In their recent visit to Flagstaff, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Senator Jon Kyl seemed to buy the snake oil sold by NAU School of Forestry professor Wallace Covington. Would they actually believe that if we don't spend billions to restore and thin 30 million acres of forest, it will all go up in smoke in 20 years?
Like the "forest health" gimmick of the '90s, this is another cover-up for old-growth logging. Covington offsets the massive cost of his "restoration" with extraction of the remaining fragments of thick-barked old-growth trees least likely to burn. Photographs of Covington's "restoration" in remote areas where citizens can't watch him reveal 36-inch stumps and logging decks of 18- to 30-inch forest giants.
His "restoration" converts forests into ugly, open spaces, allowing sun and wind to dry out the forest. This causes subsequent fire to burn up the few remaining trees. This has already happened on his test plots.
Even the Forest Service Chief commented that Covington's one-size-fits-all was dubious for all forest types. It may be dubious for much of Arizona's forests.
Instead of spending billions to modify remotely located forests, let us protect homes and property which documented Forest Service studies show can securely fireproof such property.
Currently less than 4 percent of U.S. wood products come from our National Forests. Why use tax dollars to subsidize an industry that is an anachronism? Why undercut the livelihood of private landowners in the Carolinas, Georgia, etc. who produce the vast majority of our nation's wood products?
Robert A. Witzeman, M.D., Conservation Chairperson, Maricopa Audubon Society