It looks as if the residents of Idaho will have to endure another smoky summer. Most people assume that forest fires are simply another aspect of life in the mountain west, just something we have to endure and combat to survive.
As Greg Walcher, former head of the Colorado DNR points out in his book, “Smoking them out, the theft of the environment and how to take it back,” professional forest management, which included thinning, has been replaced with a do-nothing strategy. The result is that timber harvest are down 84 percent nationally and about 90 percent in Idaho from their peak.
The Forest Services classifies 60 percent of its forests as facing abnormally high fire danger. Walcher says that while the number of fires went up about 6 percent from the late 1990s to a decade later, the total acreage burned went up more than 600 percent.
So we are left with a public policy that reduced well-paying logging jobs and increased both the acreage burned from fires and the resulting air pollution. Progressives and environmentalists often state that good-paying jobs should not be in conflict with sound environmental policy.
It is time to point out that logging combines good-paying jobs and sound environmental policy; the alternative is to fight ever larger fires and breathe smoky summer air.