Friday, November 02, 2007

Nanny State vs. Mother Nature

The absence of logging and the emphasis on fire suppression in these national forests have produced diseased and dying forests. The gentle fires of the past have turned into to monster fires like the ones we just experienced in California that destroy homes and critical habitat and cost billions...The nation's privately held forests stand in stark contrast. Most are well-managed and thriving. Some, like the ones managed by International Paper Company, welcome hunters, hikers and campers. The fees collected help keep these forests healthy and produce profit for shareholders....How Environmentalists Fanned California Fires, Jane Chastain in Politically Direct,, 11/1/2007

The writer can offer anecdotes on this subject. In the 1990s, during one of Wyoming's many droughts (a history of them going back centuries before Europeans arrived), Yellowstone had its worst fire since opening to the public a century ago. All of that space in northwestern Wyoming is of course government-managed land. In adjacent pine forests, those under private forestry range management suffered almost no damage. With established fire breaks and fire trails, as well as equipment stationed with a mix of company and private volunteers, a firestorm in the national park was prevented from spreading to privately managed land. Why would this be so? A national park is considered a political plum. As such it's subject to political whims, which since the 1970's have included some truly bizarre notions of forest management. A privately managed forest has somewhat more limited objectives; it is considered not only a source of current income but a legacy for future profits as well. The small patch of forest the writer's family has had dominion over since the early 20th century has been logged dozens of times and still looks about the way it did when the writer first saw it in 1955.


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