Shrub's photo-op in southern Oregon was as predictable as it was disturbing. It was a textbook case of using the Big Lie to turn US forest policy over to the forest industry. The National Fire Plan, first promulgated in 2000, would stand a chance to work- IF it had been followed. The problem is that it hasn't been, and now Shrub is using the Plan's enforced lack of success to justify ripping it up and handing our national forest over to the loggers.
[T]wo years into an effort that so far has cost more than $6 billion, a USA TODAY analysis shows that implementation has been slow and has strayed from the original plan:
- Less than 40% of woodlands thinned of excess vegetation have been in areas where homes meet the woods, what is known in the lexicon of fire policy as the "wildland-urban interface." Much of the work has been done in remote forests, activity that "may be inefficient and ineffective," Jack Cohen, a U.S. Forest Service research scientist, writes in a technical report for the agency.
- Only 82 of more than 59,000 fires have been left to burn this year, despite the plan's declaration that many wildfires in remote areas far from houses are a natural and beneficial part of Western forests and should be allowed to keep burning.
- Much of the work has been done in the South instead of the West, where fire danger is far more extreme. Most fires that federal agencies have set deliberately to thin overgrown forests have been in the South. Federal agencies also have made little progress identifying communities most at risk from wildfires. In one limited effort by the Interior Department, more than half the towns labeled "highest risk" were in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, states "not prone to severe wildland fires," according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
- Less than 1% of the money spent has been used to educate homeowners about measures that they should take to reduce their vulnerability. The Forest Service's research argues that the most effective defenses against wildfire are simple actions such as clearing brush near homes and installing fire-resistant roofs.
It's too easy to blame the failure of current forest policy on a plan that has never been fully implemented. Shrub conveniently ignores the fact that most of the country has been gripped by a drought. Throughout the West, this has created tinder-dry conditions that has most areas dealing with constant and extraordinarily high fire danger.
Of course, dealing with the realities of our national forests would involve vision and foresight, something the Shrub Administration has demonstrated an appalling lack of. It's much easier to blame the failures on ghosts and apparitions and turn the whole thing over to the loggers. I would have expected nothing less from someone beholden to Big Business.