A recent article in The Arizona Republic blamed our devastating bark beetle attack on the drought. This, no doubt, did contribute, but it is not the primary reason for the epidemic.
The primary reason is that emotion-based lawsuits have stopped reasonable management of the resources. The government should demand restitution for the millions of acres of our natural resources which have been destroyed by fire and insects due to these lawsuits.
I strongly urge that past Forest Service records be researched to see the effects of the limitations placed on the organization by the judicial decisions.
Until the 1980s, the Forest Service could quickly deal with these infestations by using the logging industry to remove the infested trees before the insect could attack the surrounding trees.
I would like to illustrate this from a personal experience. I was District Ranger at Safford from 1971 until 1990. During my time there, we had numerous small attacks on the timber by both bark beetles and spruce bud worms.
Throughout the year, we maintained a surveillance for these problems. Upon finding an insect attack, we would seek the expertise of our entomologists, whose usual recommendation would be to cut and remove all the infested trees. This was done by our local logger, who had a small sawmill at the base of Mt. Graham.
Though we had a number of infestations during my tour there, we lost only a few trees in the immediate area. In the late 1980s due to judicial restrictions, we could no longer make the small salvage and sanitation sales, and our logger went out of business.
In the mid-90s, the spruce-fir stand, which covered much of the top of Mt. Graham, was attacked by the spruce bud worm and was wiped out.
A sanitation cut, removing diseased, or insect infested, trees, no matter what size, should be done while the stand is healthy. Ponderosa pine will be healthier and more attractive when managed as an uneven age stand. Old age trees will soon add to the 100 to 1000 hour fuels, contributing to unstoppable fires.
One of the best uses of funds allocated for thinning would be to revive the timber industry. Timber sales would recover a big part of the project's cost. This would have multiple benefits. It would provide jobs, house logs, lumber, pulp and other wood products.
Cecil R. Sims, Payson