I downloaded and began reading the report entitled “An Analysis of A Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah“, dated November 2014. As a consulting Professional Civil Engineer with years of experience working with private landowners on the health of their forests, and a trained wildfire behavior analyst, I want to reinforce several points that stand out to me from the outset.
The best approach toward reducing costs of fire suppression is to reduce the probability of devastating crown fire. This begins with proper management (logging / timber harvesting) to reduce basal area of trees. Forest management includes selective thinning (depending upon species and terrain), clear cutting and replanting to significantly reduce forest density. Reducing forest density increases the spacing between individual trees which directly reduces the occurrence of high intensity wildfires and increases the health and vitality of remaining trees. In addition, strong trees that are not required to over compete for limited resources are more resistant to invasion by insects.
The federal agencies, i.e. US Forest Service and BLM, cannot implement recognized mitigation and forest management techniques because they are too restricted by environmental organizations through the lawsuits filed in federal courts. To many people the forests have become sacrosanct. Even when the knowledgeable people on the ground see the need to log and salvage, they are frustrated by the system from being able to implement necessary solutions.
In addition, fighting large forest fires has become big business. In today’s world, the national forests have become a financial drain on resources instead of being an agricultural resource.
Changing public opinion requires changing this culture and positively influencing many people who make their living off the current situation with public lands under federal ownership. Facts raised in the report help to make a strong case toward individual states being capable of doing a much better management job with public lands than the Federal Government.
I support the efforts of western states to acquire ownership of federally owned lands within their borders. Many people need an opportunity to be presented with the benefits in state ownership of public lands. The truth and the facts play an important part in outreach.
All the Best,
William E Smith, P.E.
For more information, visit the American Lands Council.