NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Root of the Problem

June 18, 2003

According to a Greenpeace report, it is better to let our forests burn to the ground than to adopt programs that will reduce catastrophic wildfire. Patrick Moore, an ecologist and co-founder and former president of Greenpeace, believes that this approach ultimately leads to soil destruction, air and water pollution, and wildfires that can kill every living thing in our forests -- all in the name of "saving the forests."

Many activists believe we should leave our forests alone -- an ecologically dangerous policy that sets our forests up to be destroyed not just by fire, but by insects and disease. It is especially bewildering when you consider how simple it is, through the application of time-tested forest management practices, to maintain forests in a state that reduces the chance of such outcomes, says Moore.

The root of the problem, he says, is that when we protect our forests from wildfires, over time they become susceptible to disease and to catastrophic wildfires as fuel loads build up.

  • The only way to prevent this is to actively remove dead trees and to thin the forest.
  • The active management of these forests is necessary to protect human life and property, along with air, water and wildlife.
  • This does not prevent us from also maintaining a world-class system of parks and wilderness areas where industrial activity is restricted or banned.

It is unfortunate that some organizations characterize the need to implement active management of national forests as damaging to the environment. It is actually the only way to break the present environmentally destructive pattern of fuel build-up that often results in catastrophic outcomes.

Source: Patrick Moore, "Nature vs. Politics," Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB105589582156550800,00.html


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