McInnis’ Forest Health bill is propaganda for logging binge
I am writing in response to the propaganda by Scott McInnis and the Bush administration regarding the Forest Health bill.
This bill has almost nothing to do with forest health, as it is cleverly titled. Promotion of this bill exploits drought and fire concerns, pretending to promote fire legislation that, in actuality, lacks any serious protections for at-risk communities.
It will increase road building and commercial logging, calling for logging 20 million acres of federal lands, most often far from any community.
Large diameter trees are fire-resistant, unlike the undesirable fuel that needs to be removed to reduce fire danger.
Unlike his campaign rhetoric, McInnis’ bill will erode environmental safeguards and citizen participation, while sacrificing community protection.
The bill does not focus scarce federal funding and resources where they would do the most good – in the Community Protection Zone (red zone) adjacent to communities.
Instead, the bill will continue to allow the Forest Service and Department of Interior to conduct misguided logging projects deep in the backcountry under the guise of reduction.
In fact, these plans would provide help to timber companies not to fire-threatened and cash-starved communities.
There is a better way to help communities reduce the risk of forest fires – through block grants to states which go to local communities.
Our county’s fire mitigation program can then provide funds for fuel reduction on private, county and state land as it has already done on a very limited basis.
This approach would put the limited available funds to use where they are most effective: at the sites where forest fires pose a real threat to human lives and homes. Eighty-five percent of the forested land near vulnerable communities in the West is on these private, county and state lands, not National Forest.
We can already get permits to thin and clear hazardous fuels (brush and downed forest debris) on National Forest lands. We don’t need a new federal bill to enable us to do that.
The promoters of this bill are using fire safety as a smoke screen for the biggest impact of this bill, which is to exclude public participation in the management of public lands.
The McInnis proposal would eliminate the most important part of the National Environmental Policy Act – the requirement that alternatives to agency actions be considered. Real public protection requires honest fuel reduction a quarter mile around communities and involving the public in longterm education and planning.
We have some excellent local programs that need to be better funded to protect our communities and homes which is not contained in this ill-named Forest Health bill.
If you want to hear the straight facts from the people who are living and breathing fire mitigation work locally, please attend the May 28 Fire Mitigation and Forest Management Speaker’s Forum.
It will be held in the Frisco Town Hall at 7 p.m. and is sponsored by the Blue River Group of the Sierra Club.
Panelists will include White River National Forest fire management officer Phil Bowen, Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton, Summit County fire mitigation officer Patti Maguire and Doug Young, representative for Mark Udall.
They all know the importance of this issue firsthand. The McInnis representatives were invited over and have had numerous excuses for not attending.
Doesn’t it make one wonder why they don’t want to discuss this bill? They only want to put out 10-second sound bites.
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