Man’s sorriest method of management
Did you mow your lawn recently? Did you prune your trees this spring? Why did you do that? You will likely say that it is necessary to keep them healthy, nice looking and productive. You would be correct. The city park is a very well-kept and beautiful park, with grass, trees, ponds and wildlife. Well, the wildlife don’t seem too wild when the ducks chase you down for handouts and the geese are willing to leave free “golf balls” scattered around. I wonder why we haven’t had public input meetings to decide if the grass should be cut or not, or if we may be disturbing the geese’s toiletry opportunities.
You think this is silly since we have hired professional park managers who know what they are doing. Well, that is precisely what we are doing with our federal forests and woodlands. We hire professionals to manage the natural resources, then require they ask the uninformed public, clear back to New York, how they want the resources managed in Colorado. Now we are arguing over the mess that has been created, with the Washington-dictated “one size fits all management,” resulting in the recent wildfires.
Here are a few facts to ponder. President Roosevelt stated, “The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitutes the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem in our national life.” Resource use is the basis for virtually all economy.
Conservation means to “protect from loss and waste.” When God created man and placed him in the Garden of Eden, he specifically instructed him to cultivate, till and keep the garden. that meant using and working it and not wasting it. He did not tell him to set it aside for “feel-good experiences.” He was the first conservationist.
To conserve our forests and resources, we must work at using them wisely and not wasting them. When a forest burns, that is opportunity lost. That is resources wasted. That is dereliction of our duty of stewards of the lands and resources. When a forest dies from insect and disease build-ups, that is waste when we could have done something about it besides wringing our hands and making excuses.
What will we do to correct the path we have been on? In 1976, we chose a path to try overseeing the federal lands by public opinion rather than scientific resource need. This later led to President Clinton politicizing land-management decisions, which led to drastic reduction in our capability to effectively use the resources for management, improvement and economy. Now we have an overabundance of dead and dying forests that are starting to burn up. Is that because we put out too many fires in the past? No, it is because we did not use and improve the resources, thus allowing them to accumulate fuel that should have been used, waiting for nature to “use” it under its uncontrollable conditions.
When we began to promote using fire as a tool back in the late 1950s and ’60s, it was for the purpose of cleaning up logging and small thinning debris that was not usable at the time, and clearing dense brush fields for better forage and water production. This tool was used in the fall when weather conditions were predictable, fuel moisture was not explosive, and the fire would not get hot enough to sterilize and destroy the soil organisms, and, especially, would not remove all ground cover protecting the watersheds. The result was a healthy, diverse, growing and producing forest and range for all our benefit. It was not fireproof, but when fires did occur they were controllable without undue damage to the watersheds and surrounding areas.
What happened to change that? The politicizing of forest and land management! Management direction was turned over to public opinion, not scientific resource need. This direction has been to aim toward a utopian perfect environment with perfectly pure air and water and no human intervention. This is, of course, unnatural, unrealistic and unattainable.
Through their unrealistic regulations, the EPA — which was and is controlled by pseudo-environmental groups — became the default resource controller along with the courts. Thus began the elimination of scientific sound professional management and economic improvement. This is management by uninformed, single-interest and inexperienced committees with their own agendas. This is the sorriest method of management derived by man.
Our trees, forage, water, wildlife, air and economy have suffered from this direction. Is it too late to save the forests and economy? Maybe. Should we try? Yes. So how?
First, the state must regain and exercise constitutional control over all lands within its sovereign boundaries and delegate oversight to and by each affected county. Second, EPA control and influence will have to be neutralized or preferably totally eliminated. Third, the ability of court actions to stop management activities must be eliminated. Fourth, private enterprises to harvest and use trees and other woody material must be encouraged and developed.
The technology and means exist today, and if not taken advantage of soon, we can expect to see more waste of our resources and further losses of developments, economy and jobs. We will have failed as conservationist sand stewards of the resources.
Dexter Gill, of Lewis, is a retired state and private forester.