A recent editorial asked the Payson Town Council and the county supervisors to "take a leadership role" with respect to issues of forest health. I take issue with the implication there has not been leadership.
Payson and the county have begun to take leadership to address some consequences of the lack of forest health. It will take consistency and dedication over a long period of time.
The town's Corporate Strategic Plan has begun to bring the issue into focus. More should be done.
To resolve many of the issues surrounding our unhealthy forests, we must expect more extensive, creative, and effective results than have yet been achieved. There are a number of success stories. Even the recent Rumsey Park fire helped demonstrate the effectiveness of defensive space now in place.
Leadership is not limited to how public monies are used. An example of this would be a "bully pulpit" approach to encourage and recognize property owners who do bring their properties up to the reasonable standards for defensive space appropriate to our extreme risk situation. The bully pulpit may help bring more local industry to use the materials being removed that are presently simply burned. The bully pulpit may influence local retail outlets to replace some of their products with those locally produced.
The bully pulpit leadership might be most cost effective as others rise to solve their part of the problem. In the process, the town and the county may also get the support needed to re-evaluate pre-existing priorities in the light of the current extraordinary circumstances. These conditions will be with us for many years. A comprehensive, long-range, dedicated, consistent and focused approach is needed.
Lew Levenson, Executive Director, Arizona Partnership for Forest Health