NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Conditions for a Forest Fire

June 21, 2002

In a briefing to Congress last week, U.S. Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth said that if proper forest management had been implemented 10 years ago, and if the agency wasn't in the grip of "analysis paralysis" from environmental regulation and lawsuits, the Hayman fire in Colorado wouldn't be raging like an inferno.

  • According to Bosworth, of the 192 million acres the Forest Service administers, 73 million are at risk from severe fire.
  • Tens of millions of acres are dying from insects and diseases.
  • Thousands of miles of road, critical to fighting fires, are unusable..
  • Those facts back up a General Accounting Office report that one in three forest acres is dead or dying.

When the Clinton administration was in power -- and allied with militant "green" groups -- federal policy was to return forests to their "natural" state. Timber harvesting was cut by 80 percent and vast tracts of land were put off limits to commercial use.

As a result, many areas have more than 400 tons of dry fuel per acre. Before the Clinton administration limited timber sales, U.S. forests helped pay for their own upkeep. Now the GAO says taxpayers will have to spend $12 billion to cart off dead wood.

Private forests owned by timber companies won't burn down. That's because they are subject to rational land management policies designed to protect them - not fly-by-night theories of how the woods should be left in the "natural" state.

Source: Editorial, "The Fire This Time," Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2002.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues