The northwestern United States has suffered tremendous loss this dry season due to the wildfires. Business, property, tourism, and human lives have been lost. Long-time residents of Montana have said these are the worst wild fires since before 2000. While federal agents have said that these wildfires can hardly be controlled, others blame the federal government’s mismanagement for these wildfires.
Congressman Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, has introduced wildfire prevention bills to better manage public lands. He said, “Over 40 years of federal forest mismanagement has directly led to old forest overgrowth. It defies commonsense that only a fraction of federal land is treated every year by the U.S. Forest Service despite the proven scientific results of current forest thinning measures.” Are these bills good enough though?
Montanans may know this instinctively, but allowing us to thin and sell timber in our forests not only produces wealth for us but also helps prevent the devastating effects of wildfires. In part, the federal government’s inattention to these interests is what causes the push to put some public land back into state control.
No one knows Montana’s natural and economic conditions better than Montanans. We have strong, personal incentives to manage our forests properly: it is our air, homes, property, and business at stake. If the federal government proves inept to properly manage public lands, pragmatism requires the people to reconsider which government should manage these lands.
I’m proud. I’m proud of the way that we locals face danger. We don’t panic easily. We get tested by storm, by flood, and by fire. Fire is the worst. It is a force of nature. Our wild land fires run from quirky to uncontrollable. It takes both talent and resources to deal with them. Fortunately, most of the worst are on Federal lands. There, we have national help and clear national responsibility.
In our state alone, would the residents of the plains vote for the protections and funding that would be needed if we Montanans took over the control and the responsibility? The decency and good sense of our citizenry becomes debatable in our legislature. As dysfunctional as D.C. can be, our wild land firefighters are doing the job….our state and local folks, too. We do this as a team and as a community. We do what we can and we do what we must. We should be proud.
We do this instinctively. We take it seriously. We are here. We recognize the need to cooperate for the greater good. We also see some opportunities, from time to time, that might benefit us but detract from others. Federal restrictions help keep that under control. These lands, this environment, this, our experience, deserves preservation. It takes dedication, resources, and knowledge. It is a national heritage. Let’s keep it that way.
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