Forester Letter To Clinton

Discussion in 'Land Use' started by mudfanatic, Aug 30, 2000.

  1. mudfanatic

    mudfanatic 1/2 ton status

    Feb 18, 2000
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    Aloha, Oregon
    Written by a retired forester, now a consultant and member of the Blue
    Ribbon Coalition Board of Directors.

    August 24, 2000

    Honorable William Clinton
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC, 20500

    Dear Mr. President,

    Through the actions of Secretary of Agriculture Glickman, Secretary of the
    Interior Babbitt, and DEQ Chairman Frampton and their respective staff people,
    your administration, not Mother Nature, is substantially at fault for the
    large number of fires wreaking havoc on the national forests in the Western
    United States. I am glad that you have personally observed the results of your
    administration's failing practices with respect to the frequency of
    catastrophic wildfires on the national forests.

    While your administration didn't light many of the fires, your policies
    assured there would be catastrophic wildfires if there were many ignitions by
    lightning or other causes during a heat wave when forests are tinder dry. Some
    have been caused by your own government people setting "controlled burns",
    resulting in great losses of natural resources and private property. A series
    of administrative actions are responsible:

    First - Under your risky scheme of "reinventing the government", the field
    organizations of the Forest Service have been decimated. Fire fighting
    capabilities have been reduced to dangerously low levels. Forces for
    protection of individual forests are only 50% of 1995 strength. Fire
    prevention personnel and initial attack forces of organized "hot shots" crews
    are at the lowest number I can recall. Meanwhile, the Washington office of the
    Forest Service has increased by 300 people who don't fight fire. It has been
    impossible for the present fire organization to make prompt initial attack
    when faced with multiple lightning fires. This insures that many fires will
    become large and destructive during this hot, dry period. Your
    administration's resource utilization policy has alienated or driven away most
    of the local folks (e.g., loggers, mill workers, ranch hands, construction
    workers) who had helped out in emergency fire situations.

    Second - Through curtailment of logging, your administration has allowed the
    accumulation of dangerous levels of fuels. Forests are dynamic. They continue
    to produce new biomass each year, are subject to wind and snow breakage and
    losses from insect infestations and disease. These fuels continue to
    accumulate and build, just waiting to oxidize. A fire, in the dry, hot period
    we are now experiencing, lets this fuel carry fire up into the tree tops,
    resulting in crown fires incinerating large and small trees alike. Communities
    near the national forests face unacceptable fire risks.

    Third - Your administration decided to deal with the forest fuel crisis in a
    "natural way," by the use of prescribed fire. The difficulty with this
    approach is that millions of acres need to be treated and it would take many
    years before this scheme could be fully tested. This unrealistic proposal
    flies in the face of personnel reductions imposed on the very same people who
    are expected to take on this unprecedented level of prescribed fire. The
    result, of course, can be seen in the escaped fires in New Mexico and
    California, burning hundreds of homes and millions of trees. The highly
    qualified people necessary to conduct prescribed fire on such a large scale
    are simply not on board. How many more homes will be burned under these

    Fourth - The loss of resources associated with catastrophic fires is enormous.
    Precious old growth is destroyed, public recreation opportunities eliminated
    for many years, fish and wildlife habitat severely damaged, flood damage
    likely, and enough wood destroyed to build hundreds of thousands of homes for
    people who own part of this forest legacy, but can't afford their own home.
    Catastrophic fires are "stand terminating", threatening all forest resource
    management objectives mandated by multiple-use and other laws; clean air,
    water quality, recreational values, abundant wildlife, a continuous supply of
    wood, and a healthy environment for people. Your administration abandoned the
    multiple use sustained yield management principles mandated by law (MUSY Act
    of 1960).

    It is timely to reconsider the disastrous consequences associated with this
    combination of policies. Among others, the National Roadless Study and Sierra
    Nevada Framework Draft DEIS, promise to exclude access and fuel removal from
    yet another 56 million acres of national forests! Presidential hopeful, Al
    Gore added another risky proposal when he announced that he would prohibit any
    logging in roadless areas, even if material were to be removed by helicopter.
    That would be dangerous, irresponsible management for the national forests,
    increasing the risk of catastrophic fire to forests and communities, under the
    guise of environmental protection.

    I speak from a 32 year career with the Forest Service serving for years at the
    field level and as a Regional Forester, Deputy Chief, and Associate Chief. I
    have an extensive background in protecting and managing the National Forests.
    My many professional associates and I are appalled by the forest devastation
    resulting from your administration policies.

    Since retirement I have continued to work as a consultant dealing with
    wild-land fire safety. I recently visited forests destroyed by catastrophic
    fire that could have been prevented, if only your Administration, pressured by
    preservation zealots, had not halted the Forest Service efforts to remove
    hazardous fuels before the lightning fires occurred.

    The recent $12 billion proposal for Congress "to clean dense, fire-prone
    underbrush from 40 million acres" is ludicrous without an overhaul of forest
    management and fire protection policies coupled with a major rebuilding of
    Forest Service capabilities, including research.

    Many of us would be glad to assist in such a review and reconstruction of the
    failed policies.

    Douglas R. Leisz
    Consulting Forester

    <font color=red>get involved with land issues or lose the land</font color=red>

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