Environmentalism run amok

Litigious groups are harming management of U.S. forests

The author, who worked 33 years on the Plumas National Forest, directed the planting of 8 million trees.

I am damn tired of the smoke and its associated cancers and heart disease. In my opinion, honed by 33 years as a professional forester and U.S. Forest Service silviculturist, the fault lies with environmentalists.

Environmentalists litigate USFS fuel-reduction projects on the national forests, hoping to stop, slow or water them down. Because of the litigation, the USFS can’t effectively manage the fuels in our forests. These fuels burn in wildfires that pollute the air, destroy wildlife and erode the soil.

The groups that litigate are often successful in stopping or slowing a USFS project on a technicality, only to have the whole project consumed by wildfire. The fire kills much wildlife—including spotted owls, northern goshawks, fishers and martens—while destroying their habitat.

In contrast, if implemented as designed, USFS fuel reduction would remove the fuels from the forest, leaving the wildlife and soil intact—a win-win solution.

How do the environmentalists do it? The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) allows anyone to litigate a USFS land management decision in court. Environmental groups litigate everything—including fuel reduction thinning, harvesting fire- and bug-killed timber, and reforestation projects. Before a sympathetic judge, the litigation drags on for years until the project burns up, the timber is no good or the brush has taken over and reforestation is impossible.

Also, the Endangered Species Act sounds good, but it also fuels wildfires. It allows environmentalists to nitpick projects on the basis that the USFS failed to consider a “threatened, endangered, or sensitive” species or “suitable habitat” for the same. The USFS has a huge staff of biologists, but before a sympathetic judge almost any deliberation or document can be judged deficient on some point.

Congress needs to change these laws so the USFS can concentrate on managing forest fuels instead of litigation. The forest needs: thinning, harvesting, salvaging and reforesting. Otherwise, wildfires will continue to devastate.

Until the laws are changed, we all can do our part by not supporting environmental groups whose misguided litigation is indirectly harming us all.