FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Don’t Blame the Greens for These Fires

by Andrew George

“Methinks he doth protest too much,” wrote Shakespeare in MacBeth. Recently, the same warning applies to the logging industry’s desperate demagoguery and the wildfires of 2002.

They place blame on “environmental obstructionists” for the wildfires in Arizona and Colorado. Even the N.C. Forestry Association president accused environmentalists of using lawsuits to block legitimate fuel-reduction projects, and thus, the forests have become tinderboxes where “one in three acres was already dead or dying.” This is wrong.

A report last year by the General Accounting Office found that only 20 of 1,671 fuel-reduction projects had been appealed by outside interests. And none of the projects had been litigated. In Arizona, out of more than 230 such projects, only one was appealed, and that appeal never went to court. In short, there were no lawsuits.

Radio talk-show host Jim Hightower once said, “If you find you have dug yourself into a hole, quit digging.” The timber industry should take this advice.

However, in response to the GAO’s report, former timber industry lobbyist and current US Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Mark Rey, released a new report Wednesday, July 10, which, he claimed, proved environmentalists were exacerbating the fire threat by suing the US Forest Service.

Rey forgets to mention, however, that environmentalists supported legitimate burning and thinning projects of small trees near communities at risk from forest fires. No, the Forest Service was sued when they proposed logging of old growth forests, roadless areas, and endangered species habitat.

The timber industry is simply trying to exploit the catastrophic wildfires in order to gut environmental regulations and increase commercial logging in OUR national forests. Unfortunately, commercial logging will only intensify the danger of fires, not prevent them.

The wildfires of 2002 are a legacy of 100 years of fire suppression, commercial logging and livestock grazing. All three practices favored the growth of small, spindly trees, while timber companies cut down the largest, most fire- resistant trees.

During NFPA’s 2002 Wildfire Summit held in Missoula, MT last month, USFS Researcher Jack Cohen, emphasized that the best way to protect homes from fire is to eliminate combustible fuels immediately surrounding the home. The Stanford Research Institute found a 95 percent survival rate for homes with nonflammable roofs and a 30-60 feet clearance of surrounding vegetation. The point is clear: the factors that contribute the most to home ignition are located within the home’s immediate surroundings – not miles away in the forest.

In response to the wildfires of 2000, Congress dramatically increased funding for federal wildland fire management programs-called the National Fire Plan. To date, over $6.6 billion in taxpayer dollars have been allocated for implementation of the plan. Instead of using this public money to protect people’s homes from fire, however, the logging industry and the US Forest Service are using these funds to plan commercial logging projects in remote areas where the biggest, most economically valuable trees are.

During congressional oversight hearings in 2001, the Forest Service’s then National Fire Plan Coordinator, Lyle Laverty, revealed that only 25 percent of these funds were spent protecting areas near homes, despite clear direction from Congress to spend 100 percent of the monies to protect communities. What is going on here?

The General Accounting Office stated in its 2002 report that, “It is not possible to determine if the $796 million appropriated for hazardous fuels reduction is targeted to the communities and other areas at highest risk.” The Inspector General for the Department of Agriculture also recently reprimanded the Forest Service for inappropriately using National Fire Plan monies intended for restoration projects on commercial timber sales.

The solution: The National Forest Protection and Restoration Act (H.R. 1494). This is a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress in 1997 that allows for the treatment of brush, small diameter trees and even fire ladders to reduce hazardous fuels.

In addition, this bill would end the commercial logging program in our federal lands and return over $500 million annually to the taxpayer.

Over 221 of the nation’s preeminent scientists signed a letter to the president in April calling for permanent protection of our federal lands from commercial logging, as envisioned in the National Forest Protection & Restoration Act.

It is time for the US Forest Service and the timber industry to accept responsibility for their mismanagement. Commercial logging is the problem, not the solution.

Andrew George is National Forest Protection Alliance Southeast Field Organizer.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail