Monday, February 09, 2009

Burning our bucks in the woods

From The Oregonian:

The Forest Service is slated to receive from Congress $300 million to pay for hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal land. Hazardous fuels reduction includes removing small trees from forests, mowing brush and prescribed burning. The National Fire Plan created the hazardous fuels reduction program. The Forest Service says the fuels program is intended "to help save the lives of firefighters and citizens and to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to our communities, forests, and rangelands." Since its adoption in 2001, the NFP's hazardous fuels program has treated fuels on 29 million acres at a cost of $2 billion. So what's been the return on our $2 billion investment? Has the program saved lives, reduced fires or protected communities? From 2001 through 2007, 136 firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. In the preceding seven-year period (1994-2000), 130 firefighters died. Under the NFP, fires have burned an average of 7 million acres each year. In the seven-year period before the NFP, fires burned 4 million acres a year. In the last seven years, firefighting costs averaged $1.4 billion a year. In the preceding period before the NFP, costs averaged half that amount. Under the NFP, 1,482 houses have been lost annually to wildfires (most are in Southern California), compared to an average 563 houses lost yearly in the two years (for which I have data) before the NFP....

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