We Are Still Learning About The Forest

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Editor:

Recent letters to the editor suggest that "radical environmentalists" are to blame for the Rodeo-Chediski forest fire, and that if the professionals had been allowed to "do their job," the catastrophe somehow could have been prevented.

It was also suggested that environmentalists "stay out of Arizona," implying that if you're concerned about environmental issues, then you must be from California ("maybe now that fires are burning their own precious Sequoia forests, they will realize the stupidity of their causes").

Perhaps this is an over-simplification.

I, for one, have never lived in California. I'm a long-time resident of Arizona. Yet I am concerned with leaving some old-growth forest for future generations. I'm concerned with preserving habitat for forest wildlife. I'm concerned with keeping forest lakes and rivers free of pollution.

As Stan Brown pointed out in a recent article, it was our governments own misguided fire-suppression efforts of the past 100 years that allowed the forest to become overgrown to the point of today having many, many more trees per acre than ever were in past centuries. Add to that fact the severe drought that we've experienced in recent years, and people in flip-flops with Bic lighters, and you've got the recipe for a monster fire.

Most environmental groups support managing the forest by thinning the smaller trees to create healthier conditions for the larger trees. They oppose clear-cutting of old-growth forests. Many logging companies in the past would rather clear-cut because it was more economical. And their mills were set up to handle large-diameter trees. But things are changing. We are all re-learning things about the forest that our ancestors knew for centuries. And now is the time for us all to come together and work for ways to prevent forest fires in the future and preserve what forest we have left.

Mike Schulte, Payson

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