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CASH Courier > 2005 Fall Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2006 Issue

FIRE MANAGEMENT: AN INCREASINGLY DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICE

TOTALLY RECKLESS AND DESTRUCTIVE

Fire management has become increasingly reckless and irresponsible in recent years. (8) This is especially true in many federal and state forests and parklands, which are theoretically held in trust for all Americans. In some southern states the U. S. Forest Service has set crown fires over wide areas of coniferous forests to kill infestations of insects. This is particularly destructive. Most insect infestations are cyclic, running their course after several years and causing limited damage. “Stand Replacing” fires can be equally destructive. This is where all trees in an area are killed so as to repopulate it with other species, either by natural reseeding or by the planting of seedlings, or a combination of these two methods.

Then there was the dropping of napalm on coniferous forests in Colorado by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Colorado Department of Fish and Game to clear corridors for mountain sheep during their seasonal migrations. (Mountain sheep are a hunted trophy species.) In Sam Houston National Forest in Texas 2,600 acres of trees were bulldozed and set afire with chemical gels and gasoline, purportedly to control the pine beetle.

Forestry personnel now admit that the pine beetle had already completed its natural life cycle two years earlier and was no longer a significant factor in the ecosystem! (9) It should be noted that most tree diseases that exist in North America, including blister rust, white pine weevil, spruce budworm, gypsy moth, beech bark disease, Dutch elm disease, and chestnut blight, did not exist 200 years ago on this continent. They were imported from Europe or Asia.

It is obvious that the deliberate use of fire in many natural areas has become completely and shockingly destructive. In New York’s Catskill Park a billboard showing Smokey the Bear carries the message, “Help Prevent Wildfires.” (It is no longer “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”) The underlying sentiment of the new sign is unmistakable; Wildfires are bad, but controlled burning is good. Even rangers at the Great Smokey Mountain National Park now practice fire management.

Controlled burns do not create conditions conducive to the natural evolution of plant and animal life. They disrupt and sometimes destroy ecosystems to conform to human goals that are at best very limited, and at worst completely exploitative. The use of fire greatly compounds any existing ecological problems. While we can’t protect forests from occasional disruptions caused by wind and severe weather, we can and must protect them from the destructive effects of fire. By so doing we would allow forests to evolve progressively as Nature intended.

Go on to A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS

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