Saturday, July 07, 2007

USFS fire-industrial complex attacks Sky Islands

Western forests are too often denied healthy fire, leading to catastrophic blazes

TUCSON -- Western forests need natural fire to be healthy. The monsoon season is starting now, and lightning started a natural fire yesterday in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of the city. This is good news.

The natural fire is in a remote area east of Molino Basin, an area of the Catalinas that needs to burn to reduce forest fuels build-up and improve forest health. The light rains and higher humidity of the monsoon season should keep raging wild fire conditions in check. There are no structures near the fire.

So do Coronado National Forest managers do the smart thing and monitor the fire as it burns?

No, Forest Managers Jeanine Derby and Larry Raley decide to spend big money and risk lives to fully fight and suppress a natural fire on a mountain that needs fire.

Through access fees for Mt. Lemmon and Sabino Canyon, the Forest Service shamefully manages the Catalina Range like a big cash register. Derby and Raley likely immediately decided that letting this fire burn may affect the bogus fees they try to collect from people enjoying their public lands there. Plus, they have a big fire budget from congress that they just have to spend to continue to justify future fire budgets.

The US fire-industrial complex again shows spending money and looking busy playing Smokey the Bear trumps forest health.

To their credit, the Forest Service and National Park Service are monitoring and letting burn, at least for now, a natural fire in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson. Due to a natural fire cycle, and more liberal fire policies of the Park Service, the Rincons are one of the most diverse and health Sky Islands in the region.

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