Politics and money are driving management of national forests
October 1, 2002
Concerning “Forests must be cleared out,” Sept. 10 2002), having appealed several Tahoe National Forest logging projects, I probably have a better than average understanding of what’s going on in our national forests. So, contrary to the belief that environmentalists are holding up thinning projects, I agree with the need to thin the Highly flammable fine fuels, especially near populated areas.
In fact, that is exactly what the appeals are about. All are premised on the need to protect wildlife, watersheds and communities by carrying out legitimate thinning projects that honestly reduce risk of future wildfires. Instead, we continue to see industrial grade timber sales falsely labeled as thinning projects. It is still the large fire-resistant (and commercially valuable) trees that are being cut, while the small diameter materials that actually fuel wildfires are left untouched.
Getting the agency to tell the truth about this has struck a nerve, as evidenced by the current disinformation campaign claiming environmentalists are blocking thinning projects. Not true. The appeals would stop if the agency would stop pushing projects that harm endangered wildlife and increase risk of wildfires.
It is important to remember how politics and timber industry campaign contributions drive national forest management. When timber sales are approved, the Forest Service all but gives the trees away, typically under the guise of “protecting” the forest. Because taxpayers cover most expenses, profits can be substantial. The timber company is free to use these profits to fund campaigns of congresspersons like Wally Herger, who consistently votes to fund the agency with more tax dollars, thus assuring the next round of timber sales.
These sales again will take the large, profitable, fire resistant trees, leaving slash and unthinned trees to fuel future fires. Lately, however, extraneous costs of these schemes have soared into the billions as inferno-like fires consume the small trees, brush and logging slash.
Fearing their cash cow is about to expire, the Forest Service and some politicians are desperate to find someone to blame. They should look in the mirror.