State Must Cut Wildfire Risk, Save Lives

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by Doug Ducey, state treasurer/candidate for governor

As I campaign to be your next governor, I’ve traversed the state discussing how Arizona is known as a place of opportunity for people who work hard and want a chance to get ahead. In some of our more rural areas, however, I’m concerned about the danger inflicted by forest fires — some of the most destructive in the country — and how their effects can limit our opportunities.

With this year’s fire season starting earlier than usual, I can’t help but be reminded of the loss of not only the 19 firefighters on the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew in Yarnell a year ago, but all the lives lost over the years. I pray for their families and wish them comfort and healing. In addition to threatening lives and personal property, the continued mismanagement of our forests means hotter and more frequent fires that threaten some of Arizona’s greatest assets — rich terrain, beautiful scenery, property and, most concerning, lives.

As governor, I will make it a priority to better manage our forests for three critical reasons:

First and foremost, for the preservation of life and the safety of our citizens and first responders. After all, to protect individual freedoms and liberties, and to protect our state’s citizens is paramount. If we can’t do that, we are not doing our job.

Second, it’s an opportunity to enhance our water supply. We know Arizona faces an impending water problem that will require serious planning starting now, and I intend to spearhead that effort as governor. Central to that endeavor is thinning our thicker, denser forests to minimize the “canopy” effect that can prevent water from making it into our aquifers.

Finally, our rural areas are desperate for jobs. A more proactive forest management program would significantly impact rural economies and help communities get back to work.

I call this three-part solution a win-win-win situation, which is why I’m encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service’s Four Forest Restoration Initiative, which will thin thousands of acres of trees over the next decade — nearly one million acres in all — to help minimize the opportunity for devastating fires and increase forest health while also creating job opportunities in rural Arizona. At the same time, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative is just a start — we still need more help and we must look at other options to ensure safety, forest diversity and conservation.

As we remember the boys of Yarnell Hill, I hope that their sacrifice will continue to serve as a reminder that Arizona’s forests can and should be better managed to prevent future tragedies of this magnitude.

Doug Ducey is currently Arizona’s state treasurer and is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. He is also the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery.

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