Saturday, August 11, 2018

Congressman urges stepped-up timber harvests amid fires

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., has become the latest Western lawmaker to call for forest reforms as wildfires rage throughout the region.
Speaking at the annual Lake Tahoe Summit on Aug. 7, McClintock said that "expedited authority" for timber projects should be expanded and projects "brought on line soon" to thin forests of excessive fuel loads.
Here are his full remarks, according to a news release:
"For many years, forest management and fire-prevention took a back-seat at these summits, but now nature is screaming its warning at us as fires rage throughout the west: the Tahoe Basin is on borrowed time.  The fires all around us present a stark question: How much longer does Tahoe have?  Will the view at next year’s summit be one of burned out structures, blackened vistas and an ash-choked lake?
"I have raised this issue at these summits for many years now.  The thin line that has held so far is the vigilance of the Basin’s fire agencies, but that line can’t hold forever against a continuing buildup of fuels in these mountains.
"I have often reminded these summits that excess timber WILL come out of the forest in one of only two ways.  It is either carried out or it burns out.  When we carried it out, we had healthy, resilient forests and thriving local economies, and revenues generated by surplus timber sales went to local governments and to support federal forest management.
'Policy of benign neglect'
"But in the 1970’s, we consigned our forests to a policy of benign neglect by adopting laws that have made the active management of our forests endlessly time consuming and ultimately cost prohibitive.  In those years, timber harvested off the federal lands fell 80 percent, with a concomitant increase in acreage destroyed by forest fire.
"Today, we carry out about one fifth of the annual growth in our forests.  QUESTION: If I delivered five newspapers to your doorstep every day and you only threw one of them away, how long would it take for your home to become a firetrap?  That’s the condition of our public forests today.
"Ironically, the privately managed lands not subject to these requirements have proven themselves to be more resistant to fire and much more resilient after a fire.  Fires hitting properly managed lands slow and break up. And when a private forest is ravaged by fire, foresters are able to quickly salvage dead timber, suppress brush build-up, and plant new trees for the next generation.  Surely we have learned by now that benign neglect doesn’t work and active forest management does.

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