Environmental Extremists or Anti-capitalists?
Fire season is once again upon Oregon. Only
time will tell whether this is another catastrophic season that could
have been substantially mitigated by intelligent management of the forests
over the last dozen years. The debate continues to rage as to what makes
a healthy forest. Unfortunately, most of that debate takes place outside
the realm of common sense or observable reality—namely, in academia
and in the United States Congress.
Every year in Oregon, tens of thousands of acres of forest go up in flames,
destroying trees, undergrowth and wildlife habitat. Animals are killed
by the thousands, and those that survive are displaced for years to come
in search of new food sources. Where the fires burn hot enough, the ground
is crystallized and remains impermeable for years, defying any attempts
by nature to re-vegetate. In other areas, the lack of vegetative cover
results in massive erosion, choking pristine waterways and killing fish
by the thousands.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the charred remnants of Oregon’s
annual conflagrations remain blackened sentinels to the stupidity of man
who now has the tools and the technology to substantially mitigate the
spread of needless wildfires. And yet we continue to bow at the altar
of voodoo science/environmentalism, which suggests that killing spotted
owls with forest fires is acceptable but displacing them by logging is
akin to genocide.
A recent article in the Oregonian provides
insight into the real rationale of the environmental extremists who demand
that Oregon’s forests be closed and permitted to burn. The article
concerns a Forest Service plan to deal with the dangerous fire conditions
enveloping Mount Howard, which towers over Wallowa Lake in northeastern
The forest is described as “shaggy with firs and pines.”
The article described the condition of the forest as related by Forest
“Meanwhile, subalpine fir, and lodgepole pines
killed by insect pests create huge fuel loads of still-standing dead trees
on the mountain, much of which is designated lynx habitat. In some spots,
as many as 80 percent of the trees have died, according to Forest Service
We’ve seen those conditions before, prior to the Biscuit Fire,
prior to the B&B Complex Fire, prior to virtually every major forest
fire in Oregon over the last 20 years.
In the instance of Mount Howard, however, it is as much the presence
of homes along picturesque Wallowa Lake as the dangerous fuel load that
drives the Forest Service to pressing ahead with a plan to clear out the
dangerous fuel levels while preserving the natural beauty of the forests.
The fear is that a fire in the Mount Howard area would quickly engulf
the small resort community surrounding the lake.
The Forest Service proposal is to cut 1.4 million board feet of timber.
And herein lies the rub. The plan proposes to cut, stack and burn trees
less than 10 inches in diameter. That appears to be okay with the environmental
extremists. The plan also proposes to preserve trees in excess of 21 inches
in diameter, diseased or not. That also appears to be okay.
But the plan also includes a proposal to cut and haul trees between 10
inches and 21 inches to sawmills using helicopters to avoid the necessity
of logging roads. The timber destined for sawmills is what will produce
the stream of revenue that will help pay for the remaining work to reduce
the fuel load and the fire danger. The environmental extremists hit the
roof. And in doing so, they have exposed their real objection to the creation
of healthy forests.
Larry McLaud, a spokesman for the Hells Canyon Preservation Council,
one of the thousands of cookie cutter organizations that are parachuted
in whenever there is a Forest Service proposal, said that the plan “looks
more like a logging project than a fuel-reduction project.” There
it is folks. Cutting trees to be stacked and burned is okay, but cutting
trees to be delivered to a saw mill where someone might—gasp—make
a profit, is malum prohibitum.
Forest fires that destroy trees, kill animals, pollute the watershed,
threaten homes and lives, and desecrate the scenery are good, but timber
cutting that reduces the risk of fires, creates family-wage jobs, produces
taxes and fees to the government, and provides building materials for
homes is bad.
You have to ask the question, is the issue really eco-preservation or
anti-capitalism? Is the concern really the spotted owl, or the fact that
someone might make a dollar?
Just weeks ago, Gov. Kulongoski asked a federal court for an injunction
to halt plans to conduct salvage logging in Oregon’s Biscuit Fire
area. “I believe we can have it both ways—we can protect our
wild places, and we can manage our working forests to support our mills,
good-paying jobs, our schools and our communities,” the governor
But how can mills work without wood? If even the most carefully planned
salvage operations in fire-scorched, devastated areas are blocked by a
campaigning governor, how are jobs, schools and communities protected?
There are those who are truly concerned about the long-term maintenance
of our forests and wildlife. They are appalled by the abuses of the past.
They’ve been played and manipulated by extremist factions for the
last 30 years. Somewhere between the excesses of the past and the anti-logging
extremists in our midst lies a reasonable solution. Virtually every man
and woman on the streets in Oregon’s many suburbs and small towns
surrounded by forests can describe that reasonable solution.
So why can’t the politicians get it?