OTT JOHNSON: Forest fires compliments of Congress

OTT JOHNSON: Forest fires compliments of Congress

04 September 2014

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USA — Finally, most of the wildfires on our publicly owned forests have been extinguished this year. We will no doubt have more next year. We owe a debt of gratitude to a group of self-anointed environmentalists with the assistance of elected national politicians, who made in all possible!

I suspect few remember the beginning of this terrible misadventure since it was some 20 years ago or more, when a few environmentalists talked Congress into stopping clear cutting in our forest.

Their primary concern seemed to be a small horned owl that was being disturbed by the U.S. Forest Service’s methods of maintaining our public forests. The result was limiting the forest manager’s methods, including clear cutting. Congress also, in all of their brilliance, stopped the Forest Service from fighting forest fires started by nature! Natural fires – good. Man started fires – bad.

Having known and worked with several U.S. Forest Service personnel, I have long been aware that most foresters are very protective of our forest. They generally feel every tree is their baby to care for. They also know when a tree reaches old age.

That’s when they cut the trees for various usages, primarily for lumber. However, they are well aware that allowing the old trees to die and fall, over time the forest floor becomes a thick layer of thatch waiting for a match or a lightning strike. Their clear cutting of trees in their final years provides many products for our usage, allows new seedlings to flourish and prevents the build up of tender.

The year after Congress declared “no fighting” of forest fires started by nature (lightning), lightning started a major forest fire in Yellowstone National Park. Our trained fire fighters were forced to stand by and watch it burn. The result? Congress soon eliminated the “no fight” naturally started forest fires clause!

Now we can seldom find quality lumber. We have more and more forest fires that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in property losses plus mental and physical suffering. And that little owl is doubtfully flourishing while trying to escape these fires.

Now, I read these self-anointed folks are trying to make further inroads dealing with our forest, no doubt to create more cost and damage they have proven themselves to be extremely proficient in doing.

The only real mistake in all of this falls on the shoulders of our elected officials who too often evaluate their assignments in terms of votes, sort of a “grease the wheel that squeaks the loudest” management strategy.

Let the professionals, the foresters, care for our forest, as they are paid to do. Through the years, they have done a great job. As for many environmentalists, such as those who initiated the forest fire dilemma, they seem to have a knack for embellishing the negative side of subject matter that doesn’t have a negative side.

Indeed, such things can cause a few older men to become a bit Grumpy!

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