The Fiery Fruits of Environmentalism

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Last year, I wrote an article suggesting that it might be prudent to let states and localities have more control over forest management in their regions. I received a number of angry letters from people claiming to be conservatives who claimed that I am in favor of paving over every square inch of wilderness left on the face of the planet. Wilderness, you see, is an essential part of the freedom-loving American spirit. I agree with this. I just see an irony in putting the feds in charge of that which is supposed to nurture freedom. I also prefer that my wilderness not be on fire.

Fortunately all those farsighted "conservatives" have had their way, and as ash rains down on us here in Colorado I can be truly thankful that those feds are doing such a stellar job keeping our forests in top-notch condition. Oh sure, over 100,000 acres of forests and 22 private homes have burned, but at least we kept those nasty loggers out. To the wondrous environmentalists, the great evil of logging apparently outdoes the evils of widespread erosion and water pollution that will inevitably come in the wake of these wild fires. Potable water? Who needs it? We’d rather sock it to the lumberjacks.

And who can resist mentioning that the biggest fire out here was started by none other than an employee of the United States forest service? Apparently, she was driving around keeping all of us peons from burning anything, and she decided to have a little fire of her own. Obviously, an IQ over 80 isn’t required to be a forest ranger. The wind picked up and blew some of her burning papers to the forest floor. The forest floor is a bad place for fires. Thanks to hysterical federally guided environmentalism, the entire forest is constructed like a camp fire. Any boy scout knows that to start up a good fire, you find a bunch of little pieces of dead stuff, and pile progressively larger pieces of wood over that. Well, since no one is allowed in federally controlled forests anymore except fornicating college students, the debris has built up for decades and now the entire forest is one giant kindling pile. Instead of grassy meadows running under patchy forests where low intensity fires regularly burn, we have a tangled thicket of dead wood that is home to cute furry creatures that the children of hippies like to look at. It’s all ready to go up in flames any minute, and all it takes is one moron forest ranger.

This problem could have been averted by allowing loggers to do some "tree thinning" (which is nothing like clear cutting) and pulling out all that dead stuff that is killing the forests. This might have been possible if the Colorado Department of Natural Resources had any say in how Colorado’s natural resources are used, but it does not. The people responsible for our ash storm all live in Washington and have put together a forest management plan so convoluted and byzantine that it is virtually impossible to cut one measly living tree down without having federal marshals on your doorstep. One Colorado congressman has dared suggest that maybe Colorado might benefit from having some local control in forest management. Given that the feds own over fifty percent of this state, you’d think that might not produce total hysteria in Washington. Think again.

To allow local control might mean that there would be some logging roads built into the forests to thin the trees. Senators don’t like to see unsightly evidence of forest industry when they’re vacationing out here with their mistresses. They like to pretend that they’re back in the nineteenth century minus the hard work and the polio. Of course, if they weren’t completely ignorant, they’d know that the forests were far more healthy in the nineteenth century because people actually cut some trees down every now and then.

In the end it doesn’t matter for the people who really decide how our local lands will be managed. They’ll just vacation somewhere else until the forests grow back. Until then, they’ll just keep spending your money on all those training programs for the pyromaniac rangers they send our way.

Ryan McMaken [send him mail] is editor of the Western Mercury.

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