Western Wildfires Result Of "Decades Of Neglect"

Western Wildfires Result Of "Decades Of Neglect"

Smokey the Bear’s Message Was Wrong, Wrong, Wrong...
August 05, 2002

Washington, D.C., August 5, 2002—The health of this country’s forests changed decades ago with the U.S. Forest Service’s slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”  And while to many that may seem like an innocent warning, to Robert J. Smith, adjunct environmental scholar with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that slogan signified the beginning of what has become decades of mismanagement by the U.S. Forest Service.

“Combine all those years of suppressing fires with the actions by environmental groups and what we’re left with are huge fuel loads—underbrush, diseased and dead trees, and small trees growing underneath the big trees—a virtual tinderbox which has once again ignited this summer, leaving much of the West burning horribly out of control,” Smith says.

Smith points to the environmental movement, which gained ground in the 1970’s, as responsible for bringing about damaging changes, including policies such as “natural regulation”—allowing fires to burn if they were started by a weather-related act of nature.  Add to this the impact of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and New Mexico’s Forest Guardians, which use lawsuits to tie up any planned actions to clear out the underbrush and mechanically thin out the forests by the timber industry, and you’re left with a “no-win” situation.  The irony, according to Smith, is that these environmental groups claim they are trying to protect endangered species and habitat.

Smith believes management for our country’s forests should be placed under state and local control.  “Only then will you have an organized effort to monitor and maintain a healthy environment without the bureaucratic red tape that we have now,” he maintains.

Forestry Issues Expert Available for Interviews

Robert J. SmithAdjunct Environmental Scholar, CEIPresident, Center for Private Conservation Recently seen and heard: Special Report with Brit Hume (FOX), Conversations with John Dayl (KXAM, Phoenix), and Insight on the News.

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