Posted on 19. Sep, 2012
Terry Anderson/WSJ/9-17-12: Dead wood fuels wildfires. Too bad lawsuits keep the Forest Service from thinning out the trees – When the wildfires that are burning millions of acres in the West are finally smothered by winter snows, environmentalists undoubtedly will blame climate change. They might look in the mirror instead (Full Article). Environmental laws since the 1970s require public input into federal land-use decisions including logging on national forests. This has led to lawsuits challenging efforts by the U.S. Forest Service to prevent forest fires by thinning out treesby thinning out trees (most of which are dead or diseased) and brush by machines and carefully controlled burns. This dead wood is the fuel that feeds catastrophic wildfires. Removing the fuel reduces the likelihood of fires, and if fires do break out, makes them easier to fight. Meanwhile, the suppression of fires costs the federal government nearly $2.5 billion annually…
…Cutting the “Gordian knot” is necessary if the Forest Service is to properly manage national forest assets and reduce wildfires.A start would be to require environmental groups to post a sizable bond when they file lawsuits. If the area burns while the suit is in the courts, the bond would be forfeited to defray firefighting costs. This would allow public involvement through judicial review but hold opponents accountable. This might lead to a more responsible form of environmentalism.
Mr. Anderson is president of Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Mont., and a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution