Proposed change in forest policy will help reduce fire risk

Posted: Wednesday, September 04, 2002

President Bush is moving in the right direction on management of America's national forests.

The existing policy of non-management -- allowing fire fuels to grow unchecked -- has resulted in thick undergrowth as well as disease and age-weakened trees that are highly susceptible to forest blazes.

Bush wants to clear away the underbrush, dead wood and small trees that make many forests into tinderboxes. As a result of the non-management policy imposed by green elitists, some 6 million acres of national forest land has been destroyed by fire this year.

More than 60,000 forest fires broke out in the last few months. About 20 of those in 10 states were considered major blazes. The blazes destroyed 2,000 buildings and cost the lives of 20 firefighters.

But the greens have argued that allowing the nation's forest resources to go up in smoke is preferable to reducing risk. The policy imposed at their urging would destroy the trees in order to save them from the ogre loggers.

In reaction to the fires, some green leaders said they would support limited thinning but oppose commercial cutting, which is the most sensible and cost-effective way to clean up the mess.

Bush proposes to avoid using government crews or contractors to do the thinning at public expense. Instead, he wants logging companies to handle the work. In exchange, the loggers would be allowed to cut down a limited volume of marketable mature trees.

''We need to be honest with the American people,'' Bush said on a tour of fire-scorched areas ... . ''The forest policy of our government is misguided policy. We're going to change the forest policy in Washington.''

Bush will ask Congress for legislation to speed up thinning and require that judges consider fire risks when they hear the inevitable rush of green lawsuits. His plan would streamline the regulatory and legal process that has made real forest protection all but impossible.

The proposed forest management change would be a welcome improvement. Hopefully it will be approved and applied in Alaska, where millions of trees have been killed by spruce bark beetles. The bug infestation resulted in large part from the leave-the-trees-alone policy adopted by federal officials in response to demands by environmental activists.

The dead trees pose a major fire threat to much of Southcentral Alaska ... . That threat is unnecessary and a frightful testament to the wrongheaded policies forced on the nation by forest-loving elitists.

-- Voice of the (Anchorage) Times

Aug. 28

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