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Let the Forests be Forests

From the very beginning, government has existed to facilitate the distribution of stolen treasure, and then protect the most powerful serial looters at the expense of their victims.

Instead of bringing these financial criminals to justice, the current regime finances the pioneering of new profit zones to benefit wealthy investors, corporations, paid collaborators and their government agency sponsors.

Consider what would happen if government all of a sudden quit sponsoring non-viable business enterprises that depend on converting public resources into profits.

Keep in mind that many of the same financial interests – robber barons – that originally exploited the western frontier will never voluntarily stop liquidating Earth’s natural resources. This is why pressure from Wall Street and K Street on Congress, state governors, the president and judicial system is relentless in pursuit of deregulation and privatization of everything public.

Do you hate the government while complaining that it isn’t doing enough for you? This message is for you.

For millennia forests have been doing fine all by themselves.

No matter what politicians, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or the Wilderness Society, et al., say about “collaborative” clearcutting and bulldozing roads into our remaining roadless areas, the truth is that no amount of logging, “thinning” or prescribed burning will save us from nature’s cycles of life, death and renewal.

Fighting a costly, losing war against the forces of nature destroys forests ultimately to serve the timber industry and its bankers. Manipulating the forest and public perception has nothing to do with reducing risks associated with large-scale wildfire. The whole idea that forests are “out of whack” is a myth concocted to justify unprofitable, unsustainable thinning and clearcutting on unsuitable ground.

For sawmills, it’s all about more profit. For the Forest Service, it’s all about bigger annual agency budgets. For paid collaborators, it’s all about a seat at the political table and perceived “credibility.” And for the media, it’s all about ratings and the bottom line.

As Mother Nature puts another fire season to bed, many in the timber industry and banking industry are poised to capitalize on people’s fears and ignorance about the essential role of fire in forest ecosystems.

Firefighting is primarily about saving homes and other “structures.” Instead of logging our public forests, wouldn’t it make more sense to simply discourage people from building new homes in fire-prone areas? For existing homes, effective steps can be taken utilizing a little personal responsibility and minor government assistance where necessary to reduce the likelihood of property loss in the ignition zone (within 200 feet) before a wildfire threatens. Assisting homeowners to reduce the flammability of homes is a far more effective strategy and far less costly.

Ignorant politicians who claim to want “smaller government and lower taxes” overpromise with contrary claims that bigger, more costly government intervention will create a fire-proof forest and eventually win the endless war against wildfire.

More tax dollars wasted on more sophisticated firefighting equipment and more firefighters won’t reduce the risk of wildfire. Rural communities will not be made safer by throwing more money at bigger and bigger subsidized clearcutting and counterproductive thinning projects.

It’s time to deal with the simple fact that many things that occur in nature cannot be controlled by human intervention. Leonard Cohen said: “Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.”

We can no longer afford to ignore the forces of nature. It’s time for a holistic new approach to national forest management.

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Steve Kelly is a an artist and serves as a member of the board of directors of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.  

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