even the low-level fires that once cleared away brush and young trees from old forests. Without these periodic fires, forests have become much denser, and big fires are far more damaging than they used to be.
But although foresters and scientists now recognize this problem, brush is still not being cleared away fast enough. Why? The House Republican authors of the forest bill blame overly bureaucratic environmental regulations. Accordingly, their bill attempts to loosen the procedures that the Forest Service must go through before it can carry out "fuel reduction activity" -- a change that would also help the timber industry dodge objections to the cutting down of older forests. This explanation does not stand up to close scrutiny. Last week, the General Accounting Office released the final results of its study on fuel reduction activity and discovered that of the Forest Service's 818 applications to cut brush, only one-quarter were appealed. Of these, 79 percent were processed within 90 days. What is hampering the process is not environmental litigators but finances. To carry out more brush-clearing operations, the Forest Service needs more resources.
But the Forest Service is unlikely to get significantly more resources anytime soon. It would therefore make sense for Congress, instead of passing laws that appear to be largely of benefit to the timber industry, to encourage the Forest Service to spend whatever money it does have on brush-clearing projects closer to human communities. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has helped write a compromise bill that would instruct the Forest Service to spend at least 50 percent of its fuel reduction resources on precisely that. Although this is the right approach, Ms. Feinstein has received no guarantee that her bill won't be completely rewritten by a Republican conference committee, as has lately become common practice.
In the absence of such a guarantee -- which would have to come from the White House -- it's probably better to pass no bill at all. We retain just the slimmest hope that the California blazes might cause members of Congress to redirect their energy toward saving people and homes, and away from helping loggers cut down mature trees.

That's right, let the west burn if need be, just don't do anything that might be beneficial to the timber industry.

Too bad the following column by Alan Caruba is not in a daily paper read by most people on the hill.

When Will Congress Stop Pandering To Greens And Begin To Protect Our Forests And People?

On September 22 of this year, Jack Blackwell, a regional forester of the Pacific Southwest Region of the US Forest Service, testified before the Committee on Resources of the House subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. Barely a month later, his warnings about the conditions of the forested areas of southern California came true, destroying countless homes and taking lives in its path.

He began by noting that the 672,000 acres of the San Bernadino National Forest had some 24 million people living within a two-hour drive and that it was going through "a significant cycle of drought-related, vegetation mortality" involving "severe tree loss." The result was "a tremendous build-up of hazardous fuels" for a cataclysmic fire.

He noted, "Some community covenants have restricted landowners since the 1920s from tree removal activities on private land within the National Forest" and that the "Forest has not had an active timber harvest program for nearly ten years. There are no lumber mills in southern California and now the current removal of dead and dying trees is difficult and expensive."

How much more expensive will be the replacement of the homes that have since been destroyed? Or the loss of revenue due to the restrictions on properly managing this forest areas that could have been gained by cutting and thinning its overgrown mass of trees? Since the Greens mounted their Spotted Owl hoax in the northwest more than a decade ago, countless sawmills have gone out of business and many small towns dependent on them have withered to a few families.

Blackwell told the committee "The President´s Healthy Forest Initiative would play a key role in helping us avoid situations such as we see on the San Bernadino National Forest today. The initiative is based on a common-sense approach to reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires by restoring forest and rangeland health and ensuring the long-term safety and health of communities and natural resources in our care."

He urged "a public and private partnership" as "critical in providing an integrated and coordinated approach to address the crisis forest-wide." And he told the committee that the Forest Service had "redirected $3.2 million in State Fire Assistance and Community Protection/Community Assistance funding for wildfire prevention and hazardous fuels reduction…"

Blackwell warned that other forested areas have similar conditions. "Those ecological conditions, combined with the massive influx of people into California´s wildlands and the rapid growth of communities in and around those wildlands, particularly in the Sierra Nevada, have created the potential for truly disastrous wildfires."

One can hardly wonder what Blackwell is thinking these days or the many forest managers and others who, for years now, have been warning against the now annual loss of huge forest areas to these fires. The plain fact is that the US Forest Service has known for decades that these problems exist and has been issuing these warnings, but the success of the environmental movement in deterring the proper management of forests has once again reaped the whirlwind.

There literally is no excuse for the loss of life and property we have witnessed on our television news and read about in our daily newspapers. The President has been under attack the Greens for his proposed solution to this problem and this is just one more example of the irresponsible and dangerous efforts of Greens to attack the timber industry in every way possible.

It is, of course, all part of the Green attack on the economy in general. It has succeeded, not only with the huge loss of forested areas, the homes of those in and adjacent to them, but also in driving up the cost of lumber in an economy in which new home sales plays a significant, if not the leading role.

There are 490 million acres called timberlands in the US. They can produce more than 20 cubic feet of wood per acre annually. They´re growing more trees today than they were fifty years ago. At the same time, 247 million acres (33.5%) are reserved from harvest by law or are slow-growing woodlands unsuitable for timber production. The bottom line is that the US has some 70% of the forestland that was here in 1600, fully 737 million acres, when the pilgrims first arrived.

The US National Park System represents 83 million acres and unlike national forests, national parks do not allow any timber harvesting. The National Forest System, some 191 million acres, was established "…to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States." These National Forests contribute 25% of the gross receipts from timber sales directly to states for county roads and schools, amounting to millions of dollars each year. All that revenue has been lost because of these preventable catastrophic fires.

This situation has long been known to Congress and to Americans who have witnessed the annual losses. Civil servants like Jack Blackwell have been telling Congress what the problem is and how to solve it. The real question is when will Congress stop pandering to vocal Green organizations and their lobbying, and begin to protect our forests and our people? And when will Americans stop buying into all their lies?

And Hugh Hewitt absolutely gets it

How 'habitat protection' causes killer infernos

...Of course, fire has always been with us. What has not been a feature of the West, however, has been the perversion of land-management policies to extremist environmental agendas.

Serious students of land use in the West know that since 1992, the aggressive expansion of the mandates of the federal Endangered Species Act has led to a crazy quilt approach of federal dictates, many of which are simply incomprehensible. The bewildering array of designations of critical habitat for a variety of species and the threat of federal criminal law violations for illegal "take" of any of a growing list of species has led to a dramatic curtailment of habitat management that has allowed fuel loads to skyrocket throughout the region.

Similarly, the radical expansion of the National Environmental Policy Act as a tool of obstruction has mirrored the rise of the "no growth" movement among environmental activists. Logging plans are routinely challenged and die a death of delay and obstruction. The predictable consequences are infernos that feed on the years of neglect.

When the media arrive at the scene of the disaster, they hear of Santa Ana winds and drought, but never of the relentless opposition to common-sense management practices that could limit the destruction. They never learn that the California Gnatcatcher, to use just one example, was listed as endangered a decade ago despite a robust population here and in Mexico, or that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service routinely refuses to propose aggressive brush-management practices that would allow local governments and landowners to proactively clear habitat that might house the birds. Rather, the Service continues to issue sweeping designations of "critical habitat," the publication of which complicates the management and use of land that doesn't even support gnatcatchers.

For more than a decade, the leadership of the "resource" agencies at the state and local level has included numerous individuals who lack the ability or the motivation to serve the communities that need innovation and action, not more grand plans and environmental documents. President Bush and Gov. Schwarzenegger would both do themselves great good with the public if they embraced reform of these government bureaucracies that have once again failed to protect either the public or the environment from disaster.