American Forest Fires #2

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:12/08/2022 Updated:12/09/2022

The enormity of the task of forest restoration is mind boggling. We need to restore millions of acres of our national forests and other jurisdiction ownerships.

The environmental movement has villainized private forest companies for four decades, yet today private forest companies are much better forest managers than federal agencies, and Americanindian reservations such as the Colville and Menominee are stellar managers setting the standard for all. For solutions we need to shut down the environmental critiques of federal forest management, and second, we need to take a page from Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of USFS, and reinvigorate small, community-based forest products companies throughout our western states. This is the only way we will be able to scale restorative forest management.

Part of the problem we face as a nation, from a public policy perspective, is the general public, which today is concentrated into a cocoon of urban metropolitan areas, and all the major media outlets (Los Angeles Times, Wash Post, NYTimes, CNN, NBC etc) lack understanding of forest history and the ecology of forest health in rural America today. In The New Jersey Pinelands today, established to protect the largest forest in the state, current state authorities make it almost impossible to cut a tree. In the 1840-50s the wagon trains came to Oregon on the Oregon trail after crossing most of Idaho in single file. When they climbed the hills into the Blue Mountains of Oregon they ventured through vast Ponderosa forests, but the trees were 60 feet apart and the understory was grassland (from Amerindian burnings) so the wagons spread out through the forest as they continued west. Today a dog cannot crawl through these forests because of accumulated brush and overpopulated conifers.

USFS Chief Moore rightly mentions the importance of private forests, however the federal government demolished the private forest industry in the Pacific Northwest in the wake of the spotted owl listing in 1990, and today they lack a coherent strategy for either protecting rural communities, or for bringing back the small, rural forest products businesses that are so desperately needed to bring about forest management on a scalable basis. Local communities know their forests best, not bureaucrats in Washington, and community leadership and entrepreneurship are desperately needed in the forefront of solutions for forest fire reform. In Ken Kesey’s SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION about a maverick Oregon logging family, the grandfathers wake up call was : “Wake it and Shake it, if you can’t carry it, roll it out, and drag it.” This is what we need for public forest policy a great waking up and shaking it for forest reform!

To initiate forest reform we need to confront the three great human failings that have dominated our society’s forest policy for the last 30 years and more. The first is the role of the environmental movement and its preservation and litigation policies which have created the enormous fuel loads prevalent in our sick forests. Secondly the environmental litigating organizations such as Sierra Club, NRDC and CBD have handcuffed federal agencies trying to implement forest salvage and management. Third and probably the most intricate and pernicious problem is home building in what is called the wildland urban interface, the building of suburban homes adjacent to our National Forests which makes fire suppression costs rocket to the moon. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon as Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) is the new Chairman of House Natural Resource Committee. He is a trained and certified forester and fully understands both the ecology and the public policy dimensions needed to bring about forest management reforms. Hallelujah!!!