Funding for USFS "fire-proofing"?

Larry Harrell fotoware at
Sat Aug 19 08:50:49 EST 2000

I heard recently that the USFS is sending to Congress a proposal to thin out
the underbrush from Montana to California in one fell (pardon the slip)
swoop. The USFS is putting a 12 BILLION dollar price tag on the project to
"save" the forests of the west. I haven't heard the details of the plan yet
but, the timing of this is right on with the fires raging and the election
looming. What I see from inside the USFS is:

1) This project would take forever to implement on this scale, trying to use
a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Some rules and regulations would have to be
side-stepped (ala Salvage Rider)
2) The USFS currently does not have the personnel and expertise to implement
such a huge project like this. Downsizing has decimated the workforce and
there is a distinct lack of timber-savvy people left in the agency.
3) Threatened and endangered species will prohibit this type of thinning
work in vast areas. Here in California, Spotted Owl activity centers bar ANY
projects and some of these large blocks of lands are currently in imminent
danger from fire.
4) This $12 billion price tag will have to include "service contracts" which
pay loggers and other crews to thin out the flammable thickets of small,
sub-merchantable trees and pile brush. In many areas though, the projects
COULD be paid for with small merchantable timber cut from in between the
larger thick-barked pines we want to save. We ARE currently doing this kind
of management on my Ranger District.
5) The USFS will have to increase it's permanent staff to implement this
plan which should take many years to complete. Is the public willing to
allow government to get bigger?

I'm looking forward to seeing reactions from all angles on this proposal.
I'm also very interested in seeing our forests "saved" by management of the
understory. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of controversy and
finger-pointing over this proposal. Can we overcome these issues to avert
fire storms that burn together, impacting our mountains for generations?

Larry,     wanting to do what is right for the land, as opposed to what is
right for the humans

       Larry Harrell Fotoware
Making software out of Fotos for over five years now
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