The Norman Transcript

Columns

July 6, 2013

Wildfires spark change

NORMAN — The wildfires scorching the West this summer sparked debate among scientists, environmentalists, small government advocates and firefighters.

Is man-made climate change at the root, as was inferred by President Obama?

Conservative land-use advocates argue that the federal government has neglected proper management of wildlands.

They cite environmental pushes to restrict road-building in some forests inhibiting the clearing of dead stands of trees as well as reaching wildfires.

Environmentalists argue that harvesting affects biodiversity and roads for extraction cause erosion.

Now the political argument that sequestration is to blame. It reportedly cut about 7.5 percent out of the Forest Service’s budget.

However, experts have been reluctant to link the tragic loss of 19 elite firefighters in Arizona to budget cuts. Rather they cite shifting winds.

There is acknowledgement from firefighters that that technology to fight fires has changed little in decades while drought, human encroachment on western lands and higher temperatures have increased the challenges.

Thomas Tidwell, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, said the wildfire season is lasting two months longer and burns twice as much as 40 years ago. His solution was that the federal government needs to adapt proper management techniques. We need to meet changes rather wish them away.

— The Mankato, Minn., Free Press

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