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Sunday, September 17, 2017
Finally, some commonsense western fire policies

New DOI and DOA policy to cut overgrown, diseased, dead and burned trees is long overdue

Paul Driessen

President Trump promised to bring fresh ideas and policies to Washington. Now Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are doing exactly that in a critically important area: forest management and conflagration prevention. Their actions are informed, courageous and long overdue.

Westerners are delighted, and I’ve advocated such reforms since my days on Capitol Hill in the 1980s.

As of September 12, amid this typically long, hot, dry summer out West, 62 major forest fires are burning in nine states, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. The Interior Department and Ag Department’s Forest Service have already spent over $2 billion fighting them. That’s about what they spent in all of 2015, previously the most costly wildfire season ever, and this season has another month or more to go. The states themselves have spent hundreds of millions more battling these conflagrations.

Millions of acres of forest have disappeared in smoke and flames - 1.1 million in Montana alone. All told, acreage larger than New Jersey has burned already. However, even this hides the real tragedies.

The infernos exterminate wildlife habitats, roast eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, immolate wildlife that can’t run fast enough, leave surviving animals to starve for lack of food, and incinerate organic matter and nearly every living creature in the thin soils. They turn trout streams into fish boils, minus the veggies and seasonings. Future downpours and rapid snowmelts bring widespread soil erosion into streambeds. Many areas will not grow trees or recover their biodiversity for decades.

Most horrifically, the conflagrations threaten homes and entire communities. They kill fire fighters and families that cannot get away quickly enough, or get trapped by sudden walls of flames.

In 2012, two huge fires near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colorado burned 610 homes, leaving little more than ashes, chimneys and memories. Tens of thousands of people had to be evacuated through smoke and ash that turned daytime into choking night skies. Four people died. A 1994 fire near Glenwood Springs, CO burned 14 young firefighters to death.

These are not “natural” fires of environmentalist lore, or “ordinary” fires like those that occur in state and privately owned and managed forests. Endless layers of laws, regulations, judicial decrees and guidelines for Interior and Forest Service lands have meant that most western forests have been managed like our 109 million acres of designated wilderness: they are hardly managed at all.

Environmentalists abhor timber cutting on federal lands, especially if trees might feed profit-making sawmills. They would rather see trees burn, than let someone cut them. They constantly file lawsuits to block any cutting, and too many judges are all too happy to support their radical ideas and policies.

Thus, even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber, or remove trees killed by beetles or fires, is rarely permitted. Even fire fighting and suppression are often allowed only if a fire was clearly caused by arson, careless campers or other human action - but not if lightning ignited it. Then it’s allowed to burn, until a raging inferno is roaring over a ridge toward a rural or suburban community.

The result is easy to predict. Thousands of thin trees grow on acreage that should support just a few hundred full-sized mature trees. Tens of billions of these scrawny trees mix with 6.3 billion dead trees that the Forest Service says still stand in eleven western states. Vast forests are little more than big trees amid closely bunched matchsticks and underbrush, drying out in hot, dry western summers and droughts - waiting for lightning bolts, sparks, untended campfires or arsonists to start super-heated conflagrations.

Flames in average fires along managed forest floors might reach several feet in height and temperatures of 1,472 F (800 C), says Wildfire Today. But under extreme conditions of high winds and western tinderboxes, temperatures can exceed 2,192 F (1,200 C), flame heights can reach 165 feet (50 meters) or more, and fires can generate a critter-roasting 100,000 kilowatts per meter of fire front. Wood will burst into flame at 572 F. Aluminum melts at 1,220 degrees, silver at 1,762 and gold at 1,948 F!

Most of this heat goes upward, but super-high temperatures incinerate soil organisms and organic matter in thin western soils that afterward can support only stunted, spindly trees for decades.

These fires also emit prodigious quantities of carbon dioxide, fine particulates and other pollutants - including mercury, which is absorbed by tree roots from rocks and soils that contain this metal, and then lofted into the sky when the trees burn.

Rabid greens ignore these hard realities - and divert discussions back to their favorite ideological talking points. The problem isn’t too many trees, they insist. It’s global warming and climate change. That’s why western states are having droughts, long fire seasons, and high winds that send flames past fire breaks.

Global warming, global cooling and climate change have been part of the Earth and human experience from time immemorial. Natural climate fluctuations brought the multi-decade Anasazi drought, the Dust Bowl and other dry spells to our western states. To suggest that this summer’s heat and drought are somehow due to mankind’s fossil fuel use and related emissions is deliberately delusional nonsense.

Neither these activists nor anyone in Al Gore’s climate chaos consortium can demonstrate or calibrate a human connection to droughts or fires. Rants, rhetoric and CO2-driven computer models do not suffice. And even if manmade (plant-fertilizing) carbon dioxide does play a role amid the powerful natural forces that have always controlled climate and weather, reducing US fossil fuel use would have zero effect.

China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam alone are building 590 new coal-fired power plants right now, on top of the hundreds they have constructed over the past decade. Overall, more than 1,600 new coal generators are planned or under construction in 62 countries. People in developing countries are also driving far more vehicles and making great strides in improving their health and living standards. They will not stop.

Western conflagrations jump fire breaks because these ferocious fires are fueled by the unprecedented increase in combustibles that radical green policies have created. These monstrous fires generate their own high winds and even mini tornados that carry burning branches high into the air, to be deposited hundreds of feet away, where they ignite new fires. It has nothing to do with climate change.

Remove some of that fuel - and fires won get so big, hot, powerful and destructive. We should also do what a few environmentalist groups have called for: manage more areas around buildings and homes - clearing away brush that federal agencies and these same groups have long demanded be left in place.

Finally, we should be using more of the readily available modern technologies like FireIce from GelTech Solutions. They can suppress and extinguish fires, and protect homes, much better than water alone.

The last bogus eco-activist claim is that “fire isn’t destruction; it’s renewal. It creates stronger, more diverse ecosystems.” That may be true in managed forests, timber stands in less tinder-dry states, and forests that have undergone repeated, non-devastating fires. For all the reason presented above, it is not true for government owned and mismanaged forests in our western states.

Over 50 million acres (equal to Minnesota) are at risk of catastrophic wildfires. Right now, we are spending billions of dollars we don’t have, should not have to spend fighting all these monstrous killer blazes, and should have available to improve forests and parks and fund other vital programs.

These forests could and should create jobs and generate revenues in states where far too many lands, timber, oil and minerals have been placed off limits - primarily by urban politicians, judges and radical activists who seem determined to drive people off these western lands, turn them into playgrounds for the wealthy, and roll back other Americans’ living standards and well-being. Cleaning out dead, diseased, burned, overgrown trees would bring countless benefits. It would make our forests healthy again.

Above all, the new Interior-Agriculture approach would demonstrate that Rural Lives Matter.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death and other books on the environment.


Chris Mooney, WAPO’s alarmist Science editor asked for a comment about my being considered for the Science Advisory Board of Pruit’s EPA. 

When I was working on a doctoral traineeship grant at NYU in Air Resources in the 1970s, we had real air and water pollution issues. We as a nation with the EPA in the early days did a commendable job cleaning up up our air and water with reasonable clean up measure on energy plants and automobiles. We have more than met our goal in reducing levels of criteria pollutants below the reasonable standards set years ago. Carbon pollution (particulates) are a problem in China and India but we in the U.S. have reduced particulate levels 50% the last few decades and are now well below the aggressive standards we set.  We rarely see air pollution advisories today, something very common decades ago.

This hyper focus on controlling CO2 in recent decades is immoral - harmful to our nation, its’ people and their future.  CO2 is a beneficial trace gas (0.04% by volume). It is a plant fertilizer that has helped us increase crop yields 3 to 5 fold. The Endangerment Finding being used by the EPA (and courts) to regulate CO2 emissions has been invalidated by real world data and needs to be scrapped and redone using good data and science and not failed models. Scientists and econometricians I worked with have done sold research reports that show natural factors are responsible for all the cyclical changes and claims about changes and extremes are not supportable. 

Europe, Australia and the green agenda states here including California and the northeast RGGI states which pushed the green agenda, are paying the price with electricity costs 2 to up to 6 times higher than we pay in most other states. This affects the poor and middle class the most (a hidden tax) and drives out industry which costs jobs (Spain reach 27.5% unemployment before they stopped subsides and lost 4 real jobs for every temporary green job created). More than 25% of Britons, many of them pensioners, are in what is called energy poverty, having to choose between heating and eating. In Europe and Australia bad policies have led to power blackouts or brownouts and a rush to build coal plants to make up for the intermittent and unreliable wind and solar output.

There is still a need for environmental protection. We need to refocus the EPA on ensuring there is no more Animas River or Flint water events. We need to help deal with the issues of mold and water pollution in areas where heavy flooding like we saw with Harvey and Irma occur. There is work to be done i waste management and ensuring ground water is safe, We need to work with other government departments to develop more sane forest management that reduces wildfire risks with their smoke pollution and reasonable spring and summer streamflow water runoff usage policies to benefit agriculture and the cities that need clean water.

Note I had alluded to the need to deal with the forestry and water supply issues. Reporters don’t like when you send a response in writing as that allows them to paraphrase your response in a way that aligns with their message. He quickly called to throw other questions about me. i will report how it goes. A similar thing happened last week with an Environmental newsletter trying to bash those candidate scientists that could affect their green agenda with some out of context and false quotes. Even the Washington Examiner a usually fair and balanced source of information had an article with several inaccuracies. The author on Linkedin pointed to Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington as influential interests which explains a lot. Friends the fake science reporters are everywhere.

Posted on 09/17 at 10:28 AM
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