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Front Page » July 3, 2012 » Opinion » Letters to the editor
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Letters to the editor

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By Tom McCourt

Taking her forest back/h3>

I read this morning that a group of "scientists" in Denver are blaming the western wildfires on global warming. Oh, excuse me, it's not global warming anymore, it's "climate change" now. This scientific consortium claims that if we would all just live like cavemen, or at least like old hippies, with no power plants, cars, or air conditioning, our forests would be lush and green and the fuzzy little animals would be our friends forever.

In the interests of fair play, I would like to offer a second opinion.

Wildfires are a normal, natural, and necessary part of forest ecology. For eons of time wildfires kept the forests clean and cleared the way for new growth. When Mother Nature was in charge, the fires happened often, so most of them were small, local, and of short duration.

Our problem with wildfire began nearly 100 years ago when the forest service and Smokey Bear began putting out every fire as soon as it started. No fires mean an accumulation of brush and deadfall that gradually builds to dangerous levels.

The problem has been compounded during the last 40 years because of the wilderness movement. The green people have stopped nearly all logging on federal ground. This creates a second fire hazard. Forty years ago, when Smokey Bear was putting out the fires, we did thin the forest through proper management of a valuable natural resource. We can't thin forests today. The wilderness people won't let us.

Then came the bark beetles. In the last 30 years, hundreds of thousands of spruce trees have been lost to insect infestations. We have whole forests of dead spruce. Again, we couldn't cull the diseased trees because of the tree huggers. Stark, ugly stands of dead trees have become a normal part of the wilderness experience.

And, for nearly 100 years the forest service maintained roads expressly for access to fight fires and as firebreaks. Nearly all of those have been closed. The wilderness people want primeval forest, untarnished by roads, motorized vehicles, or firefighters.

When we sow the wind we reap the whirlwind. The volcanic-like plumes of smoke and ash surrounding our valley is Mother Nature taking her forest back.

Thank you, Smokey Bear and the wilderness people.

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July 3, 2012
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