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Issue Position: National Forest Service Burn Policy

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NATIONAL FOREST SERVICE BURN POLICY IS A DISASTER

A few days ago my wife and I spent several days in Glacier Park. As we looked at the smoke which impacted the enjoyment of our trip, a park ranger told us that we needed to reduce our carbon footprint because global warming is impacting the glaciers. I would like to know what kind of a carbon foot print the National Forest Service is creating by their mismanagement of the forest.

After a little rain fell in western Montana, the National Forest Service announced that they plan to do controlled burns when we get more moisture. This is not good news. Over 420,000 acres have already burned this summer and we have spent over $50 million fighting fires and they want to add more smoke and risk to our tourism industry and to the many families and wildlife that have already been impacted. Forest service policies have created conditions that are destroying our forests.

In 2004 after attending a Forest Service sponsored consensus workshop which provided input for a the new Forest Service Plan, Flathead Republican legislators sponsored a public forum which would more fairly represent the ideas of the general public. A series of four meetings were held and 125 people participated. Written input from participants provided proactive, detailed policy statements which were voted on by participants before being included in the 16 page report submitted to the Forest Service. Although Forest Service personnel and many private business experts attended the meetings and provided much helpful information for the report, the policy statements were ignored including those related to fire.

The executive summary of the report follows. The entire report can be found on my website (vjackmt.tripod.com).

Fire, Fire, Fire

Is anyone listening??? We don't see this priority in the Forest Service Action Plan.

The greatest concern of the general public is FIRE. Fire danger, health, safety and loss of the forest as they know it are on the minds of the general public. People who live and work in the Flathead Valley are afraid of losing their lives and their livelihood. Most of the loggers have starved out years ago, but now even the tourism trade is being impacted by the devastating fires every summer. Massive forest fires consume all in their path including our treasured wildlife and their habitats, as well as our sources of human enjoyment, economy and industry.

Caused by neglect (lack of forest management) the forests are in such an unhealthy condition they are loaded up to burn; and burn they will every summer. Fuel build up is of such high density that the fires cannot be put out once started. Drought and severe overstocking has impacted the tree stands causing huge kills by bugs and insects because of stress. Trees and underbrush are so thick that significant moisture cannot reach the ground. These dead and dying treed areas are so large that they can easily surpass the hundreds of thousands of acres killed by fires. The dead trees are a time bomb waiting for a match or a lightning strike!

The Forest Service needs to be proactive and build fire breaks and reduce fuels in advance. This would allow some generation of economic value from timber to pay for the cost. Just burning the fuel build up is not only extremely dangerous but wasteful and destructive to the environment and health of people. Timber thinning and biomass harvest can help pay for the work that needs to be done now. Costs cannot be the excuse for doing nothing. If permitted, the forests can finance their own treatment. The cost of fighting the fires and the loss of property and forests dwarfs the cost of prevention. The path and nature of a forest fire can be predicted from computer models and past experience. ACTION IS NEEDED NOW.


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