NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Western Fires Put Environmentalists On The Defensive

July 3, 2002

This fire year is shaping up as the West's worst on record. Some 2.7 million acres have already burned -- nearly three times the average acreage for this time of year.

Observers are laying part of the responsibility at the feet of environmental groups who championed policies that created the tinderboxes. These included banning logging, road building, and clearing of dry and dead brush. But now, proponents are pretending they've never heard of the "no-human" philosophy that lay behind Big Green litigation that left the forests ready to burn. It was a philosophy best exemplified by a Sierra Club official who told South Dakota residents concerned about protecting their homes, "If people don't want to live with the forest...they should move."

  • The Sierra Club's Carl Pope deftly changed the subject by calling any criticism of such policies a "disturbing display of cynical politics."
  • The Sierra Club also advises that "the only real environmental damage associated with forest fires comes from human attempts to extinguish and prevent them."
  • The Center for Biological Diversity and the Forest Protection Alliance contend that logging is responsible for the fires.
  • The National Wildlife Federation claims that "many plants and animals not only survive, but thrive, after fire."

Despite these lame defenses of their failed policies, say critics, the evidence is obvious to any objective viewer: more forest management -- not neglect -- is in order. As Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has remarked, "The debate is largely over."

Source: Editorial, "Going Up In Smoke," Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2002.


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