Just burn it

  JUST BURN IT


A year after the Storm King fire in Glenwood Springs, Colo., claimed the lives of l4 firefighters, the Clinton administration announced that it wants to fight fire with fire. The administration's new policy, which advocates the use of more controlled and prescribed burning, results from reviews of federal firefighting efforts that began after the Yellowstone burns of 1988. "The only way to break this vicious cycle is to put controlled fire back onto the land," writes Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt in the summer issue of American Forests. Environmentalists welcomed the policy, while timber industry representatives say reintroducing fire to unthinned forests would be a mistake. "Right now, fire would be a disaster in most areas," says Doug Crandall, assistant vice president of the National Forest Products Association. "You would end up with fire much hotter than you wanted." For Babbitt, economics is the issue: "We either pay now with some inconvenience, or we will surely pay a higher price later with larger, smokier, uncontrollable wildfires." Babbitt's article and the general report laid the groundwork for what BLM officials say will be implemented policy next year. For a copy of the report, Federal Wildland Fire Policy and Program Review, contact Pat Moore at the BLM's National Office of Fire and Aviation, 208/387-5150.