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Why the forests are burning

Dear Editor,
Okay, class, it is time for a test question:
Why does the Forest Service let the forests burn now?
No Suzy, it is not because they are lazy.
Sam, no they aren’t afraid, they have courage.
Jimmy, no it is not because they don’t know how because they used to put the fires out.
The correct answer is: “So it won’t burn.”
I recently had a career Forest Service man tell me that as far as Forest Service workers go it is probably unanimous that they would like to start fires at the base of the mountains and “Let it burn to the rocks”. His reasoning was, “… then we didn’t have to worry about it burning and besides,” he said, “The forest will grow back healthy whereas it is now unhealthy.”
I have thinned forests that grew back after serious burns and the trees in some of those areas were so think one needed a hay mower and a baler. Claiming the forest will grow back a better and healthier stand is not true and is about 50% false in fact.
What is going on? What happened to the “Forest Service” under the Department of Agriculture that was founded years ago to protect the “Forest” resources? I had hoped that the local Forest Service officials had learned something from the Kootenai Creek fire a couple of years ago but apparently they don’t care.
When the present fires started the Forest Service, instead of putting the fires out when they were small like they used to in the old days, decided they would “herd” it in the right direction and away from homes and private property and called the fires “resource management” fires. That is like the farmer, whose field of wheat is white and ready to harvest, lighting it on fire to “manage his resources”. It is called “destroying the resources”. When a fire gets big and a wind comes up then they lose all control about where the fire is going to burn and whose property it will burn.
I feel a cartoon coming on . . . The cartoon would be two parts. The first, marked “yesterday” would show Smokey the Bear with a bird on his shoulder, a squirrel perched on the other shoulder and a bunny rabbit sitting on his other arm with birds flying around as Smokey the Bear, historically himself rescued from a Forest Fire, “protects” the little animals. I have recently seen some of these signs around the Forest asking us to “Prevent Forest Fires”.
The next frame of the cartoon would show Smokey the Bear “today” with an ugly smirk on his face and mean burning eyes, holding his arms straight in the air with a burnt bunny rabbit in one hand and a dead bear cub in his other, both burnt to a crisp. He would be screaming “LET UM BURN!!!!”
I recently went hiking in the Magruder Corridor. For over a mile I hiked in the “unhealthy” tangled forest that hadn’t been cared for by the Forest Service and a forest that they consider their enemy. There were dozens of birds flying around, seemingly flying in front of me and then waiting for me and flying in front of me again. Squirrels and chipmunks were scurrying around on the downed logs and in the beautiful green trees and snags working to put away their store of food for the long winter months. There was chirping and peeping and all kind of joyous noise.
As most of us know the new Forest (Fire) Service is now in a let it burn mode, not only in the wilderness but all around us. One just needs to look at the Bitterroot front to see that. I walked down that road to a point where one of their wonderful burns went through decades ago and burnt so hot it sterilized the ground. The only thing growing was an occasional clump of bear grass. No birds were flying (except the occasional Raven or other bird flying to another destination). No squirrels. No chipmunks. Nothing was moving in that two-mile stretch of scorched earth. No sounds. Dead burnt silence.
What are the “resources” the Forest Service is managing now? Do they like exposed earth and want to promulgate that condition?
Anyone that thinks, knows that if the Forest Service is going to allow the fires to burn in the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness the Bitterroot will be covered in a cloud of smoke every year even if they were to put out the fires in our valley. We are downwind from there.
I notice the Forest Service has stopped having “meetings” during these fires. The Kootenai Creek fire brought out the anger in people whose homes and possessions were put at risk because some forest ranger wanted to have bare soil exposed for all to see and enjoy.
I doubt if the Forest Service could find 2% of valley residents who are in favor of the way they are “managing their resources”, or whatever they call it. Doesn’t that mean that the Forest Service is being tyrannical in demanding that our young and old people and those with health problems risk their lives to breathe this smoke from this sick experiment forced onto us by Federal people who don’t care what we think? They have lost their bearings since the Forest Service was first formed.
We live here to recreate in the beautiful mountains, to fish the rivers and streams and to breathe the fresh air. People come here to enjoy those same blessings. Our residents have to leave to be healthy and people don’t come here or stop here.
I say enough is enough! If you can’t figure out how the old time Forest Service people put out fires and kept them out of here, even without airplanes and helicopters, using mule teams and rapid deployment, even at night, then please leave and let us get some of those old timers back.
You are so enamored with fire you burn historic points down such as lookouts and cabins and you cut back on the lookouts which have always been the tool for rapid response, especially of lightning hold over fires. When lookouts see week long hold over fires, at the same time the public sees them, there is something wrong with the training and the system. That is why they are up there but the Forest Service continues to put people on lookouts who are volunteers and want a vacation.
I hope someday soon to see a turnover in the Forest Service and people in charge and working in that agency who understand what the resources are (forests maybe?) and will be the protectors of the wildlife and beautiful scenery not the destroyers.
If that doesn’t happen maybe we can put together a “vigilante” group of old fire fighters who will go and put the fires out before the present Forest Service people can even put their boots on.
If the present situation is not tyranny then tyranny does not exist.
Dallas D Erickson
Stevensville

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