"Los Alamos Was a Disaster Waiting to Happen"

"Los Alamos Was a Disaster Waiting to Happen"

August 03, 2000

Washington, D.C. August 1, 2000- Dr. Robert Nelson, professor of environmental policy in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and senior fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is so critical of the US Forest Service that he wants it closed down.  Nelson, who worked in the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of the Interior for almost twenty years, has recently released a new book, A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the US Forest Service.  Nelson’s wide experience with land management led him to write A Burning Issue, which coincidentally was already written and in the midst of being printed when the fires broke out in Los Alamos.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Nelson, a nationally-known expert on federal land management, testified before Congress on June 7   about the mismanagement of our National Forests.  Addressing a joint hearing before the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, Committee on Resources, Nelson drew some strong conclusions:


Forestry experts have been warning the US Government since the early 1990’s that extremely dangerous fire conditions were escalating in the West.


The response by the Federal Government to these fire warnings, according to investigations done by the General Accounting Office and others, was woefully inadequate. As an example, a press release in December 1999 by the Los Alamos National Laboratory citing “wildfire” as the “greatest threat to Los Alamos operations,” produced no action.


Sixty percent of all Forest Service lands nationwide, involving 118 million acres, are beyond acceptable levels of “fuel stocking densities.”


Los Alamos has not been an isolated case; other large fires have ravaged the West.  Nelson believes legislation, which shifts responsibility for national forest management from the federal to state level, is the answer. “It is ironic when you compare this disaster to other environmental tragedies such as Three Mile Island and Exxon Valdez.  In those cases, our government was the first to step to the plate to point fingers and demand answers.   Yet when our own government sets a fire, looses control of it, and destroys over 400 homes and 50,000 acres of forest, there is no accountability.” Concludes Nelson: “If ever there were a reason to do away with the US Forest Service, the fiasco at Los Alamos is it.”



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