Magazine
A losing battle

May 26, 2003

Billions of dollars are being spent to fight Western wildfires, but some scientists now believe that the big blowups can’t be prevented, and that they may be good for the health of the forests. Also in this issue:Environmentalists fear the Republican-sponsored "Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003" – intended to prevent wildfires – will prove anything but healthy for the forests.

Feature

Big blowups will continue, whether we like it or not
Billions of dollars are being spent to fight Western wildfires, but some scientists now believe that the big blowups can’t be prevented, and that they may be good for the health of the forests

Sidebar

Firespeak Catastrophe
We need to revise or toss out some of our fire vocabulary, especially "wildland-urban interface," "pre-settlement condition" and Smokey’s slogan "only you"
History is full of big fires
History and science show that the recent "catastrophic" wildfires in the West are not really a new development
Who should pay when houses burn?
Greg and Mary Tilford, who lost their house in Montana’s Bitterroot fires in 2000, are part of a group of homeowners suing the Forest Service for compensation
Fire in the West
High Country News takes a critical look at fire in the West with stories from our redesigned print edition, a special three-part radio series, and a newly released special report

Editor's Note

Learning to live with fire
Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, which has experienced three major fires since 1996, can help teach the rest of the West how to live with wildfire

Essays

The tangled messages of a servicewoman killed incombat
The death of Lori Piestewa, a young Hopi woman killed in combat in Iraq, has brought both grief and pride to the close-knit Navajo and Hopi communities
Rising from the ashes
Forests aren’t destroyed by wildfires; instead, wildflowers are reborn

Conversation

A native son of Oregon writes of heartbreak, determination
Writer David James Duncan talks about his "insane passion for rivers" and the broken hearts of Westerners

Book Reviews

A book big enough to make waves
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, a book of photographs by Subhankar Banerjee, stirs up so much controversy in Washington, D.C., that the Smithsonian relocates an exhibition of the images
Looking out for the little guys
The Paonia, Colorado-based Center for Native Ecosystems tries to look out for the kind of endangered species often neglected by other groups
Inside HCN

Writers on the Range

Once more unto the breach: Dams could fall in the Northwest
In the Northwest, a legal decision resurrects the idea of breaching four dams on the Snake River to save endangered salmon

Heard Around the West

Heard Around the West
Las Vegas’ golf courses get crushed rock; artificial-turf fairways; Wyoming as a Western "Shangri-La"; Sierra Nevada’s "chain monkeys" becoming obsolete; license to panhandle in Salt Lake City; protester locks self to wrong door; and Montana upholds drink

Dear Friends

Dear Friends
HCN’s new look!; summer interns Rosemary Winters and Stephanie Tidwell; HCN potluck and board meeting in Paonia

News

Congress jousts over forest health
Environmentalists fear the Republican-sponsored "Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003" – intended to prevent wildfires – will prove anything but healthy for the forests
The Latest Bounce
General Accounting Office tells Defense Department to clean up its mess; Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wants wolves de-listed, and names Peter Dart new CEO; EPA forbids its scientists to talk about perchlorate contamination; and Energy Department will lay
Agriculture exacts a price in the High Sierra
Scientists think pesticides may be killing frogs in California’s Sierra Nevada
Road-builders pay for archaeological damage
Catron County, N.M., landowner Charles Cooksey and the company he hired to clear a road through a national forest are fined for damaging archaeological sites on public land
Desert saved from ‘dingbat’ development
The Wildlands Conservancy buys 600,000 acres of Southern California desert, making the largest purchase of private land for conservation purposes in the country’s history
Enviros squash plan to kill crickets
In Idaho, environmentalists sue to prevent the widespread spraying of pesticides
Mining rules put industry on rocky ground
Industry officials say that two new regulations could mean the end of gold-mining in California
A green light for gas drilling
The BLM clears the way for 66,000 new coalbed methane wells and 5,000 conventional oil and gas wells in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana

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