Fire Is Vital To Forest Health

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Editor:

During Bush's Arizona visit he said logging companies should be allowed to take some big trees deep in the forest in order to pay for the huge thinning costs. Senator Lieberman replied to Bush: "Arizonans should make no mistake: This is logging industry greed masquerading as environmental need."

At $100/acre (a low estimate) thinning would cost $19 billion! Furthermore, there is no hard scientific proof it would work. Bush would sacrifice the last of Arizona's majestic old-growth to fight a war that can't and shouldn't be won.

We must learn to live with fire. More USFS firefighters have died (883 since 1910) than died in both Gulf wars. In the last five years between 700 and 1,000 U.S. forest homes have burned annually. Sixty-four times that number have burned from lightning nationwide.

USFS says simple measures like roofing material and removing vegetation 100 feet around homes greatly reduce losses. Yellowstone after fire is more vibrant and "healthier" than before. Fly over Rodeo-Chediski and witness a "healthy" mosaic of unburned and burned areas that will reseed and spring back -- global warming permitted. Most homes there have been rebuilt. U.S. insurance companies are even setting long overdue ground rules for homeowners.

Let's learn from history. Fire has kept our forests healthy.

Robert Witzeman, Conservation Chairperson, Maricopa Audubon Society

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