Last September, right as fire season wrapped up, the federal government touched off two 1,500-acre “controlled burns” above Dry Creek Road. Weather was still hot and dry and there was very little chance of any significant rain in the near future. In very short order these became larger than expected “monitored fires” that burned and polluted our valley into at least the fourth week of rifle season. We were treated to choke on unhealthy air for weeks as the feds broke their own clean air permits.
This year we again got the opportunity to breathe plenty more cancerous smoke for nearly two months straight while the Copper King Fire was “monitored.” It was more than 28,500 acres and at the last I heard over $27 million spent. This comes to around $1,000 per acre and that does not include the value of the timber and wildlife gone up in smoke. If the feds would have got in gear and put their full efforts into actually putting the fire out on day one, it probably would have been taken care of a whole lot sooner and a whole lot cheaper. But unfortunately, that’s not how the federal government “works.”
Our local state Sen. Jennifer Fielder is pushing to bring big changes in how our forests are managed, and that begins with increasing Montana’s say in how things are done. Her opponent, Mark Sheets, says everything is just fine the way it is. He even told me during a meeting that he would rather see the hills burned black than to ever see a logging truck get in there to reduce fuel loads. That’s a dangerous attitude showing no regard for the risk to nearby homes, wildlife, firefighting costs, or pollution.
Big problems need big solutions. Putting Montana in charge of our forests would be a whole lot better than what Washington, D.C., has been doing to them. A little more logging and a lot less wildfires would be a good thing – for people and wildlife. We could keep more logging roads open for hunting, fire-wooding, and berry picking instead of letting the federal government keep blocking them off or ripping them out.
I’m glad Sen. Jennifer Fielder is working so hard on real reforms that will keep our forests, and our tax dollars, from going up in smoke.
Jerry C. Shively
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