Watching Oregon go up in Smoke
By Scott Michael Rohter, August 2017
Every year between July and November millions of Oregonians watch as the United States government allows our State to go up in smoke. There is an old saying that too much of anything is not good. Perhaps the federal government has too much land under its control because it either can’t, won’t or maybe it doesn’t know how to manage it properly. It seems to take it all for granted like it just plain doesn’t care, and our shortsighted and dysfunctional State Legislature along with a series of incompetent Democratic Governors in Salem refuse to take the necessary steps to put an end to this annual destruction of our State’s forests which isthe heritage of every Oregonian. Our forests are being allowed to burn to the ground.
Depending on when you started counting there are somewhere between 25 and 40 wildfires raging across Oregon which have turned the air quality into a rather murky mixture of smoke and pollutants for the past month. It isn’t healthy to go outside or even to breathe the air in much of the State. The largest fire is the Chetko Bar Fire which is burning out of control near the small coastal town of Brookings… It has already destroyed over 3oo,000 acres of wildlife habitat and valuable timberland. It has consumed an area almost 50 square miles wide. Residents of Brookings have been put on notice to evacuate if it becomes necessary.
In Lane County there are at least two fires raging out of control… the so called Jones Fire which has already burned 5,800 acres near Fall Creek and the Separation Fire near Cougar Reservoir which is estimated right now to be at around 4,000 acres. There are at least six other fires burning near Lane County… the Horse Creek Fire, the Box Canyon Fire, the Roney Fire, the Pete Fire, the Avenue Fire, and the Rebel Fire… All together these fires represent a total of at least 12,500 acres of Oregon’s precious heritage just going up in smoke as well as some good timber that is being wasted.
For days the smoke has been so thick around here that you can stare directly at the mid-day Sun without any protection for your eyes. That is all the proof I need that the federal government should not be in control of 51% of my State.
Over fifty thousand square miles of Oregon is administered by Congress through the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. It was entrusted to Congress to manage, and Congress delegated that authority to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, but trust really has nothing to do with it at all. They USFS and the BLM are also responsible for preventing and controlling the wildfires which break out on public land every summer. Some of these wildfires are caused by lightning. Others are caused by careless campers who don’t put out their campfires, but regardless of how they start they burn valuable timber and destroy wildlife habitat just the same.
Fifty thousand square miles is a total of thirty million acres of land which rightfully belongs to the people of Oregon. The United States Forest Service and the BLM couldn’t do a worse job of preventing and controlling wildfires if they tried. More and more of Oregon’s precious heritage is going up in smoke every year and the federal government doesn’t seem to care. More and more of Oregon’s resources are being lost to incompetence and penny pinching bureaucrats who work hand in glove with environmental groups to let our State forests go up in smoke.
There are ways to prevent Oregon’s forests from being destroyed. The first thing we need to do is convince our State Legislature to petition Congress to return these federally administered lands to State control. Oregonians could do a much better job of caring for our own land than far away Congress in Washington can… We certainly couldn’t do any worse. Next Oregon could purchase a small fleet of inexpensive drones to fly surveillance every day over every square inch of our forests at the beginning of every fire season in order to spot these wildfires before they get out of control… A single ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. We should spare no effort to stamp out these wildfires before they begin.. It is absolutely crazy to take the attitude that the ground is too steep or the area is too remote to battle these blazes… or that we can afford to just let them burn until the winter. That is in fact the attitude of the United States Department of Forestry.
There is a 747 jumbo jet outfitted with special equipment to fight forest fires stationed right here in Oregon. It isn’t being used because the federal government doesn’t want to spend the money. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were absolutely right when they said the Federal government shouldn’t be in the real estate business. It is time to turn the administration of our public land back over to State control, not just here in Oregon but in all twelve western States. Whatever Congress is doing with our public lands they are doing it all without constitutional authority, and they are doing a pretty bad job of it too.
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