Time to fire the political fire managers
Perhaps the Lincoln National Forest should be taken over by the State of New Mexico. If the federal managers of these resources cannot effectively manage these resources, then a different group is needed.
Editor’s note: State officials dispute the claims Swickard makes in this column. Read about that by clicking here.
“What the congressman (Steve Pearce) fails to recognize is that the Gila National Forest is distinguished nationwide for its cost-efficient use of fire to manage forest fuel buildup. The Whitewater-Baldy fire has burned as we’d expect it to largely because fuels have been controlled this way. The fire is burning, for the most part, in wilderness where logging is not permitted anyhow.” – Letter to the editor by Bryan Bird, Wild Places program director for WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, published Sunday in the Las Cruces Sun-News
Bryan Bird’s letter came at a time when, in Ruidoso, a small, easily contained fire turned tragically devastating. There has never been a plan to manage forests by catastrophic fires. Casual fires (that do not have ladder fuels and floor fuel loads to get them up to the crowns of the trees) were nature’s way of controlling fuel loads before a number of political entities conspired to create this problem.
Remember: The Forest Service tried to do a controlled burn in May of 2000, against the advice of locals, which jumped the fire lines and, before it was done, over 400 families in the Los Alamos community lost their homes. Sadly, that is what has happened once again, this time in Ruidoso.
In an interview by Deborah Voorhees seen on YouTube, Jack Rabbit Flats Volunteer Fire Department Chief Tom Parker relates that he saw the lightening strike up on the Ruidoso Mountainside west of the Ski Apache area. It was called in within minutes of smoke being seen, when it was less than an acre in size.
In the interview, Tom Parker talks about the political decision to let it burn despite the danger to the rest of the mountain. Five firefighters called for water to put out the fire but were denied because, politically, the desire was to use it as a controlled burn even though the conditions for a controlled burn were not met. It could have been put out any time in the three days, Tuesday through Thursday, and then Friday it became too late.
Watch the full interview here:
Politics to blame
But the damage was done earlier. Porter says the politics that stops effective forest management is to blame:
“Forestry goes out and tries to thin. You’ve got a judge in Texas telling us what we can do in the Lincoln National Forest because some group in another state petitions because there might be an owl in the area. Yes, we have to protect endangered species, but we also have to protect ourselves.”
And this is the nut of the problem: Politics trumps effective forest management. Tom Parker points out what effective management looks like, “If you drive through Mescalero and you look at their forests, their ladder fuels are gone, their ground clutter is gone and the healthy trees are still standing. They have gone through their forest and so, if a tree gets hit by lightning, it is out of there. Also thinned are if a tree has a sign of bark beetles, mistletoe or clipper beetles, since those are the three big problems we have in this state. They go in there and get that pocket of diseased trees out before they affect the rest of the forest.”
We are not talking clear-cutting, where all trees are taken down; rather, we’re talking a wise management of the forest done outside of the politics. Letting diseased trees stand ruins miles of good forest and endangers everyone. Even the owls do not want a mismanaged forest. They do not survive the catastrophic fires.
Only the political entities who feed upon our society, entities made up of many lawyers who are paid by us to sue us, which then forces us to create a forest that is weakened by disease and overgrowth. That is the problem.
We must be relentless
Perhaps the Lincoln National Forest should be taken over by the State of New Mexico. If the federal managers of these resources cannot effectively manage these resources, then a different group is needed. It is not the number of firefighters on the line, because catastrophic fires create their own weather, which defies the efforts of man. When the conditions are wrong, there is nothing the firefighters can do but wait for better conditions.
But we, who have to endure the bad management of our forests, should not have to be quiet because the forest managers do not wish to be questioned. We need new eyes looking at this problem; the old eyes have taken us to this point. More so, we must call out the people and organizations that are endangering our forests and those who live near the forests.
The political junkies parrot the talking points but there is no truth to their statements. They do not seem to care about the people and the forest, only the power they can gain by imposing their will upon us. We must be relentless in our saving the forests by managing them correctly. The first contract I would have would be with those people running the Mescalero forests to do the same things in the rest of the state.
The second contract needs to be with the best legal minds of New Mexico to fight in court the political hacks who made this mess. We must never take a step back from them. Instead, we must use best practices in forests at all times. New Mexico forests need real forest management, not political solutions that do not work.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.
Leave a response
You must be logged in to post a comment.