High Park Fire, image via InciWeb
My fellow Coloradans have endured a terrifying and miserable summer so far. Wildfires have ravaged the state. Thousands have been evacuated. Open burning has been banned. Air quality is oppressive. Dry weather and strong winds aren’t helping the front-line personnel trying to contain the blazes. And the season has only just begun here and in across the West. Sean Paige, who runs the invaluable MonkeyWrenchingAmerica.com site, first alerted me to the fateful decisions made by the Obama administration last year that effectively poured fuel on the 2012 Western wildfires. Read my column below and weep. And then make sure you do all you can to 1) help the victims; 2) press the feds for answers about the government’s shrinking aerial tanker fleet, and 3) replace the negligent bureaucrats and their bosses with competent officials who put the core public safety duties of government first instead of last.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The smell of singed air here is inescapable. Less than 50 miles west of my neighborhood, the latest wildfire has spread across 1,100 acres. It’s the fifth active blaze to erupt in our state over the past month. But ashes aren’t the only things smoldering.
The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public safety priorities. Bipartisan complaints goaded the White House into signing a Band-Aid fix last week. But it smacks more of election-year gesture politics: Too little, too late, too fake.
Ten years ago, the feds had a fleet of 44 firefighting planes. Today, the number is down to nine for the entire country. Last summer, Obama’s U.S. Forest Service canceled a key federal contract with Sacramento-based Aero Union just as last season’s wildfires were raging. Aero Union had supplied eight vital air tankers to Washington’s dwindling aerial firefighting fleet. Two weeks later, the company closed down, and 60 employees lost their jobs. Aero Union had been a leader in the business for a half-century.
Why were they grounded? U.S. Forest Service bureaucrats and some media accounts cite “safety” concerns. But as California GOP Rep. Dan Lungren noted in a letter obtained by reporter Audrey Hudson of the conservative D.C. newspaper Human Events last year, a Federal Aviation Administration representative said it was a contractual/compliance matter, not safety, that doomed Aero Union’s fleet.
“I am deeply troubled by the Forest Service’s sudden action,” Lungren warned, “particularly as California enters into the fire season. Our aerial firefighting fleet is already seriously undercapitalized.” Both the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General have been critical of the Forest Service’s handling of the matter. All of this has been known to the Obama administration since it took the reins in 2009.
Nine months after Lungren’s warning, the deadly High Park fire in Larimer County, Colo., claimed a grandmother’s life, destroyed 189 homes and scorched nearly 60,000 acres. Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Wyoming also have battled infernos this summer.
After months of dire red flags from a diverse group of politicians ranging from Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry and Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, President Obama finally signed emergency legislation last week to expedite the contracting process. Obama will borrow planes from Canada and provide $24 million for new aerial tanker contracts.
But the money won’t come until next year, and the dog-and-pony rescue moves will not result in any immediate relief. “It’s nice, but this problem isn’t fixed with a stroke of the pen,” former Forest Service official and bomber pilot Tony Kern told the Denver Post this week. “You need to have the airplanes available now.” Veteran wildland firefighter and blogger Bill Gabbert of WildfireToday.com adds: “The USFS should have awarded contracts for at least 20 additional air tankers, not 7.”
Imagine if Obama’s Forest Service had been a private company. White House eco-radicals would be rushing to place their “boots on the necks” of the bureaucrats who made the fateful decision to put an experienced aerial tanker firm out of business as wildfires raged and the available rescue fleet shrunk.
“The Obama administration is scrambling now to help ensure the Forest Service has the air assets it needs to fight the ongoing inferno,” Colorado free-market environmental watchdog Sean Paige reported at MonkeyWrenchingAmerica.com last week. “But the crisis is bound to raise questions not just about whether the cancelled contract created additional weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but about what the administration has been doing over the past three summers to shore-up the service’s air fleet.”
Where there’s smoke swirling over Team Obama, there are usually flames of incompetence, cronyism and ideological zealotry at the source. The ultimate rescue mission? Evacuating Obama’s wrecking crew from the White House permanently. November can’t come soon enough.
June 23, 2011
The ironies of “be careful what you ask for” have never been clearer — despite the smoky haze in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico and Arizona. So far, some 700,000 acres have burned in just two fires, as a direct result of the federal government’s inability to manage forests in the Southwest. At the same time, the radical environmental groups who are responsible for these catastrophic fires are also involved in hearings in New Mexico on air quality — and demanding expensive “pollution” controls on the suppliers of the state’s electricity.
The connection between the radical environmental groups and these life-threatening fires is easy to make. Radical groups like WildEarth Guardians (WEG) (formerly Forest Guardians) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) oppose all management and uses of national forests, including timber production (thinning) and livestock grazing. When national forests are not managed, they burn with intensive fury, killing wildlife, their habitats, jobs, communities, and part of our national heritage. The CBD and WEG claim they are trying to take America back to the way it looked prior to European settlement; but Native Americans also managed the landscape, so the attempt to eliminate human existence is not realistic, nor is it healthy for our national forests.
Now, as a result of the inability to manage national forests, the damage that has been done to air quality in New Mexico because of these and other fires will take months, if not years, to repair. Pet owners are now being asked to use caution in exercising their pets. For those with respiratory problems, air quality in Albuquerque and other areas is literally life-threatening.
These groups who have filed hundreds of lawsuits in New Mexico and Arizona and collected millions of taxpayer dollars to stop the USFS from managing for healthy forests claim to be doing good in the name of species like the Mexican spotted owl, the Mexican wolf, the spikedace, and the loach minnow. The list is almost endless. In every case, the answer the WEG and the CBD have called for, and often gotten, is the removal of management and economic activity such as logging, mining, and ranching.
Little seems to have been learned from the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in Arizona in 2002 — when most of the area’s habitat for the Mexican spotted owl was charred beyond recognition. Rather than understanding the horrors of their actions in removing logging and grazing that naturally keep the fuels that feed the past decade’s catastrophic fires, these groups have filed more lawsuits, which keep the fire-ravaged areas from being rehabilitated. Natural resources that could be salvaged go unused.
The Mexican wolf, a species that has cost the American taxpayer millions of dollars and is on the verge of collapse, is further threatened by these ongoing catastrophic wildfires. According to the federal government, the Wallow Fire has already consumed the wolf habitat in Arizona. The habitat in New Mexico is now in the line of fire. How many wolves have survived the fire to this point? There is no answer to that question and there is unlikely to be one for time to come. However, it is not unreasonable to expect that wolves that have received millions of dollars in federal and state funding have been lost.
Even the availability of electric generation across many western states is at risk as the Wallow and Horseshoe fires indiscriminately race across landscapes that house power lines feeding homes and businesses from Texas to California. Despite the WEG’s hearing and press releases about potential pollution for electricity generation, the air quality that New Mexico and Arizona are suffering today can be laid directly at the feet of the WEG.
So that there is no misunderstanding, natural fire is not always bad. But when the fuel load is not controlled — and it has not been for decades — it becomes violent and dangerous to animal and man alike. In the mid 1990s, one Arizona forestry specialist noted that even at that point, the fuel load was comparable to setting a match to thirty oil tankers per acre. Over the past fifteen years, that number has probably increased tenfold. And it is one thing when fires are “natural” — but in this case, the fires are believed to be intentionally set by drug backpackers trying to evade US Border Patrol.
Whether the issue is air quality, forest management, or productive natural resource use, it is time for the citizens of this nation to stand up and take control of our forests back from radical environmental groups. It is time to stop paying these groups to destroy our treasured forests and their wildlife — not to mention the people who live, work, and play there.
Reprinted from PJ Media
Two separate stories that point out hypocrisy, ineptitude and downright stupidity of the Obama administration and the criminally insane radical environmentalist movement. Hundreds of thousands to millions of acres of forest that burn every year, mostly thanks to eco-nuts that sue to prevent logging and other measures to sucessfully manage our forests and prevent these massive wildfires
Tom in NC