truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Fri Aug 25 01:20:18 EST 2000

The following editorial first ran in The Oregonian, Commentary Page, Aug.
22, 2000, p B13, and is posted here with permission of the author.

The harp on roads and clearcutting, but those are just the things that
make for a forest fire


(Reach Thomas Michael Power, chairman of the Economics Department at the
University of Montana in Missoula, at tmpower at selway.umt.edu.)

	To most of us, it is unseemly to take advantage of other people's
tragedy, hard times and fear. Yet some folks, driven by the pursuit of
profits or political ambition, simply cannot resist. That is the case
with those seeking advantage from the terror most of us in the Northern
Rockies are experiencing as fires engulf us and threaten to render our
homes and hometowns uninhabitable.
	Except for the suffocating ash fallout from Mount St. Helens, we in
the Northern Rockies have had the luxury of observing natural
catastrophes at a distance on our televisions. This summer's wildfires
have changed that.
	The forest products industry has been in the lead in exploiting our
hard times. The industry wants access -- as cheaply as it can get it --
to as much wood fiber as possible.
	It once had privileged access to forested public lands. As the
frontier economy has faded and government givewaways have fallen out of
political favor, the forest products industry's privileged grip on public
resources has begun to slip. The current forest fires offer them an
opportunity to try to regain some of their lost clout.
	The firest, timber industry representatives claim, are a result of
restrictions on commercial logging on public lands. They are attempting
to blame the federal government and the environmentalists for causing the
fires that now threaten us. As one timber industry advocate baldly said.
"I never saw a clear-cut burn."
	Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course clear-cuts burn.
When long, hot summers dry out the grasses, brush and logging wastes,
they can flare explosively. When they regenerate with closely packed
young trees, they present exactly the fire danger was are wrestling with
now. And miles of logging roads provide people access to the forests;
people are the source of the vast majority of non-lightning-caused fires.
	If road building and logging actually eliminated the threat of
wildfire, most of the fires that threaten us now would not be burning.
Look at where these fires are: They are largely burning on the forest-
urban interface in areas adjacent to intense human activity. These are
not roadless areas but areas that have been extensively roaded and logged
in the past. Commercial logging and the roads associated with it do not
reduce the threat of wildfire. They do the opposite.
	Commercial logging does not remove dangerous fuel loads. Instead it
takes the largest, most valuable and most fire-resistant trees, leaving
behind a firetrap. Commercial logging is not a prescription for forest
health; it is one of the major causes of unhealthy forest conditions.
	Until the forest products industry stops trying to insist that
clear-cutting our public lands is necessary for the health of those
lands, we will make no progress in restoring those lands.

copright 2000, Thomas Michael Power

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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