Western U.S. Ravaged by Wildfires

 from Liberty News Service

7/5/02 - Wildfires have been raging across the western United States at an unprecedented pace.  Already, 50% more acres have been destroyed this year than in previous years.  Arizona is experiencing its worst year in history, with 500,000 acres burned so far and 30,000 people evacuated from their homes, 423 of which have been destroyed.  

Incredibly, the monster blaze was deliberately started by Bureau of Indian Affairs fire-fighter, Leonard Gregg, who allegedly told investigators he started the blaze to earn money fighting the fire.  

Colorado also had the 137,000-acre Hayman fire that was also allegedly deliberately started by Forest Service employee, Terry Barton forcing 8,800 people from their homes, of which 137 were consumed.  Finally, it’s being reported that the past 10 years of natural resource neglect has led to the current situation. The Wall Street Journal issued a scathing denunciation of federal mismanagement of the public lands at the direction of radical environmental groups.  

“Despite the Sierra Club spin, catastrophic fires like Hayman are not inevitable, or good.  They stem from bad forest management—which found a happy home in the Clinton administration.”  

WSJ reported that U.S. Forest chief Dale Bosworth, last week told Congress the present sorry state would not have occurred had “proper forest-management been implemented 10 years ago and if the agency weren’t in the grip of ‘analysis paralysis’ from environmental regulation and lawsuits.”   

Regardless of the enviros’ arguments that the taxpayers subsidize logging in national forests, the opposite is true.  Selective logging helped pay for forest service staff, forestry stations, cleanup and roads.  “Today, with green groups blocking timber sales at every turn, the GAO says taxpayers will have to spend $12 billion to cart off dead wood.”

Feeling the Heat

The governors of western states, at a meeting in Phoenix, “launched a broadside against environmentalists” for their constant lawsuits aimed at obstructing proper forest management.  

Arizona Governor Jane Hull blasted know-nothing Easterners, saying;  “the policies that are coming from the East Coast, that are coming from the environmentalists, that say we don’t need to log, we don’t need to thin our forests are absolutely ridiculous.  

Nobody on the East Coast knows how to manage these fires, and I, for one, have had it.”   Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club spokeswomen, claims the governors are all wet and has urged the U.S. Forest Service to stop subsidizing logging and instead invest in fire prevention through thinning the forests near communities.  

“There is no way to avoid fire in the forest,” said Bahr.  John Horning of Forest Guardians said;  “It’s predictable but also irresponsible to lay the blame of 100 years of fire suppression and logging and overgrazing at the feet of the environmental community.”  He then criticized people who build homes in fire-prone areas saying: “[T]here are some places where people just shouldn’t be building homes.”  

But Forest Guardians admit they would support forest thinning so long as it does not benefit commercial loggers and is done with solar-powered chainsaws.  Have you noticed there has not been one word of concern expressed from the media or environmentalists about the loss of habitat and life of the forest creatures that these hypocritical groups claim to defend?

Babbitt Says, Live With It

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told Today Show host, Matt Lauer, on June 24th that people threatened by wildfires better “learn to live with fire.”   

Lauer regurgitated the environmentalists’ mantra that 100 years of fire suppression has led to the current situation and that fire is nature’s way of clearing out dry underbrush and asked Babbitt: "How would you tell people in a local community or whose property might be at risk, we’re going to let this burn out because it’s nature’s way?”  

Babbitt responded: “Well, what we’re telling people now is we’re going to have to learn to live with these fires, they’re a natural part of the system…..they’re big fires and we can’t possibly put ‘em out until the weather changes.  We’re going to have to persuade people to build fire resistant homes…we’re going to have to clear safety zones around these rural communities.”  

Lauer responded with: “some Republicans are blaming the environmentalists, saying if the environmentalists would allow more logging and stop protesting so much logging then perhaps that would thin the forests and we wouldn’t have these catastrophic fires. 

Babbitt’s response:  “Well, that’s not the case.  The problem is the undergrowth and the small trees and the logging doesn’t help at all. Logging takes the big trees and ironically enough, the big trees aren’t the problem….The fact is, there is really nothing we can do to fireproof the forest.”  

Babbitt continued that there is a national fire plan under way that disburses federal money to communities to create fire barriers and clear brush. (Way to go, Bruce, timber companies used to pay for that themselves).

Bush Promotes Fitness On Public Lands  

While many people were running for their lives to escape the infernos raging across much of the West, President Bush took time out to admonish folks to get off their duffs and get out onto public lands for a little healthy recreation.  Mr. Bush signed two executive orders under his Healthier US Initiative recommending citizens to exercise daily, eat a balanced diet, undergo regular health screenings, and choose healthy lifestyles.  He explained that “regular hiking through a park can add years to a person’s life.”  He then lauded Interior Secretary Norton for doing her part to help the folks enjoy federal lands by generously waiving entrance fees, June 22 and 23. 

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