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The Wasatch Behind: Spud talks to Smokey Bear

Sun Advocate Columnist

Uncle Spud: Thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with me,

Smokey Bear. With all of the forest fires burning in the area, I know you are very busy.

Smokey: No problem. As a spokesman for the National Forest Service and the AD Council, I'm happy to be here.

Spud: So tell me, how did a nice bear like you get a job as spokesman for the forest service? Bears are very unpopular right now. Most happy campers are carrying guns and bear spray.

Smokey: You can judge a bear by its tracks. My rap sheet is clean. There are no camper confrontation charges against me. And besides, affirmative action is a wonderful program. As a member of an oppressed and misunderstood animal minority, they couldn't turn me down when I filed an application. I beat out 13 deer, a buzzard, and 23 pot-guts for the job as spokesman.

Spud: I'll bet the animal rights people were happy when you got the job.

Smokey: They sure were. I fit right in with the PETA crowd. At their protest marches, they have a tendency to "bear" it all. It gets them a lot of attention.

Spud: But why did you want to be a spokesman for the forest service?

Smokey: Bears had no representation in the business of managing forests. The Sierra Club and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) have been doing it all. I decided it was time for our growls to be heard.

Spud: But I thought the forest service managed the forest, not wilderness advocacy groups?

Smokey: Actually, no one manages forests anymore. We just fight over them. Everything is tied up in the courts. Every move the forest service makes toward harvesting lumber, building access roads, or clearing dead timber, is blocked by a court injunction initiated by one of the wilderness groups. It is no wonder that the whole West is infested with bark beetles and ready to burn.

Spud: But now they say that fire is good for the forest. Fire is a normal and natural way for Mother Nature to clean the forest. Isn't that just the opposite of what you've been telling us since the 1930s?

Smokey: Forest fires are still bad. Wouldn't it be better to use all of that wood rather than have it burn? It seems hypocritical to me, that the same people who allow these massive fires by not letting us manage the forests, are telling us to recycle old newspapers to save a tree. And what about air pollution from these fires?

Spud: That's right. I've never seen so much smoke in our valleys.

Smokey: Everyone is wringing their hands about greenhouse gasses and global warming, and look at all the smoke these fires have put in the air. Had we been allowed to properly manage the forest on places like Ferron Mountain, a whole lot of this fire and smoke could have been prevented.

Spud: I know what you mean. I have a hard time taking air quality initiatives seriously when I see stuff like this. All of the old pickup trucks in the world couldn't make this much smoke. Driving a golf cart-type car will never make a difference when forest fires keep happening.

Smokey: And there is a great deal of expense in fighting fires, too. Instead of the government making a few bucks by selling timber, they are spending millions of tax dollars fighting fires as all of that good, useable lumber burns. What a waste. And then too, a lot of jobs are lost for nothing when we shut down the lumber industry to "save the trees," and then stand by and watch them burn.

Spud: So how do we fix this problem?

Smokey: We've got to get back to the "bear essentials" of forest management. Trees are a renewable resource. They grow back. We can harvest them like corn and beans. We can have beautiful, healthy forests that don't burn, cheap 2x4s, and more jobs. All we need is common sense management, an end to the lawsuits, and everyone working together to ensure the responsible development and use of the resource. Only you, SUWA, and the forest service can prevent forest fires by working together.

Spud: Can I buy you lunch?

Smokey: No thanks. I'm going to check out a dumpster near the campground on my way home.

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