Recent Report Gives Lets Forest Beetles Off the Hook - Kind Of

Wyoming News Service, Casper, WY - Big wildfires in the forest backcountry through the West are often blamed on pine bark beetles, with the thought that those diseased and dead trees present a higher fire risk. The West continues to see one of the worst outbreaks of forest beetles in centuries.

A new scientific report from the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy questions that thinking, and is recommending that scarce tax dollars be spent on protecting private property and communities near forests, instead of cutting trees in roadless areas affected by beetles.

Report author Dr. Dominick Kulakowski says the bottom line is that drought and higher temperatures fuel backcountry fires, not beetles.

The report suggests that the limited money available to reduce forest fire risk be spent on community mitigation at the edge of the forests.

Western forests are seeing the biggest beetle outbreaks in decades, with millions of acres of lodgepole pines killed.

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I'm a wildland firefighter,

I'm a wildland firefighter, sitting here trying to remember the number of times I've watched wildfires burn in ways some chair-bound academician said wouldn't or couldn't happen. I've lost count. Nature doesn't seem to give a levitating rodent's patootie about what educated fools think or write. Obeying relatively simple laws of physics and chemistry, Nature just does it's own thing despite reams of silly papers to the contrary.

One day, hopefully, it will occur to some of these academicians to ask *firefighters* how fires burn. I've never been so questioned by an academician nor fought a wildfire next to one; neither has any firefighter of my acquaintance--and yes, we often discuss such things because the academicians and the politicians and the mis-named "enviromentalists" invariably make our jobs considerably more difficult. And infinitely more dangerous.

I wouldn't really expect them to publish what we'd say anyway, because we're honest about it--not politically correct--and answer only to Nature's fury, not the self-serving bureaucrats and funding-providers they answer to.

Park and forest administrators love these disingenuous reports because they can, and do, use them as an excuse to divert more of their funding toward attracting and coddling tourists and away from proper forest-management, (ask me about the National Park Circus'...um...Service's...$1,000,000--yep, six zeros--outhouse; better yet, google it). If there's a bad fire, the officials will simply blame the report or the weather guessers or the ranger who told him this would happen if something wasn't done. They'll point the finger at anybody or anything--anything but their own negligence and dereliction of duty. Been there, seen that, got covered with soot. More than once.

As a wildland firefighter, the *best* I can say about this disagraceful report is that the irresponsible negligence it encourages puts not only my life and the lives of my fellow firefighters in danger, but likewise endangers the families living in or near areas in which those hundreds--sometimes thousands--of dead trees abound. Carried by the winds, a burning firebrand can travel farther than a rifle bullet, with tremendously more destructive--often, deadly--results.

Leaving--nationwide--millions of parasite-killed trees standing is as dangerous as leaving an open bucket of gasoline in the smoker's lounge: It isn't a question of IF it will result in a tragedy but WHEN. To even entertain such an idea is malicious if not downright criminal.

There are 4 possible ignition sources for wildfires: Lightning, men, women and children. Inevitably, one of those ignition sources will meet up with the fuel. It may be sooner, it may be later, but it WILL happen.

It takes only grade-school logic to understand that, if you remove the fuel, a fire is impossible. That is a word I rarely use but it here bears repeating: If you remove the fuel, a fire is IMPOSSIBLE. No one can die in it, no one's home can be reduced to smoldering rubble, because without fuel, fires simply *cannot* happen. Period.

The *worst* I can say about this outrageous, politically-tainted report is that it is a bald-faced lie. Someone will die, horribly, painfully, as a result of it. I hope it isn't me. Or you. Or your children.

By the way: I'm a *volunteer* firefighter. I don't get paid one red cent to fight a fire--in fact, it costs me money out of my own pocket; to take time off to fight fires, to drive sometimes a couple of hundred miles round-trip to take courses (from firefighters, not academicians) in fire behavior, or incident-command structure, or standards, or survival or EMT certification. We're not even given the $8 "Incident Response Pocket Guides" we constantly refer to at a fire, we have to buy them. What I have said here is based on experience, observation and conviction, not conflict-of-interest or political agenda.

I was going to reply

I was going to reply to this article but you said everything I was going to say, only better.