Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest costing billions are related to millions of acres of dead pines killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle.
Foresters are taught to control the Pine Beetle by aerial spraying insecticides during winter breeding which hasnt been done because of costs of aerial spraying administered by myopic bureaucrats trying to save money in the short run but costing exponentially more in millions of dollars more for suppression in the long run. Most professionally trained practicing foresters know this but are ignored by non-operating bureaucrats not accountable for the ultimate higher predictable resulting suppression costs.
For the first time since the Forest Service was formed we now have a Chief Forester, Tom Tidwell (who is not a trained professional) appointed by Obama. He has spent $967 Million in fire suppression costs during this fiscal year ending September 30 and only has $50 Million left causing him to transfer over $600 million more from other programs before the end of the month. His time as Chief of the Forest Service corresponds to the worst outbreak of wild raging forest fires and pandemic of Mountain Pine Beetles, which if controlled by aerial spraying could have prevented the intensity and magnitude of Forest fires we are experiencing in the west (estimated to be affecting as much as 40 million acres, the macroeconomic impact of which will not fully be determined or realized until Obama is replaced).
Pine Beetles attack tops of pines on inaccessible ridges and descend down the trees and mountainsides in their path creating massive fire hazards with dead, dying and down trees just waiting for a lightning strike on a ridge. This turns into a raging wild crown fire creating its own fire storm moving as high as 60 mph in remote areas that cant be reached or controlled from the ground requiring expensive aerial drops of fire retardants such as Sodium Borate. This expense could have been prevented by aerial spraying insecticides to control Mountain Pine Beetles killing trees and creating dead and dying timber to fuel fires created by unavoidable lightning strikes but minimizing size, intensity and difficulty of suppression.
Driving down the valley from Monarch to Yellowstone Park one can see thousands of acres of dead and down beetle-killed wood from the road on the valley floor up to the mountain ridges on either side that didnt exist until just a few years ago. This timber is just waiting for a lightning strike to start a raging firestorm that cant be easily controlled which can and will destroy timber, buildings, property, animals and perhaps people in its path trying to control it.
Write Congressmen and Legislators demanding they replace Tidwell with a career-trained professional forester from within the Forest Service who has the experience and ability to lead the Forest Service and more efficiently use its limited resources, people, assets and controls for better stewardship and multiple use management of our Forest Resources for the long run. Also, our Legislators and congressmen should be requested to figure out how to subsidize through Grants or Tax Credits purchase of portable wood chippers by loggers to cut and chip beetle killed wood to reduce fire danger while creating jobs in the woods in the private sector.
These initiatives, if implemented at the urging of voters can reduce size, frequency and intensity of more destructive Forest Fires while reducing millions of dollars of suppression costs, loss of property or lives of animals or people.
Gary D. Schlaeger
Great Falls ,Montana
Note: Schlaeger is a 1960 Graduate of Purdue in Forestry. He practiced as a Forestry Consultant in the Deep South and served as VP Forest Products for BN Railroad. He is the Current Chairman of SCORE Chapter 117.