According to an article appearing in yesterday’s Washington Post, U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman saw the massive Colorado wildfires coming. Missing from the article is any explanation from Mr. Sherman about what steps he or anyone else in his Department took to prevent them.
Bureaucrats working across agencies in the Obama administration have an uncanny knack for identifying problems. They see it from this angle – and from that one. Only problem is, armchair analysis and day-after prognosticating means very little to a homeowner sifting through a pile of ashes wondering how a crowning wildfire destroyed his neighborhood.
All in all, yesterday’s article in The Post pretty ably describes the depth of the hand-wringing that takes place within the massive USDA each and every day. From the local ranger district on up to the regional office, green-shirted employees are long on excuses and reasons why multiple-use can’t occur on public lands. And god forbid someone use a dirty word — like timber — in their presence.
Mid-level bureaucrats like Harris Sherman can blame climate change all they want for the crisis that’s spread across America’s forests. What they can’t do is dismiss the role extreme environmentalists – and their attorneys – have played stalling, stifling and strangling forest health projects ranger district by ranger district across the West.
According to a September, 2011 report from the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the US Forest Service prepared for Colorado Senator Mark Udall, the routine appeal and litigation of projects aimed at ensuring age class diversity and overall forest health is to blame for making the forests susceptible to insect infestations and disease. Once forests are diseased or seriously damaged by beetles, it doesn’t take much for them to go up in smoke.
Given the date on the report, and the fact that it was prepared for a United States Senator, we trust that Undersecretary Sherman has reviewed it. If not, we would be happy to print a copy and mail it to his Georgetown parlor.
Here in Colorado, we understand that solutions exist for cleaning up our nation’s forests. Unfortunately, they require actual leadership and the ability to stand up to a very powerful clique within the liberal coalition: extreme environmentalists.
As we reflect upon the past three and a half years with people like Harris Sherman in charge of managing our public lands, we can’t help but wonder how things might have been different if they had been as laser focused on preventing fires as they were about finding a spot for Air Force One to land last week for a swing-state photo-op.