Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Greens have reacted with fury at Trump Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke‘s suggestion that opposition to sensible forestry management is exacerbating fire risks.
Wildfires seem unstoppable, but they can be prevented. Here’s how.
Ryan Zinke, Opinion contributor Published 6:00 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2018
Actively managing our forests benefits the environment, the economy, and most important, it saves lives.
The flames of the Ferguson Fire in California have become the latest symbols of a seemingly perennial challenge of fighting fires in the West. I just returned from the Ferguson Fire camp, where I met with firefighters who are working to combat the fire as it bears down on Yosemite National Park and its visitors, workers and nearby residents.
Why we need to manage our forests
There are three reasons for active forest management:
First, it is better for the environment to manage the forests. Wildfires produce smoke and emissions. The release of gases and particles can negatively affect air quality. Fires also damage watersheds, and as we see fires burning hotter and longer, the soil is actually becoming scorched and sterilized, preventing regrowth. In addition, while many of the frivolous lawsuits waged to stop timber harvests cite habitat as a concern, environmental litigants are little concerned when an entire forest burns to the ground and the habitat and wildlife are lost.
Second, active forest management is good for the economy. Logs come out of the forest in one of two ways: They are either harvested sustainably to improve the health and resilience of the forest (while creating jobs), or they are burned to the ground. Jobs matter, and logging has long been a cornerstone of rural economies. Fortunately for all, these economic benefits go hand-in-hand with our goal of healthy forests.
Third, and most important, the active management of our forests will save lives. The Carr Fire in northern California has already claimed half a dozen lives, and the Ferguson Fire has taken the lives of two firefighters. Sadly, these are not the only wildfire casualties this year.
Every year we watch our forests burn, and every year there is a call for action. Yet, when action comes, and we try to thin forests of dead and dying timber, or we try to sustainably harvest timber from dense and fire-prone areas, we are attacked with frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists who would rather see forests and communities burn than see a logger in the woods.
Seems sensible – if you clear or burn off excess undergrowth and log a few trees, reduce the amount of fuel, when a fire starts there will be less fuel available to burn.
Not according to greens.
‘No, Secretary Zinke. Record-Breaking Wildfires in California Have Everything to Do with Climate Change’
People who actual understand science, and also care about planet’s future, accuse Interior Secretary of “either being willfully ignorant or purposely deceptive.”
by Jon Queally, staff writer
After U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke over the weekend outrageously and falsely declared that the largest wildfires in the history of California have “nothing to do with climate change,” it was up to people who actually understand the science—and give a shit about the future of the planet—to set him straight.
No, Secretary Zinke. The record-breaking wildfires in California have everything to do with climate change. We must confront the reality that climate change is already destroying tens of thousands of lives, and take concrete steps to avoid its worst consequences. https://t.co/qSfahHcbeS
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 13, 2018
As California Burns, @SecretaryZinke Buries his Head in the Sand. Ignoring science, forestry experts, and common sense, Zinke tells reporters the West’s fires have “nothing to do with climate change.”https://t.co/joanFpMSrI pic.twitter.com/u7SSb8mXKO
— Western Priorities (@WstrnPriorities) August 13, 2018
“It doesn’t matter whether you believe or don’t believe in climate change. What is important is we manage our forests.”
Yes, Zinke, it *does* matter if you believe in climate change.
It’s happening. All around us. Right now.https://t.co/8ZnIWWel4S
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 14, 2018
My question – why do US greens seem to believe advocating forestry management is synonymous with opposing climate action?
Surely it is possible to be concerned about climate change, yet also support sensible forestry management policies.
In my native Australia the issue of forestry management is barely a debate anymore. It is common in winter to see controlled burn operations to clear undergrowth, even in states with green governments, because the alternative is unthinkable. Australia might be famous for our catastrophic bushfires, but we have learned through bitter experience that forestry management mitigates the risk.
Lives will be saved if US greens drop their senseless opposition to effective forestry management.