NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Forest Service Blames Environmentalists for Fires

July 11, 2002

It's official: the U.S. Forest Service has added environmental activists to the list of culprits responsible for this year's surge of western wildfires.

  • The agency says environmental appeals delayed 48 percent of its fire-suppression projects in fiscal 2001 and 2002 -- thereby stalling efforts to clear the brush and small trees that fuel the catastrophic wildfires, according to an internal Forest Service report to be released today.
  • The report found that 155 of the agency's 326 plans to log overgrown, high-risk national forests were stymied by environmental appeals.
  • In Arizona and New Mexico, site of some of the summer's worst fires, that figure rose to 73 percent -- and hit 100 percent in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Environmentalists -- who favor prescribed burns to remove brush and who oppose logging -- attacked the report as a thinly disguised attempt to blame them for the fires while bolstering the struggling timber industry.

Commercial timber companies typically bid on forest-thinning projects and sell the felled trees as lumber.

"These numbers are a scathing indictment of the process that governs management of the nation's forests," charged Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.), chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on forest and forest health. He also called the report "a harsh reminder of just how relentlessly ideological some environmental litigants have become."

Source: Valeria Richardson, "Forest Service Says Activists Played Role in Fires," Washington Times, July 11, 2002.


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