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Best practices, best science could stop forest fires

The recent horrific Californian wildfires were caused by years of neglect in forest management that created dead and dying timber, according to a leading US Government official. The Secretary of the US Department of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, a former Navy seal who fought in Iraq, said the Californian fires were the worst devastation he had ever seen. “It was like a flame-thrower of embers, shooting through the forest,” he said in an interview with ‘Breitbart’.  Source: Philip Hopkins for Timberbiz

“We know the problem. It’s been years of neglect, and in many cases, it’s been radical environmentalists that want nature to take its course. We have dead and dying timber. We can manage it using best science, best practices.”

Mr Zinke said he had long maintained the forests needed active management.

“You have rising temperatures, the fire season is longer, but on top of that, the density of trees, the dead and dying trees from beetle kill, from drought, the amount of fuel in the forests is at a historic high,” he said.

“You get a lightning strike, you get an ignition by humans, and it begins … this is as much about mismanagement over time. This is not just in the last administration, this has been going on for years.”

Mr Zinke said it was necessary to get back to prescribed burns late in the season so those catastrophic burns did not occur. The fire fighters must have access on the roads to the woods.

“It is about making sure you have defendable space, whether it’s on federal land or state land. It’s making sure we thin the forest,” he said.

“In many cases the only defendable areas in the forest are those that have been previously burned, or have had fuel reductions.

“You used best science, best practices, and that’s what Americans should be doing, but when we are prevented from managing our forests by these radical environmentalists.”

Mr Zinke said lawsuit after lawsuit had promulgated to let nature take its course. “This is the consequence of letting nature take its course … the human devastation,” he said.

There was the cost, “let alone the cost of human life, which you can’t put a price on”.

Mr Zinke said the Department of the Interior had an earlier bill for 870 million dollars from earlier fires just to repair infrastructure, rods and sewer systems.

“This is going, of course, to be worse. That doesn’t even cover the billions of dollars we are going to spend on fighting forest fires,” he said.

“Why don’t we spend the money on building trails? Why don’t we spend that money on fuel reduction? Why don’t we spend that money on visitor experience … rather than fighting fires and spending money repairing the damage of those catastrophic fires.”

Mr Zinke said he and Californian Governor Jeremy Brown agreed there was not just one answer to fix the problem, but a myriad of solutions.

“Remove dead and dying timber. Remove the density of trees. Make sure you can have a sustainable harvest. All these things we can do, and should do, and it is a lot less expensive,” he said.