Responsibility For Fire Rests On Environmentalists

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Editor:

The responsibility for the overwhelming tragedy of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire is squarely on the shoulders of the Southwest Forest Alliance, the Forest Guardians, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club. The people in these groups are single-handedly responsible for the catastrophic loss of Arizona's potentially prime habitat and a significant portion of the largest stand of ponderosa pine forest in America.

Untold numbers of wildlife such as deer, elk, bears, bobcats, birds (including the spotted owl) and rabbits have perished in a fiery burning inferno Bambi, Owl, Peter Rabbit and Smokey Bear are gone. Rich cultural resources are gone forever. Smoke and air pollution are incredible. Water pollution will reach phenomenal proportions as rain falls and washes the watershed into lakes and streams. Rehabilitation will take decades. Tax dollars invested to suppress this fire is incomprehensible, especially in view of the fact that there is nothing to show except mass destruction and devastation to landscape and wildlife. The risk to human life is inconceivable. The very things these groups profess to protect are gone for decades by their very own hand in a very short time in a blazing inferno.

These groups are responsible for countless appeals and injunctions against the Forest Service, preventing any sound silvicultural practices on any of Arizona's forests. Approximately one third of the Forest Service budget is spent on litigation. These groups lead us to believe that logging companies have free rein to rape and pillage the forest. The truth is there are at least 32 laws and acts that govern timber sales, right down to the specialized paint for marking trees. Timber sales must meet rigid prescription requirements that encompass the needs of wildlife, recreation, forest health and watershed necessities, just to name a few.

Because of these groups, all of Arizona's forests and wildlife are at extreme risk of the same fate as the Rodeo-Chediski Fire. Because of the actions of these groups, the timber utilization infrastructure is gone. We now find ourselves scrambling to re-invent the wheel to find cost-effective ways to process the smaller trees that are choking the forests and providing heavy fuel loads. The paper mill at Snowflake is a classic example of a unit that utilized small trees. That mill ended up without a dependable timber supply because of appeals and injunctions. The mill now imports market pulp from Canada and Georgia and ironically it is in the heart of the largest forest in the U.S.

Once this horrendous fire season ends, it will be time for all of us to support good forest health practices. We each can do this by, first, "just say no" when you receive a solicitation from the Southwest Forest Alliance, the Forest Guardians, the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand Canyon Trust and the Sierra Club. And secondly, "just say yes" to supporting the forest scientists who are hired to manage a renewable resource.

Virginia R. Riedel, Mesa

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