NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

National Forest Policy Has Room to Grow

July 29, 2003

Too many trees and too much brush combined with bureaucratic regulations and lawsuits filed by environmental extremists have resulted in the mismanagement our national forests, says H. Sterling Burnett (National Center for Policy Analysis).

As a result of poor federal policies:

  • Timber harvests have plunged more than 75 percent from 12 billion board feet per year to less than 4 billion board feet per year.
  • Road building has declined from 2,000 miles per year in the 1980s to less than 500 miles in the late 1990s.
  • Historically large ponderosa pines that grew in stands of 20 to 55 trees per acre now grow (and burn) in densities of 300 to 900 trees per acre.
  • The first is to use mechanical thinning of vegetation or logging.
  • Second is to use small "controlled" burns, which are inherently risky unless there has been some mechanical pretreatment.
  • The third option is the "burn baby burn" scenario that we are witnessing as wildfires ravage the Mesa Verde National Park and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Our forests, those who fight fires and the public who use forests and pay the bills, deserve a forest policy that places public safety, environmental health, economic well-being and fiscal responsibility first. In contrast, the flawed ideal of "letting nature take its course," held by powerful environmental lobbyists, has contributed to the current crisis, explains Burnett.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Excess fuels and forest fires," Washington Times, July 27, 2003.


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