My thanks to Terry Wood for filling in on The County Seat again this week. It is very interesting when I get to sit at home on Sunday Morning and see The County Seat for the first time along with the rest of you. I end up seeing the show and the topic from a fresher perspective than when I am involved in the show prep.
There were four comments made during the show that caught my attention as the most important comments made during the show. The first came from Agriculture Commissioner LuAnn Adams: “For each dollar we spend on prevention, we are spending seventeen dollars for suppression. That points to the problem of poor management of the land. Most of this problem lies on federally controlled land and remote regulation created as a result of litigation, or crafted in Washington on an agenda that prohibits the proper management of forest lands and range lands. These restrictions are often imposed on federal officials in state and local offices, who in some cases would otherwise take a different tack on how to manage the lands. Simply put, the “preservation mentality of no human hands on public land that has infiltrated our federal land agencies is totally destroying millions of the very acres the “naturalists” would have us preserve. I cannot even calculate the logic in this stance.
The second statement that hit home to me was one made by Brian Cottham, the Utah State Forester when he said: Fuel is the one thing we can actually control. He is right about that, we can’t control lightning, nor a careless person, not even the rain, but we have the knowledge and the ability to reduce fuels on the range and in the forests. It seem, we only lack the will to do so. Ironically, there are a number of private businesses who would be willing to remove a good deal of the fuel load without charge. In fact, they would be willing to pay us to remove a good portion of the overgrowth.
They are the ranchers who have traditionally grazed the range land and the timber industry who has been driven from the mountain west by redefined resource plans for the forests. Very little commercial logging remains in Utah, compared to 50 years ago, because most Forest Plans now call for recreation to be the highest and best use of the forest. As a result of protecting the “old growth” trees for their beauty we have condemned most of them to destruction by beetle kill and fire. The animals of the range that have taken precedence over the cattlemen for use of the range land have literally been barbequed and lost in much larger numbers over sharing the habitat with responsible cattle grazers who use time controlled grazing.
I can tell there are some reading this post who are ready to fire off a response telling me that a great deal of the forest can’t be logged because the timber is to hard to extract. Yes that is true, but should we deprive the timber industry or the federal treasury of the chance to fulfill the original mandate of the forest service and profit from their existence and good stewardship?
Third point made was the need to partner with the Federal Government to find better management solutions. Currently there is a partnership. When a fire burns, and suppression runs into the millions of dollars, because of a default to “let it burn”, I have had multiple counties tell me that the federal government partners with them by sending them a bill for the suppression. Partnerships should be consistent with the letter and the intent of the legislation that created the federal agencies… that of seeking sustained yield and multiple use, and to create revenue for the treasury department. and manage land consistent with local planning as much as possible.
The final note is that we must be patient and take the long view. Brian noted that: “it took 100 years of mismanagement to get where we are today” we should plan for it to take some 30 years to correct the problem. So we must be willing to have our elected officials make the necessary financial investments to assist to bring the problem under control, and more important demand of our elected officials the proper oversight to reign in the agencies who have lost sight of the legislative intent spelled out in their creation. Politics have never tilled into the soil of America very well. Every time they have tried, the fields lie fallow, and the forest bared. Let’s work together to become stewards of the land, instead of jailers..
Just my thoughts.