The huge forest fires that raged in July in western states and in Alaska finally have put a national spotlight on the big Washington, D.C., environmental lobbies, revealing policies that have cost millions and millions of dollars and wasted millions of acres of prime timberland.
The greens have blocked timber harvests, have sued to keep roads from being built in forests, and have pushed political agendas that have prevented proper management of these great timber resources.
Their determination to keep people out of the forests has made it possible for forests to turn into flaming torches.
Gov. Jane Dee Hull of Arizona summed things up nicely:
''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.''
The environmental lobbies -- now largely silent in the face of millions of acres going up in smoke -- are taking the blame. Rightly so.
A bipartisan effort is underway in the Senate to introduce legislation to deal with the sad state of current forest management policies that were put in place by the Clinton administration.
Ted Stevens, one of those supporting the new legislation, said the nation has ''more than 28 million acres of high danger fuel loads in our forests, including over 4 million acres of spruce bark beetle kill forests in Alaska.'' And he paints this picture of the enormity of the loss in the 49th State:
''The amount of beetle kill forests in Alaska equals a 2.33 mile wide strip from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. With over half of our state's population surrounded by beetle kill forests, it is critical that we find a way to reduce the fuel loads.''
Sen. Frank Murkowski, who has been advocating better forest management for years, says the beetle kill in Alaska extends over ''an area larger than the entire state of Connecticut, leaving 30 billion board feet of rotting wood just waiting for a match to ignite a giant wildfire.''
One of the environmentalists' biggest fans, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, already has acted -- in a hypocritical way typical of his two-faced approach to public policy.
He added a provision to a defense appropriation bill that would allow logging on national timber land in his home state of South Dakota, and exempt it from environmental regulations and lawsuits.
Responded Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican:
''What's good for the Black Hills should be good for every forest in the United States.'' Too bad the fact is so late being recognized.
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