July 2002 (vol. 18, #5)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 2002 Physicians for Civil Defense
A firefighter has been arrested in Arizona for starting the Rodeo fire, one of the two merging fires that drove 25,000 residents from their homes. A press conference was held about the arrest. But neither arsonists, careless campers, dry lightning, nor drought can account for the dramatically increased destruc-tiveness of fires since 1985. Between 1960 and 1984, the average area burned yearly was 162,276 acres. Between 1985 and 1998, the average area exploded to 670,018 acres (R Bennett, 21st Century, Fall 2000). In 2000, the worst fire year since the 1950s, 8.4 million acres were devastated, with control and recovery costs nearing $3 billion (Wall St J 6/21/02).
Forest fires are inevitable. It is their recent ferocity that is unprecedented. Sources of ignition always existed. The big dif-ference is the fuel loading, which is now more than 400 tons of dry fuel per acre, ten times the manageable level.
Not all forests are in such a condition. Catastrophic fires seldom occur in forests owned by private timber companies, which treat trees as a valuable investment. Craig Cantoni of Scottsdale, AZ, writes: ``I worked for a billion-dollar family business in the 1980s that had 900,000 acres of timber land. Its land, a hunting and fishing paradise, was in pristine shape and never had a major fire in the 100 years of family ownership.''
Retired Phoenix Councilwoman Frances Emma Barwood, who had to evacuate her home near Dewey, AZ, writes: ``Everyone has been pleading for the last several years for the forests to be thinned.... When the trees are within a foot of each other they drink up all the water reserve and neither tree stays healthy. So we have miles and miles of dead 80-ft-plus pines. They say they are dryer than what is in Home Depot! We were able to cut a swath around our home but were not allowed to cut any trees within the National Forest Service, and all the dead trees are on NFS land.... They [argued] that natural is ... best, and they don't have the money to thin out. They didn't need the money since ... companies that make money selling firewood ... would have done it for free. Now these fires have cost millions of dollars, but that doesn't come out of the NFS budget.''
The root problem is the tragedy of the commons - the inescapable consequence of public ownership (socialism). The gradual increase in the number of fires since 1960 closely corresponds to the increase in the area ``protected'' by the NFS (Bennett, op cit.). Of the 192 million acres administered by the NFS, 73 million acres are now at risk for severe fires. Tens of millions of acres-one in three forest acres-is dead or dying, as from insect infestations or diseases, according to a General Accounting Office report (Wall St J, op. cit.). Environmental consequences are not restricted to forests: ``almost all major pollution occurs on government property,'' writes Harry Browne. Government agents have no future stake in the value of the property and are exempt from the harsh, expensive laws imposed on the private sector (WorldNetDaily 6/27/02).
The problem is compounded by the public-private partner-ship with radical environmen-talists. Politici-ans, such as Arizona Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull, are beginning to point fingers at self-styled environ-mentalist groups. Senator Kyl notes that the 5,000 lawsuits brought by enviros have obstructed good forest manage-ment and drained 40% of NFS resources (Az Daily Star 6/25/02).
Officials are less likely to acknowledge the culpability of Congress in taxpayer funding of enviro groups (see May issue) or in passing the laws that they advocate. The National Forest Management Act in 1976 set forest management on its head by requiring correct, locally approved ``plans'' for any actions. It took about four years for timber harvesting approved before 1976 to stop, and an additional four years for fuel densities to build up-explaining the change in the slope of the fire destruc-tiveness curve after 1984 (Bennett, op. Cit.).
The regulations and lawsuits, especially those due to the En-dangered Species Act, have led to what U.S. forest chief Dale Bosworth called ``analysis paralysis'' in June testimony to Congress (Wall St J, op. cit.).
Anything that might turn a profit is especially disfavored. Big trees suitable for lumber are supposed to be fire resistant and so should be untouched. Cutting little trees isn't profitable since Clinton's policy of forcing government agencies to use only recycled paper. This means that the taxpayers are supposed to pay $12 billion to cart off dead wood.
The enviros blame the NSF's fire suppression efforts for wildfires, and applaud the American Indians' fire-setting practices. Extreme enviros actually advocate destructive fire, while opposing the controlled combustion of hydrocarbon (``fossil'') fuels for human industry and comfort.
The Wildlands Project asks: ``How will we restore natural processes such as wildfire, predation, and the cycle of free-flowing waters?'' (www.twp.org). A distinctly unnatural fire - set by ELF arsonists - is pictured in full color on the home page of www.earthliberationfront.com, which features a detailed guide for setting fires with electrical timers.
To extremists, the national forests are like a Sacred Grove, not to be desecrated by human artifacts like roads. Ecological devastation wrought by an uncontrollable inferno is a burnt offering, apparently as pleasing to the goddess Gaia as a firebreak cut by a giant bulldozer is offensive. ``Old growth'' trees, if spared from a chainsaw, are viewed as if they were immortal as gods, although they too die and rot eventually. Indefinite ``preservation'' is not possible; the practical choice is between a productive forest, and a stagnant, dying one waiting to burn (R Bennett, Insight 6/26/00).
Forests that are productive-and beneficial to humanity- are anathema to the Green religion. Groups such as the Wilder-ness Society may have promoted nationalizing forests, early in the 20th century, to ensure that U.S. citizens had access to needed resources (H Lamb, WorldNetDaily 6/29/02). Now an explicit Green goal is to exclude human beings from 50% of the U.S. land area (www.wildlandsprojectrevealed.org).
Extreme enviros failed to denounce the World Trade Center inferno. (The ELF has taken credit itself for 30 terrorist attacks in 6 years.) Gar Smith, editor of Earth Island Journal, blamed the attack on Americans for burning oil (Environment&Climate News 12/01). The extreme fire danger is not just in the forest.
Apparently, anyone may view the arsonist's manual of the Earth Liberation Front, but the copyright notice by Fireant Collective expressly threatens retribution to anyone, especially in government, who copies any part of it-except for non-profit animal liberationists. Saboteurs are advised to copy recipes carefully, lest they expose themselves to unnecessary risks.
Kim Martin, the Incident Commander for the Forest Service, turned them down-even after they offered to replant trees at their own expense. ``The equipment is too heavy,'' he said. ``It will tear up the land.''
With the fire still uncontrolled a week later, the Forest Service called for bulldozers-little ones. To avoid the destruc-tion of 90 acres by bulldozers, a Forest Service bureaucrat was willing to sacrifice 130,000 acres to fire, and to forbid Ameri-can citizens to defend their homes and property.
Henry Lamb, who will speak at the DDP meeting on July 28, asks: Why does the federal government own more than a third of the land in America? And if it is right and good for the federal government to own 83% of Nevada, why shouldn't it have 83% of New York and Pennsylvania?
Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government to purchase land, with the consent of the legislature of the State in which the land is located, ``for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings.'' Until the early 20th century, federal land was the object of divestiture, as under the Homestead Act.
Though politicians have met their doom for promot-ing this idea, Lamb thinks its time may have come, as people view ``the charred ruin of wasted forests and roasted wildlife, to say nothing of the ashes of hundreds of homes'' (Lamb op. Cit.)
Harry Browne suggests that the federal government sell all of the assets that it shouldn't have. Proceeds, estimated to be from $5 trillion to $50 trillion, could buy a private annuity for Social Security dependents, allowing the program to be phased out, thus saving all Americans under age 50 more by ending the payroll tax than they'd give up in promised benefits. This could avert the debacle that will occur when that program goes down in flames due to its unfunded liabilities.
Global warmers are beginning to acknowledge the role of forests in atmospheric carbon dioxide balance. Their theorizing is so much rhetorical hot air, given two gross uncertainties. The size of the estimated ``sink'' of stored CO2 in U.S. forests ranges between 0.2 and 1.3 gigatons per year. (In other words, the uncertainty is larger than the sink.) Then there's the imponderable fire that ``may return carbon to the atmosphere instantaneously, although it also produces long-lived black carbon.'' Fire and harvest are ``pulse-like events'' that ``over-ride a short-term balance.'' Those intent on ``Managing Forests After Kyoto'' conclude, with furrowed brow, that ``replacing unmanaged old-growth forest by young Kyoto stands'' will lead to ``massive carbon losses to the atmosphere'' (Science 2000; 289:2058-2059). Unstated question: How much controlled combustion should human beings be forced to forego to compensate for one big forest fire?
``Pyromanticism'' enters Science in an essay by ``environ-mental historian'' Stephen Pyne of Arizona State University. He urges ``our species'' to ``reclaim our role as keepers of the flame.'' He speaks of the ``frontier dividing the human burning of living biomass and our combustion of fossil biomass.''
``The furor over global warming is, after all, a crisis of combustion. If we were to slash and burn tens of millions of acres in the American West to restore fire, we would release an immense stock of sequestered carbon.'' Should we therefore try harvesting timber instead? Should we reverse the policy of the federal government that established ``public'' lands, excluding agricultural settlement, which ``created a habitat for free-burning fire''? Pyne doesn't ask. He seems to consider ``decolonization and devolution'' as inevitable, and in the choice between ``competing ecological values'' seems to hold with those who favor fire (Science 2001;294:1005-1006).
Can a culture that has work for firefighters and fire setters, but not for loggers, long survive?
Enviro groups have often imposed their will by suing a federal agency, which negotiates a settlement and issues regulations forcing a State to comply. Enviros have no liability for firefighters killed, homes lost, businesses destroyed, air pollution or soil erosion from wildfires or other consequen-ces -and neither does the government. State officials may, however, now be liable for entering an agreement that harms your property rights without your permission.
See www.eco.freedom.org for information on the Freedom 21 Workshop at the Nashville Airport Marriott, July 19-20, on methods of defending your rights.
Dr. Fred Singer points out that the table in the last issue on capital cost for electricity-generating technology should be labeled ``cap cost/installed kw,'' not kwh. Also, the value for wind installed power is nominal, depending on the wind. The actual is usually not more than 25% of the rated value.
Government-mandated recycling means waste: it milks taxpayers to expand the size of government. Without the free ``voluntary'' assistance of householders, who spend countless hours sorting trash, the program would be even less economical-ly viable (Torch, Sept 2001). It displaced charitable fund-raising and drove prices down. For newsprint, prices went negative. Then free enterprise compensated by finding more uses, writes Terry Apple-gate of Applegate Insulation.
``We still buy lots of newspapers from charities,'' he writes. Products include mulch coverage to improve seed germination, and cellulose insulation for buildings, which is said to offer improved resistance to moisture and flame (Cellulose Insulation Journal, Webberville, MI).