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for people who care about the West

Fire funding needs long-term solution


The situation with wildfire is more complex than captured in this short story (“Proper fire funding continues to elude Congress,” HCN, 12/6/17). This issue warrants much fuller treatment. Housing and infrastructure are expanding into untenable fire-prone settings in part because more people need housing and too many of them are attracted to or allowed to build in unsafe settings, while the nearby municipalities benefit from the property tax. At the same time, the Forest Service is in transition, we hope, from a fire-suppression organization into a managed-fire organization. At the moment, society expects the agency to do the impossible — put fires out so homes and infrastructure are protected, and also keep the fires burning, because if we don’t, there is a general worry that the fires will get even worse. We just don’t have a good plan in place that deals with all the parts that must be dealt with to warrant increasing funding to one agency when the real issue involved is a larger societal problem. The proposed solutions do not deal with the whole problem. Rather, they would enable the agency to continue to put fires out, alter forests, and spend more money without a plan that gets to a long-term solution.

William L. Baker
Laramie, Wyoming