Joy Belsky, a staffer for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, wrote a thoughtful letter about matters of the imagination in the form of a critique of my essay, "Los Alamos is burning" (HCN, 5/22/00: 'Los Alamos is burning'). By way of reply let me suggest that we don't have to imagine a zero-cut policy for our national forests. The Salmon-Challis forest fire is an object lesson in the consequences of a zero-cut policy. The fire burned old growth like a blowtorch and only stopped when it hit forest stands that had been thinned with chainsaws and burned with prescribed fire.
What's the point of continuing the old refrain that the nasty old Forest Service caused all of our problems? The problems are real and right in front of us in the headlines about exploding wildfires and burning homes. Ms. Belsky says she supports human management solutions and has even come up with one herself. Great. The problem is she hasn't found a way to get her solution implemented. A great plan that is never executed is not a great plan.
My essay was about getting down to the work it will take to restore our forests to a sustainable condition. Yes, that means thinning and thinning takes axes and chainsaws, Congress or no Congress. It means spending some Pew Foundation money to train thinning crews. I'll bet the staff of the Oregon Natural Desert Association can swing a mean ax. Heck, even the Santa Fe Forest Guardians have stepped up to the plate. It would be unfortunate if ONDA is content blaming Congress for not appropriating money and unwilling to do the sweaty work it takes to live in harmony and safety on a small planet.
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