Environmental Groups Use Smokescreen to Dodge Responsibility for Wildfires, by Tom Randall

BACKGROUND: As President Bush travels to Oregon for a major address on wildfires to be delivered on this date, the Wilderness Society and other environmental groups are distorting the truth to escape responsibility for policies that have exacerbated the wildfires.

“Severe drought has caused an above average number of fires,” the Wilderness Society told United Press International. “As the blame game continues the U.S. Forest Service clearly must improve its performance if it is to achieve the goal of the National Fire Plan — prioritizing our limited resources to protect lives and homes.”

As of August 21, there have been 59,171 fires this year versus a 10-year average of 60,966. However, the number of acres burned is more than double: 6,005,751 this year versus a 10-year average of 2,838,685.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: We’ve had droughts in the past without monster wildfires. The difference now is the dramatic increase in fuel caused by a 90 percent reduction in logging over the last decade.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Wildfires burn more acreage today because the overabundance of fuel in our forests makes them too hot and fast-moving to control. This is the direct result of the near elimination of sensible logging and thinning practices due to protests, challenges, even lawsuits by environmental organizations. The more radical of their allies, such as the Earth Liberation Front, even resort to terrorist acts to halt logging and thinning projects.

DISCUSSION: In addition to heavy fuel loads, firefighting efforts are made more difficult by a lack of roads. Numerous fire reports by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho end with cryptic statements such as, “difficult and inaccessible terrain is impeding containment efforts.”

Yet, the same extreme environmental groups that claim to bear no responsibility for today’s monster fires worked behind closed doors during the Clinton administration to institute the “Roadless Rule” which prohibits road building in 58.5 million acres of our nation’s forests. Even while denying responsibility for the dangerous state of our forests, these groups are fighting the Bush administration’s attempts to modify this rule as well as efforts to reinstate sound forest management practices.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Track the current wildfire situation at the National Interagency Fire Center at http://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/nfn.html.

For more information on preventing and fighting wildfires, visit the National Center’s Forest Policy Information Center at: http://www.nationalcenter.org/Forest.html. Get specific information on the relationship between poor forest management and wildfires from Dr. Tom Bonnicksen’s National Policy Analysis #424, Tree-Huggers or Fire-Huggers?: The Environmental Movement’s Confused Forest Policy at: http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA424.html.

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