Wild Fires

August 23, 2018

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels Association. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today’s commentary -

Wild fires in California and other Western states have burned more than 1,000 square miles of timberland and grassland. 14 people have died and thousands of homes have been turned to ashes. 14,000 firefighters are risking their lives. Drought and strong winds could continue until the end of the year. Last year, the State of California spent $773 million on fire control. Federal agencies spent $2.9 billion last year.

Isn’t there something that could be done to reduce the destruction? On one side, we have the environmentalists that want to blame climate changes. They can’t bring themselves to accept the obvious fact that the forests are filled with beetle-infested dry, dead wood. And that is the perfect mix if you want a big fire. We need to manage our forests by cleaning out the dead wood and cutting more live trees. There is a market for lumber.

Liberals don’t want to do anything to manage our forests. Cutting trees and clearing dead wood is not natural. Don’t mess with nature. My view is that forest land is a resource and it should be used and managed. If we did that, we wouldn’t have fires as destructive as we have today. I don’t blame it all on climate change. We have always had natural disasters – hurricanes, droughts, floods, excessive heat and cold. The Southwest and Midwest suffered through record heat and drought in the 1930s. Our farms were devastated. We had climate change then.

Controlled burning of the dead, dry ground cover could help. Environmentalists don’t want to do that because that burning is bad for the air quality. But the fires burning in the West this year are not good for the environment either. One way liberals have blocked controlled burning has been to use environmental regulations protecting endangered species.

The timber industry, environmentalists, and government officials need to get together and take some positive steps to limit the destruction. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke both support active forest management.

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Until next week, I am John Block in Washington, D.C.