The Colorado wildfire photos posted on Evergreen Magazine's "Guest Columns" were sent to us June 30 by Bob Hennkens. We first met Bob on one of our early trips to Arizona, more than a decade ago. He's an energy guru who has been looking for years for profitable niche markets for small diameter trees and woody biomass that is choking the life out of federal forests and rangelands in the Southwest.
Bob's posting, which was titled "Why we plead, fight and what more? To thin our 750,000,000 acres...." is a timely reminder of costly and deadly risks posed by the wildfire crisis facing those of us who live in the rural west.
What is happening in Colorado this summer is happening all over the 11 western states: Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and New Mexico. And it will continue to happen on progressively larger and more deadly scales until the federal government [that would be Congress] gets serious about doing the thinning and stand tending work necessary to reduce the risk of stand replacing wildfires in overstocked and dying federally-owned forests.
The "hobby forestry" projects the Forest Service is currently conducting aren't making a dent in the crisis we face. Large-scale, long-term projects that pay their own way [meaning no taxpayer subsidies] are the only solution. We have the science, manpower, technology and markets needed to do this work safely and successfully in an environmentally sound way. And still Congress refuses to act. Meanwhile, depending on whose estimate you wish to accept, somewhere between 40 and 60 million acres of federal timberland in the West are ready to burn with the next lightning strike or abandoned campfire.