Tinder reduction, not timber production
After more than 40 years of the Smokey Bear perspective and decades of people creating communities in the woods, we have increasingly come to view wildfires as “catastrophes” to be averted at all costs – even if that cost is the continued decline in the health of our forest ecosystems.
However, many forest scientists recognize that Western ecosystems evolved with and in response to fire – and that many species depend on the environmental influences that fire creates. Fires should be allowed to burn naturally when feasible – and may be necessary to maintain and restore some landscapes in the western United States.
Last Thursday President Bush unveiled his wildfire plan. His plan calls for tripling the amount of logging in Northwest forests, suspending environmental laws, and limiting public review of management of our public lands. While I support legitimate fire protection, the president’s plan is nothing more than a giveaway to his timber industry allies and does not focus on the areas that need the most protection, rural communities.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have put forth a better plan; fire suppression throughout forest ecosystems should not be a management goal of the highest priority. Rather, our plan calls for focusing on protection of communities first by carrying out the vast majority of fuel reduction projects in Community Protection Zones. And Congress and the administration should provide meaningful funding for these projects.
The commitment of the USFS to hazardous fuels reduction in the Community Protection Zone comes into question when, after years of stated concern for reducing the threats of wildfires, the Forest Service budget request for FY03 includes almost $44 million more for the commercial timber sale line item than for hazardous fuels treatment.
Furthermore, we need to develop policies that discourage structures in fire-prone areas. For more details on our proposal, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.
Sierra Nevada Group/
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