A recent editorial about federal land management and fires covers a topic that is close to my heart — the use of active forest management to better set up our national wildlands for the inevitable wildfires. I was happy to see that you got much of it right, especially with respect to the need to place thinning treatments in strategic places in order to better manage fires.
However (and this is critically important) the editorial took an irresponsible turn when you chose to lay the blame on the Obama administration. Your statement, (“(A)t some point the Obama administration decided nearly all federal forests were off-limits to logging, the best and only way to manage forests”) is flat out wrong and unnecessarily divisive. Does every issue have to be viewed through the lens of partisan politics?
Here are the facts: According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, federal annual timber harvest levels in our state were actually higher during the Obama administration than during the G.W. Bush administration (503.75 billion board feet harvested per year 2009-2016 vs. 324 billion board feet per year 2001-2008). Interestingly, the harvest level per year during the Clinton administration was even higher (665 billion board feet/year 1993-2000). I see absolutely no evidence that any particular administration “decided that federal forests were off-limits to logging” as you have so boldly stated — let alone the Obama administration.
In my beloved Blue Mountains National Forests, harvest levels have also risen over the past 8 years, due in part to the collaborative approaches to forest management that were encouraged (and funded) by the past administration.
If you want to blame federal laws for our current situation, it is popular to blame the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Be aware that these laws were passed (by Congress) and signed (by the president) in the 1960’s and 1970’s — under the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
There is enough partisan politics being played in our country right now, and to further polarize the public in the west by falsely laying blame for the 2017 fire season on the Obama administration only makes it worse. I would expect the opinions of the editorial board to be based on real facts, not “alternative facts” or partisan hyperbole. I can get enough of that by reading letters to the editor and social media.
W.C. (Bill) Aney