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Interior Secretary Says Contractors, If Needed, Should Help Reduce Fuel Loads On Public Lands


If federal land managers, including those in the National Park Service, don't have the resources to reduce fuel loads in their forests, then private contractors should be hired to do the job, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday.

The secretary, alarmed by wildfires that have burned roughly 8 million acres across the West, including at Crater Lake, Glacier, and Yosemite national parks, told his land managers across the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other agencies that fall under Interior that they have to be more aggressive in reducing fuel loads.

"This Administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat. It is well settled that the steady accumulation and thickening of vegetation in areas that have historically burned at frequent intervals exacerbates fuel conditions and often leads to larger and higher-intensity fires," said Secretary Zinke. "These fires are more damaging, more costly, and threaten the safety and security of both the public and firefighters. In recent fire reviews, I have heard this described as 'a new normal.' It is unacceptable that we should be satisfied with the status quo. We must be innovative and where new authorities are needed, we will work with our colleagues in Congress to craft management solutions that will benefit our public lands for generations to come."

In cases where federal land managers don't have the necessary resources to reduce fuel loads, said the secretary, then private contractors should be brought in.

"Where dead and dying trees have become hazards that can carry fire across our boundaries or into areas that are a threat to values-at-risk, we must move aggressively to minimize that threat," he wrote in a memo. "If we don’t have the people on hand, we have authorities to contract it to capable resource managers in the private sector.  It makes little sense to be thinning to protect structures when we see flames on the ridge and smoke in the air—fuel management is more effective when undertaken before fires break out."

To that point, the secretary said vegetation should be cleared away from administrative and employee housing areas, and "(W)here our roads have narrowed over the years as vegetation and trees have encroached, even into ditches and onto shoulders, we should be clearing this vegetation away."

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Agreed.  This makes sense and is long overdue.

But now we have to ask Congress -- where will the money come from -- regardless of whether it's contractors or government agencies doing the work?

And we need to admit that when forest management agencies were prevented from logging and scientifically managing our woodlands, it was a big environmental mistake, just as suppressing fire turned out to be.  We are no longer in the time when Mother Nature kept things in balance.  We live now in a new age, the Anthropocene, in which humans are pushing Mother Nature aside and doing a great job of fouling the little planet upon which we depend for our very survival. 

Whether it's woodland and wildfire, or water pollution, air, or greenhouse gases, we who walk on two legs too often fail to use the brain power that has been given to us when we allow immediate gratification and profit to rule our thinking. 


Does anyone really believe that this has anything to do with the health or safety of the forest and its users?  When a Trumpite proposes a solution that involves outsourcing, then start looking at the contractor wheels cranking up to exploit these public lands for private gain.  Again.

Right Smokies.  It needs to be done, but how and by whom?

It's America's GOP brand of socialism.  Socialize expense, privatize profits. We need SCIENTIFIC management, but right now we have an administration that doesn't believe in science. 

The smokey the bear approach has been a horrible concept from day one.  Forests will have wild fires and that's a component of the ecosystem.  There are many species that need fire to propegate so when you remove fire from an ecosystem you set the stage for what we see today - dense overgrown stands and diseased trees..  If you want "healthy forests" then they burn on occasion.  All else is the rhetoric of politicians that haven't the first clue about forest ecology.  Add in that the planet is also experiencing warmest and driest periods on record and we are bound to see fires prop up around the globe at higher frequencies.  It seems to be an amplification effect, or what some call the "new normal".

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