Swickard: Time to fire the political fire managers

Commentary by Michael Swickard - In an interview by Deborah Voorhees Jack Rabbit Flats volunteer fire department Chief Tom Parker relates that he saw the lightening strike up on the Ruidoso Mountainside west of the Ski Apache area. It was called in within minutes of smoke being seen when it was less than an acre in size.  Parker talks about the political decision to let it burn despite the danger to the rest of the mountain. Five firefighters called for water to put out the fire but were denied because politically the desire was to use it as a controlled burn even though the conditions for a controlled burn were not met. It could have been put out any time in the three days, Tuesday through Thursday, and then Friday it became too late. But the damage was done earlier. Porter says the politics that stops effective forest management is to blame. “Forestry goes out and tries to thin. You’ve got a judge in Texas telling us what we can do in the Lincoln National Forest because some group in another state petitions because there might be an owl in the area. Yes we have to protect endangered species but we also have to protect ourselves.” And this is the nut of the problem: politics trumps effective forest management. Tom Parker points out what effective management looks like, “If you drive through Mescalero and you look at their forests, their ladder fuels are gone, their ground clutter is gone and the healthy trees are still standing. They have gone through their forest and so if a tree gets hit by lightning, it is out of there. Also thinned are if a tree has a sign of bark beetles, mistletoe or clipper beetles since those are the three big problems we have in this state. They go in there and get that pocket of diseased trees out before they affect the rest of the forest.” See interview on YouTube We are not talking clear-cutting where all trees are taking down, rather, a wise management of the forest done outside of the politics. Letting diseased trees stand ruins miles of good forest and endangers everyone. Even the owls do not want a mismanaged forest. They do not survive the catastrophic fires. Only the political entities who feed upon our society, entities made up of many lawyers who are paid by us to sue us which then forces us to create a forest that is weakened by disease and overgrowth. That is the problem. Read column



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