It’s been a heck of a fire season, much of it caused by lightning. It’s the result of what happens when trees are treated like rows of corn instead of a vital part of our natural ecosystem.
There is a natural role for fire to play in our environment. But when ALL fire is suppressed to where brush builds up between trees, flames from this “ladder fuel” reach up into the tree branches more easily. And so what should be an occasional “close-to-the-ground house-cleaning” by fire, becomes an inferno and destroys an entire forest.
Long before humans came on the scene, fire was an unrestrained player in the creation of healthy forests. But when fire was no longer allowed to play it’s authentic ecological role, every fire – whether human or naturally caused – has the potential to produce a disaster.
It’s time humankind get back to basics and admit that humans belong to the Earth, instead of the other way around. Time and time again Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has pleaded with his Senate colleagues to, in effect, “see what we see, know what we know, and ACT ACCORDINGLY.”
Acting accordingly means returning fire to its proper role in the environment, using tactics that PRESERVE forests rather than DESTROYING them. Many forest ecologists claim that the economic commandment of absolutely “no fires,” promulgated by decades of “Smoky the Bear advertising,” must change and change fast. Senator Wyden says every year the Forest Service gets a budget for fire PREVENTION and another budget for fire FIGHTING. But our country’s utterly dysfunctional views of our forests have caused the PREVENTION budget to be raided annually by the FIRE FIGHTING budget. Prevention, which entails brush and small tree clearing – both mechanically and with control burns – never gets a chance to get any traction. So our tax dollars are consumed for fire crews and expensive borate bombers.
Self-defeating government behavior is burning down our forests. Not only do we lose the wood products we need, we lose wildlife, fisheries, clean drinking water and the forest’s natural role of turning greenhouse gases into oxygen.
We need to grow up and be adults about this. Fire prevention funds should be for prevention. Funds for fighting disasters, like forest fires, should come from FEMA – the Federal Emergency Management Agency – the fund that addresses natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes. Wyden has often said that we’re losing the war against forest fires because we’re not creating healthy forests that can survive even minor blazes as they once did.
An ounce of prevention is worth a forest of cure. Let’s get to it. Prevention money for prevention – FEMA money for major forest fires. Let Senator Wyden know that we support him in his efforts to stop this madness of burning down our forests.